The top 10 essential sales skills of a successful salesperson
In the world of sales, there's a generally held belief that you must "always be closing." However, so many organizations miss the critical soft skills training for sales teams that sets the foundation for those highly coveted transactions.
Although there are certainly times when you need to put pressure on a customer or client, some of the best success stories come from salespeople who took their time to develop a genuine, mutually beneficial relationship instead.
Does your sales team have the important skills needed for succeeding in sales?
Do you know the top skills of a successful salesperson?
Are you ready to learn which skills a salesperson should have?
This article highlights key sales skills needed to achieve company and salesperson goals. As you read, you’ll get an answer to, “What skills do you need in sales to be successful?”
Start taking notes because here are the 10 essential sales skills and sales soft skills that every salesperson should perfect to land those big deals!
The three buckets of key sales skills
So, what skills do you need in sales?
Although there are several different types of transferable skills, we will focus on three main skill sets:
- Basic Sales Skills
- Hard Sales Skills
- Sales Soft Skills
Here’s a quick look at what these three kinds of key sales skills include.
Basic sales skills:
The basic category includes skills that are fundamental and relatively simple.
Some great examples of basic sales skills include a salesperson’s ability to:
- Retain product knowledge
- Converse with customers
- Follow sales processes and steps
While these skills seem simple, many salespeople overlook them—and you can’t succeed as a salesperson without them.
Hard sales skills:
Hard skills of a successful salesperson refer to all the “teachable” skills an employee can learn through its company’s technical training and education.
For example, if you're selling a software platform, hard skills a salesperson should have include:
- Demoing the product
- Evaluating its effectiveness for a particular client
- Overcoming objections by reframing its value propositions
Hard skills can be taught, but they also need to be practiced. So, if you’re thinking about investing in a sales training program, consider whether it provides practice opportunities or not.
Sales soft skills:
Soft skills for salespeople are non-quantifiable, non-technical skills that have an equal, if not greater, impact than hard skills.
Examples of soft skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
Developing strong relationships with customers goes a long way in closing sales, often more than having a perfect product.
In an increasingly virtual climate, these key sales skills are even more critical. With many face-to-face interactions moving online, it’s much easier for prospects to disconnect or disengage.
The following skills are an absolute must for winning at sales, especially in our new hybrid workplaces.
10 essential sales skills for an effective sales team
Now that you’re more familiar with the different types of sales skills a salesperson should have, let’s answer the question, “What specific skills does a salesperson need?”
Here are ten of the most important skills for succeeding in sales.
1. Solid product knowledge
Good product knowledge is non-negotiable.
A successful salesperson needs to be highly knowledgeable about the products and services they’re selling, especially relative to the competition.
In a digital climate, your competitors are even more accessible. With a few simple clicks, prospects can navigate away from your proposal, right to a competitor’s.
While a salesperson doesn’t need to be as well-versed as a subject-matter expert, they need to know how to instantly relate product benefits with a potential customer's pain points. Don’t give them the opportunity to sign off and sign on somewhere else.
Solid product knowledge is one of the most basic sales skills any salesperson needs.
As a salesperson, you need to have a competitive nature or be motivated to keep moving forward no matter what.
If you're going head-to-head against other companies in your industry, you need to have the drive to keep going. That motivation to stay on top is what will allow you to succeed, especially in a competitive sales environment.
In addition, you should always strive to be the best at what you do. Your customers should be able to feel how important their business is to you.
3. Effective communication
Are you likely to buy from someone who struggles to communicate or effectively present a sales pitch? I think we all know the answer to this one.
Whether you’re doing an in-person or online call, both verbal and non-verbal communication are important soft skills for salespeople to master.
When it comes to verbal communication, it’s not always about how much you say. Instead, it’s about communicating clearly and in a way that engages your client.
Some best practices to follow include:
- Speaking slowly and clearly, especially during a video call
- Pausing periodically to ask questions or for clarification
- Using words and phrases your audience is familiar with
Asking questions is also a valuable way to communicate with a potential client. It makes your sales pitch more of a dialogue and helps you gather further information about your client and their needs.
But sometimes, it’s not always what you say that makes the biggest impression.
How you hold yourself during a call will also go a long way in helping to secure a sale.
Here are some ways to ensure that your body language don’t give off the wrong impression:
- Posture: The way you position and hold yourself in person or online are critical. When in person, try to sit up straight and don’t cross your arms. Crossed arms can make you seem disinterested. And during a video call, make sure your camera is pointed in a favorable angle.
- Eye contact: Whether in person or online, eye contact is vital. Eye contact is a little more tricky when doing a call on Zoom. It’s our tendency to look at people’s faces, but with a video call it’s important to remember to look into the camera and keep your eyes from wandering too far from the screen.
