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13 sales skills every successful sales team needs to have

October 5, 2021 - 15 min read

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Sales skills every sales rep must master

13 essential sales skills

Sales skills foster success

“They’re a born salesperson.”

We’ve all heard the expression that describes someone with enviable sales skills.

While some people have a natural ability to fit into a sales role, sales skills aren’t genetic. Just like any other skills needed in today’s workforce, they can be learned and mastered.

Mastering sales skills will help you perform optimally and succeed in your sales role. They’re also some of the most transferable skills and sought-after skills in the job market, regardless of the industry or company you’re in.

But sales skills today aren’t necessarily the same as they were decades ago.

Powerful disruptors like a global pandemic, technological changes, and evolving client needs are changing the way we do business.

Let’s explore the essential sales skills a salesperson must have to succeed in their role today.  

Sales skills every sales rep must master

The role of a sales professional in today’s workplace is complex.

A successful salesperson needs to master both hard and soft skills to achieve their professional goals.

On the one hand, you need to keep up with the technical aspect of your role, like learning the ins and outs of a CRM system. On the other hand, fine-tuning your ‘human’ skills, like emotional intelligence, is just as (if not more) important.

According to a LinkedIn Talent Report, 92% of talent professionals say that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills when hiring.

That’s because sales skills like empathy, communication, and time management aren’t easy to teach and are hard to come by. But in a sales job, skills like these are crucial to relationship building and closing deals.

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Besides mastering these skills, having the right mindset is key in a sales role. Here are some of the most valuable traits you must have to deliver the best sales performance:

Now that we’ve established the mindset successful salespeople have, let’s take a look at some of the most essential hard and soft skills they need.

13 essential sales skills

As expected, the specific sales skills needed will vary depending on your specific type of sales job or the type of industry you work in. 

However, there are a number of skills that are essential for any salesperson. Here’s a sales skill list with some of the most important skills you need to master as a salesperson.  

Technical skills 

Some people call these "hard" skills,  but that implies the others are soft or easy, they're not. Technical skills are skills that are more readily trained through content and repetition. They are more context-specific — meaning the skill relates to a specific product or service being sold, or it relates to a tool, platform, or program being used.

Let’s take a look at some valuable technical skills:

1. Product knowledge

Knowing the ins and outs of your product or service is one of the most important hard skills in any sales role.

Your sales training program will give you the resources you need to arm yourself with that knowledge. But it’s up to you to become an expert in your field and establish credibility and trust.

Having a thorough knowledge of what you’re selling projects confidence to your client. It also allows you to easily answer any questions or concerns a customer may have.

And clients aren’t the only ones who value this skill.

According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report, industry expertise is one of the top skills valued by employers.

2. Strategic prospecting skills

Strategic prospecting means identifying sales opportunities in an efficient way.

This involves a strategic approach to finding and building a relationship with clients using:

  • Social selling
  • Email marketing
  • Quality content creation

Sales representatives who can leverage this skill usually have a higher success rate than those who use ‘old school’ methods like cold calling or relying on referrals.

3. Social selling

A salesperson has to be where their customers are. By 2022, 3.96 billion people will be active users of social networking sites.

This is the reason why social selling has become one of the most desirable sales techniques today. Social selling is the process of developing relationships with prospective customers, usually via social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

LinkedIn reports that 78% of social sellers outsell their peers who don’t engage in any social selling.

4. Objection handling

In sales, objections are unavoidable. It’s normal for your buyer to have reservations about your prices or product.

Objection handling is how a salesperson responds to these client concerns.

To be successful, sales reps must know how to alleviate these concerns without coming across as pushy. When done successfully, objection handling can turn a ‘no’ into an opportunity.

5. Ability to adapt to new technology and software

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the way we work in an unprecedented way. During this time, sales teams that adapted to remote selling via chat and phone outperformed the rest of their peers.

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Being open to leveraging technology to your benefit will continue to be a key skill in a sales role.

This includes adapting to working remotely or using software like customer relationship management (CRM) systems to improve your efficiency and productivity.

