The 7 Sales Skills That CAN Be Taught


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We at Salesforce are very aware of what we want in a salesperson. When interviewing candidates, we evaluate them based on two categories: the skills we can teach them and the skills we can’t. 

You see, the interview process is not only about determining if the candidate is a good fit. It’s also an opportunity for our leadership team to build a strategy for how to coach the employee based on the skills we know how to teach.

If candidates lack the unteachable qualities, they won’t be successful and we have to consider a different role for them. If they have the unteachable qualities, that’s great news, because everything else — from closing deals to business and sales acumen — they can absolutely learn.  

Here’s my breakdown of “The 7 Sales Skills That CAN be Taught”:

1. Pipe Generation

The easiest way to generate pipeline is to start with existing pipeline. Sales reps can be taught to be curious and to always ask if there is room to upsell or cross-sell beyond the initial solution being evaluated. Account reviews with existing customers can often identify additional business challenges customers didn’t even know your product could solve.

You can also generate pipeline by going back to “dead opportunities” — prospects who said no to us in the past because we had the wrong product, wrong pitch, spoke with the wrong person, or had the wrong timing — and presenting them with reasons why this is the time to reconsider.

2. Time Management

We train our reps to put time on their calendar to get organized. Spend 15 minutes at the end of the day planning what you will do tomorrow. Focus on revenue generating activity but don’t tip the scale too far towards your quota. You can’t afford to neglect accounts. You never know which account could be your next big deal. You also can’t neglect your own development. Make time for training, mentorship, and practice.

3. Business Acumen

Business acumen is a term that gets used in many ways. I love when sales professionals have the business acumen needed to understand all lines of business within their customer’s organization, understand the biggest challenges and priorities, and speak executive language.

4. Sales Acumen

Sales is a process. To be great you need to master each step, otherwise your efforts will not lead to results. The steps of our process typically begin with prospecting, followed by discovery to better understand the prospect’s needs. This serves as proof that you can solve their challenges, negotiation, and implementation.

5. Big Deals

Larger, more complex sales cycles require additional sales skills that go beyond general sales acumen. These evaluations require more creativity and organization. There will be far more people involved, so you will need to triangulate the relationships within your account and maintain multiple relationships, gathering feedback, and uncovering objections along the way.

6. Product Knowledge

If you play a musical instrument you might appreciate how hard it is to write a song that includes chords you can’t play. If you do not understand the value of each of your products, it is very difficult to sell the value of the product and you will definitely miss out on opportunities within your territory. Know the value proposition, the competitors, common objections, and ideally how to get hands-on with the solution to do your own demos.

7. Forecasting

Forecasting is all about making smart decisions for your business. Based on the pipeline you can see and the pipeline you can source, are you on track for your goals? If not, what do you need to do differently?

The best sales professionals know how to use their forecast to prioritize their time, to ask for help where needed, and when to walk away from a deal. They use CRM to keep their pipeline in real time, all the time, so that the data gives consistent information for others in their organization to also make smarter decisions.

Check out my list of “The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught” here.

The best sales professionals know when to walk away from a deal”

Dan Ross | SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
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