The Three Best Sales Skills You Need

This is an excerpt from my friend Jim Mathis, a “reinvention expert” I’ve come to know and respect. You can connect with Jim at

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman; not the attitude of the prospect.”
-Clement Stone

I love when someone says during a sales workshop, “I’m in the problem-solving business.” Most salespeople think sales are all about solving people’s problems. They don’t realize that most people need to solve their own problems. Great salespeople, though, can assist them in the process.

For instance, your water heater is broken. Do you need a salesperson to tell you what to do? Do you know the difference in BTUs, electricity and gas heaters, tankless heaters, etc.? Most of us don’t, but we can find the answers online.

But to actually obtain a local water heater that does what we need and have it installed takes a resource that most people don’t have access to on their own. It takes a great salesperson who can assess needs and deliver competent and affordable results.

There are three skills you need in sales that you can’t do without, but most account executives usually try to skirt them…and they fail. You will also fail if you don’t practice ALL three of these skills.

1. Make calls. I have taught sales training for over 15 years. No matter how much I train people, they still want to avoid making calls. I even challenged a group of speakers to follow my sales script for 90 days and then call me if they had any questions. My stipulation was they had to make 15 calls per day.

After 90 days NO ONE had done what I asked. Why? They wanted an easy way out. They tried some quick way to get out of making calls and be successful.

You can’t be successful in sales without making calls.

This is a non-negotiable. You will always have to make calls. When Honda Accords were the biggest selling car, many salesmen said that all they had to do was take orders. Two years later, most were out of the car business. They hadn’t planned on the day when they would have to make new sales calls.

There was one year that I was so busy on the road I made fewer calls. The following year was my worst year. I hadn’t made calling a priority and I paid a hefty price for it.

Zig Ziglar said, “Timid salesmen have skinny kids.” If you don’t make the calls, you will starve both yourself and those who depend on you.

Start making calls…and then make more calls.

2. Ask Questions. The process of asking great questions is the “meat” of all sales—not providing answers. How will you know what customers want if you don’t ask questions? A friend of mine calls this process “qualifying.” He teaches his staff to qualify customers to see what they want. You do this through asking the prospective customer questions.

I like to think of this process as “diagnosing the problem.” How well do you ask questions of your prospects? Do you let them dominate the conversation, or do you take charge asking questions? Don’t let the customer ask all the questions. You don’t want the sales presentation to become an interview. People don’t buy from “interviewees” that often. Next sales presentation, ask yourself, “Who is in charge of the conversation—the person asking the questions, or the one answering them?” You need to take charge of the conversation or the prospect will talk themselves out of the sale.

3. Shut up. More sales are lost because the seller didn’t listen to the buyer and lost the sale. Listening skills are the key to selling and selling MORE to customers. Hear what the customer says about their need, problem, or desire. Get to know them and what they like. Listen for tips and triggers they will use in conversation that reveal their buying style.

Some buyers purchase out of necessity. Some buy out of status and a need to fit in with others. Some buy only the basics and nothing more. Others buy based on statistics and details. If you listen for these cues, you will know how they communicate and how to respond or ask the next question.

“A smart salesperson listens to emotions, not facts.” -Unknown

Great salespeople do their best to take the focus off the price. They know that price is a tactic many people use to get a better “deal.” Value is what sells to most people. If you allow the buyer to focus on price, you have already lost the discussion—and the sale.

Value is the determining factor in what sells and what doesn’t. When buyers perceive value, they will respond with more business… and will invest in you for years to come. How else can you explain the dominance of Apple iPhones in the market over the past 11 years when Palm, Motorola, Ericsson and Handspring quit? How can you explain the success of mega stores like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops, when Sports Authority and Oshmans once dominated the sporting goods market?

4. BONUS Shut Up: Sellers need to be quiet after quoting prices. Don’t be so fast to quote a price, just because the person asked for it. After you have “sold” the buyer on the value of your product or service, THEN you quote the price…and after you do, say NOTHING. The next person who talks is willing to lose something. Remember watching any Western movie that had a gunslinger? It’s like the gunfight scene: the person who flinched is the one who got shot by their opponent.

Buyers always want a deal and they will pick up on your willingness to discount or come off the price if you speak a word after you quote the price.

You will be as successful in sales as you are in mastering these three skills. Skip one and skip out on most sales opportunities. Rehearse and practice them with friends or associates. Try them out on small sales that don’t matter that much to you. Then build up to where you are a master seller of calling, asking and listening. Then go get ‘em!



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