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Do you know that an optimist salesperson is 57% more likely to close a deal than a pessimistic person?

If you are looking to make a great career as a salesperson, then you need to learn what skills you need to build.

Selling is an interesting profession. Have you ever bought something advertised to you by a salesperson and wonder later what it is they said that made you interested in what they are selling?

If you have, you should know that is what having the right skills as a salesperson is about.

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of skills that can make or break a salesperson’s career, it is important to know who a salesperson is and the importance of skills to such.

Who is a Salesperson?

A salesperson is someone concerned with continuous generation/inflow of quality/great leads, an increase in revenue, and drives sales. The focal point for a salesperson is to get a prospective customer interested enough to buy/invest in a product. Luckily, sales jobs are still one of the most after careers in 2020.

Top Skills Needed to Become a Better Salesperson

Skills, in itself, are anything learned to help an individual be and stay informed thereby positioning such an individual to contribute effectively to their chosen field. What makes the difference between an average salesperson and a successful one is the set of sales skills he/she possesses and how best he/she can use them to bring in sales, increasing revenue/income at large.

Sales skills are generally classified into two hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Sales Skills

These sets of skills can simply be learned from experts or resources/materials based explicitly on that field. These skills are formal and performance in them can easily be measured in an individual. Such hard skills for salespeople include, but not limited to:

  • Product knowledge.
  • Conflict management and resolution.
  • Customer care and services.
  • Sales presentation and so on.

Soft Sales Skills

These sets of skills are also referred to as interpersonal skills and it mostly targets the ability of an individual to connect to people on a one-to-one basis. Unlike hard sales skills, it is not easily measured and most times, not formally taught. In fact, this type of skill could be seen as the passion of the individual.

Even though the focus is not put on this set of skill during training, its importance to the success of a salesperson cannot be undermined or overemphasized and the reason for this isn’t far-fetched; soft sales skills connects the salesperson to the emotions of the prospective client, inherently influencing the client’s decisions and actions.

In essence, hard sales skills may position you for selling goods and services, but soft sales skills will help you secure such buyers/investors. Even though it is a business or formal setting, buyers will naturally warm up and be more trusting of an individual whose concern is not just selling or getting them to invest but also interested in building a lasting relationship with them.

Therefore, it is germane to focus on these set of soft skills and how best they can take a salesperson from average to that one percent.  Let’s consider some of them in-depth;

Soft Skill Empathy

This is simply putting yourself in the ‘shoes’ of the other person, i.e. being in a state of awareness of their present struggles, concerns, or worries. Possessing this soft skill as a salesperson helps you to not only connect to your client – giving off an aura of genuineness, warmth, and care – but also be able to understand their possible needs and challenges, i.e. it puts you right in the center of understanding their perspective, worries, fears, challenges, etc. and this position you to alleviate their fears, be proactive in providing a solution to their challenges and addressing their concerns from a point of expertise and experience.

The end-game is that you have been able to establish a client-professional relationship built on a strong foundation of trust and loyalty and you are most likely to secure that contract, investment, or sales of goods and services. The only way to acquire this skill is to make it part of your everyday life, i.e. not just in the work arena. It is not unprofessional to be attuned to your client’s emotional state as some are opposed to thinking, rather, it will help to deepen the connection between you and your client.

Soft Skill Being a Good Team Player

Many salespersons make the mistake of thinking they have a better shot at being successful when they move alone but this is far from the truth. Good sales people are excellent team players. A team ensures the success of a project faster than alone operation, especially, in cases of securing large accounts. When you have others pitching in their ideas and submitting information from their various wealth of knowledge, then there is a greater chance of succeeding in whatever sales project you’ve embarked upon.

This is also putting into consideration consulting with other experts, e.g. marketing, customer care, analysts, etc. in ensuring that you are well armed with all information and resources needed to bag that contract or sell that product. To be a great team player, you must be;

  • Committed  Be active, be genuinely interested, and sincerely committed. Don’t wait for someone to do a job or activity, do it if you are available.
  • Carry everyone along As much as you will be tempted to do the bulk of the work, it doesn’t do well for a team project. Ensure you give every member a task to do, thereby allowing them to contribute effectively. It is also important to note the strength of each team member and assign tasks that tally with their strength.
  • Always look for ways to solve problems and not to create more problems  Be proactive in your thought process and always be on the lookout for how exactly you can propose solutions.
  • Accord your team member’s respect and civility Remember, it is a team, therefore, whatever you can do to ensure that the energy and morale every member brings to the table is high and sustained to ensure a great result, do it.

Soft Skill Communication

Some companies take this aspect seriously and most times integrate them into the training module, so in some instances, it can be classified as a hard sales skill. It is another essential skill that a salesperson must possess; in fact, if a salesperson is unable to acquire this skill and be an expert in it, they might not be given an audience by prospective clients in the first place. In essence, it is crucial in the success of a salesperson and should not be overlooked or underestimated.

The reason is; no matter how great and life-changing a product is, it won’t market itself, it still needs the right words in the mouth of the right speaker to showcase its quality and characteristics of prospective clients. Therefore, a salesperson must be able to communicate effectively and, in a precise manner what the product or service is about and why the prospective customer needs it.

