To succeed in sales, you need to have the right skills. You have to be able to lead masterful sales conversations, manage opportunities, uncover needs, negotiate the best deals, fill the pipeline, develop relationships, and manage sellers. And today, you need to be successful in doing all of this with no face-to-face interaction.
That's a lot to have to master.
With the laundry list of sales skills needed, which are most important?
Top 5 Essential Sales Skills
In our Top-Performing Sales Organization study, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research asked 472 sales executives and sellers representing companies with sales forces ranging from 10 sellers to 5,000+ if sellers have the skills they need to find and win business consistently and at a high level.
We then looked at the correlation between sales skills and whether or not a sales organization met its sales goal or quota. We didn't want to study just whether the organization met its goal, however, because goals can be easy to hit. We wanted to know if any particular skills stood out when sellers not only met their goals, but also believed their goals were challenging.
We were fascinated by what we found. Of the nine skills we studied, four rose to the top. These four represent the largest skill gaps between the sellers who meet challenging sales goals and those who don’t meet their goal at all:
We would be remiss if we didn't add a fifth to this list: Core consultative selling. Core consultative selling skills are still considered the price of entry for success in complex sales, and it's the 3rd highest rated sales skill of those who meet challenging sales goals.
I share more about these five skills in the video below:
Sales Skills to Beat Even the Most Challenging Sales Goals
Driving account growth: It's not all that surprising that driving account growth represents the #1 difference between sellers who meet challenging sales goals and those who don’t. Selling to existing relationships and accounts is much easier than bringing in new logos, as buyers already know you and you have a proven track record with them.
Yet maximizing sales to your existing accounts is a major challenge. Sellers who master this skill enjoy the benefits of meeting their goals more often.
Advanced consultative selling: It's in the area of advanced consultative selling skills where organizations that meet challenging sales goals distinguish themselves. A sales force skilled in this area is able to inspire buyers with insights and ideas. They take consultative selling to new heights.
While advanced consultative selling (also called insight selling) has been a trend in the last few years, only about half of goal achievers and less than one-third of non-achievers have this sales skill. Across the board, the opportunity to build this skill set is huge.
Driving and winning sales opportunities: The top skill of goal achievers and the 3rd biggest gap between the achievers and non-achievers is driving and winning sales opportunities (i.e., sales opportunity management). Without the skill to effectively drive opportunities, sellers are hard-pressed to be successful.
Filling the pipeline: To meet your sales goals, you must constantly be filling the front-end of your pipeline. But the phone doesn't ring like it used to. Sellers need to have prospecting skills to bring in a consistent flow of new buyers. Do this and you're more likely to meet your sales goals.
Core consultative selling: We'd be remiss if we left core consultative selling skills—such as uncovering needs, connecting offerings to solving those needs, and communicating business impact—off this list. While it does not represent one of the largest skill gaps between those who meet their sales goals and those who don't, it does represent a skill gap in most sales organizations.
Approximately half of sales organizations report that their sellers do not have core consultative selling skills. Success in advanced consultative selling, driving account growth, and driving and winning sales opportunities is contingent on your team having core selling skills as a base. Focus here before moving to more advanced topics.
What About Virtual Selling?
These skills don't exist in a vacuum. As you transition to virtual selling, the way you approach each of these skills will be at least nominally different than pre-2020.
In fact, according to our Virtual Selling Skills & Challenges research, sellers are significantly challenged by selling in a virtual environment.
Top Virtual Selling Challenges
Note that selling virtually is, in itself, a challenging skill that shouldn't be overlooked.
If you're looking to not only meet, but exceed your sales goal this year, you can start by mastering these five sales skills and attending to how they're different when selling virtually.