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10 Essential Skills Necessary for Top Sales Performance

Individuals working in sales are a major part of the workforce. While the role varies depending upon the industry and the type of buyers most of the skills required to succeed in sales are similar. Here are ten skills that are important for every sales employee to have.


Communication is central to so many of the tasks salespeople perform. It is more than just speaking clearly and concisely. Developing relationships with a client or prospective customer requires using the appropriate approach and tone for each step in the process. In addition to speaking well, excellent written communication is also important, because salespersons will send messages over email, text and social media. Presentations play a central role in the sales process. The content and delivery of a sales presentation needs to be engaging and informative. Effective communication is not just limited to external relationships, but a good salesperson will use this skill to maximize synergy with managers and assistants inside their own organization.


Actively listening to what a client or prospect has to say is another essential skill for selling. Rather than operating based on what they think is best for the customer, good salespersons listen to the goals, pain points and needs so they can help find a suitable solution for success. No two clients have the exact same situation, so it is important to hear the circumstances and not make assumptions. Listening and empathy are powerful instruments in helping a salesperson build better relationships and provide better service.

Resilience and Grit

Sales professionals face skepticism and rejection often. The successful salesperson knows this and responds appropriately. Recognizing an objection as an opportunity to discover more about the prospect can change the course of a relationship and lead to a sale. Without going overboard, a good salesperson pushes forward and keeps trying. Multiple calls may be necessary to get an audience with a prospect, and numerous meetings and presentations may be required before nailing a sale. On the other hand, once it is apparent that a lead is a dead end, the successful salesperson will put it behind them and move on, without dwelling on the situation as a failure.


A good story can sell a product or service. A sales rep who successfully engages a customer with an entertaining, real-life narrative that shows how they will benefit from purchasing a product or service is sure to be a top performer. A prospect is more likely to remember the salesperson, the product and the company when they can connect it to a memorable story.


Sales is not just about forward-facing interactions with customers and prospects. A successful rep takes time to do research about a person or company before contacting them. Gathering information about the buyer, the market and the competition will allow for a personalized pitch that will resonate. Research also prepares a salesperson for any likely objections or stumbling blocks.

Technologically Adept

Just as with most professions these days, salespersons need to be familiar and comfortable with using various technology tools. Technology changes quickly, so the ability to adapt and learn new tools is valuable. A multitude of software tools, such as CRM, marketing automation, competitive analysis and web conferencing, make a salesperson’s job easier, so the investment of time and effort in learning new technologies is worthwhile.

Social Media 

With 53% of the world population using social media it is an invaluable tool for prospecting and building business relationships. A salesperson does not need to be an expert about social media technology, but they should be knowledgeable enough to use tools like LinkedIn. It is equally important that they know what is not acceptable regarding the use of social media for sales.

Time Management and Planning

Time is a valuable resource. Making the most of time with a customer or prospect is beneficial to both parties. Planning the day is a big part of effective time management. Make sure the day is not overscheduled. Showing up late to a presentation because you are tied up with another customer or task will leave the impression that this sale is not important to you. Successful time management and planning boosts overall sales productivity.

Relationship Building

The successful salesperson effectively engages with people, establishes a connection and fosters a solid relationship throughout the sales cycle. Strong relationships with customers that are built on trust and value can lead to referral business or opportunities with a new company when a customer switches jobs.

Product Knowledge

It seems obvious, but deep and extensive knowledge of the product or service is critical to sales. Not only will a knowledgeable salesperson be able to answer all questions proposed by a prospect, but depending upon the type of product or service they may be able to upsell with a bundle of products. Being an authority on the product builds trust and respect, which could be a deciding factor in closing the sale.


Many try selling as a profession, but few stick with it and excel. It is doubtful that any one person is extremely proficient with all the skills that make for a highly effective salesperson, but the more of these abilities an individual masters the more likely that they will be a top performer.

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