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6 Critical Selling Skills

Why Is Sales Skills Training Important?

Sales skills training builds a sustainable, competitive advantage that is difficult for competitors to replicate.

Developing selling skills that empower your sales team to provide an exceptional buying experience can be a powerful differentiator.

Differentiation is important in today’s competitive market where once-unique products and services are quickly becoming commodities as barriers to entry, as many industries drop and new competitors enter the market.

What Are Selling Skills?

Selling skills are the “muscles” that give strength and flexibility to sales professionals.

These sales skills are developed through experience, coaching, and training. They must be practiced, honed, and refined throughout the sales rep’s career.

The selling skills tactics and techniques employed change with the times, but the core capabilities remain constant.

Richardson provides sales skills training that focuses on building 6 Critical Selling Skills that enable sales professionals at every level to more effectively execute their sales conversations, open more doors, better understand customer needs, position value, and close more deals.

Our professionals selling skills training builds the following abilities:

  • Presence
  • Relating
  • Questioning
  • Listening
  • Positioning
  • Checking

The 6 Critical Selling Skills work together in a highly dynamic and interactive way and must be mastered to build effective selling habits.

Richardson’s 6 Critical Selling Skills

The chart below highlights the main competencies built through the development of each sales skill.

6 critical selling skills


Presence refers to a sales person’s ability to project confidence and conviction.

A strong presence is an essential selling skill because it builds credibility. In many ways, it may be the most important sales skill because a disconnect between the salesperson’s presence and their words results in lost credibility.

Critical Selling Skills Training in Action

Richardson’s Accelerate Platform teaches sellers to master professional sales skills using short, video-based learning scenarios.

The video below demonstrates the impact a sales professional’s presence has on the success of a sales call.

For more information on Richardson’s Accelerate Platform please contact us to request a demo.


Relating refers to the way sales professionals interact with a client to make personal and business connections.

Although most salespeople feel that they are strong at relating, it is one of the toughest selling skills to master.

Some may think that the ability to relate to others is inherent, but contrary to this belief, the ability to relate and demonstrate emotional intelligence is an area where sales professionals CAN be trained to excel.


Questioning fosters openness and results in a dialogue that explores, shapes and defines the customer’s needs.

A sales professional’s ability to question determines how strong their competitive edge is. When sales questions are well-structured they are powerful, create opportunities to deepen a dialogue, provide insights, build trust, and ultimately, close the sale.


Listening is the ability to concentrate on meaning.

There are three levels of listening:

  • Zoned out (not involved at all)
  • Efficient (engaged but thinking about the other things)
  • Effective (fully engaged)

Listening at the highest level fosters effective client dialogue. The combination of questioning and listening skills will improve your sales team’s ability to effectively position their solution.


Positioning is presenting information persuasively throughout the sales call.

More powerful than simply selling by demonstrating product knowledge, positioning helps to differentiate products and services by using words to shape clients’ perceptions and encouraging clients to listen and remember.


Checking is very similar to questioning, but the two sales skills are not interchangeable. Checking is asking open-ended questions to elicit feedback from the client on what the salesperson has just said.

By checking for client agreement and understanding key times, sales professionals can keep the dialogue on track and interactive.

Are you looking to help your team develop essential selling skills? Contact us today to learn more about how a Richardson sales skills training program can help.

How to Analyze the Skills of Your Sales Team

Technology has made a tremendous amount of data readily available to businesses, but this volume often leads to analysis paralysis.

To help you assess your rep’s sales skills we recommend focusing on the following metrics:

Win Rate

Win rate is a simple gauge of how many new pursuits close with a win status.

Isolating competitive differentiation from demand creation reveals how well the sales professional’s approach to selling resonates in the field. With this information, the sales manager can evaluate the sales skills of individual team members.

Leaders should not view win rates in isolation because the measurement is often a starting point telling them where else to look for more insight into the sales rep’s performance.

Quota Attainment

Quota attainment is a qualitative signal of the effectiveness of business strategies. It compares performance with expectations.

Evaluating a sales professional’s ability to achieve their quota against their cohort is a powerful indicator of the individual’s skill level. Further, evaluating the team’s ability to achieve quota as a group provides insight into the skill level of the sales organization as a whole.

Assessing performance against quota might also reveal whether the sales manager has realistic expectations.

Time to Productivity

Time to productivity measures the time it takes to fully onboard a new sales team member. This metric is particularly useful when looking to expand team capacity or when an organization is facing high turnover.

Time to productivity measures new sales professional’s baseline sales skill levels, as well as the efficacy of the onboarding process.


Attrition signals the health of the sales team and, to an extent, the demand of the product that they’re selling.

The number is also a lagging indicator of other measures, such as ramp time, productivity, and engagement.

Approximately one-fifth of workers leave their jobs voluntarily every year. High attrition rates are an indication that there might be a problem of skill, will, or market demand.

