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Sales Skills: The Best and The Worst

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

To succeed in sales, you need to have the right skills. You must 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 skills needed, what skills are sellers most likely to have?

In our The Top-Performing Sales Organization study, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research asked, across a number of areas, if sellers have the skills they need to find and win business consistently and at a high level. Below are the skills that rose to the top and fell to the bottom of the list:

Top 3 Sales Skills:

Top 3 Sales Skills

These were also the top 3 sales skills possessed by sellers at Top-Performing Sales Organizations, who were significantly more likely to have these skills compared to The Rest.

Bottom 3 Sales Skills:

Bottom 3 Sales Skills

The lack of sales skills across the board is surprising. Even with the top sales skills, only about half of respondents agree that their sellers have the skills they need to succeed in these areas.

There's significant opportunity for most companies to improve their sellers' skills.

Advanced Consultative Selling Skills

Only 36% of organizations believe their sellers have advanced consultative selling skills. According to other research where we looked at what made buyers choose one provider over another, we found that more than any other factor, buyers want sellers who collaborate with them and bring new ideas and insights.

Buyers are looking for sellers with advanced consultative selling skills.

When we looked at the sales skills by company performance, we found that Elite Performers are more than 2x more likely than The Rest to have advanced consultative selling skills (69% vs. 32%).

For those companies willing to invest in developing these skills, they may find themselves in the winner's circle more often.

Sales Management

Line up 10 sales managers. According to our research, 7 of them do not have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively. It's surprising that this skill is the lowest of the skills we asked about.

Sales management is a key leverage point for many companies. Making sure sales training and tools are adopted, used effectively, and improved over time is almost always contingent on effective sales management, with a strong focus on enabling seller success.

In fact, 69% of Elite Performers agree their sellers consistently manage time, focus, and personal effectiveness compared to only 32% of The Rest.

Working with sellers on deal coaching, developing action plans, and holding them accountable often contributes to their success. Sales managers play a crucial role in helping sellers manage their time most effectively by challenging sellers to better qualify and focus their efforts on the most important deals. If your managers don't have the skills to do these things, only the most internally motivated sellers will succeed.

While it's unlikely you'll find a single seller or sales organization that is strong in every skill area, there's vast opportunity for companies to improve in areas from sales management and consultative selling skills to growing accounts and driving and winning sales opportunities.

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Topics: Sales Performance Improvement Consultative Selling