Sales is a critical part of any business, which is why there are so many sales roles available across every industry. However, not every new salesperson starts out with all of the skills they need to sell successfully.
The good news is, sales skills can be developed and mastered over time, especially if you’re changing careers to join a sales team. Those coming out of different industries can take what they’ve learned and hone it in their new sales position.
Below, a panel of Forbes Business Development Council members share 15 transferable skills that can help people succeed in a sales role.
Forbes Business Development Council members share examples of skills that help people succeed in sales.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. A Bias For Action
A bias for action is more of a leadership principle than a transferable skill, but all successful salespeople, whether it’s an individual contributor or manager and regardless of their prior industry or experience in one way or another, chooses action over inaction. I also believe that a sense of urgency is important for all salespeople, especially for those who are new to a role or industry. — Erwin Tumangday, Klick Health
2. Being Friendly And Personable
Being friendly and personable goes a long way to making a sale. Who wants to give their business to someone who is a jerk? No one. If a person is genuine and friendly, it goes a long way to getting the answers they need to qualify a prospect or deal and move it forward. — Anastasia Valentine, Wagepoint
3. Intellectual Curiosity
The best salespeople today are generally inquisitive when speaking to prospects. They dig deep to truly understand a buyer’s situation and the forcing function behind the conversation. Doing a good job in this area allows the salesperson to then focus their presentation or talking points only on those items that they have learned are critical to the buyer. — Dave Wilner, Auth0
4. Asking The Right Questions
If you are coming from a place of service and you’re willing to craft the right questions, you will do well anywhere. Consultative sales is a formula. Ask the right questions, discover the problem and deliver the solution. — Sara Pugh, Talent Mavericks
5. Curiosity And Empathy
B2B sales is invariably about solving a customer’s pain point. Curiosity and empathy are transferable and helpful skills to properly discover pain points. A curious person wishes to understand the problem and a truly empathic person will come across as genuine in their concern for the problem. Thus, they will win the trust of a potential client and build a bright future in sales. — Vargha Moayed, UiPath
how to accelerate your career — Build a relationship first. Any relationship requires at least two parties and value-add on both sides. That’s it. If you start by putting the other person first and focusing on how you can genuinely help them, then you will nurture a trusted and loyal relationship. Selling simply becomes “speaking” and sharing valuable information, stories, services and products that help the other person. — Oluchi Ikechi, Accenture
I always look for a salesperson who has listening skills. All salespeople are good talkers. Their gift of gab is likely why they went into the profession. Those who know how and when to listen are the ones that can transcend industries easily. — Chris Yount, Independent Board Advisor
8. Video Presence
Video presence, including knowing how to keep buyers’ attention in a virtual setting, can make or break relationships. Appearing confident and keeping distracted buyers engaged on-screen creates strong connections with customers and prospects. Knowledge of a product and selling processes can be taught; someone who understands how to build relationships virtually has the foundation for success. — George Donovan, Allego
9. Customer Research
The one thing you can never get wrong in prospecting is knowing your customer better. Better research also helps uncover new angles in the sales process, unlocking cross-sales opportunities and identifying issues overlooked by the competition. — Wajid Mirza, Arthur Lawrence
10. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a valuable attribute in any worker. Emotionally intelligent individuals recognize their emotions or actions and adjust the way they approach their work accordingly. Listening and connecting are valuable EQ skills that allow salespersons to create authentic relationships with clients, which are vital in sales. — Sue Bhatia, Rose International
11. A Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset is critical in every industry. In general, the most successful sales professionals are always seeking to improve. Employees with growth mindsets learn quicker, overcome more obstacles, radiate more positivity and are overall more productive. — Matthew Rolnick, Yaymaker
12. Willingness To Do The Grunt Work
I find a lot of former athletes do well in sales. In the same way athletes wake up every day to train and condition their body all year long, the best sellers aren’t afraid to do the non-glamorous parts of the job, like prospecting. There’s none of the fanfare, but this work sets them up for success later on. Folks who want to get better every day and put in the tireless effort will do well in sales. — Ed Calnan, Seismic
13. A Sense Of Responsibility
I believe responsibility and listening are key. If a salesperson moves into a new role and has a sense of responsibility, there will be a personal commitment to excel. Every sales leader needs a sales rep who is clear about deliverables and expectations on the job and also has the ability to self-manage and self-lead. An effective listener is also a required diamond in today’s selling world. — Onyinye Ikenna-Emeka, MTN NIGERIA COMM PLC
You have to be resilient in sales. It’s hard and you’ll not close every sale. Being able to pick yourself back up, focus on the things that are going well and improving those things that are in your circle of influence will help you go far in your sales career. — Christine Bailey, CloudNC