Modern businesses require highly competent sales professionals with an array of talents, skills, and abilities. However, in an ever-changing landscape, it’s a good idea to understand some of the most crucial skills and professional traits that you or any salesperson in your organization must possess or develop to achieve consistent results.
In this blog, I’ve compiled thirty professional traits that win sales and grow businesses, to ensure you can develop into a highly successful salesperson.
What Makes a Fantastic Sales Professional?
You can read book after book, article after article, or watch video after video, but you’ll never find the definitive answer to this question.
Many will agree that there are a few essential skills, but otherwise, it’s a case of developing new skill sets and finding the right qualities.
While we do have a general understanding of the idea of sales, these days, the modern sales process has grown in complexity. It has evolved to encompass a full range of different functions – such as business development, sales closure, and account management, amongst other things – that require specialized skills.
The Complete List of Sales Skills & Professional Traits
These skills and traits can be broken down into five sub-categories:
- Sales Skills – learned and applied abilities.
- Soft Skills – informal abilities that can be learned during a lifetime and are typically related to someone’s aptitude in performing tasks and connecting with prospects and colleagues.
- Hard Skills – often formal and technical skill ascertained through academic study, experience, and training.
- Role-Critical Skills –skills that are refined to become more specialized for a specific role.
- Sales Traits – In a broad sense, these refer to someone’s attitude, mindset, and personality for the vocation of sales.
1: Building Relationships
The ability to engage with others, build long-term relationships, and form mutually beneficial contacts will be of enormous value to any sales pro.
This will come into play, whether meeting up with prospects, gathering referrals, or checking in with a long-term client, since these inter-personal skills help a salesperson make far better decisions on behalf of their organization or a client.
Relationships need three things to succeed: rapport, trust, and genuine connection. Once a sales professional has each of these three things down, it leads to relationship selling, which creates more opportunities over the long-term.
2: Knowing When to Hold Back
Being quiet and listening is the best way to understand your clients, what problems they have, and how you can be the one to provide the solution to the challenges they face.
Listening skills are a vital factor of successful communication; without it, a salesperson may risk compromising other steps of the sales process, such as lead qualification and customer matching.
3: Time Management
On the surface, the idea of sales means exchanging money for a product or service, but you’ll be trading something far more precious in the process – time.
Your client’s time is essential, but so is yours. Any good salesperson must learn how to optimize their time to improve their productivity and efficiency. This skill also goes hand in hand with technological savvy, when it comes to automation, analytics, and other technology capable of decreasing manual input and increasing ROI.
4: Story Telling
Selling not only involves showcasing the features of your product but also persuading a prospect that these features will solve their problems or make their life significantly easier.
This means you need to nail down your message by telling a story that hits home with your target audience.
5: Research & Data Collation
Up-to-date information about your prospects, market trends, rival businesses, and marketing intel gives a salesperson all the knowledge they require to make informed decisions, engage with the right kind of customer, and close high-value deals while simultaneously shortening the sales process.
Blogs, CRM systems, analysis tools, rival market data, and social media (particularly LinkedIn) are great places to start research and data collation.
6: Critical Thinking
Having the right data in front of you is only the first step, though. You still require the critical thinking skills to process this information, analyze the data patterns and search for relevant information in disparate data sets to help you formulate the solutions to any problem facing you and your team.
7: Working with Technology
These days sales pros must be comfortable around digital technology. It will make it far easier to adapt to advancing technology such as AI, big data, and cloud storage, which will transform the way organizations are operating.
Sales are rarely a one-person army, which is why it’s so important that the goals, workflows, and schedules of the sales arm of business are in line with that of the other teams within an organization.
Sales success is usually very dependent on close collaboration to achieve collective success, which means a lack of teamwork or poor leadership will lead to missed quotas and unnecessary outcomes.
9: Product Knowledge
Insufficient product knowledge is unacceptable, and frankly, utterly unnecessary in the world of sales. Any sales professional can hardly call themselves so if they’re stepping out into the field without detailed knowledge of the features, benefits, and potential drawbacks of their product.
Trying to create a compelling pitch and communicating with the prospect effectively is almost impossible if you have no idea what the product can do for a customer.
In-depth and extensive product knowledge is the only way to formulate compelling pitches that increase conversion.
10: Business Communication Skills
It is possible to cultivate a talent for engaging prospects during the initial conversation. Any salesperson must learn how best to converse in both oral and written communications. This helps you to gain a more significant connection with your clients and their perception of your brand.
Enjoying the company of others and having the ability to communicate are essential traits. For those who wish to excel at the higher reaches of the sales game, one must understand the science behind establishing and maintaining client engagement.
