Selling techniques have changed over the years as consumers have more options for products, pricing, and ease of purchase. In reality, sales has developed from a “trade” to a “technology” and then finally a Profession. If you’re looking to start your career in sales, or build a strong team, consider these ten key sales skills to be a better salesperson­.

Whether you’re looking to advance your career or expand your team, we’ll explore this sales skill list that can elevate anyone to a successful salesperson. Find more for team leaders in our key habits of a successful sales manager

Being professional and respectful are now the minimum qualities of a good sales person. Customers want to feel confident that the person and company they bought from are equally invested in their satisfaction and well-being. In order to meet quotas or exceed expectations, these ten skills require honing your soft skills as well as direct and indirect customer relations. 

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Essential Sales Skills Every Salesperson Should Have

When thinking of someone good at sales, we often think of someone with a big smile that’s outgoing, chatty, and go­­al oriented. While there is some truth to this image, it isn’t enough to portray a genuinely talented salesperson. In fact, the skills used today to be a great salesperson go much deeper.

We know that personality traits don’t predict success, because charisma can only take you so far before needing interpersonal skills, and the ability to work with customers in many different environments. In fact, the top skills needed for sales can be broken down into three categories.

Soft Skills and Traits

You might be familiar with the term soft skills as it’s become a trending topic for every career. Soft skills, also known as interpersonal skills, equate to having a higher emotional intelligence. Employees demonstrate empathy, trust, and other values that are foundational to creating meaningful relationships with both coworkers and clients.

Customer-Facing Skills

Before the internet, before ordering by mail or phone, sales were done face-to-face. The skills required to succeed here were built around creating a story, building connections, and wowing potential customers. Though this hasn’t entirely changed, the importance of soft skills has taken it to the next level. Using communication, storytelling, and negotiation tactics, a salesperson demonstrates the ability to understand and connect with buyers.

Non-Customer Facing Skills

Because customers have countless options to purchase, job skills in sales have evolved. Non-customer-facing skills include research, understanding the competition, and using technology to help with time management or gain industry awareness.

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Tip: Improve salesperson skills by rooting your sales coaching conversations in data. The Chally Assessment helps you understand each sales rep’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Salesperson Soft Skills and Traits

Knowing the latest trends in your industry is a great way to stay ahead of the competition. But being able to speak to the core values and needs of customers while guiding them to the right buying decision is the real differentiator. Sales soft skills are the unspoken signs of emotional intelligence key to building meaningful relationships.

  • Active Listening
  • Empathy
  • Time Management
  • Curiosity

1 – Active Listening 

It can be difficult not to focus on meeting quotas or sales targets. The desire to win the day at any cost can overpower all other senses. Despite how difficult it can be, pause. Slow down and be present. Active listening means truly paying attention to what is being said and absorbing all the information being relayed.

Uncover pain points, fears about the purchase, or goals the purchase will help achieve. Listening to understand rather than listening to respond is the best way to practice active listening and the first step in using soft skills to become a great salesperson. 

2 – Empathy 

Empathy is the ability to place yourself in someone else’s position. This skill means you can relate to another person’s experience and understand how they feel. The ability to actively listen with empathy can bring comfort and trust to any relationship.

Become more empathetic by talking to new people, getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, and asking more questions. Empathy is one of the greatest interpersonal strengths we have to build trust that can lead to long-term successful relationships. 

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3 – Time Management

Time is the most valuable asset anyone can have because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. The feeling of wasted time can be incredibly frustrating, especially when money is involved. This top sales skill means making the most of the buyer’s time by streamlining the decision-making process with clear expectations and understandings.

Be realistic about the time it will take to accomplish a task or get an answer to a question. Realistic expectations for yourself and the client mean that you care about everyone’s time equally. Strong time management skills show that you can listen with empathy to meet the buyer’s needs.

4 – Curiosity 

Having this essential skill will show the buyer you aren’t just interested in the sale, but also the buyer’s challenges. Knowing the “why” behind the buyer’s decision will guide you to helping them make the right choice and win the business. By asking open-ended questions and focusing on being curious rather than judgmental, the buyer will feel seen, valued, and heard. A strong sense of curiosity also helps good salespeople develop deeper product knowledge. 

