Key Skills for the Successful Salesperson

We can all identify who’s doing well in the Sales Team. All we need to do is check out their results and activity in the CRM Suite. We can see the effort going in and what they result in.

A good part of their results will be because of said effort. Sales persons consistently do lots of things that result in closing deals. We will look at what these habits are later. Success in Sales is a reflection of two key things.

  1. Strength of the person’s hard skills
  2. Strength of the person’s soft skills.

Hard Skills a Salesperson Needs

Hard Skills are the easier skills to figure out and acquire/learn. They include Product, Market & Competitor Knowledge, Technical Skills and Presentation Skills.

Product, Market & Competitor Knowledge

When talking about product we need to not only know features but also what problem it solves. Additionally, Market & Competitor Knowledge will mean a stronger message or pitch to your clients.

Technical Skills

Being tech savvy and having knowledge of how to take advantage of various sales tools, such as an open-source CRM Suite, is essential to help you manage your sales process efficiently and effectively. Also, having sufficient knowledge in order to ask the right questions from the tech team is important as nobody expects sales people to have all the tech know how.

Presentation Skills

This is another area that is certainly important. With effort, practise and coaching you can improve this skill. Each presentation should focus on the specific customer / buyer and their needs. It needs to be interesting, informative and to the point.

Prospecting Skills

Prospecting is a big subject, and one of the most important aspects of effective prospecting is to start with identifying good-fit customers for your business. By this I mean finding prospects and leads that really need what you are selling to solve an issue or problem they have. You convert a prospect to a lead by asking the right qualification questions. Again, prospecting can be learned as can the process for qualifying leads and moving them through the sales process.

Networking Skills

I would include networking skills in this area. To start, effective networking is all about the people you know and meeting new people through other people. It can be as simple as asking a new and satisfied customer if they know of anyone else who would be interested in speaking with you to hear about what you offer. As I often say:

What’s the worst thing that can happen? They can just say NO and well that’s OK, isn’t it?

It depends on how you ask and how you handle the answer so that nobody feels uncomfortable.

Negotiation Skills:

90% of the successful outcome of any negotiation is rooted in the planning. Successful planning and strategies can enable the negotiator to take control of any situation, to understand the interests, priorities and value to the other party.

During your qualification and requalification process you will have gathered information that will put you in a strong position to negotiate. When you negotiate well everybody should be happy with the outcome.

Some people find that negotiation comes naturally to them. However, others need to work on it and have a strong process they follow in order to close the sale. So, you can learn an practice negotiation techniques. As an example, I have found that role playing is a great way to improve this skill set.

Soft Skills a Salesperson Needs

Let’s now take a look at Soft Skills. These are the skills that help the salesperson build relationships with your customers and potential customers and help you to earn their trust.

I have found that one of the big deciding factors on who the customer decides to buy from is whether they trust, respect and enjoy doing business with the salesperson. They need to like you and believe that you have their best interests at heart and that you will continue to do so after the sale is closed. But before we get to closing the sale we have to look at the soft skills that help you get to the place where you have the opportunity to do so.

From my experience of working with and training sales consultants I have found that the best sales people are people that genuinely enjoy communicating with others and helping them. They are hardworking, self disciplined, and like to do well / win.

Additionally, they also need to have some humility along with being confident and be coachable. By being coachable I mean that they take and implement feedback and are happy to do so as they realise the value of others experience and knowledge. Let’s look at some of the important soft skills for a sales person.

Good Communication Skills

It goes without saying that you need to have good verbal and writing skills, but a good sales person should also be a good listener. If you are talking more than the customer or prospect there is something really wrong with your communication style.

Everyone likes to be listened to. It’s human nature, so listening to the customer shows them first of all that you’re human just like them. Everyone likes someone who genuinely wants to help and active listening shows them you are interested in understanding:

  • What do they need?
  • Why do they need it?

This then helps you explain how you can help solve this with your product.

The Right Attitude

What do I mean by this?

  1. Be confident, not arrogant. And be humble when required.
  2. Have the desire to learn and be coachable.
  3. Have a good work ethic.
  4. Be Persistent, don’t take rejection to heart, move on and learn from every call.
  5. Be self disciplined, do lots of the right things all the time. For example, make a certain number of calls every day, always ask for a referral, always research the company before you call them, always ask all your qualifying questions etc.
  6. You need to know what your goals are and be motivated to achieve them.
  7. Have empathy. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, it’s as simple as that.


Empathy is an emotional intelligence skill, defined as the ability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to know what another person is thinking or feeling. People don’t buy from people who don’t understand them.

Empathy is a terrific skill to have in sales. But it can be one that takes time and practice to develop, shifting the focus away from yourself and towards the customer and their needs. Just remember, successfully putting yourself in this mold will have a positive effect on your relationships and will lead to more sales. It improves your ability to uncover hidden needs and read what’s not being said.

Active listening is important, allowing you to hear both the spoken words and the subtext of what a customer is saying. But empathy bolsters that even more by recognizing what a prospect isn’t saying. Many times, it’s in the silence that the real needs, issues, and objectives lurk, and so being empathetic allows you to draw out the customer’s deepest concerns and desires.

Some will say that you can’t really teach or learn soft skills, I disagree. Certainly to some they are second nature and natural but with coaching, which includes practical sessions that allow the sales person to practise what they have learnt, salespersons can learn to show more empathy. To start, they can learn techniques to help them talk less, engage more and actively listen.

To conclude, strong hard skills, like knowing how to work with an open-source CRM, coupled with strong soft skills are the key skills for the successful salesperson. They will ensure your success in sales.

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