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13 Sales Skills That Will Skyrocket Your Team’s Success

When most blogs talk about sales skills, things like “relationship building” take center stage.

Yawn.

It’s not that this rhetoric around sales skills is outright wrong. But it’s vague and generic — to the point that it fails to help interviewees looking to land a job in sales and sales managers searching for the holy grail to drive company growth.

Luckily, there’s plenty of concrete data out there revealing exactly what you should be looking for in your next sales hire.

Below are 13 of the most-needed sales skills below, complete with tips on how to screen for these traits in your sales hiring process.

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1. They Communicate Better Than a 9th Grader

Clear communication is often what separates the strongest sales reps from those who miss their quotas, according to research from Harvard Business Review.

On average, high-performing salespeople communicate at an 11th to 13th grade level, while underperforming sales reps rank within the 8th or 9th grade level of verbal acuity. Which makes sense when you consider how busy today’s buyer is, and how important it is to get your point across as quickly as possible.

How to screen for this sales skill: Do you ask prospective sales hires to submit a cover letter? You can instantly gauge their communication chops by running it through a Flesch-Kincaid readability test.

For example, here’s a real cover letter that we received from Sales Development Superstar, Julie Tran. She passed with flying colors.

sales-skills-writing-cover-letter

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2. Eager to Learn New Sales Skills and Tech

Success comes to those who roll up their sleeves on Day 1. The new hires that pull ahead of the pack are eager to learn about the company, customers, competitors, and the tools they’ll be using on the job.

According to the same study from Harvard Business Review, 52 percent of high-performing salespeople are power users of their company’s CRM and internal systems compared to 31 percent of underperforming salespeople.

How to screen for this sales skill in your interview questions:

sales-skills-eager-learn-new-tech

3. The Drive to Keep Your Eye On The Prize

We thought it was really interesting that over 85 percent of top salespeople played an individual or team sport in high school.

What does this mean for sales skills?

These employees take the commitment they practiced then, and apply it to their role in sales. In sales development, overcoming rejection is an everyday priority. Cold calling 100 prospects fails to convert 97 to 99 of them into meetings, on average. That takes unwavering motivation to keep going back for more.

And it’s that motivation in the face of failure that leads to success. Take it from Michael Jordan:

sales skills michael jordan quote

How to interview for this sales skill:

sales-skills-drive-to-keep-your-eye-on-the-prize

4: Tenacity and Perseverance

Real talk: Only 2 percent of sales deals are struck after the first meeting.

The other 98% require more courting.

john-cusack-boombox

According to Yesware data, if you continue to reach out to your prospect, there is a 25% chance that you’ll eventually hear back.

How to test for this sales skill:

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5: An Ever-Critical Eye

Optimism isn’t always the best thing; having some skepticism is actually another line item on the sales skills list.

While most high-performing reps describe themselves as optimists, two-thirds of them actually exhibit pessimistic personal tendencies. They question the viability of deals and buyers to close the right customers.

Top-performers are more likely to ask tough qualifying questions without hesitation, and they are unafraid to seek out meetings with senior-level decision-makers.

How to find this sales skill in future reps:

sales-skills-ever-critical-eye

#6: Ability to Imitate

Research from Northwestern shows that, in deal negotiations, people obtain more value when they mimic their opponents.  

This applies to all sorts of industries. Take restaurants, for examples: a Dutch study found that when waiters parroted back diners’ orders, this simple act led to 70% higher tips.

Verbal cues aside, mimicking someone’s body language makes them like us more. It’s science, and it has a name: the chameleon effect.

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-ability-to-imitate

#7: They Know When To Speak Up And When To Shut Up

Whether it’s in person, over the phone, or by email, sales reps need to be able to take a temperature.

According to a McKinsey survey for over 1,000 purchasing decision-makers, the most destructive behavior that a sales rep can have is over-contacting buyers.

It’s more frustrating than when sellers lack knowledge about their own product—imagine that?

McKinsey-sales-skills

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-know-when-to-shut-up

 

#8: Identifying Problems (And Solving Them)

loren-boyce-yesware-hiring-for-sales-skills“This one is big for SaaS companies,” says Loren Boyce, Director of Talent at Yesware.

“You need to find the right customers, or those accounts will churn. Sales team contributors can’t just zero in on their quotas. They need to have a consultative sales approach and consider the buyer’s perspective.”

Even with a customer churn rate of 3%, this makes the average customer lifetime just 33 months. So for any given customer deal your sales team invests in closing, that customer walks out the door in under three years time. This reduces a company’s ability to achieve sustainable growth—even with high-paying customers coming in the door. Sales reps who target the prospects that have wants and needs aligned to your product or service have an invaluable sales skill.

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-identifying-and-solving-problems

#9: Prioritizing the Right Activities

83.4 percent of SDRs fail to consistently hit quota directly because they lack time management, according to sales research company TOPO.

Time management is a sales skill that reps can build by setting goals and objectives and creating a schedule, but the rep has to be willing and driven to work in this type of setting.

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-prioritizing-the-right-activities

#10: Receptiveness to Coaching

joel-felcher“In sales, you can stew on failure, or you can learn from it,” says Joel Felcher, an SDR Manager at Yesware.

“No matter how good you are at something, you always have room to improve. If you’re not open to that, you’re not right for sales.”

When reps are open to coaching and managers are effective at it, it typically leads to 17 percent increase in sales performance. And overall, teams that use coaching have 161% more wins.

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-receptiveness-to-coaching

Bonus tip:

Conducting a call simulation can help identify hires who will increase sales conversion rates by 25% and revenue per call by 30%. When a candidate is further along in the interview process, hold a cold call roleplay, then work through some feedback, and re-do the call. How the candidate adjusts (or fails to) their behavior reveals their receptiveness to coaching firsthand.

#11: Creative

People receive 116 business emails every day. Creativity wins the open, read, and reply.

“I can’t stress enough how important this one is to break through the noise,” says Joel Felcher, Yesware SDR Manager. If you lack creativity, what helps you stand out from every other cold email landing in your prospect’s inbox? Absolutely nothing.”

Click here to start tracking who opens your emails to follow-up when you’re top-of-mind. 

Yesware sales reps focus on delivering a Purpose, Benefit, and Request in every prospecting email they send, but they rise above the norm by researching their prospect and personalizing their approach in a new way every time. One of our reps even started an internal competition to see who could come up with the most creative approach.

See one featured here in this on-demand webinar.

How to look for this sales skill:

sales-skills-being-creative

Case in point (real emails, names changed):

chicken-nuggets-sales-skills

And the reply:

chicken-nuggets-sales-skills-2

#12: Genuine

Making bad hiring decisions causes 80% of turnover and can cost a company $250,000 per employee each year. At the end of the day, you need to make sure the person interviewing for the job is the same person who’d show up to work week after week. 

To do this, you need to get your candidate out of “interview mode” to see who they really are beyond their ability to prepare to meet with you and your team.

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-genuine

#13: They Can Articulate Why They’re In It for the Long Haul

More than 1 in 10 SaaS companies experience turnover rates higher than 55 percent. So, over half of their workforce ups and leaves every year.

That’s a lot of training money going, going, gone.

When you hire a new sales rep, you need to know they’re committed to a career in sales and are truly interested in your company.

How to test for this sales skill:

sales-skills-in-it-for-the-long-haul

Ok, now over to you! What sales skills do you look for in new hires, and how do you test for them in the interview process?