Customer Facing Skills 

Traditional sales skills examples revolve around a customer coming into a store and working directly with a sales representative. These scenarios are what many of us imagine when hearing the term “customer-facing,” and it seems straightforward. It becomes more complicated once we realize that customer-facing skills require salespeople to not only use soft skills, but clearly communicate, think on their feet, and be ready for the next challenge.

  • Communication
  • Storytelling
  • Negotiation
  • Presentation

5 – Communication 

Clear and strong communication is a foundational skill to being a trusted advisor or confidant to a buyer. The ability to set expectations, show empathy, and verbally or nonverbally address questions or curiosities builds confidence in your overall skill set as a sales representative.

By developing your soft skills you can simultaneously improve your communication skills. Learn to actively listen to understand, ask questions, practice writing responses or important sales points, and clarify any concerns that could lead to greater misunderstandings. It goes without saying that the most effective sales professionals are good listeners. 

6 – Storytelling 

Storytelling may seem like a simple communication component, but it is so much more. Creating a compelling story for the buyer might require facts and figures related to the risks or benefits of a purchase. In other cases, it might mean painting a picture in the buyer’s mind of what their life could be like if they work with you.

This skill requires engagement and authenticity to be truly successful. Combining research, case studies, and personal or professional experiences can add credibility to the story you share.

group negotiating

7 – Negotiation Skills

Finding an agreeable resolution between two or more parties can be incredibly challenging in sales as people tend to dig their heels in to “win.” The truth is that successfully navigating negotiations can actually create more valuable sales and relationships between the buyer and seller.

Fortunately, the six skills we’ve previously addressed can help build your negotiation skills. By doing research on the buyer’s needs, competitors, and additional factors (such as environmental or political concerns, or time sensitivity) you can have the knowledge on hand to disrupt any concern. You will also have data and analytics available to you to reinforce the most important parts of your sales pitch.

8 – Presentation Skills

The best salespeople know that despite what might appear, the unexpected is bound to happen during a sales call. They also know that it takes immense effort to create a meaningful and effective pitch for buyers. Being able to speak in front of a group of buyers shows confidence, the ability to stay calm under pressure, and can further strengthen trust.

The best way to improve presentation skills is to recognize that there’s nuance to tailoring your message to your audience. This means that knowing your audience ahead of time is essential to creating a powerful presentation.

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Non-Customer Facing Skills 

Non-customer-facing skills are the steps taken behind the scenes. These important skills are exercised most often before meeting a potential customer but can take place at any time during the buyer’s journey. Investigating the current climate of your industry as well as having a solid awareness of the technology needed to create the sale is imperative to creating authentic sales presentations.

  • Buyer Research
  • Technology Competencies

9 – Buyer Research

Getting to know exactly who your buyer is along with their values, goals, and concerns can get you on the right path to building a relationship and prevent wasted time. When growing or transforming their own sales organizations, most people don’t take the time to step back and think about the situation from the buyer’s perspective or from the market’s point of view. This knowledge is invaluable to differentiating between prospects and leads.

Aligning the right salesperson for the right buyer can make all the difference in landing a sale. To create a strong connection to the buyer, use research to get ahead of the curve in your industry. Regularly following industry-related news, thought leadership articles or case studies can provide the insights needed to instill confidence in a buyer.

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10 – Technology

Being able to adapt and know how to use technology has grown into an essential part of a salesperson’s job. Salespeople are constantly inundated with new technologies and sales tools. Depending on the industry, you may even need to have knowledge of a unique type of technology that isn’t common to most people’s everyday life.

Fortunately, improving your skills in tech doesn’t have to be complicated. Touch base with coworkers about questions, don’t be afraid to Google things you aren’t sure of, and when necessary, reach out to your IT department for additional clarity.

Improve your Sales Skills with a Chally Sales Assessment 

Sales can be a challenging career but the diverse skills required mean that anyone can harness their talents to become successful. Some of these skills like empathy, curiosity, negotiation skills, and understanding technology can be harder to gauge during the hiring process.

The Chally Assessment is a leading tool to help teams identify the sales job skills needed for sales roles. As a pre-hire assessment, Chally helps you understand where your candidate’s natural talents and abilities lie, so you can feel confident in your hiring decisions. When developing your team with sales coaching conversations, these results can help you zero in on key areas to improve.