- Silent acknowledgement: When the other person is talking, you’ll want to show them that you’re engaged and paying attention. Maintaining eye contact and nodding your head can indicate that you’re listening to what they’re saying.
Ultimately, good non-verbal cues show your client that you’re interested and engaged in the conversation.
Even during a video call, verbal and non-verbal communication are essential sales skills to master.
4. Acute listening
Listening skills are right up there on the list of important sales skills as well.
If you're not listening carefully when customers explain what they want or need, how can you possibly showcase that your solution is the answer to their frustrations?
Salespeople who can’t include listening as one of their key sales skills tend to talk too much, try to force products on customers, and lose deals altogether. Instead, ask some questions and leave pauses in your pitch for your client to offer input.
However, there’s also not a “golden rule” when it comes to a talk to listen ratio. It’s important that you learn to understand who you’re talking to and adjust your talk to listen ratio accordingly.
5. Confident negotiating
When customers aren't satisfied with the product or feel the price doesn't justify the results, the salesperson must engage in good old-fashioned negotiating.
Do your sales reps know how to prepare for a negotiation?
Are they able to understand alternatives and know when to walk away?
Can they craft client-specific offers that fit each situation?
It takes confidence to feel secure enough to negotiate,and that confidence is a big part of a winning salesperson's arsenal. However, many salespeople lack the confidence when it comes to negotiating.
Investing in a negotiation training program could be a good way to upskill your team and prepare them for future negotiations.
6. Ability to handle rejection
Even if you’re a career salesperson, you’ll often hear the word “no”—there’s no way around it. And unfortunately a virtual sales pitch makes it even easier for potential clients to say “no.”
The ability to handle rejection well - and learn from it - is one of the critical skills of a successful salesperson.
Turning mistakes into opportunities and handling rejection with grace is especially important for those employees working on commission. As a salesperson, you need to maintain a strong desire to close deals with an unwavering focus on success.
7. Self-motivation & discipline
Self-motivation and discipline are two of the most important skills for succeeding in sales.
If you don't feel confident in your ability to do well and achieve results, customers will be able to pick up on it (and likely avoid buying from you). In addition, a lack of confidence will become apparent to your employer.
Likewise, if you’re not disciplined in your craft and always seeking opportunities to grow in important sales skills, you’ll quickly fall behind, lose sales, or quit selling altogether.
As a salesperson, it’s important that you’re confident and disciplined in what you do.
8. Sharp technical skills
As mentioned earlier, salespeople need to be technically skilled when it comes to their products or services.
They should know everything about the technical side of what they're selling, including:
- How it works
- Why their customers need it
- What differentiates their product from the competition
Understanding these three areas will allow salespeople to more confidently engage with a potential client and provide them with the information they need to make a purchase.
9. Ability to handle pressure
If you feel stressed easily, sales is probably not the best place for you. When customers lean on salespeople hard, they need to stand tall and not crumble under pressure.
When a customer needs something done yesterday and expects your company to "make it happen,” a good salesperson remains calm and relaxed. Cooler heads always prevail.
10. Critical thinking
Good salespeople are also good problem solvers. They think quickly on their feet when they’re in the field, and they skillfully maneuver through questions and objections, even those they may be unprepared for.
Instead of memorizing what to say and always staying on script, skilled salespeople know how to read situations and adjust accordingly. They’re always taking in what the client is saying and thinking of new, fresh ways to engage clients and close sales.
Critical thinking is often a soft sales skill that many people have to work on, so don’t worry if your sales team doesn’t seem to possess it yet. You can always provide them with training that gets them thinking outside the box.
So, how do you perfect all these skills a salesperson should have in your team members? It all ties back to your employee training and development.
Implement effective soft skills training for sales teams with Unboxed
While some sales team members come locked and loaded with the raw talent to succeed, others need a little extra help with their approach. That's where Unboxed comes in.
Unboxed’s Spoke® learning platform helps sales teams enhance their "sales readiness" skills online. Instead of simply giving salespeople more training, Spoke prepares a salesperson to interact with a potential customer or client at any stage of the sales process. Through continuous virtual employee coaching and collaborative learning, Spoke can help leaders perfect their employees’:
- Sales soft skills
- Basic sales skills
- Other important skills for succeeding in sales
Spoke® unites the components of sales tools and sales skills in just the right way to give your organization the best probability of winning at any stage of the buying process.
But Spoke is simply a place to house training content. If you’re looking for a new sales training program or need to revamp your current program, we’ve got you covered:
- Turn-key sales training: Our off-the-shelf training allows you to quickly upskill your salespeople so you can stay ahead of the competition.
- Custom training solutions: With our custom training solutions, we’ll work with you to give your sales team the specific, engaging training they need to close more sales.
Connect with us today to request a demo of Spoke and see our turn-key or custom training content in action.
See how Spoke can make your sales team sales-ready