Sales reps often get a bad reputation for spamming people with unwanted messages – a mere 24% of cold outreach email gets opened and the #1 word used to describe salespeople is often “pushy.” This is because the majority of sales teams aren’t going after the ideal customer profile in a thoughtful and strategic way – they’re focusing on quantity instead of quality. On the one hand, this makes sense: HubSpot Research found that 72% of companies with less than 50 new opps per month didn’t achieve their revenue goals. If your sales and marketing teams don’t fill your pipeline with opportunities, they won’t meet their revenue goals. But there’s a difference in the way that winning sales teams approach their work. Successful sales teams focus on finding the right people and prospecting them on a consistent basis.

Why Account Based Marketing (ABM) is gaining traction

Over the past few years, there’s been a shift to a strategy called Account Based Marketing (ABM), which involves taking a personalized approach to a targeted group of prospects. ABM relies on the close cooperation of sales and marketing teams to identify and reach out to specific companies and individuals. According to a SiriusDecisions report, more than 70% of B2B companies have staff that are fully or partially dedicated to driving ABM-specific programs.

And teams are seeing success with this approach: In research from the Alterra Group, 97% of marketing and business development executives said ABM has a higher ROI than other marketing initiatives, 84% said it helps them expand client relationships, and 65% said it helps them attract new clients.

The 5 sales skills that set top sales teams apart

Based on my 20 years in sales and results-driven work with clients like Salesforce, Atlassian, and Dropbox, I address the skills that set top salespeople apart in my courses Filling the Funnel and Driving to Close on Udemy for Business.

Want to help your sales team be more successful? Here are the 5 skills that can separate your sales team from the pack.

1. Understand the language of your prospect

My course trains sales reps to really understand the language of their prospect and specifically their target personas, who are often high-level execs. The language a salesperson deploys will determine the person they get directed to within an organization. When salespeople focus on the product, they’ll be directed to a lower-level manager. But if they’re able to speak at a high level about issues that matter to executives, they’ll stay at that level. This is why understanding how to speak the language of your prospect is critical. For example, reading blogs written by executives or their peers in your industry will help you gain insights into the unique language and pain points of your target prospects.

Most CEOs or C-level executives have a vision of where they need to go, which is usually marked with success and optimism. Here’s the wonderful thing about discovering and tapping into this vision: if a salesperson can demonstrate how their solution will help the executive get there, then discussions about price, competition, and other core sales challenges aren’t nearly as significant.

2. Look for triggers

Depending on the industry, there will be specific triggers that make prospects more inclined to make a purchase. For example, they may have received a round of funding, made key hires in a particular department, or recently acquired a new company. All these triggers offer opportunities for salespeople to insert themselves into the conversation and help solve their prospects’ specific problems.

Understanding these triggers is the first step, but sales teams also need to learn how to listen for them. There are a number of tools out there to help sales teams be more efficient and targeted with their social listening, such as Nudge and Google Alerts.

3. Tell the right story

Many sales reps make the same mistakes when reaching out to prospects – trying to cram all their product value propositions into one email or focusing on logistics like whether the prospect received their previous email.

In my course, I teach sales reps how to avoid these common mistakes and instead focus on telling a story to their clients with multiple touch points. Based on research and development of personas – and a little resourcefulness – sales reps can craft tailored stories that resonate better with prospects. Sales teams have a wealth of resources within their own company, even though they may not realize it. I recommend sales people spend time with the C-suite at their own company to understand what type of messaging will resonate with them. They can also get intel from their own receptionist about how to effectively share their story and get through gatekeepers. With understanding of the ideal customer profile and updated storytelling skills, sales teams can better align their product to prospects’ priorities.

4. Develop the art of social selling

Let me be clear here – there’s a world of difference between posting randomly in order to be active on social media versus using social media thoughtfully to connect with your target audience. There’s an art to social selling, and it involves providing context to the content that you’re sharing. I believe that “Marketing is content, sales is context.” Salespeople can build their personal brand and establish themselves as trustworthy when they share relevant content with their own personal insights and observations.

In my course, I share a number of ways to leverage social selling, including using Feedly and other social media feeds to organize content for specific audiences. This strategy takes time and effort to execute, but it can ultimately lead to inbound interest from prospects.

5. Craft messaging that’s attention-grabbing

In an initial phone call or email, sales reps only have 5 to 15 seconds to convey information before the prospect makes the decision to engage or not. That’s why it’s important to carefully consider the messaging that will grab the prospects’ attention and make them want to learn more. Traditional elevator pitches are generally too long and ineffective. The more specific and relevant sales reps are with their messaging, the better results they’ll get.

For example, I recommend using really great metrics from customer case studies to spark the attention of prospects. What our clients say about the work we do is gold. The results we drive for our customers is the number one competitive differentiator any of us have, especially at the beginning of the sales process. If leveraged correctly, these case studies can help develop sales ready messaging that grabs attention and engages a dialogue with a prospect.

The strategy most sales training ignores

Finally, most sales training focuses on the sales process and methodology. Instead, give your sales team a competitive edge by focusing on what most sales training overlooks: how to build a structure for consistent prospecting.

This doesn’t mean that sales teams should simply follow a structure mindlessly. They should learn to adapt and innovate based on what works and doesn’t work. But starting with the fundamental process is the key to developing a successful sales team.

These days, any sales “technique” has an extremely short shelf life. This was not the case when information was less readily available. Now if someone comes up with a technique that works, someone else finds out about it and writes a blog and then everyone uses it and kills its effectiveness. This is why I’ve shifted my training to focus on the structure of how to approach prospecting and help reps build their own prospecting engine they can plug any technique into. At the end of the day, a solid foundational structure on how to prospect is far more effective than any specific technique.

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