When it comes to selling, many of us focus on natural talent. While being friendly and confident are attributes of being a great salesperson, they are just part of the package.

Reading sales books is a helpful way to improve, but without implementation they really don't offer much value. Another common way to improve is to constantly practice your pitch. While this again is helpful, it is not enough to push you to the next level. Reason being, there are so many points in the sale outside of your pitch that you need to perform well on. The sales pitch is just a small part of the deal.

With that said, how can you greatly improve your sales skills? The answer is through constant experimentation and data. By looking to try new methods and track the results, you'll refine your skills faster and become more adaptable. Here are some metrics to track and points of the sale you should be experimenting and improving on every day.

1. Closes

Being able to close the sale is a lot harder than people think. Tacky closing lines are a dime a dozen. Even worse, bad timing on the close can ruin the sale and also create a customer who has buyer's remorse. The worst of all situations is the uncomfortable close. When you're trying to force yourself to close the deal and the client can see you're not confident, the deal is lost. Finding what to say and when to say it when you're asking for business is something you should always be experimenting with.

To do this, you need to find out what kind of closer you are. Some people like to go in for the close early, others like to wait. When I first started out in sales, I definitely was an early closer. After more time, I've discovered my style is a lot more relaxed. Knowing this about myself helps me understand when I'm comfortable closing, so I can build the deal in the right way.

Another point in the close you need to be practicing is what to say. Do you have a closing line that works well for some clients but not others?

When you start practicing closes, try to make sure you don't sound like you're reading from a script. Often, the prospect knows you're using a practiced line and will start to think you're being untruthful. Instead, I recommend experimenting with a large number amount of closes so you aren't reliant on a single one. You'll start recognizing when it is time to use a certain close and be able to tailor it to the customer. This skill can only be development through constant practice and refinement. Once you get good at it, your close becomes powerful.

2. Cold Calls

Experimenting with cold calls is so useful because of how easy it is to track data. You can write out an exact script of what to say, then jot down the results write then and there. You drop the errors of having to wait to go over the call, and you also can make sure you start the call in the same way every single time.

One thing we do with our new sales hires for Alumnify is record their customer calls. We'll then break them down and go over everything that worked and what did not. This allows us to break down everything piece by piece, so we can use concrete examples for feedback. It's amazing how much this helps and improves the skill sets of our sales team. Even when I record my calls, I'll go back and notice so many mistakes I didn't realize I was making. Make this a habit and your cold call success will increase dramatically.

3. Team Sales

Going into a sale with other team members can be much more complicated than you'd think. If you're leading a team, you need to always be looking for which people should be going into sales calls together. For instance, at Alumnify both my co-founder and I love selling. For some reason though, when we go into sales meetings together I do almost all the talking. It's not that I'm a better salesman, we just have such similar styles that one of us says what the other was going to say. Recognizing this, I make sure as CEO I am always experimenting with different sales combinations. That way, I don't rebuild problems that I experienced selling with someone who was too much like me.

When you do this, you'll learn more about the people on your team and your company's sales will become more efficient. Try finding which people make the strongest teams, and put them together to close deals. Your organization will flourish and your sales team will be happy.

Published on: Dec 10, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.