For the last decade or so, many people in the sales profession have been celebrating the demise of cold calling. To steal a line from Mark Twain, the rumors of cold calling’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Exaggerated so much so, that you hear people talking about professional sales scenarios where they anticipate never even reaching out by phone at all.

While some people, such as Dan Disney, make some valid points about the potential death of cold calling, the need to talk with another human being during a complex sales process simply won’t go away. Unless you plan on handing all of your business decisions over to AI like Sophia or Google Duplex, you will have to connect with another human being via some means of personal communication. Right now, the phone is the most effective tool we have in our sales arsenal to build those relationships.

I’m getting ahead of myself. This blog post isn’t solely about cold calling. Let’s review several other attributes and skills that are necessary for you to succeed in sales.

A Tech-Savvy Mindset

Millennials and Generation Z likely won’t have a problem with technology. For those in the Gen X crowd or later years of the baby boomer generation, you’ve got to take your tech skills to the next level. I don’t mean you need to learn to program. You do need to be aware of the various ways customers like to use technology to find information and connect with companies. For the sake of your career, start embracing new technologies that can help you do your job better. Sales and marketing is more technologically dependent than it ever was. The more tech savvy you are, the better your chances to succeed will be.

The Ability to Take on Multiple Roles

The buyer’s journey has changed. Customers hold most of the power. Blah blah blah. You’ve heard those sentiments before, but here are some stats just in case you weren’t paying attention.

You’ve also heard about the need to get more involved in social selling and other digital outreach so that you can insert yourself earlier in the buyer’s journey so that you can have an impact on a purchase. These digital selling skills are important, but having them won’t change the fact that employment rates will decline in sales due to customer demands for self-service.

In 2015, Forrester released a study claiming one million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020. More recently, Forbes reported on the study and said, “Specifically impacted will be back-office and administrative, sales, and call center employees.”

Before you throw your headset down and run out to join the circus (are those still around???), all hope is not lost. You simply need to hone other skills related to selling.

Sales reps who are comfortable in a variety of roles will remain desirable job candidates because not every aspect of human engagement can be automated. Relationships still matter in complex and high-ticket item sales. Hone your skills in the following areas — either by volunteering for additional responsibilities or literally volunteering for a nonprofit:

  • client management
  • project leadership
  • support

These skills will be especially necessary in industries that are trending more toward self-service and e-commerce. While the number of sales reps in these industries will decrease, there will still be a place for well-rounded, multi-skilled sales pros.

Ample Product & Competitor Knowledge

Buyers, especially B2B decision makers, spend a lot of time researching and educating themselves on their needs and the potential solutions to address those pain points. Decision makers expect sales representatives to be more knowledgeable than the buyer. You need to be able to intelligently assess a person or company’s challenges and provide guidance on how to overcome those challenges. You need to understand your offering inside and out, and you need to know how your competitors address the same issues.

A Self-Motivated Pursuit of Learning

Technology is continually changing, and those changes result in evolving buying and selling behaviors. Changing buying and selling behaviors lead to big new laws, like GDPR, to slap the wrists of businesses that take unfair advantage of change.

The best salespeople — now and in the future — will

  • stay up to date on their industry and emerging industries.
  • learn how new technologies can improve their sales engagement efforts
  • study the impact of new laws on their sales efforts
  • attend outside sales conferences, training, and networking events
  • seek one-on-one coaching or mentoring

Strong Written Communication Skills

At VanillaSoft, we are big believers in the power of a well-executed phone conversation. However, the world is also big on text-based communications. Email, text messages, and social selling all require that we know how to write concisely and correctly. If your grammar skills aren’t up to par, you need to take a class to brush up on your writing or invest in a tool like Grammarly.

Terrific Networks and Social Networking Skills

Whether your selling to a potential customer or selling yourself as a job candidate, strong networking skills are a must.

A Healthy Respect for Classic Sales Phone Skills

Back to my rant that started this post . . . even with automated lead routing, logical branch scripting, inbound marketing, and social selling to warm up leads . . . nothing beats interpersonal communication skills. Maybe one day the phone itself will go away, but I firmly believe that whatever replaces it will still rely on human-to-human interaction that has its roots in phone conversations.

Regardless of how wonderful you are at emailing and social selling, at some point you will probably have to speak to someone on the phone or via video call. Unless your industry is going totally self service, talking to buyers will remain incredibly important.

While there are many advancements in sales like social selling and AI, there are still ways to hone your sales skills to succeed. Remember, don’t let the exaggerated rumors of what is and isn’t working in sales, like cold calling, drive your sales strategy. Great sales reps focus on multiple skills to be successful.