Sales

18 Essential Sales Skills to Master the Role

Learn new skills to make you a better seller in 2022.

Introduction

Fast-paced, demanding, rewarding — these three words sum up a career in sales pretty well.

Imagine the thrill of taking sales calls, convincing prospects to sign the deal, and completing the paperwork to close that sale. There’s nothing quite like it. 

But carving out a career in an aggressively competitive domain like sales isn’t as simple as it sounds. On top of adapting to the dynamic selling environments, you have to be a quick learner, cultivate relentlessness, and consistently upskill yourself. 

So, if you’re looking for the perfect avenue to kickstart your journey as a salesperson, this blog is just the place for you. 

Keep reading to gain meaningful insights into the 18 of the most essential sales skills you should possess—and learn how. But first, let’s look at the difference between hard and soft skills for sales reps. 

Hard skills vs soft skills: A fine balance 

Multiple skills come into play throughout your sales process—from lead generation to client conversion. Some of these are more technical skills centric to your role as a sales rep while others are qualities that supplement your technical expertise. 

Hard skills: your on-the-job skills. These are more industry-specific skills that you can acquire only through formal training and refine with hands-on experience. 

Soft skills: behavioral characteristics influencing your inputs. These are directed toward building the team culture and establishing healthy relationships. 

In other words, hard skills convey your domain knowledge and proficiency while soft skills relate to your attitude—one can be taught formally and the other comes from self-effort. A well-rounded salesperson has a perfect balance of these hard and soft skills. 

18 must-have skills to become a sales expert

Maybe you want to land a better-paying job or maybe you want to boost your sales productivity quotient. No matter what your motivation may be, souping up your sales skills can fuel your transformation to a high-flying sales rep.

So, learn these 18 crucial skills to add to your resume and watch your career soar! 

1. Hands-on product knowledge 

A sales pitch is only as good as your answers to a prospect’s questions. All your confidence and charisma would fall through the cracks if you don’t offer meaningful and viable solutions to your leads. 

One way to make your pitches ridiculously good is by building a deeper and more hands-on understanding of the product you’re selling. 

Whether you’re working in retail or selling SaaS, your product knowledge is the key to convincing smart customers. When you’re aware of your buyers’ struggles and know the product inside out, you can effortlessly position your brand as the ultimate solution. 

What you can do

Develop a meticulous understanding of the product you’re selling before you set out to make a pitch. Learn every feature and align it with a customer’s point of view to sell features as benefits. 

Find gaps in your understanding through objections raised in your sales calls and consistently strengthen your product knowledge.

2. Strategic prospecting 

Prospecting is probably the easiest yet the most difficult function of a sales role. With so many lead generation channels at your disposal, any sales rep can source prospects and create lengthy lists. 

But without a strategic approach to generate and process leads effectively, these long lists will only increase your workload of sifting through so many names. 

Knowing where and how to find relevant leads is another crucial skill in this list. Equipped with a solid aptitude for strategic prospecting, you can find good leads, pitch effectively, and drive conversions like a pro. Creating your own prospecting workflow would also keep your lead pipeline filled at all times. 

What you can do

Savvy sales reps use some of these best practices to find prospects seamlessly:

  • Create an ideal buyer persona(s).
  • Outline channels to reach your ideal buyers.
  • Segregate your warm, cold, and lost lead lists.
  • Personalize your email pitches.
  • Request referrals or social proof.

3. Networking and social selling

Building professional relationships lies at the core of every sales role—making networking a big part of your job as a sales rep.

Making a sale starts with winning your prospect’s trust. But you don’t need to establish your credibility when you’re approaching your own network. So, you can easily tap into your community and bring more sales consistently. 

Closely interlinked with networking is the art of social selling. Knowing how to engage with your prospects on social media and building a solid rapport with them can make selling a lot easier and faster. 

What you can do

Networking is all about finding like-minded people and adding value to their lives. Actively participating in sales communities and building your personal brand on professional channels can put you in the front seat for any job. 

Here are some more networking tactics you can practice:

  • Make a plan to interact with a select few individuals
  • Engage meaningfully with people in your network
  • Demonstrate your expertise and deliver value-packed content

4. Client engagement 

Selling used to be an act of interruption. Today, it’s an intricately planned and delivered experience. 

There’s no secret sauce to producing this experience. But putting yourself in your client’s shoes and thinking of what they truly need can work like a charm. Initiate a conversation about your customers’ challenges, empathize with them, build a solid bond, then deliver your pitch. 

The bottom line is: you have to be more human with your prospects instead of relying on the pitch & ditch formula. 

What you can do

Build strong communication skills to strike the right chords with your customers. Research well before approaching a prospect and spend some extra time understanding their problem areas. Personalize your pitch to make it sound as authentic and sincere as possible. 

5. Objection handling

Objections are a part of every sales process. While a rookie salesperson might struggle to find fitting responses for any objections, practiced sales reps consider objections as valuable opportunities to tackle their clients’ queries and convince them into making a purchase. 

