5 Necessary Skills of the Most Successful Salespeople

UPDATED: May 22, 2023
PUBLISHED: October 18, 2019
5 Necessary Skills of the Most Successful Salespeople

Turning a prospect into a loyal customer starts with the sales experience. It’s the salespeople who set the tone, and to make that first impression count, they must learn to work efficiently and communicate effectively. Successful salespeople know they have to hone specific skills to deliver a fan-worthy experience; here are five of the most important, and how you can get better at them to sell successfully, too:

Related: The 5 Very Best Ways to Thrill Your Customers

1. Prioritization

All salespeople are busy. So why do some seem stressed and disorganized while others manage to stay cool through anything? Because the latter group has learned to prioritize. Prioritization allows salespeople to separate what’s actually important from the tasks that would merely be nice to tackle.

Prioritization isn’t just a matter of making a to-do list. The Center for Sales Strategy suggests an “ABC” method: The “A” category should contain projects that are vital to the company’s success, such as sending proposals to target prospects. In the “B” category, place things like follow-ups, which are important but can wait for later in the week. Leave tasks like cold outreach to the “C” category, signaling that they’re of low priority. Move through them in alphabetical order, moving tasks up as appropriate.

2. Negotiation

Whether selling enterprise software or used cars, salespeople need to know how to negotiate. Although successful negotiation requires you to understand the other party’s needs, negotiation training group SAB Negotiation Group also uses personality profiles to understand the individual.

Get a sense early in the sales process of who your buyer is. Rather than send them a personality test, use cues to guess at their personality type and tailor your pitch to that. For example:

Introversion vs. extroversion: Introverts think before responding to questions, while extroverts tend to answer immediately. Periodically ask introverts during presentations if they have any questions; expect extroverts to ask them freely.

Intuition vs. sensing: If they focus on the here and now, they likely prefer sensing to intuition, which causes people to focus on the future. Spend extra time showing sensing prospects you understand their challenge, while giving intuitive prospects a rich vision of the solution.

Thinking vs. feeling: People who lean toward feeling consider how others will be affected, while thinkers tend to be more objective. Expect thinkers to focus on hard factors like price. Prospects who prefer feeling may be more concerned about things like implementation plans.

Perceiving vs. judging: Perceiving types are all about the experience, while judging types are more concerned with the end result. Be patient with perceivers, who may require more time or touch points to close the sale. Cut to the chase with judges.

3. Responsiveness

Entire companies rise and fall on the basis of their customer experience. Salespeople must be responsive not just in terms of time, but emotionally as well. Factors like response speed, flexibility in communication channels, empathy and positivity make prospects want to work with the salesperson and, by extension, the company they represent.

Be there when their prospect is ready to take the next step. Communication platform Ping Pilot suggests conversational content: Embed links in materials that enable prospects to get on the phone, shoot an email or request a meeting when they’re ready. Replace gates to on-site content with click-to-chat buttons. Keep sales and customer service lines separate so prospects don’t have to request a transfer, sit on hold and re-explain themselves in order to buy.

4. Writing

Salespeople don’t need to be the next J.K. Rowling, but they do need to come across as competent and warm in their written communications. Prospects won’t trust someone who can’t string a sentence together to understand stakeholder needs. Even email typos can create a perception of carelessness.

Unlike some of the skills on this list, writing skills are largely built through solo practice. Read regularly, and model the conversational-yet-professional style of authors you admire. Focus on creating emotional connection without using superlatives, which can make sales pitches seem pushy or overblown.

5. Non-Verbal Communication

Body language is a big part of the message conveyed during a sales conversation. How a salesperson holds herself can communicate anxiety and confusion, or it can show confidence and ease. Even from across a room, prospects pick up on these cues.

Learn to control the signals they send. Hubspot suggests tweaks that can give you an air of authority and confidence: Open your chest and stand up straight. Walk while you talk. Keep a smile on your face, even when things get tense. Vary your gestures, but keep them small.

Superfans don’t just waltz into sales pipelines. They’re cultivated, starting with the first interaction with your company. Master these skills to give prospects a great experience, and they’ll reflect it right back as loyal customers.

Related: The Power of Storytelling in Business

Photo by GaudiLab / Shutterstock

Brittany Hodak is co-founder of The Superfan Company, an entertainment agency that helps brands and celebrities identify, engage and retain their most important customers. She’s been mentioned as one of the top sales motivational speakers in the industry. You can book Brittany to speak at BrittanyHodak.com.