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Sales Skills & Qualifications

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Anyone who works in sales knows how important it is to hit their numbers. To meet targets, salespeople need to know a lot, from product and marketing expertise to communications and value propositions. They need to master the right sales skills and back them up with increased sales figures to enhance their performance. There are several hard and soft sales skills that they must add to their skills list to become a great salesperson.

What qualifications should a salesperson have?

Almost every industry requires salespeople. While many professional occupations require some specific degree, many sales positions require no degree at all. Hence, colleges and universities do not offer specific sales qualifications. However, certain industries like pharmaceuticals and engineering may require their sales representatives to have specific bachelor’s degrees.

Many organizations require salespeople to have at least a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, economics, or a related field. Those who don’t have relevant education make up for it through several years of sales experience.

Besides an aptitude for sales and the ability to thrive under pressure, salespeople also need to have good written and verbal communication skills.

What are some hard skills necessary for sales?

Hard skills are skills that can be taught and measured, such as reading, writing, mathematics, or the ability to use computer programs. These can be enhanced through education, practice, and repetition. Hard skills are essential as they improve employee efficiency and productivity, enhancing employee satisfaction.

Some necessary hard skills for sales professionals are:

  • Product knowledge

It is just not possible to become a good salesperson without product knowledge. A sales professional who does not have adequate knowledge of the features, benefits, and weaknesses of their product will not be able to have a meaningful conversation with the buyers. They will have a hard time creating effective sales pitches, and connecting customer needs to the best solutions available.

Companies and sales professionals who desire high sales performance understand that extensive product knowledge is non-negotiable. Having excellent product knowledge has another advantage. It makes us somewhat of a subject matter expert, which increases the trust our customers have in us.

  • Business communication

Engaging prospects during a sales conversation is not an innate talent but something that can be honed over time. Many companies train their sales representatives in the best practices of both oral and written business communications. They train their sales staff in making effective sales pitches and presentations. Some may even have a phone script to ensure that business calls sound professional yet friendly. Written communications like memos, proposals, and referral requests may have a standard template in many companies. In others, sales staff may undergo training to make appropriate use of them. Learning the ropes of business communication helps us connect with our customers more effectively. It can also change the way they perceive our brand.

  • Active listening

Active listening is the act of listening attentively to another person to try and better understand them. It also involves observing non-verbal cues and is mostly used in training, counseling, and conflict resolution. It is one of those skills that can be acquired and developed with regular practice.

Active listening in sales not just requires focus but also regular follow-ups. It can help you extract clear and comprehensive information from your customers, which can be used as valuable feedback for product and service improvement. Active listening can also help us build excellent rapport with our customers and make them feel that we genuinely care about them.

  • Client engagement

Good communication skills and getting along with others are baseline traits. However, high-performing salespeople have a method to developing and maintaining excellent client engagement. They develop sales call techniques that help them build rapport with prospects. They also explore research methods that help them glean valuable information from customers and communication techniques that help them nurture a long-term relationship with their clients.

  • Sales presentations and demos

Businesses these days have moved beyond PowerPoint for making sales presentations. There are several other presentation software available in the market, like Keynote, Prezi, Visme, Canva, and Google Slides. Regardless of the software you use, it is more important to have good presentation and public speaking skills to be a great salesperson.

For sales professionals in the B2B industry, conducting a good sales presentation is a requisite skill. It is possible to improve our sales presentation skills with regular practice, as excellent sales presentations help build customer trust in our brand.

  • Strong knowledge of business and sales software

Businesses nowadays use a multitude of software and sales enablement solutions that make selling easier and more profitable. Using CRMs, document management software, and workplace productivity apps have become quite commonplace. For becoming a good salesperson, it is necessary that we learn how to use these tools and software for higher productivity and better client engagement.

  • Conflict resolution

Complaints, conflicts, and rejections are part and parcel of the sales process. We may face these not just from the client’s end but also from our peers and management. Since conflicts may arise at any point, salespeople need to learn how to effectively manage and resolve conflicts. Effective conflict resolution can be a way to garner new leads or demonstrate a workplace solution to the management.

  • Social media selling

Almost all of us have been on social media at some point in our life. Some of us are fairly active on it, while others use it occasionally. But there is no denying that social media has become a big part of our lives. Companies have also understood the power of social media, which is why they hire social media managers to create and oversee a strong online presence for their brand.

To be a good salesperson in today’s world, we need not be an expert on social media platforms, but we surely need to know our way around them. For B2B sellers, social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter may be excellent ways to engage with prospects and bolster their lead generation and conversion efforts.

What are soft skills that a good salesperson should have?

Soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how we work. They may include interpersonal skills, time management, listening skills, communication skills, and empathy, among others.

