What Are the Most Important Sales Skills?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 November 2022 | Published 25 June 2021

Updated 23 November 2022

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For a job or career in sales, you'll need a particular set of skills to help you perform your daily tasks in finding and engaging with leads and prospects, developing rapport with customers and being able to successfully close sales. When you're looking for a new opportunity in sales work, it's important to know which skills are valued in the profession to help you build your CV. In this article, we look at what sales skills are, examples of the types of skills you need to be successful in sales and how you can improve your sales skills.

What are sales skills?

Sales skills are the core abilities that enable salespeople to successfully communicate with prospects and customers to work towards closing sales. While some sales skills can be innate, such as an ability to communicate well with others and having a confident persona, other skills can be trained in or developed through practice, such as product or service knowledge. You can boost any sales skills with a little know-how and dedication.

Examples of sales skills

Given the importance of sales skills in determining whether or not you succeed professionally, we've compiled a list of sales skills that you should take the time to develop. Some of these are more demanding than others, but a combination of these skills gives you a much better chance of standing out in an increasingly competitive sales job market.

Listening skills

Sales aren't only about speaking but also about listening to the needs, wants, habits and personal preferences of your target audience. Whether it's online market research, on a sales call or even an old-fashioned, door-to-door sales pitch, listening to potential customers can impart a great deal of insight to help you discover what works and what doesn't. Even if you aren't able to sell to a particular individual, you might learn something that can help you make a sale next time.

You can't sell to everybody, so accepting and evaluating feedback is one of the determining factors in improving your conversion rate. You've likely heard the old saying that the customer is always right; ultimately, what a potential buyer wants is more important than what a salesperson wants when it comes to closing a deal. Listening to potential buyers can make you far more successful in the long term.

Entrepreneurial skills

Even the most experienced salespeople are told 'no' throughout the course of their career, probably far more than they have been told 'yes'. Working in sales is a learning process, and it's important not to be discouraged if you receive negative responses from your target audience. If a particular strategy is widely rejected, don't view it as a personal slight but as an opportunity to improve by attempting something else. Trial and error is an everyday part of life for salespeople, whatever it is they're trying to sell.

Learning to accept these failures and using them to refine your sales technique is one of the most important skills you can develop. Dealing with momentary disappointment is part of every salesperson's life, even those who have enjoyed the greatest successes. If a potential customer declines to make a purchase, remember that a 'no' is an opportunity to learn what you might try next time.

Knowledge of the product

Every good salesperson needs to possess a comprehensive knowledge of the product they are trying to sell. This 'product' isn't necessarily a commodity but could also refer to the services your company provides its clients. Take the time to familiarise yourself with whatever it is you're selling. Ultimately, knowing is only half the battle and you also need to be able to express this knowledge well when pitching a sale. You don't want to end up in a situation where you have complete confidence in your product but no clue how to convey its positive qualities and benefits to the prospect.

The more knowledge and in-depth explanations you can share with a potential customer, the likelier you are to make a sale. Knowledge of the product is arguably the most important of all sales skills; you can have all the charisma and enthusiasm in the world but it means nothing if you don't have a deep understanding of what you're selling.

Confidence in the product

Once you're confident that you know your product comprehensively, you also need to project that confidence onto prospective buyers. Even if you're sure that the product you're selling is the absolute best available, you can only make sales by convincing potential customers of the same. With this in mind, think about your product compared to its competitors; which attributes set it apart from similar products from other companies? Sales are not only about convincing a customer that a product is good; you need to make them confident in choosing your product over somebody else's.

Mirror exercises can be very beneficial in establishing a confident 'pitch'. Actors are often encouraged to perform in front of a mirror, and making a sale is another kind of performance. If you're worried about your sales pitch seeming rehearsed, ironically, the best solution is to rehearse until you can recite your sales pitch naturally, comfortably and confidently.

Time management

Since time is a valuable asset when it comes to making sales, it's important to know how to manage it well. For instance, knowing where to prioritise your time can be crucial to making more sales. If you know that a particular demographic has a proven history of being more interested in similar products, it makes sense to dedicate the bulk of your time to that group. This doesn't mean you should exclude anybody else, but your product might be more suitable for a particular age range, for example.

Time management is an important sales skill as it enables you to focus your attention to achieve the best possible conversion rate. Over an extended period, this time management can reap rewards as you work more efficiently. In contrast to some of the aforementioned skills, time management usually comes with experience in the market as you learn how best to spend your time.

Building customer loyalty

Acquiring new customers is perhaps the most difficult challenge that faces salespeople. Even so, it's vital not to neglect your existing customers, who you already know are willing to buy your product if it fulfils a certain need. Building customer loyalty can make your job much easier. Often referred to as 'leads', especially in online marketing and sales, existing customers of your company or you individually are usually more willing to buy another item if they've had a positive experience.

This is why promotions and offers to existing customers can be some of the most effective tools at the disposal of any company, resulting in a relatively high conversion rate. Treating your existing customers well, while also doing your best to reach new buyers, can grow your number of potential sales and allow your business to expand.

How to improve your sales skills

Enhancing your sales skills can be accomplished in several different ways.

1. Take a sales training course

Sales tutors can offer valuable sales skills guidance, whether you're getting started in your sales career or you're looking to hone your abilities within your career. There are numerous courses, specialised classes and business teachers that can help you develop sales skills. Still, as in any profession, real-world experience is a key factor in evolving your sales techniques. Remember to check the credibility of any sales course you wish to embark on.

2. Define your ideal customer profile

When you try to sell to just anyone, your efforts to sell are more likely to be hit and miss. By refining your prospecting skills, you can streamline your sales efforts and hit more sales targets. One way of achieving this is by creating a profile of who your ideal customer is using demographics like age, occupation and location. You can create the profile based on market research analysis or existing sales data. Then, use this information to channel the right prospects down the sales funnel.

3. Rehearse your pitch

One effective way of enhancing your sales skills is to practise your pitch ahead of your sales calls. You could pair up with a colleague to bounce ideas off each other and so the other person can offer feedback, and also propose questions that the prospect or lead might ask through a role-play scenario.

Related:

  • A list of best sales tools to achieve your targets

  • 11 sales coaching tips to help you develop your sales team

  • What Is Inside Sales? (With Sales Strategies and Tips)

  • What is pre-sales? (Definition, activities and skills)

  • What is Sales Commission


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