To grow faster, a profitable business needs a skillful salesperson. So at some point, many small business owners ask themselves: “How do I hire the best salesperson and what skills do salespeople need?”
In this blog post, you’ll find a list of soft and hard skills successful salespeople need.
This list will help salespeople and small business owners:
- sales reps will understand better what might be expected from them during a job interview,
- small business owners will be able to prepare relevant questions and tasks for a job interview with their next candidate.
Soft skills salespeople need
While hard skills refer to job-specific knowledge (e.g., sales CRM experience), soft skills are personal qualities that are not limited to a particular job. This makes them equally important when hiring salespeople, finance managers, marketers, business owners, etc.
Communication and active listening skills
In business, the success of the entire project often depends on mutual understanding in the team. In sales, it’s more common to find one-team players but great salespeople are those who can find an individual approach to different leads and prospects. And for this, they need the ability to listen carefully, communicate effectively, and be open-minded to counterarguments.
Communication skills also include leadership and emotional intelligence—the ability to understand other people’s feelings and control your own. In sales, it’s also about handling conflict situations and crises and finding individual approaches:
- A salesperson communicates with people of different backgrounds and views on a daily basis. Successful sales reps are those who can work with different types of clients (even very complicated ones) and offer them the best solutions for their needs.
- Great salespeople don’t make prospects and leads buy products or services, they help potential customers see the value first. For example, by explaining how products and services can help potential customers solve their problems.
In other words, a successful salesperson is a master of words and minds. They know how to talk about complex matters in simple words and how to address prospects’ doubts and fears.
Determination and stress resistance skills
Salespeople can be described as high achievers. They are usually determined to beat sales targets and increase their income.
But working in sales is a stressful job. Dozens of cold calls, unrealistic sales targets, and difficult customers—sales professionals are often pushed to the edge. That’s why successful salespeople are good at stress resistance. And stress resistance can mean different things: for example, an ability to motivate yourself, good self-organization skills, and determination.
With better self-organization comes better stress resistance. Procrastination and missed deadlines are just additional sources of stress. That’s why great salespeople are good at time management and task prioritization.
In sales, every minute counts—so those sales professionals who know what their next action is have high chances of beating their targets.
Ability to learn and unlearn
Technologies are developing so rapidly that our skills and knowledge become obsolete if we don’t keep up with the changes. That’s why companies are looking for salespeople who can adapt quickly to new conditions and find non-standard solutions.
Although continuous learning and self-education are integral parts of our professional lives, creativity and unlearning are two skills that are no less important.
Not only designers or representatives of creative professions must be creative. Many other specialists require the ability to think outside the box. Today’s world is extremely changeable, so we all have to deal with non-standard tasks requiring unconventional solutions. And salespeople are no exception.
In the rapidly changing world, learning and creativity are not the only valuable currencies. For example, the concept of unlearning has become a trending skill recently.
With rapid technological advances, structural changes in organizations, shifting political and economic landscapes, many business and sales professionals have to unlearn their usual ways of working.
For example, when the 2020 pandemic started, many salespeople had to unlearn their selling habits. They also started learning how to work in virtual reality where Zoom calls became the main interaction tool between themselves and prospects.
Hard skills salespeople need
Hard skills are job-specific. For example, you don’t expect a salesperson to know how to perform heart surgery.
But there are several hard sales skills that you need to keep in mind to fill a sales job vacancy with a great candidate.
Contrary to soft skills, you can impartially evaluate and verify hard skills. They are also easier to test during a job interview.
Product and industry knowledge
Salespeople need to have a full understanding of the product they’re trying to sell. This understanding can help sales reps walk in their customers’ shoes and see how the product/service can solve customers’ problems.
If a salesperson knows the ins and outs of their product/service, it can help them close more deals. For example, let’s say that a potential customer didn’t do a thorough comparative analysis between different products. They didn’t go through all the services and features that your business can offer. And, consequently, they jumped to a conclusion that your product wouldn’t meet their needs.
A knowledgeable salesperson will be able to professionally address this customer’s concern and show how the product works in a specific use case.
Good salespeople are also aware of what is happening in the industry. For example, they keep an eye on the strengths and weaknesses of competitors and are better prepared for any questions that might come up during a call with a prospect.
Prospecting and lead qualification skills
When it comes to business (and sales), achievements speak louder than the total number of years on the CV. A successful salesperson can demonstrate a good track of closed deals and provide examples.
Prospecting and lead qualification skills are very specific to a sales job. If a candidate doesn’t have much experience with lead management and sales, they probably won’t be able to give specific examples of how they closed a complicated deal. They might also find it difficult to explain their sales process in much detail.
A good sales rep is the one who can walk you through all the steps in the process (and ideally also share some observations—for example, how to improve some steps and avoid the most common mistakes).
CRM software is the lifeblood of a growing business. It should be the single source of truth that many companies are trying to establish. It is also a cornerstone of your business relationship management—it helps you build and nurture relationships with clients, leads, partners, prospects, or any other stakeholders that play an important part in your overall business success.
And a CRM system is one of the most important tools (probably the most important one) in sales. That’s why a good sales rep should know how to work with a CRM system and also needs to understand the importance of keeping sales CRM consistent and up-to-date.
CRM helps sales reps significantly improve their performance:
- the customer database is stored and managed in one place,
- historic information can be easily retrieved for analysis,
- current information can be quickly found and provided,
- there’s also a better view of the whole sales funnel, including possible bottlenecks.
Although there are many different CRM systems on the market (as well as CRM systems that were built specifically for small businesses), a good salesperson shouldn’t know about every CRM system in the world. After all, it is not possible.
But competent salespeople understand the importance of a CRM system and can explain how they work with a CRM on a daily basis and how they manage customers’ data.
Hiring great people is often a top priority for a growing company. But a hiring process can be challenging, confusing, and subjective. Even if a candidate for a sales position doesn’t have all the skills listed above, it is still worth looking at their potential.
Although it’s important for sales reps to have both soft and hard skills, this list is just a rough guideline to help you better understand what skills salespeople need.