Soft skills are extremely important for success in the workplace. Someone may have excellent technical skills, but if they can’t manage their time well or don’t get along with others, they may not be as successful. Just like hard skills, soft skills are also extremely important for salespeople.

Here are some essential soft skills that a good salesperson must have:

  • Relationship-building

A salesperson’s job profile involves engaging with other people, forming mutually beneficial networks, and building long-term relationships. Relationship-building skills are extremely important for a salesperson when they meet clients or even when they are gathering referrals. Effective relationship-building skills help salespeople accomplish their tasks more easily, make better-informed decisions, and achieve team objectives.

Salespeople good at relationship-building are better at developing trust and building a good rapport with their customers. Many times customers associate with us, not just because of the products, but because of the relationship that we have managed to build with them. Hence, relationship-building skills can create a lot of opportunities for salespeople, helping them enhance their performance.

  • Storytelling

Storytelling is an undervalued skill, but it a skill that every salesperson must possess. It is just not enough to let the buyers know the features of the products that we are trying to sell. We must also be persuasive enough to convince them to associate with our brand. Storytelling skills help us articulate our message by weaving a story that deeply resonates with the customer.

  • Time Management

Time management is a precious skill that is perhaps important in every occupation, not just in sales. Selling involves money, but it involves another precious commodity, and that is time. A client’s time is highly valuable, and so is a salesperson’s.

Salespeople who have excellent time management skills have higher productivity and cost-efficiency. They create the right working environment essential for high performance. Time management skills, along with analytics, software automation, and other technology that save time, can deliver high ROI for any business.

  • Research

A good salesperson always does thorough research. Research helps a salesperson gather accurate information about clients, ongoing market trends, and their competitors. Such important information can help salespeople make more informed decisions, engage the right set of customers, and close high-value deals in a short timeframe.

For information gathering and research, CRM software, rival websites, competitive analysis tools, and social media may be a great place to start.

  • Comfortable with technology

In this digital world, it is extremely important for sales professionals to be familiar with and comfortable with digital technology. All businesses are adopting technology at a rapid rate. Emerging technologies like AI, big data, and machine learning are changing the business landscape. Salespeople should start familiarizing themselves with these technologies as they are going to change the way brands engage with their audience.

  • Problem-solving skills

When there is an ocean of information available, we need critical thinking skills to make sense of all the available information. Just having a ton of data is not enough. We should be able to sift through the mountain of data to pick out the relevant bits and process the required information. Problem-solving skills are an absolute must for a salesperson as it helps devise solutions for the issues our prospects or our team may be facing.

  • Collaboration

Sales, contrary to what many people believe, is seldom a one-man job. Salespeople often need to align their personal objectives, workflows, and schedule with those of others. Successful sales teams follow a game plan that assigns different roles to different members and expects different outcomes from different members. Most of these roles and the results are dependent on each other for collective success. Lack of teamwork in a salesperson is a red flag as it can often lead to missed objectives and unwanted outcomes.

What are some job-specific skills for sales?

Job-specific skills are those that allow a person to excel at a particular job. Some of these skills may be attained through education or training programs. Others may be acquired through experiential learning on the job.

Here are some job-specific sales representative skills one must have to be a great salesperson:

  • Prospecting

Prospecting is a critical skill essential for all sales representatives. For ensuring that your sales revenue remains high, it is necessary to refill your customer pipeline. Prospecting skills help us identify prospective clients who may be interested in our products.

The sales process begins with prospecting, and you just can’t overlook this skill.

  • Lead qualification

Businesses use a lot of measures and various tools for lead generation. Unfortunately, not all leads are qualified leads. Lead qualification skills allow us to analyze information about a prospect to understand which available products can directly address their needs. It can also be useful to point out any mismatch between the product and the prospect.

Lead qualification can save a lot of time. We may be able to refer the prospect to another solution provider and concentrate on the next qualified lead.

  • Contract negotiation

Selling involves a lot of negotiation. In fact, negotiations may be involved in a lot of fields and not just sales. Before closing a deal, the salesperson and the customer may often need to iron out the details in the contract before committing to anything in writing. Contract negotiation is an essential skill, not just for salespeople but also for account managers and people in senior management roles. Contract negotiation helps establish an environment where a customer and the company can set mutual expectations and benefits.

  • Policy knowledge

Sales directors and other people in the management need to be well-aware of their organization’s governance and policy issues. Policies are defined by the strategic goals and the visions of a company, serving as standards under which sales teams operate.

  • Referral marketing

Referral marketing is a marketing technique that uses word of mouth and recommendations to grow the customer base of a business. Sometimes referral marketing incentivizes existing customers to introduce their family, friends, and acquaintances to become new customers. Collecting qualified referrals is an important step for sales representatives as it keeps the customer pipeline humming with new leads.