For example, during a sales call, there are a few simple techniques that can help you build an instant rapport with your prospect, help you gain valuable information to qualify that prospect, and help you nurture this new relationship into the future.
12: Conflict Management
In sales, you’d be naïve not to expect regular encounters consisting of the complaint, conflict, and rejection – it’s just the nature of the job. These incidents could apply to anyone from clients, colleagues, and management, among others.
Because these can happen at any time, and often very quickly, a sales professional must manage and handle objections proactively and manage any conflict.
Highly adept salespeople are known to turn these incidents into an opportunity for converting new leads or as a means to demonstrate a workplace solution.
13: Demos & Presentations
Back in the day, your presentation or demo might be completed using an overhead projector or a crude PowerPoint presentation. These days though, solutions like Prezi, Keynote, and many other presentation options are available to you.
However, the tool itself will only get you so far; you must be an engaging presenter and develop the all-important skill of public speaking if you’re to deliver a killer presentation.
14: Active Listening
There are a few different levels of listening, but you must be on top form when it comes to your prospects and customers.
Active listening in the sales arena means you need to employ complete focus, where you actively approach your customer to follow-up on queries and learn about any problems that customers may be facing.
16: Social Savvy
Social media has become a significant part of our lives, which means that many companies will now have specialized social media personnel to deal with that part of a brand’s online presence.
That’s not to say that you must be as knowledgeable as these specialists, but it does mean you need a fair understanding of how social media works and how it can be used to your advantage.
Knowing these best practices and hints for engaging a prospect, whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other platform, will be necessary to help bolster your lead generation and qualification work.
17: Lead Generation
Lead generation will help you fill your customer pipeline with those that may be interested in what your organization has to offer. A typical pipeline will begin at this stage.
This is something that virtually anyone within the organization can undertake, but it’s critically important that a sales-specific professional is particularly adept at this.
This is something that we’ve mentioned quite frequently already, and this skill allows you to gather and analyze information about a prospect to determine whether your product is suitable for that particular client. It will also indicate which of your products or services can directly alleviate potential client pain points, and allow you to move to a new lead if it doesn’t.
Obtaining qualified referrals is a brilliant way of keeping your pipeline ticking away with a healthy dash of new leads.
20: Closing Sales
This skill represents the very essence of the selling process. It encapsulates the moment when a prospect becomes a customer, by accepting, buying, and realizing the real rationale behind your product.
Sealing the deal is a skill that any sales professional wishes to excel at. Still, in many organizations, this task is often assigned to more senior sales staff or account executives.
21: Client Nurturing
Any profitable business will realize that although a prospect has purchased something, that journey isn’t over. Depending on your product or service, you can go above and beyond to offer additional value to your customers, which may lead to additional business from current customers.
The trick here to offer the VIP treatment and outstanding customer service to your already paying customers. While account managers are often responsible for handling much of the heavy lifting on this, the best salespeople realize the value of creating a post-sale relationship.
22: Motivation & Ambition
Motivation and ambition are two of the required traits necessary to work under pressure, accept rejection, and bounce back still fighting.
23: Open & Conscientious
Sales is an ever-evolving plain, and those who refuse to let go of the old guard will not succeed in this world. Sales professionals must be prepared to embrace change and be willing to accept new ways of working to achieve in the days, months, and years that are to come.
Adaptability is about survival, not just in nature, but in the world of sales too.
The tools have changed, there are new platforms to utilize, and the needs and requirements of your demographic are so wildly different from even a few years ago.
The smartest sales professionals know what they must do to weather the storms of change and ensure they are still producing outstanding results.
It is no longer the case that the lone wolf rules the world of sales. These days sales are completed, not by a single party, but rather a collaboration of different teams. Smart sellers must be able to be personable and practical at the same time.
The top pros in any walk of life can own mistakes and hold themselves responsible for their performance. One should not make excuses, nor point fingers when things don’t swing in their favor.
28: Goals & Aspirations
The best salespeople are motivated by:
- Ambitious yet attainable goals.
- The feeling of achievement.
- The pot of goal at the end of the rainbow.
Those with this mindset exert every effort to ensure their targets are met.
To be successful in a consumer-led market, any budding salesperson must adopt a buyer-first attitude. Yes, it’s okay to be proud of the products and services and revel in the rewards of selling them, but the main concern should also be about helping the customer solve a problem.
Well-developed emotional intelligence enables you to understand what place a client is in and determine where they most need your help.
30: A Passion for the Sale
Even more potent than ambition or determination is the passion for selling, which should always be the top trait for any sales pro. Doing what you love to do compels you to achieve your best consistently.
Tim Guga is an Entrepreneur and the Founder of capiston.com