The best-performing salespeople in their field didn’t become top producers overnight. These world-renowned personalities reached the top and have stayed there by continuously cultivating their sales skills. We asked experts to share the important skills all sales professionals need in order to become some of the best in the business.
Here are 23 must-have skills for sales professionals:
1. Learn to Be Adaptable
Ben Mercer, Co-Founder, Personify XP
The biggest thing I’ve learned in my career is being adaptable in sales situations. I went through a lot of training for managing sales processes, how to deal with objections, and how to forecast effectively. However, when in meetings, a customer would always throw a curveball, which no training could prepare me for. The best way to learn is to speak to other business owners and liaise with your network around how they deal with these situations. If you need more clarity, ask more questions. The customer will feel strongly that you understand their request, and it also will help in how to come back and respond. Customers always welcome this approach.
2. Be Empathetic
Matthew Gibbs, Co-Founder, Recruiterly
Being empathetic in a sales role enables you to transform from a salesperson to a solutions person. Taking the time to position yourself in the shoes of your prospect allows you to gain a rapid, deep understanding of what they need at that moment and how your service, product, or solution can fill that need. Sales then becomes more about providing the right solution, at the right time, instead of cold calling one hundred people a day until someone says “Yes.” I’ve seen salespeople go from average performers to company-elite by making the effort to hone this skill.
3. Develop the Habit of Following Up
Lorena Tomasini, Owner, MALM Life & Health Insurance Agency
Many times the sale is not made on the first point of contact but maybe on the fourth or fifth. People are constantly being bombarded with information and you need to stay top of mind. One actionable step would be to use a CRM to remind you about the follow-up call, or for the CRM to send them some type of email reminder. If you don’t have a CRM, then a calendar works just fine, and take good notes about previous conversations. This has helped me with closing sales that perhaps would’ve been lost or become cold.
4. Inspire Confidence
Todd E. Miller, President, Isaiah Industries, Inc.
Ongoing confidence begins when you assure the client of what they can expect from a relationship with you, and continues with meeting the commitments you have made. To obtain their confidence, provide them with your Personal Letter of Commitment printed on very nice paper. This will list the things that they can depend upon receiving from you if you’re blessed with their business, and it will include your cell phone number for them to call if at any time you fall short of your commitment. Sign the letter in front of them using a nice company logo pen, and then give them the signed letter and the pen. This skill, when implemented, really increases closing ratios.
Maggie Aland, Marketing & Review Editor, Fit Small Business
Salespeople need to continuously adapt to changes in order to stay on top of their goals. This is why training is important no matter how long one has been in sales. The Sales Pro offers powerful, self-paced training courses perfect for busy sales professionals. Their simple format for presenting advanced, up-to-date selling skills and strategies makes learning quick and easy while gaining proven sales and customer techniques. Click here to check out their sales essentials program starting at $49.95.
6. Learn to Qualify Your Prospects
Mike Smith, Founder, SalesCoaching1
Make a list of questions that will determine if the potential customer has the authority to make a purchase, the ability to pay for it, and has the real, or perceived, need for your product or service. In addition, find out the time frame for the decision. If you do not have these qualifiers, do not schedule a presentation or provide a price as you are not ready, and most likely will not get the results you hope.
7. Become Tech Savvy
Matt Baglia, Co-Founder & CEO, SlickText
Sales professionals need to be able to use technology to adapt to the current culture and market. Salespeople used to be known for amassing phone numbers in their Rolodex. Nowadays, many customers find sales calls offensive, and tactfully-crafted text marketing funnels are more the norm. Sales professionals who can’t see and adapt to trends like this will fail. If you want to succeed in sales, you have to make sure you’re challenging yourself to learn new technologies every year.
8. Use the Proper Tone
Ryan Frampton, Account Executive, Vidyard
Prospects become customers only once urgency, scarcity, and the other emotional aspects of the sale are achieved. Using proper tonality when making requests and pitching solutions is how you unlock this emotional side of the sale. Lowering your voice when disclosing how your service helped a specific customer conveys scarcity, which is just one quick way you can start using tonality to positively impact a prospect.
