14 Essential Sales Skills Every Rep Should Have

Competitive. Ruthless. Dog-eat-dog. These are all words you might think of when you think about sales. 

But it doesn’t have to be so scary.

Sales is a discipline. This means that each of your salespeople has to be a sales professional.

If you run a business, you know that your market demands a very specific set of sales skills from your team.

People often say that selling isn’t about what you know, but who you know.

This is only partially true. There are some sales skills that you just can’t get around. We list them out for you so that you know how to build an effective team.

What is the Golden Rule of Sales?

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Have you heard that one before?

That’s the Golden Rule of life. It’s what we hear from our parents growing up, from our Kindergarten teachers, and from pretty much everyone else.

Alas, life imitates art. And sales imitates life.

A lot of people have a different idea of the Golden Rule of Sales. But it’s not so different from the original.

Care about your customers. Treat them how you would want to be treated as a customer. Better yet, treat them how they would like to be treated as a customer.

How do you do that? We have 14 essential sales skills that allow you to follow the Golden Rule. Altogether, they lead to top sales and a fruitful business.

What are the Basic Selling Skills?

Our sales skills below are detailed. But when you hire a new sales representative, you want to get back to the basics.

What should you look for on a resume? What makes them a generally good fit for your market? Indeed has some answers.

Here are some of their critical skills for the job:

  • Identify sales opportunities
  • Know your customer
  • Close sales
  • Communication
  • Product knowledge
  • Speaking skills
  • Client engagement
  • Organizational skills
  • Problem-solving skills

And the list goes on. You can probably even think of particular skill sets on your own. Every business is different and has different needs.

We get into more detail below.

What Makes a Successful Salesperson?

A successful salesperson doesn’t always look the same. Everyone learns differently and sells differently.

While you want structure within your workforce, you also want some element of diversity.

What’s more, sales skills are not static. People change jobs and industries, so they take on new sales duties as well.

But what is the same for all salespeople?

You need to be able to communicate with customers and close sales consistently if you want sales success.

If your sales department has or hones these skill sets, they’re bound to be successful. Don’t forget that there is always room for self-improvement, either. The healthcare community sometimes says “the day I think I know everything is the day I kill someone.”

Sales might not be as life-threatening, but the day you think you know everything is the day you start to lag in sales.

Essential Sales Skills You Need as a Rep

It’s time to really dive in.

The sales process evolves, and so does your industry. So those sales skills you developed a couple of decades ago won’t cut it forever. In fact, they can change almost daily.

You might have come here as a sales rep yourself. You might be a business owner. You might just be interested in the field. These skills apply to all of those situations.

Decision-Making SkillsDecision-Making Skills

As a sales rep, you have to make decisions every day. Everyone in your department does. How you come to those decisions is what matters.

How you make a decision affects the buyer’s decisions, too. Are you taking time to think things through?

The sales process can be fast. A great sales rep knows how to keep it moving in a way that will benefit them and the potential customer.

To do that, empathize with what they say. Empathize with what they don’t say, too. Take some time to understand what they want, what they need, and how you can solve their problem.

Have you ever been in their shoes? Probably. Tune in to that empathy and give them a solution.

Collaborative Skills

This might hurt to hear. But you have to understand that you really don’t know everything.

However, when you combine your knowledge with that of someone else on your team, you have double the information. That’s a sales slam dunk.

No one really achieves greatness on their own, and sales is no exception.

Collaborate. Ask yourself how you effectively use the talents of your sales team.

Start with emotional awareness to foster a safe collaborative environment. Then, think about opening a discussion with your coworkers. You might even want to shadow another sales representative every once in a while.

Collaboration improves everyone’s communication skills and generates more ideas.

Strong Communication Skills

Collaboration encourages communication. But strong communication skills are sales skills in and of themselves.

They start on home base. If you don’t have a communicative department, that will reflect in your customer relationships. 

This also includes sales language.

You can spot sales lingo when you hear other reps say things like: “I might have to get back to you on that” or “We’re working on a solution.” These phrases don’t confirm a need for information. They lack imperative words.

Oral and written words have to be strong and persuasive to succeed. Be concise with your team and tell a story with your customers.

Prospecting Skills

Prospecting sounds easy. All you need to do is figure out who wants to buy, right?

Easier said than done.

You have to use strategy to be a strong prospector. Your entire sales pipeline, from start to finish, must be comprehensive and profitable. The Golden Rule we talked about earlier doesn’t just apply to existing customers. You have to know where to find prospective customers and nurture them while you do so.

Use your resources to accomplish this. Research sales data to find out about new trends in order to create a sales forecast. This will help you determine which territories or areas are most likely to provide better sales opportunities. Don’t be afraid to use your professional references for help, either.

