The following is a guest post by Inside Sales Trainer, Danna Zakai.

It’s no secret that Sales comes more naturally to some than to others. For those who seem to have been “born” to be salespeople, Sales comes as naturally as breathing. Everywhere they go, their ‘salesy style’ is ever-present, whether it’s in the way they introduce themselves, or even when they recommend a movie they’ve watched or a product they’ve used. And if they’re really good, they can apply a kind of magic that makes you see the world through their eyes, but that’s actually because they can see the world through YOUR eyes.

Sales is a profession, and while the “non-natural” salespeople might not be superstars at it, they can definitely learn how to be more skillful at it.

For the purpose of this post, I’d like to deal with 2 types of salespeople: People who MUST know how to sell, and people who WANT to know how to sell better.

People who MUST know how to sell
Living in the Startup Nation, we meet an endless number of entrepreneurs who are technical geniuses. Many of them know how to create excellent products, but they are clueless when it comes to selling those excellent products (and sometimes clueless about being clueless – which can be dangerous).

In the early stages of a startup, it often lacks the resources to hire salespeople, so the founders are forced to do the selling themselves. They MUST sell – if only to get their first round of funding.

There’s so much for them to learn: What to say and how to say it, how to handle a sales call or meeting, how to maneuver a call through the right ‘flow’, how to deal with objections, how to manage the sales cycle, and more. There are numerous opportunities for them to stuff up along the way, so it’s important for them to know how to avoid making a variety of potential mistakes.

People who WANT to know how to sell better
Then there are salespeople who are good, but want to be GREAT. Unfortunately, sales managers don’t always have the time to sit with their teams to observe the way they sell or how they manage their sales funnel. The salespeople might feel bad for struggling, but they don’t feel comfortable asking for help.

For both of the groups I have just described – there are techniques and methods that can be taught and practiced that can change the experience from “How am I ever going to… get this person to speak to me”, or “get through this long list of leads” or “close this sale already??” – to success and satisfaction.

It is, in fact, possible to learn how to “think sales”, focus, form your pitch in your own words and style, and turn a “no” or “maybe” into a “yes”. And trust me – once you do it, you feel a whole new level of pride.

Even the most non-salesy person can’t resist the enthusiasm and passion of a charismatic salesperson who is skilled (which sometimes means being pushy without ever coming across that way) and knowledgeable. It might seem like a daunting skill to master, but there are many people out there who would LOVE to be able to sell like that.

Sales training should be implemented in every company not only because it’s crucial for the development and enrichment of the sales team, but also because every employee has the potential to be a source of leads. Think about it: We all meet people who ask us what we do and which company we work for. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use that conversation as an opportunity to generate interest in our company and its products? And that’s just one of the reasons why sales training – whether it’s in a group or one-on-one setting – is probably one of the most valuable investments a company can make both for themselves and their employees.

Obviously sales can’t be taught in a single blog post (nor can it be learned simply by reading a book, in my opinion), but whether you’re already super-experienced or a novice, there are some useful tips you can apply fairly easily (even right now!) to improve your sales technique:

1. Be clear. Always make sure your message is short and has been clearly received.

2. Don’t assume that you have been understood. Always check that the person you’re speaking with has understood you by asking him a few questions, like what he liked most about your product and how he can see your product being helpful to him or his company.

3. Give examples as part of your sales pitch. Examples always make things clearer and more memorable because they are essentially mini-stories. If you use examples as part of your pitch, you make it easier for that person to explain what he has heard from you to someone else, who may well be the decision maker.

4. Listen (and I mean really listen) to your customers. For most of us – this is the hardest part. It’s important to remember that when we speak, we don’t learn much about the person we’re speaking to, besides their reaction. But when we listen, we are allowing the person we’re speaking with to express himself, to tell you who he is and what his needs are. Moreover – people like to be heard and are more likely to buy from someone who they feel comfortable with, someone who listens to them.

5. Build a relationship with your customers by demonstrating empathy. The foundation of every good relationship is trust. A good salesperson takes the time necessary to build a solid relationship with his customers. Your leads and customers must feel that they can trust you and that you have their best interest at heart. I always say: it’s never personal but it’s always personal. Think about it J

6. Don’t let ‘hot’ leads go cold. It goes without saying that you should familiarize yourself with your prospects and understand their business, their needs and their goals. But even with the most thorough preparation, bear in mind that having an excellent first phone call, or presenting a “killer” demo at a meeting is not enough. You might be fantastic at connecting with people and presenting your product, but if you let your leads go cold by failing to take advantage of that initial momentum to strengthen your relationship with them – you might find yourself back at square one (or even minus one). Whenever you take a meeting or a sales call, always know what your next step is going to be in advance and make sure you follow through.

7. Practice your pitch on people you trust. Choose people you trust to be brutally honest with you, and pitch them something, anything, as long as it’s new to them. Ask for their feedback: did they understand you? Did they enjoy listening to you? Did you make them want to hear more?

8. Believe in what you sell, and sell it with PASSION. People can smell disinterest a mile away, so if you’re not excited about whatever it is you’re selling, why should your customers be? Make sure that when you craft your pitch, your passion is evident.

To sum up – anyone can improve their sales skills if they make it a priority. As long as you are dedicated to the process, willing to step out of your comfort zone if necessary, remain open to new techniques, and understand that Sales is a profession (as well as an art), you’ll find that you too can improve your ability to sell.

More posts by Danna Zakai:
6 elements of a well-crafted sales pitch
How to hire a Sales shark for your startup
Why TRUST is the ultimate key to making a sale (plus 9 tips on how to create and maintain it)
Why Salespeople MUST understand prospective clients (and how to structure a winning Sales call)