9. Practice Intuitive Listening
Joshua Smith, Personal & Professional Development Coach & CEO, Joshua Smith Inc.
More than just waiting for your turn to talk, intuitive listening involves fully focusing on what a prospect or client is saying, reading between the lines, and watching for unspoken clues. Sales producers who master this skill are able to convey a genuine engagement and vested interest in their client’s ultimate success. This undoubtedly leads to stronger, more trusting client relationships. It also promotes effective questioning, which uncovers clues that can be crucial in expanding additional sales opportunities.
Marc Prosser, Co-Founder, Fit Small Business
Communication is key to nurturing leads, so take every opportunity to speak to your prospects as often as possible. To do this, you’ll need a system that’s dedicated to keeping you connected with your leads even while on the go. RingCentral is a VoIP phone service that offers unlimited calling, a multilevel auto-attendant, voicemail, and audio and video conferencing. Its advanced features, as well as its scalability and generous toll-free minutes, set it apart from other VoIP providers. Click here for a free trial.
11. Learn to Work Backwards
Jeff Butler, Workplace Expert, JeffButler
Being good in sales requires someone to find out how many actions equal a result. Essentially, breaking down a sale and working backwards will help with future projections. A lot of salespeople find it easier to handle rejection by doing this, as they are able to come up with rebuttals and alternatives with ease while explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.
12. Personalize Your Pitch
Jonathan Prichard, Founder & CEO, MattressInsider.com
Try to personalize your sales presentation by referencing things mentioned during the qualifying stage. Start off by asking open-ended questions that help you identify the customer’s pain points and also by taking note of any specific details they mention (names of spouses, locations, etc.). Then it’s just a matter of making sure to mention those specific pain points and unique details when you’re presenting the features and benefits of the product/service. You can practice this by role playing with your colleagues. Ask them to surprise you with unique details and problems that you need to address during your faux presentation.
13. Become Adept at Public Speaking
Albert Ho, Chief Hero Officer, Healthcare Heroes
Public speaking is the one skill that has enabled me to become a top sales producer. I have spoken to audiences of up to 1,500 attendees and delivered hundreds of presentations. The best tip to improve your public speaking skills is by joining a Toastmasters club. By practicing writing and delivering speeches, you will be able to communicate better with your customers. Learn how to read the audience and connect with them.
14. Learn How to Remove a Prospect’s Perceived Risks
Nick Disney, Owner, Sell My San Antonio House
You can practice this skill by spending less time telling the customer how great your product is and more time listening to what the customer sees as the potential risk. Then offer solutions that remove that risk for the customer. If the customer likes your product but is worried that they might not use it, then stop telling them all the features of the product and let them know that if they decide that they don’t like it later, they can return it for a full refund. You have now removed the risk.
Gavin Graham, Editor, Fit Small Business
When it comes to sales, it’s important to stay organized to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities. You’ll need a reliable tool to manage all your leads in different buying stages and follow through on each one. Pipedrive is a CRM tool that offers a wide array of features to help businesses manage their sales activities. Its pricing is designed with the needs of small businesses in mind in order to match their growth with Pipedrive’s affordable plans. Visit Pipedrive and sign up for a free trial today.
16. Have an In-Depth Understanding of Your Industry
Alex Kom, Business Development Director/Head of Sales, Belitsoft
Customers value partners who listen to them, understand what their specific goals and needs are, and provide the best possible tailored solutions. However, only a sales manager with expert knowledge of the industry can wisely advise and guide the client. Thus, in-depth industry understanding and continuous learning are a must for any top sales producer. With the accumulation of experience, you gain unconscious competence and reputation.
