The beginning of a new year is just around the corner, and businesses of all sizes are gearing up to make 2014 their best sales year yet. Marketing pro Matt Winn believes that achieving and exceeding your sales goals is as easy as working on your persuasion skills.

"You can easily hit new heights in your sales by leveraging the power of persuasion," said Winn, marketing communications manager for business services firm Volusion. "Simply focus on knowing your products well, and more importantly, focusing on the needs of your customer."

Winn offered these five tips for being a better salesperson in the coming year: [10 Traits of Successful Salespeople]

Describe the benefits, not the product. Whether you're selling spackle for drywall or a designer purse, customers purchase an item for how it benefits their lives, not for the product itself. For example, your drywall spackle has the practical benefit of filling a hole, while the designer purse provides a lifestyle benefit of high fashion. Either way, focusing on the technical specs of the product won’t get you far. Instead, turn each product feature into a benefit that plays into the needs and desires of your customer.

Be nice. When it comes to selling, whether in person, online or on the phone, always make yourself approachable. Establish common ground so that you're more relatable to your customer, as this will help facilitate the conversation and humanize you as a salesperson. By the same token, know when to back off from a sale – if you come across as too pushy or aggressive, you can easily nix any goodwill that you've built and turn a customer off for good.

Focus on listening, not talking. It's impossible to find out what’s important to a customer if you're too busy preparing your next sentence instead of actively listening to what's being said on the other end. Keeping your ears open to customers will help identify pain points that your product can fulfill, helping to better frame the benefits of your product and close the deal. In other words, pay close attention to help identify customer intentions.

Be prepared to overcome objections. No matter what you're selling, your product will never be a 100 percent match for each customer. This means that you'll encounter some objections before closing the sale, such as price, color options, shipping times, etc. The trick is to keep these objections from killing the deal, which can be achieved by having a set of talking points established for common questions you receive from customers. Create a list of these questions and write corresponding responses to address the concerns. Then, familiarize yourself with these talking points and begin using them in real-life sales situations.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. Once you've invested the time and effort in answering a customer's questions and explaining the benefits of your product, go ahead and ask for the sale. You can do this without coming across too strong by using phrases like, "Do you have any other questions before we move forward?" or "Are you ready to go ahead with this purchase?" Using this tactic helps to direct the conversation toward completing the transaction, making customers think about exactly where they stand in the purchasing process.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.