Business Acumen

In sales, you are a businessperson. This holds true for business owners, sales managers, and salespeople alike.

You have to be quick on your feet in all business situations, including sales. You also have to be as effective as you are efficient.

Once you build trust with a customer, they can come to you over and over again to fulfill their needs.

You also have to make them come back. You will need to develop a sales strategy that keeps customers coming back for more sales and products over time.

To do this, you have to zero in on business acumen.

Social Selling

Social selling is a key element to your selling skills. You can use it as a tool for prospecting.

With social selling, you can use social networking platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. Use them to engage with customers, but don’t forget about professional resources. The two go hand in hand.

For example, say you want to find a company that can profit from the product or service that you sell. This means you profit, too.

You might go to LinkedIn and find one of your experienced connections. Reach out to them and ask for a referral to the kind of buyer you want. They can put you in touch. That way, the customer can hear from one of their trusted sources and is more likely to trust you and buy what you’re selling.

This customer might also reach out to you via the same platform. It begins a cyclical loop of social selling that benefits everyone involved.

Active ListeningActive Listening

You have to fully pay attention to customer needs. You can achieve this through active listening. It might feel uncomfortable to listen to everything a customer says without interruption or filler words. Do it anyway. It gets easier with time.

It forces you to pay attention without distraction. It also makes the buyer feel like you hear them and have a solution for their specific asks.

When they are done talking, you can ask follow-up questions related to what they told you. Active listening serves as an outline for the whole conversation and the conversations that follow. It connects you with them on a deeper level and makes sales personal. Hold yourself accountable for that.

Objection Handling

A lot of times, salespeople hear a customer objection and inwardly groan. It might feel like a burden. Snap yourself out of that thought process and think of it as an opportunity to grow.

Confront an objection by facing it head-on. Don’t back down from the challenge. You should be prepared for any objections and offer an alternative solution to the customer. Make sure these alternatives are persuasive and make sense of what the buyer wants.

Closing a sale doesn’t mean the customer wants your first suggestion. True success comes when you recognize this and give them an even better suggestion.

Presentation Skills

You might remember when we told you to “tell a story” earlier.

Let’s go back to that. 

Sales professionals are storytellers at their finest. You can’t expect everyone to convince everyone to buy your product without a vision.

Paint a picture when you present a product or service. It encourages the buyer to see the bigger picture. When people can visualize something, there’s little room for doubt. They’ll make their decision based on what they have seen with their own two eyes.

Rewarding presentation engages the audience and addresses their concerns.

Negotiation Skills

If you can negotiate, you have already won half of the battle.

You need to have a goal and a route to achieve that goal. You also must prepare yourself for other situations if things don’t go according to plan with your potential buyer.

There are lots of areas you can’t practice in beforehand with sales. But negotiation is not one of them.

What product or service do you want to sell? How will it benefit the customer? How can you prove your point? Answer those questions as a starting point to quality negotiations.

Territory Management

Know your sales demographic. A huge factor of your demographic is where they are physically located. This is where territory management comes in. 

If you understand how to use the right data in the right places, you can figure this out with ease. Some salespeople forget this and mistakenly appeal to the wrong sales demographic.

It drives sales, which in turn drives individual success and company revenue.

Technological Skills

With the advent of the Internet and e-commerce, sales took a step away from in-person selling. The majority of sales take place online today. This is why it’s crucial to evolve your technical skills with the times.

If you don’t improve these sales skills, you could quickly fall behind in the competitive sales game.

Buyer Research

Sales come from relationships. Customers know what they want, what they deserve, and who to get it from. If you don’t research your buyer, you open the door to competition success and close it on your own.

Nobody wants a solicitous phone call where all they hear is “me, me, me” from the sales rep. They want a sense of togetherness.

Host a conversation with them. Talk about things other than what you want them to buy. It builds trust and fosters a feeling of safety and interest. It also encourages them to come to you first instead of going to a business rival.

Time Management and Planning

Time Management and Planning

If you have all of these other skills but can’t budget your time, the rest falls away.

Identify priority items on your to-do list and execute them first. What brings in the most revenue? What customers cannot wait for a response and which ones have more time? How long will it take to complete each task? Think about writing in an agenda every day to ensure you deliver quality results on time and in order of priority.


If you are a sales representative, develop these sales skills to promote professional growth.

If you are a business owner or sales manager, you have to show sales reps how to achieve these skill sets. Sometimes you need to walk before you run, and rep education is a huge part of that.

The last thing salespeople want to hear is “learn sales on your own.” If you don’t foster continuing education in the workplace, they won’t want to continue working there.

Here at Selling Revolution, we take a unique approach to grow your business. We know the importance of your sales department and how to train them to get results. If you want a personalized sales training system, book a call with us today to see how we can help.