Remember that communication goes both ways so you don’t want to be the sole speaker; engage your audience in a way they will find it necessary and comfortable to respond. Some communication tips you will find useful are;

  • Involve your client in your discussions.
  • Don’t get distracted and rush through the discussion, rather, listen carefully and ask the right questions. Also, ask for feedback and opinions.
  • When having a meeting, don’t just talk, listen and while you are at it, take notes. It helps you to revisit all your clients’ concerns, ideas, expectations, suggestions, and what have you. It also results in an effective layout of the plans. In summary, when you’re not doing the talking, give 100% attention to what your client is saying.
  • Communication is only said to be successful when your audience understands you. Therefore, it is not a time to flex your vocab ‘muscles’, speak in terms that your client can easily understand, using practical examples to back up your claims and lend credence to your pitch.

It is important to note that effective communication does not only apply to face-to-face meetings but also applies to calls and emails.

Therefore, factors that contribute to being a great communicator are:

  • Ability to convey respect, courtesy, and a great sense of humor while communicating through calls.
  •  Ability to be able to construct words and be formal when sending out emails.
  •  Ability to follow up and keep in touch.
  •  Ability to have hands-on basic responses and recommendations to inquiries and complaints.
  •  Ability to adopt a communicating style in the process of calling.


Soft Skill Endurance Trek

Ever heard of the endurance trek? It is walking miles and miles with a finish line in mind. You don’t stop walking until you get to your designed junction. How this applies to sales is this; you must – as a salesperson – learn to endure, to persevere, to continue despite the challenges you may face. One of the main – dare I say the top factor – challenges a salesperson’s face is rejection. After so much preparation and giving a good pitch, some potential clients are not still secured.

Therefore, a salesperson must, first and foremost, acknowledge and come to terms with the fact that: not all proposals will be accepted and approved, there will be rejections along the way. When a salesperson understands this, they do not see it as a negative indicator to subsequent ones, they don’t allow the situation to make them doubt their skills or expertise, but they take them in good fate, learn the lesson, and plunge on.

What makes you repeat the process of preparation all over again is endurance. A

The salesperson needs to do four things when faced with rejection;

  • Pause.
  • Access/ evaluate.
  • Identify the problem.
  • Then re-strategize.

You can turn the situation around and still nurture a relationship with the same client. Sometimes, just being in the picture brings about a change of mind, if not that, then it can birth referrals and/or recommendations.

Soft Skill Adaptability

A skill that a person must have is the ability to adapt. A salesperson must understand that even though there is a template, a blueprint of some sort, each prospect/ client is different and so different methods should be employed.

In essence, you must be able to modify or adjust your ‘blueprint’ to suit your client’s taste or area of interest. That is why this can be easily achieved when you have great communication skill i.e. when you can actively listen and see what your client’s interests and concerns are which will inform how you’ll  ‘package whatever you are offering’, knowing the mind of a client – helps you to a larger per cent – to proffer adequate solutions.

You also need to be well informed to be adjustable, i.e. you need to not only know the current information about that particular product/ service but must be able to move to the same level/ speed as that of your prospect. How do you achieve this?

  • Read up on correlating current situations.
  • Upgrade your skill(s).
  • Be in the loop of current changes in the industry and always look out for opportunities that will walk in your favour.
  • Be proactive; project/ plan ahead based on current happenings. Envisage challenges that may arise and already map out possible solutions to tackle them. Never be stranded of ideas; always have a backup plan.

Soft Skill Time Management

In the business/ economy world, time equates to money, therefore time is a precious commodity and you can’t afford to waste it, yours or others. In essence, make judicious use of your time, channelling it towards revenue boost.

Whether you are preparing or carrying out a task as a salesperson you need to be time conscious while ensuring optimal performance.

Here are tips to help you manage your time effectively:

Prioritize tasks

Don’t engage in tasks that are presently unnecessary, channel your energy and time into tasks that presently matter. While you do so, consider outsourcing, other tasks (logistics/ administrative) to other team members.

Smart walk 

Deal with the seemingly hard ones first. Resist putting them off because you may fall into an unhealthy pattern of procrastination, rather dive into the first and get them done and sorted. It ensures efficiency while keeping to the allotted time.

Other soft skills to possess are:

Storytelling Skills

Using compelling stories to pitch your proposal.

Well-informed About Your Product

 It makes a lot of difference when you can speak lengthily about your product or service you’re offering, you exude confidence and you can pitch your proposal in any opportunity you get without having to read up or prepare.

Expertise in Demos and Presentations’ Delivery

This can only be achieved by constant practice and structuring your presentations ahead, taking it from the big picture (macro ideas) to the relatable, immediate ones (micro ideas).

Follow-up Skill

This is the climax to your whole package before closing a deal. You can only ensure that all your hard work channelled into the proposal yields greatly if you can master the art of follow-up. Follow-up also gives clarity about what the end-goal is; either a yes or no. Avoid staying in the ‘maybe’ zone as a salesperson. You want to be sure where you stand with a prospect to determine your next course of action.


In some teams, there’s that one person who is good at closing deals and is mostly involved from the onset of the project. This individual is usually the face of the sales unit of such a company and the person who is more congratulated for securing the deal. This is not to undermine whatever concerted effort of every other team player that has been put into the project, but it’s bringing to the fore the importance of being able to close (or officially) secure a deal. Have this skill along with others mentioned above and you might just be the Salesperson of the Year.

If you want to become a better salesperson, you need to find the skill gap you lack either soft skills or hard skills, and then work on acquiring it.

Written By
Adeniyi Segun is an HR practitioner with Delon Jobs. He is passionate about helping people navigate and build a great career.

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