A Great Sales Professional

Countless books, articles and studies have attempted to identify the characteristics of a high-performing salesperson, but a consensus has yet to be achieved.

Many agree on a few indispensable skills but otherwise recommend disparate skill sets and desirable qualities.

While we have some generalized notion of “selling,” contemporary sales organizations have grown in complexity and have evolved into a roster of functions — such as business development, closing, account management, and customer success — that require different specialized skill sets for their respective teams.

We can break down sales skills into ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Hard Skills’

Soft Skills – these are informal abilities that take time to learn and are learnt over a person’s lifetime and usually relate to the persons personality and character.

Hard Skills – these are formal and technical abilities that are learnt from training (such as university), workplaces, seminars, mentorships and short courses (just to name a few).

Let’s break these down:

So What Makes A Great Sales Professional?


The ability to positively engage other people, build long-term relationships, and form mutually beneficial networks will find frequent use in any salesperson’s workflow. From meeting clients and gathering referrals to soliciting advice and achieving team objectives, relationship-building skills enable a salesperson to accomplish tasks easier and make better-informed decisions. Relationship-building involves trust, rapport, and a genuine desire to help other people. Relationship-building leads to relationship selling, so don’t think it’s just a bunch of fluff. This creates opportunities if you play your cards right!

Product Knowledge

A sales rep who doesn’t perfectly understand the product they’re selling is a completely ineffective rep. Product training should be one of the very first things you teach new reps – they should be able to explain in detail how each product works, what business value it offers, and the reasons it appeals to your company’s ideal customers. This will help ISRs (Inside Sales Reps) craft their sales pitch effectively, and ensure they highlight each product’s strongest features. Deep product knowledge is honestly one of the few things that separates the top 1% of reps from the rest.


Believing in the product or service they are selling is essential. That comes across as a confidence that’s infectious and makes customers want to buy more.

Self Awareness

It’s important to have a coaching culture at your workplace. 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.

Customer Driven Responsibilities

A lot of sales leaders and pundits like to talk about good salespeople are good listeners. We think that goes without saying and that the best salespeople take action based on what they hear from their customer. It’s not good enough to just listen. You need to internalize what the buyer just said and then do something about it.

Sales Subject Matter Expertise

Salespeople aren’t just vacuous portals anymore. They actually need to be subject matter experts in two areas. First, they need to understand the buyer. This involves knowing about the pressing issues that the buyer is facing and what the buyer wants as they work their way to a purchase. Second, salespeople need to know a lot about their own product or service.

Managing the Pipeline like a Portfolio

The best salespeople manage their pipeline much like a hedge fund manager would manage their portfolio. They invest time in a number of opportunities knowing that some will close and some will not. They track the performance of each opportunity, as well as the aggregate performance of their entire pipeline on a weekly, if not daily, basis. They are also able to conduct a “bottoms up” analysis of their pipeline at any time to determine where they sit relative to their quota target.

The sales profession is changing fast enough that we probably didn’t identify every essential sales skill. It is important you stay ahead of the game and constantly look to improve your skills and emotional intelligence if you wish to succeed!