The Essential 11 Sales Skills Every Salesperson Needs

There are plenty of crucial sales skills you need to have to be a successful and effective salesperson. 👩‍💼👨‍💼

But beyond knowing how to use a CRM or how to create a sales forecast, being a great salesperson means you’re in tune with your soft sales skills just as much as your technical sales skills.

It’s great that you’re able to use the latest software or have mastered Excel spreadsheets, but if you aren’t someone who is able to really develop relationships with customers, you won’t get very far. 🙅‍♀️

sales skills

That’s why we’ve put together a list of 11 essential sales skills you’ll need to be highly effective.

This post is by no means exhaustive – as there are countless soft sales skills that can make you a better salesperson – but these are the most crucial when it comes to effective sales relationships.

After all, that’s a big part of why you went into sales, right? 😉

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11 Soft Sales Skills Every Salesperson Needs

 

1. Empathy

It’s always important to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – especially as a salesperson.

When you’re able to understand what people might be thinking or how they might be feeling, you’re able to guide conversations in a productive way. 👍

You can uncover motivations, pain points and more, meaning you have a better idea of when you can push ahead or when you need to hold back a bit – which can really turn you into a sales rockstar!

empathy sales soft skills

Most importantly: empathy helps you build meaningful relationships with prospects.

They may not remember what you said, but they’ll certainly remember how you made them feel. The last thing you want in a sales situation is to have a customer feel taken advantage of, or as if you aren’t keeping their best interests in mind.

There are plenty of exercises you can do to mindfully practice empathy, including literally imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes and reframing your thoughts toward curiosity rather than judgment.

Always make sure a customer knows you’re in their corner! 👊


 

2. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence allows you to understand how others are feeling and manage both your emotions and their emotions toward you.

emotional intelligence sales soft skills

When you’re an emotionally intelligent person, people naturally relate to you and want to follow your guidance. 🚶‍♂️

There are four abilities that encompass emotional intelligence:

  1. Perceiving emotions – the ability to detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, etc., including your own emotions. This is the most basic aspect of emotional intelligence and it makes all other processing of emotional information possible.
  2. Using emotions – the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem-solving. An emotionally intelligent person can capitalize fully upon changing moods in order to best fit the task at hand.
  3. Understanding emotions – the ability to comprehend emotion language and to appreciate complicated relationships among emotions (and be able to describe how emotions evolve over time).
  4. Managing emotions – the ability to regulate emotions in both ourselves and in others. Therefore, the emotionally intelligent person can harness emotions, even negative ones, and manage them to achieve intended goals.

As you can see, being emotionally intelligent is an incredibly valuable soft skill to have both in your career and in your personal life.

If you’re able to pick up on a prospect’s mood, you’ll be able to gauge how to proceed with conversations.

Are they in a great mood? Maybe it’s time to close the deal. 🤝

Are they in a not-so-great mood? Sincerely ask them if everything is ok, and listen to what they have to say. Which brings me to the next point…


3. Active listening

When you’re trying to sell a product or service and are focused on hitting your sales targets, it can be tempting to fall into a pattern of badgering someone to buy from you and talking their ears off until they agree.

active listening sales soft skills

Unfortunately, many salespeople still do this, even at companies who brag about how great they are at sales. 🙄

Don’t do this. No. One. Likes. This.

Instead, work on listening to your prospects. In many cases, they will tell you what their pain points are and what they’re looking for – you just have to listen.

It is, of course, productive to ask questions to guide the conversation in a way that gets you the info you need, but avoid taking over the conversation.

No one wants to hear how great you or your company are without prompting. Listen to what they have to say, and then determine the next best step for them.

Remember: you need to be on the customer’s side, and you need to make them feel good about the exchange! 😍


4. Effective communication

Salespeople spend the majority of their day communicating – so it’s important to be an effective communicator!

effective communication skills

From sending emails to holding meetings to making phone calls, there are many ways in which a salesperson needs to communicate in any given day, which makes this all the more crucial.

As an effective communicator, you should be able to keep your audience in mind at all times and adjust accordingly. 🗣

For example, you shouldn’t be speaking to your fellow sales colleagues the same way you would speak to a customer, because they have different needs from you and different goals in mind.