17. Ask for Referrals
Drew Stevens, CEO, Stevens Consulting Group
Business is driven by the ability to ask for new business. If clients are happy with your work, they will willingly refer you to others who need to receive your value. There is a story of an insurance professional who would visit clients and not leave without three new referrals. Even if the client provided one or two, the agent would not leave until he received three or more. Needless to say, the agent retired as an extremely wealthy individual.
18. Seek Constant Progress
Lee Britton, Commercial Director, Prepaid Financial Services
When you examine the careers of top international sales influencers, they will all be described as dynamic. They relish the ever-changing nature of their industry and actively seek to make constant progress in achieving work-related milestones and personal goals. Their daily activities are like a force generating a perpetual forward motion. They are constantly thinking about the next new client they can help with a leading-edge offering.
19. Focus on the Activity, Not the Results
Mike MacDonald, Business Coach, CoachMikeMacDonald
Too many times sales reps struggle because they are worried about each yes or no they get while selling. Certainly, you want more yeses, but sales reps need to understand that getting worked up about what someone is going to do (or not do) only slows down the sales process. Focus on activity and not results, and the sales will work themselves out. In almost all cases, the worst case scenario of the sales process is just a no, but there’s always a chance it can be a yes.
20. Know How to Project Your Voice
Matt Ramsey, Head Voice Teacher, Ramsey Voice Studio
Salespeople with vocal control and character to their voice seem more relatable, compassionate, and human than those who don’t. So learn to project your voice and use more pitch and melody in your speaking. A great rule of thumb is there should be no breathiness in your voice (unless you’re in a small room with just one person), and that you should end your declarative statements on a lower pitch than you start the sentence with. This gives the other person the impression that you have finished speaking and are confident in your statement.
21. Build Excellent Rapport with Prospects
James Shockley, Founder & CEO, Social Movement Media
A skill you must learn is how to adjust your personality. If you can match the personality of the person you are trying to sell, they are more likely to like you. If they can relate to you, you have a higher chance of building a better, faster relationship. My number one tip would be to practice, practice, practice. The best way I have found to practice is by attending trade shows. Trade shows give you the opportunity to literally pitch your product or service hundreds of times, over and over again.
22. Treat Sales as a Teaching Opportunity
Simon Frewer, CEO, Challenger Inc.
The ideal teaching conversation has three parts. The seller begins by teaching the customer something new. Then the seller deepens the customer’s resolve to make a change by highlighting the impact, both logical and emotional, if the status quo is maintained. Finally, the seller resolves the conversation by presenting the customer with a framework of smart solutions to address the issues recently uncovered. In short, teaching leads to a solution and an opportunity to buy, rather than leading with a solution and opportunity to buy. Mastering the teaching conversation takes diligent preparation, creativity, practice, and skilled delivery, but it can lead to great success when done well.
23. Create & Leverage Relationships
Lon Cunninghis, Vice President, Revenue Storm Corporation
This goes way beyond just building trust, although trust is a critical element in any business relationship. This requires us to intentionally target the right decision-makers and influencers and understand both the personal and professional agendas driving those people. Once we understand them, we have to find ways to create value and contribute to their agenda so that we can create an ally. Once they are an ally, we can collaborate with them on “win strategies” and leverage them to sell for us to others in the account.
Bonus Tip. Have a Strong Emotional Intelligence
Eric Rittmeyer, Mental Toughness Expert, MentalToughnessSpeaker
It’s the one thing all of the top performers I train are really good at: understanding and controlling their emotions. And not just understanding and controlling their emotions, but also others’ emotions. In my years of training top-performing salespeople, I’ve found the following traits to be synonymous with them all: they don’t allow their emotions to be hijacked; they’re not addicted to the approval of others; they’re not afraid of rejection; and they understand the power of logical thinking versus emotional thinking.
Every sales professional strives to gain the most in-demand techniques and skills to reach milestones in their career. Keep in mind our list of top skills from the pros and be one step closer to reaching your goals.
Got more sales skills you’d like to see in our list? Share them with us in the comments.