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5 Sales Skills You Need to Master

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

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, manage sellers, and the list goes on.

With the laundry list of sales skills needed, which are most important?

In our recent 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 they met the goal, however, because sometimes goals are 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 9 skills we studied, 4 rose to the top. These 4 represent the largest skill gaps between the sellers who meet challenging sales goals and those who don’t meet their goal at all:


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    To learn more, download our free white paper: The Future of Consultative Selling.

    While advanced consultative selling (also called insight selling) has been a trend in the last few years, only 47% of goal achievers and 30% of non-achievers actually have this sales skill. Across the board, the opportunity to build these skills is huge.

  3. 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). It's no coincidence that it's also the top skill possessed by Top Performers (68%). Without the skill to effectively drive opportunities, sellers are hard-pressed to be successful.

  4. 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.

That concludes the 4 largest skill gaps, but I would be remiss to exclude:

  1. Core consultative selling: While core consultative selling skills—such as uncovering needs, connecting offerings to solving those needs, and communicating business impact—represent the smallest gap between goal achievers and non-achievers (52% vs. 47%, respectively), it’s still considered the price of entry for success in complex sales. Furthermore, it is the 3rd highest rated sales skill of those who meet challenging sales goals.

    It's interesting to note that approximately half of organizations have sellers without these 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.

If you're looking to not only meet, but exceed your sales goal this year, you can start by mastering these 5 sales skills.

Topics: Sales Research Sales Performance Improvement