6. Closing techniques

Everything in the sales cycle leads up to the culminating point — closing the deal. The moment when your customer finally makes a purchase.

Mastering closing techniques that get your client to commit to buying is one of the most essential skills in sales. In HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report, 75% of companies said closing more deals is their top priority.

7. Post-sale relationship

Successful salespeople know that the best time to build trust with their buyers is after they’ve made a sale. Things like providing ongoing support, resolving any complaints, or offering loyalty discounts continue adding value to clients even long after they’ve made a purchase.

A healthy post-sale relationship can lead to continued business, loyalty, and referrals.

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Human skills

These are the so-called soft skills that are essential in sales. They are difficult to train, but once learned, they are highly transferable across different contexts. We develop these human skills through experience over time, with the help of coaching, mentoring, and peer support.

Now, let’s look at some important human skills for the sales job.

8. Time management

The expression ‘time is money’ has never been more true than when you’re in a sales role.

The reality is that time spent inefficiently in sales is lost revenue. Learning to manage your time effectively is an important soft skill to master if you want to be a successful salesperson.

And it’s not always easy.

Between prospecting, client meetings, and phone calls, managing your time can be challenging. A Data Well survey found that lack of time was one of the biggest challenges of sales managers in 2019.

Salespeople that know how to manage their time efficiently achieve a higher level of productivity. They are also attractive candidates for sales roles.

9. Active listening

Your buyers know when you’re really listening to them and when you’re simply waiting for your turn to speak.

That’s why active listening skills are the trademark of a good salesperson. Active listening is the ability to focus on what someone is saying and making them feel understood and valued.

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When you’re actively listening, you’re giving your customer your undivided attention and trying to understand their point of view. This helps you understand their pain points better, and it’s also a sign of respect.

According to LinkedIn, 46% of buyers list active listening as the top skill they expect from a sales professional.

10. Communication

Communication skills are some of the most in-demand skills in any sector, but especially in sales. What’s the point of being an expert in a product or service if you can’t convey its value to prospective clients?

Effective communication is a powerful skill used in sales to establish connections with customers and communicate value. Effective communication strategies include:

  • Keeping your client engaged
  • Being mindful of their time
  • Being concise when delivering your sales pitch

11. Integrity

Integrity is one of the most valuable skills in any profession. A sales rep with integrity has strong moral values and is always honest with their customers.

Buyers value this trait because they know sales reps with integrity will act in their best interest. According to LinkedIn, 88% of buyers have purchased products or services from salespeople that they felt were trustworthy.

12. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand and regulate your own emotions. It is also the ability to perceive the emotions of others. This quality is especially important in a sales role because it makes you a skilled communicator.

A salesperson with a high EQ easily builds relationships and trust with clients. That’s because they have the ability to make clients feel comfortable around them.

13. Resilience

2020 was a year when people and organizations faced stress and disruption like never before. During these times, those who were resilient came out stronger than ever before.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a challenging situation. In a high-pressure role like sales, it’s a must-have trait.

Say you’re a sales manager and your team is underperforming. If you’re not resilient, you quickly crumble under pressure and affect your team’s morale. But if you’re resilient, you’ll overcome this challenge by taking action, such as providing more training.

Sales skills foster success

Sales is a rewarding career path.

Armed with the right technical and human sales skills, you can deliver the best performance possible and have a thriving sales career.

Mastering these sales skills also makes you a desirable candidate for hiring managers. For this reason, it’s important to include sales skills on your resume when applying for a sales job.

Ultimately, success in sales comes with being self-motivated, ambitious, adaptable, sociable, and responsible. You have to have confidence but also persistence, resilience, and humility. Most importantly, it comes with having the right mindsets and behaviors to unlock your full potential and show up as your best self every day.

At BetterUp we believe that while tools, training, and incentives are important elements for the field, companies must also prioritize investment in the mindsets and behaviors that impact sales performance for individual contributors and sales team leaders. Learn how BetterUp’s Sale Performance Coaching can empower your sales leaders and teams. 

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Published October 5, 2021

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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