Contract Value

Contract value serves to gauge the effectiveness of a team’s shift to multi-divisional solutions.

Measuring contract value offers insight into the sales professional’s ability to build strategic relationships and position the value of multiple products and services.

Profitability and Pricing

Effective sellers can control pricing and therefore profitability with strong negotiation skills that maintain the value of the deal through to the signed contract.

Diminishing profitability or frequent price concessions might be an indication that the sales professional is not able to convey a solutions value due to a gap in positioning and negotiation skills.

Sales Cycle

A company’s sales cycle reflects the effectiveness of the sales team’s ability to engage buyers and drive momentum throughout the course of a sale.

If the average sales cycle is lengthening, this might mean that the entire team is in need of training or that specific sales professionals are underperforming.

How to Improve Sales Performance

If exploration of any one of these metrics reveals that your team might have a gap in their selling skills, deeper investigation into the root of the problem is critical. It might be the case that only a few sales professionals are underperforming, or it could be a systemic issue that requires immediate action.

In the case of a systemic failure sales skills training is one of the levers you might pull to correct underperformance. If this is the best corrective action for your team, be sure that every dollar is spent wisely.

Professional selling skills training should focus on developing only a handful of key skill sets at one time. Therefore, it is important to identify which sales skill improvements will produce the highest return on your organization’s investment.

Too often, selling skill gaps are identified based on hunches, random observations, and instincts. A careful and detailed assessment of your team’s gaps internally or with the help of a partner will ensure your investment yields the intended results.

Selling Skills Training for Your Team

Building the foundation to improve your team’s ability to effectively execute the 6 Critical Selling Skills in every selling situation requires the development of specific capabilities that should be leveraged throughout every phase of the sales cycle.

Here we explore these capabilities and the types of selling skills training programs that will build them. For the sake of simplicity, we have split the capabilities into three high-level categories: find, win, and grow.

  • The find segment consists of understanding the market and prospecting to source opportunities.
  • The win segment involves all of the steps required to move an identified opportunity through the pipeline to close.
  • The grow segment is the sales professional’s ongoing effort to maintain and grow existing accounts.

sales skills and critical selling capabilities wheel

Get in touch with us today to learn more about sales skill training programs.

Sales Skills Training to Find New Opportunities

The sales skills that empower professionals to find new opportunities include:

  • Knowing the Market: Sales professionals need to understand the key industry drivers. As they engage in territory planning they need to develop their knowledge of competitors and the market dynamics. Here, sales professionals take the time to understand how broad factors like the economy and industry regulations influence customer goals. This knowledge becomes critical when sales professionals legitimize their insights later in the customer dialogue.
  • Targeting Buyers: Next, sales professionals target their addressable market. Doing so means knowing common buyer profiles and identifying key prospects. This step requires understanding where the sales professional can offer meaningful value to customers who are poised to buy.
  • Prospecting Opportunities: With their knowledge of the market and their targeted buyers, sales professionals can begin to create value to gain the prospect’s interest. This capability requires communicating value through clear, uncomplicated language that offers a specific, purpose-driven message.
  • Presenting a Value Proposition: As business goals and challenges become nuanced, sales professionals must be able to persuasively position unique value tailored to the customer. The stakeholders must be able to see how the solution capabilities fit their detailed needs.

Specific selling skills training programs that build the capability to find new business include:

  • Consultative Selling: The consultative process is the foundation of sales. Sales professionals learn to avoid seller-centric behaviors by adopting a mindset of authenticity. These selling skills help sales professionals leverage insights that earn the right to ask more questions.
  • Consultative Prospecting: Sales professionals must be able to access decision makers with “uptiering” that reaches senior-level decision makers. A contact will be more receptive to granting access if they truly believe that their involvement connects to positive outcomes.
  • Sales Networking Training: The sales professional must open new dialogues with a concise description of the most compelling points. This approach establishes credibility in a short period of time.
  • Sales Territory Management Training: Sales professionals must be able to segment a territory by prioritizing current customers and prospects based on deal size, geographic location, and products. Territory management is critical for improving the field sales professional’s productivity.