“Being able to resolve objections is just critical to being able to move an opportunity through a pipeline as swiftly as possible. A rep who can map objections to the customers’ needs can also build more credibility than any of their competitors can hope to do.” — Andrea Grodnitzky, Global Performance Solutions

So, your objection handling skills can become a huge differentiator for you. It’ll help in holding meaningful conversations that lead to more conversions and less drop-offs. 

A major part of handling objections lies in handling the pressure. You have to be quick on your feet and come up with a relevant response almost instantly. 

What you can do

Create an objection handling cheat sheet and prepare yourself to address the most common types of sales objections. Cultivate a habit of listening to your prospect patiently before you offer a solution. 

Your product knowledge will also allow you to resolve any objections in no time. So, be thorough with both your product and prospect before any sales call. 

6. Conflict management

The customer is always right has been a golden rule in sales. But what if they aren’t? There’s always a possibility of conflict that can hit your negotiations and collapse the deal. 

Knowing how to navigate through such situations can make you a seasoned sales rep. You’re not simply responsible for handling client objections, but also for resolving any potential disputes in the process. 

What you can do

Keeping your calm is a must when thinking of conflict management. Here are some other tips you can follow to develop this essential skill:

  • Carefully identify the reasons behind a conflict 
  • Prepare a respective response and analyze their reaction
  • Design a plan for resolution and open a conversation

7. Data analysis and research

Sales is a numbers game. With so many advances in sales technology, data is steering the wheel for every organization. Given the massive difference that data can create, it’s no surprise that 53 percent of high-performing sales organizations heavily rely on analytics. 

Data is a catalyst in every step of the sales process—from prospecting and lead qualification to territory mapping and goal-setting. So, learning how to gather and leverage data can equip you with the analytical superpower to skyrocket your conversions. 

What you can do

Building data skills is easy with the excess of on-demand learning material available online. Complete a certification or enroll for a formal course to upgrade your knowledge of data. Learn more about an effective sales tech stack and dive deeper into the most significant sales KPIs to monitor your and your org’s performance.

8. Project management 

All high-performing sales reps are experienced project managers—target-oriented, budget-conscious, and extremely organized. 

A standard sales process has many moving parts. Staying on top of everything requires you to manage every task systematically. This is where your project management skills will allow you to be in control of all your tasks and practice a higher degree of accountability. 

What you can do

Project management is an umbrella term for several skills that make your daily work more streamlined and seamless. So, cultivate these qualities to boost your productivity as a sales pre:

  • Motivation to fulfill your targets
  • Ownership for all your work and flaws
  • Discipline to adhere to your process
  • Collaboration to create a team effort

9. Customer and market research 

If you want to make an amazing impact in your sales calls, you have to get your hands dirty and perform thorough research. The ability to dig deeper into your target market and develop a broader understanding of your customers is a must-have for any salesperson. 

The more information you have about your customers, the more effortless and compelling your pitches will become. Keep yourself updated with all the trends and tools that can fuel your efficiency through meticulous research. 

What you can do

Add research as an essential step in your sales workflow. Gather as much detail about a prospect as possible before starting a conversation with them. Use CRM and research tools to identify new trends and experiment with these trends. 

10. Upselling and cross-selling

Your job doesn’t end with making the sale. You can unlock so many more possibilities through a satisfied customer by deploying your upselling and cross-selling strategies. 

“With the majority of revenue occurring after a deal is closed (particularly in SaaS) having upselling and cross selling built into your process is important. We no longer consider sales to be a funnel, but rather a bowtie. A robust revenue operation is initiated once a new customer is acquired with the aim of increasing the customer's lifetime value.” — Ricky Pearl, CEO, Pointer Strategy

Knowing the difference and creating your game plan to upsell or cross-sell your existing customers can take your sales off the charts.

What you can do

Design a roadmap of how you want to upsell or cross-sell existing customers. Build a value-driven relationship with your customers and focus on satisfying all their expectations. Take constant feedback and make improvements to show your efforts. Then deliver your pitch. 

11. Business acumen and curiosity

A sales rep acts as the bridge between business leaders and target customers. You have to essentially translate the former’s vision and ideology to fit into the latter’s spectrum of needs. 

Your understanding of how the business works and how it can help a potential customer will significantly reflect in this process. 

Once you’ve acquired a basic idea of the business, your curiosity would consistently feed this knowledge stream. Be eager to explore the industry you’re working in. This eagerness can steepen your learning curve and enhance your performance. 

What you can do

Ask questions and do your independent research to better acquaint yourself with the business and the industry you’re working in. Keep yourself open to new ideas and develop a unique understanding of buyer challenges. 

12. Active listening and communication

Selling is part listening, part problem-solving, and part communication. Every sales call is a problem statement where you identify your customers’ roadblocks and propose tailor-made solutions. 

