Key competencies for sales effectiveness and how to improve them |

Want a high performing sales team, equipped with the skills needed to take your organisation to the next level?

Of course you do.

It’s hugely important that your sales teams have strong product knowledge and skills in active listening. It’s equally vital that effective sales leadership teams are aware of the competencies and skills that staff, and those that they’re looking to hire in these roles, need to have.

Why is sales competency important?

Technology has meant that the role of a sales professional has changed hugely over the past few years. No longer having to travel hundreds of miles as standard or rely only on the gift of the gab to get results means today’s sales training needs to be increasingly sophisticated.

At the same time, clients and customers can track their results more quickly and in more detail than they ever have before. In many ways, these new sales competencies are more important than those we might have seen in the past.

Lack of sales competency can lead to shorter pipelines, the breakdown of communications between teams and clients, and a bad reputation being made for the company. Good skills in sales, on the other hand, have a wealth of benefits: strong relationships, reliable pipelines, innovation opportunities between teams - and ultimately of course, an increase in sales.

Essential sales competencies

So, what are the essential sales competencies that your teams and sales managers need to have?

Here, we’ll think about just a few of the key competencies for sales effectiveness that you should think about.

1. Active listening

Active listening is where the listener has the ability to read the body language and non-verbal signs that the person they’re speaking to is giving off. This is an essential skill for a salesperson so that they can accurately predict their pipeline.

Are potential clients saying one thing, but giving clues that this might not actually be the case? It’s important that your teams are able to make this differentiation.

2. Product knowledge

Having a strong knowledge of your company’s products is one of the most important skills for your sales teams. This is especially true if the product that you’re selling is complex or technical.

Your teams need to know the details of how these things work inside out if they’re going to be successful at selling them.

3. Sales leadership

Strong leadership is vital for those leading your sales teams. These skills are different in a lot of ways from the standard sales skills, but can be complimentary too: listening, picking up on clues and anticipating need are all vital for sales managers as well as their teams.

4. Marketing and industry insight

Being able to place your own offering within industry context and stay on top of what your competitors are doing is another vital skill. Sales people that can stay on top of this are best placed to persuade others that their offering is the best way forward.

5. Communication

It goes without saying that sales professionals need to be confident at pitching and framing their offering, but today’s best salespeople will be pros at using communication channels to work with potential or existing clients remotely too.

6. Technology expertise

Modern day sales professionals need to be incredibly tech-literate, for various reasons: to interact with clients remotely, to track their campaigns, and to make suggestions for new functionality that could be used within them. An awareness of the appropriate tech could clinch the deal!

7. Reporting skills

Attention to detail and the numerical skills needed to generate reports on campaigns and sales figures are another essential sales skill. Your salespeople need to be confident sitting down and paying attention to this as well as going out to meet clients and secure deals.

How to develop sales competencies

It’s great knowing what skills your sales teams need to have, but you might ask how to improve sales skills practically.

The key is to first measure sales competencies, and then to build upon them. You should assess the skills you need (above), and then devise an approach that ensures your teams fulfil these needs.

Assessing sales competencies

You should first assess sales competencies at interview stage. Do this by asking questions that allow interviewees to demonstrate their communication and leadership skills, as well as more practical aspects of experience such as campaign reporting.

Whilst they’re on the job, you can assess your team’s sales competencies in various ways. How to measure your sales team's competencies effectively, you might ask? Keeping a monthly check on whether their pipeline matches their results, to assess whether they’re actively listening to their clients, is just one option.

Of course, you need to be aware of extenuating circumstances that could affect these things too. These factors could include a need for more comprehensive product training, or a technology update. It can’t always boil down to the numbers!

Upskilling sales teams

One key aspect of managing a sales team is knowing that they’ll often need to be upskilled. Here are three easy suggestions on how to develop good sales skills by upskilling.

  • Sales leadership: allow highly performing team members to step up, taking ownership of key clients or accounts whilst others are on holiday or leading the team for a week
  • Communication: need to improve your sales team’s confidence on the phone? Break up the week with an afternoon of role-play exercises, where colleagues can offer suggestions and feedback
  • Technology expertise: Got a team member who’s a pro at the new technology you’ve installed? Get them to give a training session to the staff, with a quiz at the end

Effective sales managers are key to any business that wants to grow. Don’t underestimate how vital proper training can be!

Sales competency resources from Thomas

Thomas has a number of resources on sales competency that both employers and employees can draw upon.

In this blog, we explain how our tools provides your business with an objective framework for identifying performance gaps, developing self-awareness and creating an environment for constructive and honest feedback.

Alternatively, if you are employee, check out our ‘Perception vs. reality: What am I really like to work with?’ blog that can help you decipher if you are in control of your workplace relationships.