I’ve always held the stance that talent and skill are two distinct, separate things. Recently, I came across the perfect illustration of what I mean when I saw the American Idol audition of garbage man Doug Kiker:
Talent is that which can not be taught. It’s a born, inherent ability. Doug Kiker has pure talent. However, what he still needs to develop is technical singing knowledge and skills, which being in this competition will hopefully bring him.
This has direct correlation to sales. You see, when people say someone is a born salesperson, they’re not talking about skill. They’re talking about inborn traits – positive affective presence, charisma, and high native emotional intelligence (Emotional intelligence, by the way, is one of those rare things that can be both talent and skill).
Notice what’s missing from that list of traits? Sales and selling. That’s because to sell, you need sales skills. You can be the sunniest, most charismatic and emotionally intelligent person on the planet, but without selling skills, you won’t be a very successful sales professional.
Here’s the good news: Skills are not born, inherent abilities. They’re things that are taught, practiced, and mastered through repetition, retention, experience, and work. That means anyone can learn how to be successful in a sales career. One simply needs the right training, reinforcement, and coaching.
The Skills Salespeople Need
- Emotional intelligence
I list this first because I mentioned it earlier. But it’s one of the best skills to develop if you want to become a better sales professional – whether you’re a representative, manager, or leader. Check out one of our previous blog posts on how to develop emotional intelligence for more details.
- Communication skills
This is a broad category, but in terms of sales, it involves things like active listening, being able to read both verbal and nonverbal meaning, recognizing someone else’s preferred communication style, and being able to switch to conversing in that same communication style. If emotional intelligence is about understanding people, communication skills is about knowing how to talk to them.
- Analytical skills
So you’re able to understand other people and effectively hold a dialogue with them (both in vocal and written form). Those are important, but to become a truly impactful sales professional, you have to be analytical. Specifically, you need to be able to analyze a buyer’s situation, needs, and objectives, and use those as the baseline criteria for evaluating which of your offerings best fits what you’ve learned in discovery.
This skillset is especially important for acquiring Trusted Advisor status, because it’s here that you demonstrate you have the expertise and insight to be able to connect problems and solutions – thereby adding genuine value for your buyers.
- Sales skills
The previous skillsets are all general usage that will serve you well not only in sales, but in life overall. That leaves the last primary area of skills you need to become a top performer – sales skills. This is where we get into the nitty-gritty of answering questions such as how do you identify customer needs? How do you know when to close? When should you follow up? What do you do when a prospect says they’re not interested?
Many sales professionals tend to focus on this category as the one they want to improve, because it’s the one where it’s often easiest to see where the knowledge and skill gaps exist. And yes, learning and mastering sales-specific skills is essential to becoming the best salesperson possible. But it’s also critical to develop the other areas as well (for example, communication skills make the sales process run more smoothly and can often result in a shorter sales cycle).
As you can see, born salespeople don’t exist. What does exist is people blessed with certain talents and traits that make selling come more naturally to them. But the best salespeople are those who have acquired and attained mastery of learned skills and abilities – emotional intelligence, communication, analysis, and sales and business acumen.