5 Key Skills Sales Reps Need to Master

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are your reps struggling to meet quota? In the age of COVID-​19, that’s understandable, but there may be key skills your sales reps need to master. Your reps may not have been doing well before the economy slowed way down in March. If that’s the case, now may be the perfect time to review sales skills.

It’s true that reps bring a range of motivations, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses to their positions. You’ll have insights into these factors if you give your sales candidates a sales skills assessment during the interview process. A candidate might tell you they’re an excellent negotiator. They might even describe a tough negotiating session in which they prevailed. And, from their perspective, maybe they did.

You won’t know about the skill level for sure unless you have impartial assessment results to review. These results will reveal a candidate’s sales skills strengths and weaknesses. As you review these results, remember that a candidate may not have had enough training on a specific skill. Or they may, for behavioral reasons, not make enough of an effort in a key aspect of the selling process. Either way, when you review this information during the onboarding process, you’ll be able to customize a training and coaching program for them.

Identifying the Right Buyer

No sales situation can gain traction until a rep has identified the right buyer. Reps who are tasked with finding their own leads face a wide open field. They can increase their chances of success by qualifying “the prospect as to need, desire, decision making capability and money,” says Jeffrey Gitomer, the king of sales. If the person your rep is talking with doesn’t have the money to purchase your product or service, your rep should move into ‘farmer’ mode. They can cultivate that prospect over time. But in the current selling cycle, they must focus on quickly qualifying prospects and working with individuals that have the most promising profiles.


Problems encountered during the closing process can almost always be connected to poor discovery, says C. Lee Smith, President and CEO of SalesFuel. During discovery, your rep must ask the right questions. Specifically, they need to understand the prospect’s pain points. During this question and answer session, they must be assessing the buyer and assessing the situation. The buyer might say they need a solution that will cut 10% of their standard production time. A rep with good discovery skills will dig deeper to learn how that solution will benefit the buyer personally. Will they get a promotion if they succeed at cutting costs? Are they in line for a big bonus? The rep should note these emotional wants revealed by the prospect and address these wants in their pitch.


Sales preparation takes place throughout the process. Before connecting with a prospect, the rep must take a moment to think about what they want to say. Their preparation should also include research about the industry, the target company and the prospect. Our research, in our Selling to SMBs survey, shows that buyers want to work with reps who are knowledgeable and professional.


Giving a formal presentation strikes fear in the hearts of many sales reps. Without sufficient practice and preparation, the presentation may not go well. Prospects who are asked to sit through ‘canned’ presentations that tout the seller’s company without addressing critical problems faced by the buyer won’t be motivated to act quickly.

Your reps must master the skill of working collaboratively with the buyer. During a presentation, which should be more of a question and answer session, your rep must show what they learned during discovery. They must demonstrate creativity as they review possible solutions the prospect has when they use your product to solve their problems. Some sales experts say this skill is all about showing the buyer the value of your rep’s recommendation. When your rep solicits input from the buyer during a presentation, they are getting them to agree that the proposed solution delivers great value and is a logical option. This strategy leads the buyer further down the sales funnel.

Negotiating and Closing

Besides giving a presentation, no other skill in the sales process terrifies some reps more than the closing. Some reps need experience in recognizing the verbal and nonverbal cues from a prospect. Good coaching can help them learn what to watch for during discovery and presentations. Other reps may be in such a hurry to close a deal that they overlook outstanding objections. Reps who have done a thorough job of assessing, discovery, and presentation may find few outstanding objections. They may have resolved objections during the collaborative sessions.

But they still need to ask for the business after they’ve addressed any outstanding concerns. Role-​playing coaching sessions with managers may help reps who feel hesitant about this step. Asking directly for the business and getting a real commitment from the buyer is the best way to ensure that your rep is embarking on a long-​term relationship with a new account.

Skills Sales Reps Need to Master

The skills sales reps need to master are learned and improved upon over time. Mangers can help their reps come up this steep learning curve by holding regular and personalized coaching sessions.