Knowing how to improve your sales capability is a key element of establishing a successful career in sales. Learning and refining new or existing negotiation skills to improve your sales capability is one of the most productive things you can do to improve sales. Whether you’re new to the industry or have 20 years’ experience, it’s essential to build solid foundations in sales and negotiation skills.

This guide will provide you with 6 critical negotiation skills to improve your sales capability. Each one is tried and tested to help you harness your negotiation skills and ultimately increase your sales numbers.

What Is “Sales Capability”?

Let’s understand what we mean by sales capability first. 

“Sales Capability” is fundamentally about the following:

  • Sales prospecting.
  • Sales leadership and management, target setting and KPI-tracking.
  • Sales CRM systems management.
  • Intelligence gathering/research, listening skills and analysing customer problems.
  • Creating value/ROI, solution building and overcoming resistance.
  • Negotiating profitable commercial deals.
  • Winning and growing business.

Being able to self-diagnose your strengths and weaknesses is a key part of being able to grow as a sales person.

What Is A Sales Capability Manager?

A Sales Capability Manager is essentially responsible for implementing strategic initiatives to help drive a salesforce forward. Having someone oversee the development of sales tools and techniques is a great way of driving long-term sales growth. Adopting this approach will provide salespeople with the support they need to succeed.

Why Are Negotiation Skills Important To Improving Sales Capability?

Closing a deal on the best commercial terms requires excellent negotiation skills. Having an effective, tried and tested set of negotiation skills, tools and checklists is crucial when it comes to improving a salesperson’s sales capability. These skills are one of the cornerstones of any improvement strategy.

It’s important to remain consistent in your approach to negotiation, regardless of whether a formal capability framework is in place. Allowing yourself to fall into haphazard, unstructured and an unprepared way of negotiating makes it impossible to improve your long term potential and success.

What Is A Sales Capability Framework?

A sales capability framework is a simple list of knowledge, skills and behaviours that impact a sale from start to finish. This list of “competencies” can be used to show a salesperson what’s expected from them and how to achieve it. Elements within this type of framework include:

  • Collaboration – how well a salesperson works within their organization or externally to achieve a sale. Having a firm grasp of how a salesperson works alongside others is crucial when establishing what their capabilities are. The bigger the sale, the more complex the deal, the more that collaboration and communication is essential.
  • Commercial Focus – a critical component of the framework is a salesperson’s ability to think commercially about the best way to negotiate the commercial terms of a deal. There are many different ways to build a commercial proposal which is about much more than just price.
  • Communication – This lends itself to both customer-facing and non customer-facing elements of a sale. Great communication skills with customers will always help with closing a sale, while communicating effectively with a team will ensure things run smoothly. Focusing on improving communication from the very first point of contact with a customer can make all the difference.
  • Customer Excellence – Aside from communication, this is one of the most important elements of strengthening your sales capability. Focusing on specific training to address any weaknesses in confidence when dealing with customers is key. Obtaining feedback from customers based on their experience is a great way of measuring where an individual or team can improve.
  • Decision Making – Having a strong sense of self is a desirable asset for any salesperson. Knowing how to make firm decisions based on facts rather than emotions is how a lot of the best sales are closed. Decision making training and technique guidance are a great way of strengthening this skill.

Evaluating Your Sales Capability Framework

Once you have a sales capability framework in place, it’s essential to review it regularly. Whilst it’s not always a fun task to objectively review your own performance, it’s necessary in order to advance within a sales career.

Having a clear idea of the objectives and how to implement them on a daily or weekly basis is essential when evaluating a sales capability framework. It often falls to a Sales Manager to review and implement this type of strategy and provide support for salespeople. Some of the key things to bear in mind when evaluating your framework are:

  • Is there just one element in the framework which negatively affects the others?
  • Can these issues be resolved by further training or support?
  • Are there any unavoidable external factors (e.g. economic uncertainty) which are having an impact?
  • Are there any personal issues that the salesperson is facing, which could be impacting their capability?
  • How do members of a sales team compare against each other? Could certain peoples’ strengths be used as a training method for others?

