The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught


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In my near decade at Salesforce, I’ve worked for, managed, and hired many a salesperson. Some of our best software reps had never sold software before joining us. In fact, some of our best closers had never closed a deal before working here.

This may sound unbelievable, but believe it. What these individuals may have lacked in traditional sales experience, they more than compensated for with core qualities.

I also refer to these as “The 7 Sales Skills That Can’t Be Taught”:

1. Curiosity

We sell to a huge variety of customers. The market and products around them change so fast, it’s impossible to have up-to-date training and curriculum on every single thing. A naturally curious salesperson can put themselves in the customer’s shoes, get to the bottom of their problem, and present a solution that meets their needs. 

2. Integrity

Our leadership team talks a lot about the difference between getting it done and doing it right. I want someone who does both. And I’d rather they miss their quota and do the right thing by the customer than the other way around. 

3. Drive

Salesforce is growing so fast and there will be career opportunities we don’t even know exist at this point. Salespeople who demonstrate the drive to challenge themselves to do more and help us improve faster will be the ones who will get those opportunities. 

4. Problem-Solving

Similar to the skill of curiosity, there are more potential obstacles in sales then we can ever build training for. In addition, it’s simply not possible for a salesperson to memorize every single thing they may need to do in their job. Problem-solvers can isolate each specific case and either find or create an answer for it. Problem-solvers find energy, not frustration, in this part of the job. 

5. Resiliency

Stuff happens. Understanding that there is a lot of rejection and ups and downs is a critical skill in sales. You can be 1,000% sure a customer is going to buy and then they don’t. You can offer a far better product than a competitor with double the ROI and still have a prospect go the other way. The salespeople who are the most resilient bounce back the fastest, learn from their mistakes, and grow from challenges. 

6. Self-Awareness

We have a coaching culture at Salesforce. The salespeople who are self-aware can quickly identify where they need to improve and go straight to the prescription. The reps who aren’t self-aware may abandon their best habits the first time they have a bad month or quarter and not realize what they actually should be working on. The most self-aware and skilled sales professionals are more deliberate with success and know how to repeat it. 

7. Emotional Awareness

Salespeople who spend a lot of time on the phone need to be very good at reading a prospect’s emotions without the benefit of a facial expression. Similarly, those on the road need to be highly skilled at reading interactions in a room and knowing when to be more influential and when to back off. 

Check out my list of “The 7 Sales Skills That CAN Be Taught” here.

The most self-aware sales pros are more deliberate with success and know how to repeat it.​”

Dan Ross | SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
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