Sales Training: 4 Skills Crucial to Sales Success

Sales skills are central to your teams’ success. The right sales training can supercharge your sales team’s performance. How?

    • It will enable them to become advisors instead of “just” salespeople
    • It will increase their communication clarity
    • It will make them hypothesis-driven when searching for client pain points

Sales training can be a foreign concept in certain legacy-driven organizations. According to this line of thinking, good salespeople are born, not made. Or if good salespeople are made, then they are made via experience. While effective sales does require lots of learning by doing, a lot of the sales skills can be gained in a training setting to accelerate progress.

It is probably true that some people will walk into an interview as “naturally” or intuitively stronger salespeople than others. But that’s a far cry from the notion that the skills necessary to be a good salesperson cannot be studied and cultivated. That latter idea is an increasingly antiquated one. More companies and managers are finding that it actually hurts them in the long run. By presuming that an employee can only be born with a certain crucial set of skills, you are inhibiting yourself from recognizing and developing untapped potential.

Further, to look for a specific mold of prefabricated employee, managers will limit their hiring decisions to their own prejudices. They may wind up with a homogenous workforce. Homogeneity in a work force is the enemy of innovation, creativity, and resilience. Like any healthy gene pool, a healthy workforce relies on diversity to adapt to changing conditions and to create new advantages.

Luckily, many have started paying more attention into research aimed at understanding and cultivating the skills necessary to succeed in sales. And that’s what we’ll look at today. First, we’ll break down the main skills you need to become a “natural” salesperson. Then we’ll give you an overview of what the sales training landscape currently looks like if you are ready to up your team’s game.

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4 Skills Crucial To Sales Success

Perhaps you’ve heard of the faux-scientific concept of “the aether”. Before scientists better understood space and vacuums, they could not imagine that the majority of the universe and what separated the Earth from other planets was all empty space. So, they proposed the concept of the “aether”. This is a mysterious fluid that filled the empty space between the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere and other planets.

Something similar was at work in the study of business success. When managers failed to understand how to define or cultivate the qualities that make up a good salesperson or leader, they proposed something called “animal spirits”. Or maybe they just called someone a “natural”. This mystical quality encapsulated vigorousness, charisma, drive, charm, and more. However, this invented concept was also used to justify a great deal of predatory behavior on the part of successful businessmen.

Some old business heads still like the concept of “animal spirits,” but the discourse on sales skills has evolved considerably. There are many sales training topics you could look at. Each of them have some dedicated online sales training. But here we will focus on four simple sales skills that will help you and your team to connect customers with your products and services.

      1. Discernment / Judgment

Discernment or judgment. Sales is, at its core, about connecting humans with products and services. Some might suggest it’s more about persuasion or (more cynically) manipulation. Setting unethical and dishonest behavior aside, persuasion is an element of good sales. People need to be given information about the products and services that will best benefit them, and how. But “the powers of persuasion” are as nebulous and ill-defined as “animal spirits”. It would be better to break persuasion down into the skills that help bring it about.

The first quality to highlight is discernment, or judgment. This refers to the ability to gather and synthesize information in order to make an appropriate decision. Good salespeople use their powers of discernment all the time. This skill helps to recognize the right potential customers and the right products/services for them. In other words, you need discernment to identify a potential client’s pain points and propose a solution that will solve them. This also helps to make decisions about the best tactics for connecting with people, as well as connecting them with the right products/services.

      1. Engagement

Engagement. In a few contexts, people simply need more technical information to get to the right decision. In most other contexts, they need more of a human connection in order to trust and act upon the information they’ve been given. If action was based on information alone, no doctors would ever smoke, and we’d all eat healthy and exercise consistently. It takes more than just information to do the right thing!

This is where the quality of engagement really helps a salesperson. Engagement refers to your ability to hold and share attention. It builds a connection, and places yourself in an advisory role relative to the potential client. Engaging a customer not only helps them feel at ease – it also helps you to sift out the most relevant information to help them fulfill their needs. Engagement involves asking (the right) questions and driving the conversation towards a recommendation.

      1. Executive Presence

Executive Presence. If you’ve ever counseled a friend through a complex personal problem, you know that sometimes people need sympathy and warmth much more than they need information or advice. However, in other situations – should I wear the red sweater or the blue sweater? – we really do want other people to help us make decisions. But this only works when we trust the other person’s expertise in the relevant area.

Showcase your expertise by coming to a conversation with recommendations. Grow the ability to react to objections in the moment. (This comes from extensive knowledge of both your client and your own org.) Speak quickly and to the point, and have fun!

      1. Answer-First Communication

Answer-First Communication. At the end of the day, people purchasing for large organizations buy from other people. When executive stakeholders are involved, they are looking for their potential partners to lead with a recommendation, followed by “why” that decision should be made. Especially in this virtual environment, you can’t afford to meander to the point and keep people interested in what you have to say.

Our favorite (and our clients’ most popular) sales training technique is the Pyramid Principle. Schedule a chat with our Training Lead to see if sales training is right for your organization.

Sales Training Programs

While the above sales skills might seem like common sense, there are a plethora of sales training programs on the market. Sometimes up-branded as “sales management training,” targeted to managers and salespeople alike. These sales training courses often offer some proprietary spin on the basic skills listed above.

As with any product or service, there is a range of value and effectiveness in the sales training market. You should be sure to do careful research if you’re planning to invest time and money in this way. There are a few usual suspects that have persisted as major sales training brands over the years. These include the Sandler Sales Training program, Grant Cardone Sales Training, Dale Carnegie Sales Training, and our own Sales Training – which uses the Pyramid Principle as a base to ensure your sales teams make the transition to expert advisors.

Sales Training Topics

Before handling objections, before drilling on your Unique Selling Proposition, even before prospecting, a salesperson to be successful, must know how to communicate effectively! We’ve all known that person who can talk up a storm, but did they actually say anything you wanted to hear? Sometimes those types of people just love the sound of their own voice, without any understanding that those within earshot could care less.Then again, we’ve also known those people who are great communicators, and we hang on every word they say. They come across credible, trustworthy, and ultimately, those are the people that people buy from.

If you decide to pursue formal training in sales and communication skills, you’ll find there’s virtually no limit to the sales training topics you can zoom in on. Generally, it is our experience that there is no substitute for effective communication. Everything starts and stops there. But to name a few, here are some of our favorites:

      • Overcoming Objections
      • Leveraging Technology (CRMs)
      • Business Communication
      • Answer First Communication
      • Emotional Intelligence
      • Creating Sales Decks That Actually Sell


Part of good management is recognizing the educational role that an organization can play as a complement to good hiring practices. By developing your organization’s ability to build sales training programs and cultivate crucial sales skills in your salesforce, you can maximize your organization’s long-term sales performance.

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Filed Under: Corporate Training