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What Are the Top Skills Every B2B Sales Rep Needs?

Apr 05th, 2017


Success within sales organizations starts with great talent. With the average sales turnover rate at 16%, it’s critical that companies recruit sales people with the right skills, competencies and intangibles to succeed in today’s market. The right talent, plus proper onboarding, training and coaching, are key to achieving greater sales productivity and ultimately, more closed deals for your company.

So, what should you look for when hiring for your sales organization? Brainshark’s SVP of business development, Jim Ninivaggi, and sales enablement expert Jill Guardia discussed this topic during a recent webinar. They suggested that sales enablement should take the lead in defining the essential skills for each role within sales, including business development representatives (BDRs), account executives, specialists, and other sales enablement professionals.

Essential skills vary by role

Sales enablement leaders have a bird’s eye view of the sales organization, so they’re in a great position to define and differentiate each role in sales. As Jill explained, “The ability as a sales enablement leader to sit down with sales leaders and define the [job profiles] –  that’s really where you get the biggest bang for your buck, and then you know what you’re focusing on.”

Across the sales organization, BDRs are often the first line of communication with potential customers. Hiring managers should look for a combination of customer service skills and empathy because BDRs are not directly trying to sell anything; their main focus is forming relationships with prospects, Jill said.

But sales reps are different than both BDRs and other sales professionals. Reps require multifaceted skill sets beyond the ability to sell and engage with prospects. Above all, sales reps need to help buyers get to a decision faster.

Some reps may say that speeding up the buyer’s decision isn’t feasible because of the length of the sales cycle, but Jim sees things differently. “If it was up to us, the sales cycle would be a day long,” he said. “It’s about accelerating that time to decision and starting to look at things from a buyer’s perspective. The salesperson of today is really looking at not closing deals, but helping the buyer get to a decision faster.”

Related: The Secret Sauce: Determining When Your Sales Reps are Ready to Sell

Top sales rep skills of today

Reps still need age-old skills like objection handling and negotiating, as well as the ability to influence and manage deals. But now there’s been a shift towards solution-based selling instead of product-based selling – something that sales enablement leaders can help reps develop.

“You can’t sell product anymore; you have to sell solutions. You have to sell value and you have to be a trusted advisor,” said Jim.

Another emerging skill set is social selling, where reps must leverage social media for lead nurturing and relationship building. Additionally, with innovation occurring at such an accelerated rate, reps must stay more informed with news and trends in technology, the industry and the market.

“Keeping on top of things from a knowledge perspective is tougher and tougher,” Jim said. “Salespeople are inundated with communications and content, so sales enablement is [there] to help them figure out what’s important.”

Beyond the job description, successful salespeople may have intangible skills, such as asking the right questions and turning problems into solutions for buyers.  Jill said these intangibles plus the essential skills will help reps build towards their end game – a quicker decision.

“The best salespeople are helping the buyer get to a decision faster,” Jill said. “The competencies, skills, knowledge and aptitude are all wound up in that.”

For more from Jim Ninivaggi and Jill Guardia, watch the full webinar: 10 Questions Answered from a Sales Enablement Practitioner.