All too often, revenue leaders buy into the outdated (but still widely accepted) notion that great sales reps are born, not made. According to this view, a person either has what it takes to be a successful seller or they don’t — and those who do drive the lion’s share of sales.
Those leaders focus primarily on hiring for fit — and hope for the best. While this can be an important first step, it’s not enough to guarantee success.
The reality is, sales is as much a science as it is an art. And sellers can indeed be taught.
Of course, you can’t exactly clone your best sales reps. But what you can do is identify what makes them great — and then work to replicate their skills and behaviors to create an entire team of sellers ready to crush quota.
Defining what sales excellence looks like
Sellers have a limited amount of time, and it behooves them (and their organization) to focus their time on the prospects that are the best fit for what they’re offering. To help ensure that’s the case, 93% of organizations have identified and documented their ideal customer profile (ICP).
But far fewer businesses — 1% — take the time to identify and document their ideal rep profile (IRP), which is the list of skills, competencies, and behaviors a member of the revenue team needs to succeed in their role.
That’s a big problem. After all, how can a sales organization drive excellence when they’re not even sure what excellence looks like?
The IRP is essential to true sales readiness
The first step in driving org-wide readiness is to take the time to identify and document the skills needed for success. The most successful sales organizations define IRPs for their go-to-market (GTM) or customer-facing roles. The most common roles for which organizations define their IRP are:
- Account executives (AEs)
- Business development representatives (BDRs)
- Channel sales specialists (CSSs)
- Customer success managers (CSMs)
- Sales engineers (SEs)
Team members should be continuously measured against this “gold standard” to identify the learning gaps of each individual. Then organizations can work to deliver individualized learning and coaching that closes these gaps and creates more peak performers.
The top 3 sales skills for every revenue team member
Sure, it’s key to identify the skills each member of your revenue team needs to succeed. But what exactly are those skills?
Of course, these vary by role. The skills needed to be a successful BDR are quite different from those needed to excel as a sales engineer.
Recently, we analyzed activity from more than a million users at 350 companies to understand how the best organizations are getting their sales teams ready to close more deals – and shared our key findings in our State of Sales Readiness 2022 report. Based on this analysis, we’ve identified the top three skills needed by five key members of the revenue team.
The 3 most important skills for account executives
Account executives work day in and day out to understand the needs and challenges of businesses — and then provide solutions to address them. The three most important skills for success in this role are:
- Sales discovery: For account executives, discovery is the foundation of success. They need the skills to get to know the buyer — and truly understand their opportunities and challenges.
- Value articulation: Once an AE has determined the needs of the buyer, they must have the skills needed to articulate the value of their solution.
- Competitive objection handling: Our analysis found that 63% of sales calls include more negative sentiment than positive. One example of negative sentiment is competitive mentions. AEs should expect competitive mentions — and have the ability to address them.
The 3 most important skills for business development representatives
BDRs are often the first touchpoint a prospect has with your company. It’s essential for them to master these three skills:
- Lead qualification: BDRs must know your ICPs inside and out — and be able to quickly and accurately determine if a prospect is a good fit for your company’s offerings.
- Objection handling: Like AEs, BDRs must be prepared to expect resistance from prospects — and they should be equipped to handle it. The right enablement and coaching can ensure they’re ready to address any objection that comes their way.
- Email personalization: These days, a large portion of business communication happens via email. As such, written communication skills are as important as verbal ones for BDRs. Specifically, BDRs must be able to personalize their email communications for each prospect.
The 3 most important skills for channel sales specialists
Channel sales refers to the practice of a third party (also known as a partner) selling your company’s products. The top three skills needed for channel sales specialists are:
- Product knowledge: Channel sellers must know a product inside and out — and be equipped to handle any question that’s thrown their way. Continuous enablement and coaching ensures they always have current, accurate product knowledge.
- Value articulation: Like AEs, channel sellers must be experts at conveying the value a particular solution offers to the prospect.
- Competitive objection handling: It’s common for channel sellers to get questions and pushback about specific competitors. They must be equipped to handle these objections in order to get more deals to the finish line.
The 3 most important skills for customer success managers
Customer success managers spend the bulk of their time meeting with current customers to address any issues and ensure the customer is getting the most value from the product provided. As well, they’re often responsible for upsells and renewals. They must have a solid mastery of the followinge three skills to be successful in their roles:
- Communication skills: CSMs spend a lot of time interacting with customers, both via phone and through email. Often, they need to share feedback from customer interactions with other departments, including sales and product. Solid written and verbal communication skills are a must.
- Product knowledge: CSMs must have a deep understanding of products so they’re equipped to answer questions and ensure customers are getting the most out of the solution.
- Resolving customer issues: If a customer runs into a problem, the CSM is typically their go-to. Customer success team members must have solid problem-solving skills to help resolve issues quickly and effectively.
The 3 most important skills for sales engineers
A sales engineer is a member of the B2B sales team whose speciality is selling complex technical products and services. They must have mastery of these three skills:
- Use case knowledge: Sales engineers must be well-versed in the myriad ways companies are using a solution — and be able to tap into this knowledge to articulate how the solution can work for a specific prospect.
- Articulating business value: Similar to other roles, sales engineers must be experts at articulating the value of their solution to prospects.
- Product knowledge: Prospects often come to sales engineers with technical questions and objections. Sales engineers must know the ins and outs of the product to be able to effectively address these complex queries.
Start building a winning revenue team
While hiring for fit is a great start, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Instead, organizations must identify the skills needed for each role on the revenue team, identify gaps, and deliver the personalized training and coaching needed to ensure each individual masters the skills that matter most.
Ready to learn what the best revenue organizations are doing differently to ensure their teams are always ready to close more deals — and start applying those insights to achieve sales readiness at your organization? Check out the Mindtickle State of Sales Readiness 2022 report.