  • Closing skills

Closing refers to the final step of a transaction. However, the term is generally used in sales to mean the achievement of the desired outcome, which could be signing a contract or the receipt of money. Sales closing skills may very well represent the very essence of sales. One of the toughest lessons for new salespeople is to learn the importance of closing every sale. Closing a sale does not have to be difficult, provided the product has been presented well and the customer’s objections have been properly responded to. The onus of closing a deal lies on the salesperson, but in larger companies, the responsibility is often assigned to more senior sales representatives.

  • Client nurturing

Successful businesses understand that closing a sale does not spell the end of a buyer’s journey. It is possible to offer additional value and generate more business with the existing customers. Providing excellent customer service to existing customers not just promotes brand loyalty but also creates better word of mouth for the business. Many businesses have separate customer success departments, while others assign the responsibility of post-sale relationship management to account managers.

What are some of the traits of successful salespeople?

Besides key sales skills, certain personality traits make a great salesperson.

Some of the traits of successful salespeople are:

  • Self-motivated

Successful salespeople are tough and thrive under pressure. They are self-motivated, ambitious people who perform their best under pressure and can handle rejections gracefully. Despite the pressure and rejections, they still bounce back and perform much better than their less motivated peers.

  • Open-minded

The business landscape is evolving and so is sales. Successful salespeople are the ones that keep up with the changing trends. They are ever willing to embrace change and are open to new ideas to succeed in the business landscapes of the future.

  • Adaptable

Sales organizations, sales teams, and sales representatives should adjust according to the market. Adaptability ensures that salespeople can quickly and effectively address unexpected situations. Salespeople who are adaptive can quickly respond to product and market changes. Buyer behavior can drastically change the sales process. Adaptive salespeople quickly learn how to do new things in an evolving marketplace.

  • Sociable

Human beings are sociable by nature, and smart salespeople are sociable at all levels. Social skills are the key to successful selling. Sales in the future will be driven by teamwork and collaboration. The faster one adapts to that, the better he will become at selling.

  • Responsible

Smart and successful salespeople are the ones that accept responsibility for their own performance. In sales, sometimes things don’t go as planned. However, these salespeople do not offer excuses. They learn from their mistakes and try and look for other avenues to improve their performance.

  • Goal-oriented

Successful salespeople are goal-oriented and completely focused on achieving a planned outcome. Being goal-oriented is a priceless personality trait that can produce impactful results in life. Goal-oriented salespeople do not lower their target. Instead, they double their efforts to achieve the target.

  • Empathetic

Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s situation and point of view. In sales, empathy can be the difference between a good salesperson and a great one. Empathy helps us connect with the customers at a higher emotional level. The connection makes them trust us more and believe that we have the ability to help them.

Empathetic salespeople are customer-centric. They are focused on achieving their goals, but their priority is to help solve their customer’s problems. Empathy gives them a better understanding of their customer’s viewpoints and the issues that they may be facing.

  • Passionate

A salesperson who is truly passionate about selling tries to understand the unique needs of a customer and how their product or service fits into the picture. When a salesperson is truly invested in the product or service they represent, the passion rubs off on the customers too. Regardless of the sales skills and abilities, being passionate, that is, doing what one truly loves makes one excel and achieve success consistently.

Important sales skills list for resume

Sales jobs exist in nearly all industries. They are also quite lucrative, offering a great deal of personal satisfaction and flexibility. Most of these jobs require knowledge about the specific product or industry. Being aware of the trend or challenges in a particular industry makes one more successful at selling.

Sales can be a multifaceted and demanding line of work. When we apply for a sales job, we want our resume to stand out. It is always recommended to add relevant skills to our resume. The easiest way to figure that out is to look at the job advertisement to find out what skills the employer is looking for.

There is a lengthy list of sales job skills, and it may not be possible to include each one of them on the resume.

However, we can look at the various categories of sales skills, and include the most relevant ones on the resume.

Sales skills can be broadly classified under the following categories:

  • Job-specific skills: We can include skills like marketing, public relations, advertising, team management, client acquisition, client retention, and many more.
  • General skills: We can include negotiations, consulting, lead generation, event coordination, recordkeeping, or social media management.
  • Communication skills: Some sought-after communication skills are active listening, public speaking, persuasion, networking, and relationship-building.
  • Personal mastery skills: We can also include some personality traits on our resume such as goal-oriented, being highly driven, and critical thinking ability.

Sales is an extremely competitive field and having the right selling skills can fast-track one’s sales career. Those who are new in the industry should identify the skills needed for sales and try to learn them to get on to the next level.