So, one of the most significant skills you can master is that of active listening. When you listen patiently to their pain points—instead of restlessly making a pitch, you can make your pitch more persuasive and bag the sale. 

The combination of active listening and communication helps you win your customers’ trust while giving you the time to come up with the most effective solutions on the spot. 

What you can do

Record yourself during sales calls to understand where you’re going wrong. Review your prospects’ reactions simultaneously to better prepare yourself for similar situations.

You can also take a formal course to learn the best practices for active listening. Engage in hands-on activities that help in cultivating this crucial skill. You can also hold mock sessions within your team to practice active listening and hone your communication ability. 

13. Negotiation 

Selling is a two-way street. You’re always negotiating with your customer—first for their attention and then for their final decision. But a skilled sales rep with expert negotiation skills can close deals in a snap. 

Your ability to negotiate effectively can give you the upper hand in any conversation. So, instead of conceding to your client’s objections, you can influence them enough to complete the sale. 

What you can do

Learn more about different negotiation and closing tactics. Practice and experiment with these strategies to find your flow and create a disciplined negotiation process. Your negotiation skills will essentially combine your ability to listen and handle objections. 

14. Problem-solving 

Expert sales reps have a natural flair for anticipating problems and finding solutions. That’s because at the core of every sale is your customers’ pain points—if you can solve them, the sale is yours. 

With a specialized problem-solving skill, you’re equipped to understand any challenge and brainstorm a relevant solution almost instantly. This will be a big plus for handling objections in your sales calls. 

“A sales call is about boiling it down to its first principles and looking at what’s the problem that this business is experiencing, what are the symptoms, how can I help them solve those. That’s it. You create a prescription for them.” — Sabri Suby, Founder and Head of Growth, King Kong

What you can do

You can only master problem-solving through practice. Join communities and forums to participate in problem-solving discussions. Share your views and learn from those around you. 

You can also create a needs analysis document jotting down all of your customers’ potential problems—then practice a rebuttal for each one. 

16. Time management

With the growing intensity of competition in the sales field, your targets and timelines may never align. Becoming adept at time management—to manage your own process and to respect your buyer’s time—can be a major driving force for your success. 

Time management is closely related to your awareness of the sales process. You should designate ideal timelines for each stage of the funnel and stick to only the designated time for every sale. 

Besides, managing your time well can directly shoot up your sales productivity. Design a proper balance of sales and admin tasks and let your productivity quotient soar. 

What you can do

Follow a scheduling process to shape each day. Set your routine and divide your daily work time between your standard set of tasks. You can also practice tactics like time blocking and deep work to focus more on just one activity for a given period. 

16. Goal setting 

Sales teams can’t work without targets. When you’re racing against time to meet and exceed your targets, the art of goal setting will prove more than helpful. 

You should know how to set clear goals that will take you to the desired outputs. Cultivate a goal-oriented mindset to set personal goals and create a constructive plan of action to reach these goals. 

What you can do

Learn to set goals using the SMART framework. That means, each goal has to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Following this design will give you a clear picture of how well you’re progressing and reveal your areas of improvement. 

17. Relationship building 

You cannot start selling to a stranger as soon as you get a hold of them. Instead, you have to discuss their pain points, empathize with them, spark their curiosity, and win their trust. This long-drawn process is all about building relationships with your prospects. 

“You can’t hack building relationships. It’s not like a podcast that you can run at 2x speed. The hack is consistency. Show up every day, contribute every day, and give people time to fall in love with your generosity.” — Tom Slocum, Program Director, RevGenius

Your relationship-building skills can allow you to close more deals at a faster pace—primarily because your clients trust you. Besides, once you close the deal, these skills will help you in upselling and cross-selling too.

What you can do

A lot is riding on how you build a rapport with your customers in the very first sales call. It’s a true test of your relationship-building skills. So, you can practice pitching to more and more people and seek their review of your performance. 

You can also produce your style and best practices for communicating with clients. This will keep you better prepared for a sales call. 

18. Teamwork 

Any good sales team relies heavily on the collective strength of its members. It’s rarely a one-person effort. So, the ability to coordinate with your colleagues is a significant yet underrated skill for a good salesperson. 

Align your personal goals with your team’s capacity and work in tandem with them. Find your place in the functioning of the complete workflow and strive to work synergistically with everyone else. 

What you can do

The easiest way to learn teamwork is to work in groups. Proactively participate in team huddles and contribute to resolving challenges, celebrating wins, and more.

Conclusion 

Your professional development is one of the biggest driving forces for your success as a sales rep. Constantly improving your sales skills can help you stand out from the crowd of salespeople around you. 

More importantly, building your skills continuously pushes you to learn and adapt to an ever-changing sales landscape. Use this extensive guide to strengthen your skillset. 

If you’re looking to empower your sales team, Scribe is the perfect tool for your coaching program. Convert plain text and knowledge-sharing sessions into engrossing guides and maximize learning for your team.