How Do You Develop Sales Capabilities?

Sales capabilities can be developed and strengthened through various training courses and by insights provided by enlisting a Sales Capability Manager. Adopting a more structured approach to assessing sales capabilities can be extremely successful when improving the skill set of a salesperson and/or team.

  • Attend Sales Training – Extend your skill set by taking advice from trained professionals within your field.
  • Roleplay – Acting out true to life situations in a safe environment can be a great tool when it comes to learning. Running through multiple scenarios and solutions will give a better insight into the challenges salespeople may face.
  • Seek Out A Mentor – There’s often nothing more valuable than taking advice and pointers from professionals within your field. Enlisting a sales/negotiation mentor can have a significant impact on salesperson performance/success.
  • Review Your Own Performance – It can be daunting to critique your own performance or sales calls, but it pays to be honest with ourself. Listening to recordings of both successful and unsuccessful sales calls are a great way of recognising how you’re performing and where to improve. 
  • Listen To Feedback – It’s never a comfortable task to listen to feedback, especially if it’s negative. However, taking the time to review customer feedback will allow you to recognise areas of your sales capability which need improving.
  • Switch Up Your Closing Techniques – Play around with how you try to close a sale. Different customers will react differently to your many techniques, so learning how to adapt and respond will allow you to develop.
  • Enlist A Sales Capability Manager – Having someone else to report into, who has previous knowledge of sales techniques, can be very beneficial to a team of salespeople.

Six Critical Negotiation Skills that Will Improve Your Sales Capability

  1. Be Prepared

Do your research in advance of any negotiation. Establish why the customer needs what you’re selling. If you’re solving a client’s problem with a compelling ROI, they’re more likely to negotiate a deal with you. What’s the time imperative; why do they have to solve this problem now? Do they have the budget required to buy your solution (based on the RoI)?

  1. Build Trust

While nobody is saying that you need to become best friends with a client, you do need to build trust. As David Maister noted, trust relies on credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation. Trust isn’t built overnight, it can take months, and in some cases, years. When negotiating, mutual trust becomes an important factor in reaching agreement.

  1. Be A Problem Analyser and Solver

According to Einstein he famously said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions”. So, once you’ve established the problems/pains that a client is facing, spend time really understanding the symptoms and root causes. Refer back to things that the client may have said when describing their current situation. Draw on your personal and industry knowledge. Then, spend time together building and negotiating the scope of possible solutions.

  1. Don’t get Emotional

If you’re hot headed or often react based on emotion, it’s going to be a big problem. Negotiators are trained to emotionally-detach from a situation. Think about the PAC model when negotiating – adults talk about facts. Bring the discussion back to the rational if you sense it going off track.

  1. Educate never Threaten

As William Ury said in Getting Past No, educate your counterparty, never threaten. If you sense resistance and people simply “digging in”, try and educate them about the impact of not moving forward. Go back to your objective-criteria for agreeing a deal. Re-frame problems and collaborate on creative solutions.

  1. Turn Up Your Listening Skills

This type of skill is unbelievably helpful in every aspect of life, not just within a sales or negotiation environment. Taking the time to see your client as an investment rather than just a commission-earner is essential to improve your sales capability. Seeing the client in this way will ensure that you’ll take the time to really listen to their needs. Clients will be thankful that you’ve taken the time to listen to their problems/needs and want to work together to address them.

Start Improving Your Sales Capability

Taking the time to increase your sales capability will be of significant benefit to your company, your sales quota and your clients. It will provide you with a more prepared, confident and well thought through approach to negotiation. Take the time to strengthen and improve your sales capability and you’ll be surprised at how fruitful your efforts will be. We’ve seen that improving negotiation skills can increase revenue by up to 25% pa – with sales and negotiation training.

For more support in growing your negotiation skills, try sales-specific training or coaching sessions for you and/or your team.