Sales Skill Training to Win Deals

The sales skills that empower professionals to win opportunities include:

  • Planning and Strategizing: Sales professionals begin planning how they will create effective strategies for penetrating their market and target accounts. They account for the competitive landscape and develop an understanding of the stakeholders involved.
  • Understanding Needs: As the sales professional begins to uncover customer needs and buying requirements, they can convert those requirements into insightful recommendations. The more detail they gain, the more effectively they can position the solution.
  • Driving Consensus: Building to a consensus is a process. Different stakeholders have various needs and perceptions of value. Sales professionals must be able to identify and navigate these group dynamics to engage and drive numerous stakeholders toward a decision.
  • Positioning Value: Advancing the sale requires positioning value and differentiating the solution. It’s equally important to also differentiate the selling organization. Sales professionals will be better prepared to effectively position a solution if they have been thorough in their exploration of customer needs.
  • Storytelling: Emotions play into any decision. Therefore, sales professionals must be able to engage the client’s emotional drivers through compelling stories. They must be prepared to articulate the meaning of their solution with a narrative flow.
  • Resolving Objections: Objections are an inevitable part of the selling process. Rather than avoid them, sales professionals must have the capability to get to the root cause of the objection and position for a resolution. This selling skill is critical because it helps advance the sale without relinquishing terms or diminishing deal size.
  • Presenting Effectively: Buying decisions today come from numerous stakeholders working together. Therefore, sales professionals must be able to articulate their value and solution capabilities in a way that addresses multiple needs in clear language.
  • Selling with Teams: Sales professionals must create a shared team strategy and consistent approach for winning opportunities. This capability requires practice so that the flow of ideas from the group follows a linear path with succinct messaging.
  • Negotiating to Close: It’s critical to confidently navigate the negotiation process to produce mutually beneficial outcomes. This capability is possible when the sales professional has strengthened the relationships, emphasized their value, and avoided any adversarial moves in favor of a collaborative approach.

Specific selling skills training programs that build the capability to win business include:

  • Intentional Pursuit Strategy: Field sales professionals engaged in complex sales need an intentional pursuit strategy that leverages a repeatable process with effective customer dialogues. With these skills, field sales professionals develop and expand customer relationships to capitalize on previous wins.
  • Storytelling Training: Stakeholders seeking a solution will engage with numerous sales professionals. Therefore, being competitive means making what you say more memorable. Story structure features a progression in which one part connects to the next. This chain of linear progression makes it easy to retain critical takeaways. This consolidated approach offers simplicity that’s memorable.
  • Selling With Insights: As competitive pressures rise, it’s more important than ever for sales professionals to be able to help customers clarify and reframe their thinking. Doing so means developing insights that connect the solution to the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Sales Presentation Training: When in front of clients, field sales professionals need presentation skills that actively involve customers and gain immediate feedback. Field sales professionals learn to tailor their message in a way that resonates with the audience.
  • Networking: Given that complex sales involve numerous decision makers, networking skills are critical. Sales professionals must learn to maintain contact to strengthen relationships during long sales cycles. Effective networking boosts referrals, brand awareness, pipeline opportunities, and more.
  • Team Selling: Engaging prospective customers also requires team selling skills in which sales professionals learn to deliver a cohesive message by combining the sales skills of several participants. Presentation flow, handoffs, and preparation are all important.
  • Consultative Negotiations: Successful negotiations reach a mutually beneficial outcome, which allows for future business. To do so, field sales professionals must overcome objections by converting the customer demands to needs. A demand is nothing more than an underlying need.

Sales Skills Training to Grow Accounts

The sales skills that empower professionals to grow accounts include:

  • Becoming a Trusted Advisor: Collaboration with internal and external resources enables the sales professional to become a go-to advisor for customers. Reaching this advisor status is important because customers now have greater access to information than ever before. The sales professional must bring more insight to offer value above and beyond what the customer can access on their own.
  • Establishing Relationships: With so many options available to buyers, it’s critical that sales professionals have the capability to build rapport and establish credibility to create and deliver continuous value. Relationships must be maintained because competitive pressures never end.
  • Expanding Accounts: With an established relationship, it’s easier to grow an account than it is to source a new one. Sales professionals can work from an existing foundation to find the white space needed to grow. With account planning, sales professionals can capture referrals, uptier, and cross-sell.

Specific selling skills training programs that build the capability to grow accounts include:

  • Prosperous Account Strategy: Sales professionals need a consistent method for identifying and expanding into the existing customer’s white space. With a strategic approach, sales professionals can be involved in the customer’s decision-making process early and build from previous wins.
  • Trusted Advisor Training: When a sales professional ascends to the role of a trusted advisor, they bolster customer loyalty and retention. With trust comes a shortened sales cycle and protection against competitive threats.
  • Exceptional Customer Service Training: Service is about exceeding the customer’s expectations. Service sales professionals must take ownership of the customer’s issues and maintain a reassuring presence that reduces conflict.

Of course, you will need to evaluate your specific needs and challenges to determine the selling skills training program or curriculum that is right for your team. This will depend on many factors including the type of sales that your team engages in (field, inside, direct, indirect, etc.), your industry, and the skill level of your team.

Richardson can help you determine the most effective sales skills training solution for your team, build a customized program, implement the solution, ensure sustainment and ROI, and track your team’s performance improvement.

Contact Us Today to Learn More

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In this video, Richardson CMO Andrea Grodnitzky discusses the importance of honing dialogue in relation to Richardson's Six Critical Selling Skills.