This age-old question has circulated around sales teams for decades. On one end, you have the top-performers insisting they were born to sell. On the other are the reluctant reps that say, “I just don’t have the personality for this.”
The answer is simple: it’s both.
Sure, there are people with natural personality traits that might make them more likely to succeed in a sales role. But there are also people who have been rigorously trained on sales best practices and are armed with enough resources to have an equal shot at becoming quota-crushers.
One thing is for sure – there’s a lot of common ground here. The most successful salespeople are constantly sharpening their skills to become better. If you want to pursue a business development career path, you need to be well-rounded.
Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, you should always be aiming to find ways to learn new things, pick up different skills, and improve. In this article, we gathered 10 must-have skills every sales or business development rep needs for success.
10 essential sales skills for BDRs
While you might not be closing deals just yet as a business development rep, this is the right time in your sales career to build on skills that you’ll need to succeed in the future. Let’s get started.
It’s no secret that one of the hardest parts about sales is the rejection factor. More often than not, prospects are hanging up on you, ignoring your emails or just doing anything possible to avoid being sold to. To cut through the noise and reach the right people, you need to be persistent.
To clarify, being persistent doesn’t mean bugging prospects every single day with mindless phone calls or emails. It’s going to take multiple touches to get ahold of people, but every single attempt should bring value to the person on the other end. Additionally, being persistent goes hand-in-hand with being respectful. Use your best judgement, and know when to move on after being told, “no.”
One of the benefits of a job in sales is having the freedom to structure your schedule however you’d like. The downside of this is that you have to hold yourself accountable for managing your time and crossing items off your to-do list.
Things get more complicated when you consider having to prioritize your time between different prospects, especially when it’s difficult to tell which ones are most likely to buy. For this reason, sales reps need to have strong time management skills to judge which activities will yield the best results.
Tip: Feeling like you’re getting burnt out? Read this guide for advice on boosting your sales productivity to avoid being spread thin.
This may seem obvious but you need to know the details of what you’re selling inside and out. Nothing will make you lose credibility in front of a prospect like not being able to answer a product-related question or providing them with misinformation. Sales is all about building trust, and buyers want to know that the sales rep they’re speaking with knows what they’re talking about.
Most companies do extensive product trainings to bring reps up-to-speed on all the information you need to know. That being said, you should always seek to expand your knowledge and turn to your coworkers as a resource if you have questions or are curious to learn more. After all, knowledge is power.
TIP: On top of your own product knowledge, it's important to understand what your potential customers know – and don't. Your online presence is a great resource, use it to research your perception in the market and get more feedback from customers.
The art of persuasion
Prospects are naturally inclined not to trust sales people and they’re going to come at you with a handful of objections. As expected, it’s going to take some persuading to get them to warm up to you.
Persuasion isn’t about getting someone to buy something they don’t want or need. Instead, you should approach persuasion as a means of negotiating with the prospect and providing value to them. Your method should be consultative, offering the buyer a solution to their problem. Since every salesperson has a different style of persuasion, it’s a good idea to collaborate with your team and learn from their individual techniques.
Active listening can separate a good sales rep from a great sales rep. If you’re on a call with a prospective buyer and all you’re doing is thinking about what you’re going to say next, it’s not a positive experience for the person on the other end. It’s important to listen to what they’re saying, and guide the rest of the conversation from there.
The way you say something is just as important as what you’re actually saying. A strong delivery could make or break a sales conversation, so it’s important to feel confident in your pitch and show that in the way you speak and present yourself.
You should not only have confidence in your own ability but also in the product or service that you’re trying to sell. If you’re truly passionate about the company you work for and know that your product could benefit the buyer, let it show. Even if they don’t ultimately choose to buy your product, prospects will always appreciate a sales rep that can lead an authentic and genuine conversation.
Consider investing in conversation intelligence software that allows you to record your sales calls so you can go back and listen to them. This way, you and your manager can critique your call and identify areas of opportunity for improving your delivery.
Just because you are confident in what you’re selling, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about its potential pitfalls. Gone are the days of the shady salesperson that will do anything it takes to close a deal. If you’re looking to be at the top of your sales game, you need to be honest.
If you’re speaking with a buyer and can tell that they won’t be a fit to buy at this time, then you should be honest with them (and yourself) and not move forward in the sales process. It’s best to be fully transparent than to set the foundation for a very unhappy customer down the line.
Stories sell. No, really – they do. Use your brand to tell a story that connects with prospects on an emotional level and helps them remember why you stand out over the competition. Telling a story helps others relate to you, and it brings them away from the “sales” aspect of the conversation. If you’re able to connect with prospects on a deeper level, you’re building trust and fostering a stronger connection.
That being said, there is a time and a place for this. Use your best judgement for when is an appropriate time to bring up an anecdote, and make sure that you’re making a clear connection to the point that you’re trying to make. If the prospect doesn’t see the connection, it could come across completely off base.
As a sales rep, you’ll be talking to all different kinds of people from all walks of life. It’s possible you will connect with some prospects right away, while others might be more difficult to find common ground with. Either way, a good salesperson needs to be adaptable. You’ll have to adjust your tone and delivery based on the verbal and non-verbal cues given off by the person on the other line. As with most skills, this will take practice. As you get used to running a sales qualifying and discovery calls, you’ll pick up on ways to adapt to different personalities and establish connections early on.
Sales isn’t a piece of cake. You’ll be told “no” countless times – it’s just part of the job and you can’t let it get to you. That’s why being resilient is an incredibly important skill to have if you want to be successful. You can’t rejection slow you down. The best thing to do is bounce back and keep on moving forward.
Practice makes perfect
Becoming an ultra-successful salesperson doesn’t happen overnight. Skills take time to build and it’s best to try and improve in small ways each day. Whether or not you were born to be in sales, you’ll notice that with practice and commitment anything is possible.
Izabelle is a former Content Marketing Associate who joined G2 in April 2018. After earning a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Izabelle moved back to her hometown of Chicago in pursuit of a career and deep-dish pizza. Outside of work, she is passionate about all things pop culture, food, and travel. (she/her/hers)