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5 Microskills That Every Salesperson Needs


There are over 21 million sales reps in the world across all industries. Only a few have the goal of becoming the very best in their team, company, or the world. This article is written for those innovators who see sales as a craft and want to hone their sales game.

The concept of microskills was introduced to me during a recent podcast I cohosted with James Altucher. James is a former hedge fund manager, bestselling author, and founder of 20 companies, some of which have failed, some of which have made him millions. James is obsessed with learning the language of peak performance, and after talking with hundreds of peak performers, he realized that it’s the obsessive focus on small skills —  “microskills” — that separates the world-class performers from the rest.

I found this concept incredibly refreshing because it breaks a large area of expertise, such as sales, into more manageable skills that we can focus on improving each day.

So how can we apply this to becoming the best sales rep that each of us can be? The first step is identifying which microskills are important for sales. Below is a list of the five most important microskills for me as a sales rep.

The second step is making a concerted effort to get better at each skill every day. The reality is that only you know, deep in your soul, if you’ve done everything you can on a given day to get better at each microskill.

The third step is measuring progress in terms of how much you’ve improved each microskill on a weekly basis. My recommendation is to journal each day on how you’ve improved a given microskill, and then reflect on your journal logs weekly.

All right, let’s dive into the five microskills that all salespeople need in their arsenal.

#1 Prospecting

Prospecting is the genesis of creating a conversation with a prospect. If you can’t talk with your prospects, the remaining four steps are useless. The four channels I use for prospecting are phone, email, social, and my personal network. Regarding the latter, there is no easier way to land a meeting than to have a member of your network deliver a personalized introduction. It’s a beautiful thing.

When prospecting on the phone, you likely will only have 15–30 seconds to get your message across and land a meeting. One of the more effective ways of using that limited time is not by rattling off product names or features, but by discussing a large macro trend impacting your prospect’s world and having an opinion on it. Research an industry trend and know enough about it to formulate an opinion.

For email, you can improve the email subjects, the crispness and relevance of the body of your email, and call to action. For social, start engaging with your prospects on their chosen platform, adding value or your opinion to a post they recently published.

Last but not least, you can’t rely on your BDR to set up all of your meetings for you. Use them wisely, yes, but I’ve found that my own ability to prospect has been critical for my sales and podcast career.

#2 Research

Once you have the meeting set up, make sure you do research. A habit that a past manager instilled in me was: Whatever the length of your meeting, spend 3x as much time on research.

I start with the people I’m meeting with: Where did they go to school? Did their former employers use Salesforce (or the product that you are selling)? Next, focus on the company’s press releases, social updates (these are what they likely care most about), and then shift to the company’s competitors and any PR that the competitors have published. Lastly, and most importantly, what are the industry trends that the C-suite at your prospect account legitimately cares about? Do they really care about the features of product X? No. But they do care about how digitization is impacting how they go to market.

Improving your ability to conduct diligent research for a meeting will become more important as you move upstream, have fewer meetings, and, in turn, have fewer chances to make a good impression.

#3 Discovery

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Tony Robbins

Discovery is Sales 101, but the quality of your questions is everything. After stumbling for a few months in a new role, I realized I needed to ask better questions. What does “better” mean? To me it meant:

  • Having genuine curiosity: Your questions can’t be manufactured or the prospect will close up. You must have empathy and, as Dale Carnegie said, “become genuinely interested in other people.” This is also true during interviews for the podcast I cohost.
  • Being uncomfortable: One surefire way of knowing if you’ve asked quality questions is whether or not you felt uncomfortable during the call. If you didn’t, chances are your questions were weak and need to be improved upon.
  • Acknowledging their answer: Don’t jump to your next question without acknowledging the prospect’s answer.

#4 Negotiation

This was the skill I was most amateur in just a few years ago, and still am to be honest. It’s easy for a rep to give, give, give during a negotiation and chase the proverbial tennis ball. What really opened my eyes to how to improve my negotiation skills was the concept of leverage.

Negotiation is all about leverage. The more of it you have, the better your position. The precursor to loading up your quiver with leverage points is detailed discovery. For example, if you know the prospect is gearing up for a series C funding and, in turn, needs to hit certain sales metrics by a defined date, you can use that to your advantage during the negotiation. If you’re able to amass multiple leverage points, play them close to the vest. Offers of discounts or referral calls should only be brought up as needed. When you do need to give something, make sure you get something in return, such as a call with the CEO.

Improving my negotiation skills has been one of the most fun areas to focus on, and the most rewarding.

#5 Empathy

Improving your ability to be empathetic to a prospect’s needs is less tangible than the other microskills I’ve discussed, but it could be one of the most important for becoming a world-class salesperson. You can measure your empathy skills by asking yourself:

  • How often am I listening the client’s needs?
  • How often am I thinking, if I were in the customer’s shoes, what would I do?
  • How often am I describing a deal as “we” instead of “I”?

This last question is easy to push to the side, especially when management is asking for more meetings and ACV. However, one surefire way to kill a deal is by thinking solely about yourself. Customers will smell it immediately and will withdraw from the deal.

If you got 1% better at prospecting, researching, running an in-depth discovery, negotiating, and developing empathy in sales, how much better could you be at your craft? How much more ACV could you close? How much more money could you make?

The simple task of honing your microskills, day in and day out, can help transform your career and propel you to the ranks of the sales pioneers.

Whatever the length of your meeting, spend 3x as much time on research.”

Ryan Warner | Account Executive, Yext

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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