Simply put: being effective in how you communicate helps you get your points across and reach your goals. 🙌


5. Confidence

This one probably isn’t too surprising. To be a great salesperson, you have to exude confidence!

And if you don’t feel confident at the moment? Fake it ‘til you make it. 💪

confidence sales soft skills

Confident people inspire confidence in others – so if you’re confident about what you’re selling, prospects will feel that confidence and “buy into” what you have to say.

If you feel like you could work on this soft skill a bit, there are plenty of resources and exercises available online to help you build your confidence and help you go from a good salesperson to a great salesperson.


6. Flexibility

Working in sales can be a bit of a whirlwind at times. Meetings get moved around, prospects ask questions that aren’t included in a demo, the list goes on…

That’s why flexibility is crucial! You have to be able to change plans at the drop of the hat – in a positive and constructive manner. 🤗

flexibility sales soft skills

Rather than approaching changes with panic or frustration, take a step back for a moment, take a few breaths and try to offer up solutions or alternatives.

With that said, it’s great to be flexible, but it’s also important to know when to say “no” to avoid being overloaded.


7. Optimism

Working in sales can mean a lot of unanswered emails from leads, hung-up phone calls, rejections in many forms…so great salespeople understand the importance of staying positive!

Not everyone you speak to will necessarily be interested (or even qualify) for your product or service – and that’s ok. It’s all about being optimistic in the face of any adversity or rejection.

optimism sales soft skills

Optimism is closely tied to confidence. It means that you’re hopeful and confident that things will turn out ok (and spoiler alert: things will turn out ok in one way or another). 😄

This soft skill can also reduce stress and increase longevity.

That’s right: the power of positivity can literally make you live longer! 🖖


8. Time management

Similar to flexibility, time management means that you’re able to work smarter, not harder.

time management sales soft skills

Working 60 hours per week and barely making your sales targets is not sustainable, or fun.

Working 40 hours per week and blowing your sales targets out of the water is sustainable and fun. 🎉

Of course, every week is different, but if you’re able to prioritize and delegate your work in an effective way, it can be a gamechanger.

There are plenty of tools out there that can help you with this, but in the end, you need to be disciplined enough to stick to a process that fits your needs (and your customers’ needs).


9. Public speaking

Some people love speaking in front of a group. Others, not so much.

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it’s a great soft skill as a salesperson.

You’re going to be speaking to people on a regular basis, as well as offering demos and presentations, so the last thing you need is to freeze up in the middle of a crucial meeting. 😰

The best thing you can do to overcome public speaking fears is to practice, practice, practice. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel.

public speaking sales soft skills

If that intimidates you, try some alternative options, like taking up improv classes or watching TED Talks on YouTube to help you learn from public speaking experts.


10. Integrity

The most fundamental thing that can make or break a top salesperson is their integrity.

Being honest and transparent with prospects is crucial in being a salesperson with strong integrity.

This should be a no-brainer, but bears repeating: salespeople should never push a sale on someone who isn’t a good fit for a product or service. Whether that is in regards to pain points, budget or any other reason.

A salesperson should also never be misleading about what a product or service can do for someone. If you overpromise and underdeliver, that comes back to haunt you in a big way.

It can ruin your entire career. 😵

Carry yourself with integrity – and let’s be real, that’s just good life advice in general.

integrity sales soft skills

11. Growth mindset

It’s incredible what people can accomplish when they have a growth mindset.

What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s the belief that you are capable of strengthening your talents and acquiring new sales skills/abilities over time.

It means that you understand the importance of hard work and constantly trying to improve, rather that just staying stuck in your ways. 🚀

growth mindset sales soft skills

As a salesperson, this is a valuable soft skill to have.

If you’re barely hitting your sales targets each quarter and you’re perfectly satisfied with that, then maybe sales isn’t for you.

It’s important to try to push yourself to constantly improve over time. To learn. To grow. To SMASH those goals!

This is also tied to the idea of high achievement and its connection to “grit.” I’ll let expert Angela Lee Duckworth explain that one. 😎


There you have it, 11 soft sales skills that will help you reach your goals faster… and in style! 🎊

What are some other soft sales skills you think are essential to being a great salesperson? Let us know in the comments!


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Ali Colwell

Head of Marketing at Salesflare
I'm a fintech-turned-SaaS marketing expert who is passionate about design, automation and all things digital. View my full profile here.