Want to be a Great Salesperson in 5 Years? Master These 4 Skills

September 25, 2017

These are the skills salespeople will need to learn over the next five years to stay ahead.

Sales is an interesting field. Because in some ways, it will never change. And, in other ways, it changes all the time.

Whether today, yesterday or 30 years from now, organizations will need people who can sell. And, for the most part, the fundamentals of selling remain constant.

And yet, on the other hand, sales reflects the industries and the environment they are in. And since those industries and environments are always changing, sales is always changing.

So, yes, salespeople need to learn the fundamentals of selling. But there are also a lot of new skills salespeople need to learn over the next five years to stay successful.

What are those skills exactly? To find out, we asked these five sales leaders:

  • Mike Gamson, head of global solutions at LinkedIn.
  • Jeff Bloomfield, founder and CEO of BrainTrust, a sales consulting firm.
  • Dean Karrel, principal of The Skyridge Group, a sales and executive coaching firm, who has more than three decades of experience in senior sales management.
  • Bryant Pfeiffer, senior vice president of sales and strategy at Minnesota United FC.
  • Mario Martinez, the CEO and founder of Vengreso, with 20 years of experience in sales and leadership.

The five highlighted several skills that – thanks to changes in both market conditions and demographics – will become increasingly more important to salespeople over the next five years. They are:

1. Communication

A great salesperson needs to communicate; period. What’ll change over the next five years is that salespeople will have to learn to communicate through a variety of formats – some of which have yet to be invented.

“Sales pros need to be able to communicate in-person, in small groups, in large groups, over video, over laptop,” Gamson said. “There’s an incredible amount of communication modalities now required to be great at sales. So it’s critical to have really polished communication skills across all of these different mediums.”

Martinez agreed. He said the best salespeople moving forward will be able to use these cutting-edge tools to build even stronger “old school” relationships.

“The tools of the future will make it easy for reps to shortcut the ‘old school’ way of engaging, but nothing will ever replace the ‘old school’ way of building relationships,” Martinez said. “That is, through personalization, genuine care and authenticity.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

2. Social selling

Sales comes down to building relationships. And, while in-person relationships are and always will be important, salespeople who can leverage social media as well to build relationships stand to benefit tremendously.

“According to recent research by Sales for Life, sales professionals who leverage social selling have a 31% higher ROI than those who stick with traditional methods,” Bloomfield said. “That number will continue to increase as more and more customers adapt to technology.”

Karrel agreed.

“This one has been on the list for the past number of years and it’s still a critical skill set needing enhancement,” Karrel agreed. “No longer a nice-to-have ability, social selling is fully a part of what we now do and within a very short period of time. If you’re not experienced in this, you will be left behind.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

3. A bias for learning

Industries will continue to evolve faster and faster over the next five years. For salespeople to credibly sell into those industries, they absolutely need to stay on top of that change.

“The rate of change in the world is accelerating and sales reps stuck in one mindset, who can only understand one platform or one solution set, will be left behind by those who can grasp new concepts faster,” Gamson said.

In particular, Reid Hoffman – in a #FutureSkills post on the future of leadership – said that software is “eating the world.” That means regardless of what industry you sell in, software will become a vital part of it. While all learning is important, learning about how software will affect your industry is vital.

“Do you think what you’re using today will be the same you’ll using five years from now?” Karrel said. “No way. The changes and new developments will be continuing and our skills will need to be honed to use them. Ongoing training is a critical life time objective for all sales people especially as it pertains to new technology, new tools and the skills to use them correctly.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

4. Compassion

Not that long ago, a salesperson could come to town, sell something that might or might not work, and then move onto the next town. That’s just not going to fly today.

With the world more connected than ever, how you treat your customers is paramount. If you sell them something that doesn’t do what you say, there’s a good chance you’ll wake up the next day to negative Facebook comments, an angry blog review and no more customers to sell to.

Besides, it’s bad karma and hardly the recipe for a lasting business. The absolute best salespeople moving forward will be compassionate, meaning that they’ll work to solve their customer’s problem in the best way possible – instead of just working to hit their quota.

“We as salespeople need to put ourselves in the shoes of our buyers, in the shoes of our co-selling partners – because selling is very much a team sport,” Gamson said. “And we have to not be the rep that demands everyone’s time and attention to achieve our goals, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our other stakeholders and help achieve their goals.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach that skill:

The takeaway

Pfeiffer put it best in his response. He said salespeople need to be able to translate the old school selling fundamentals that worked in the 1920s with the new school tools that people will be using in the 2020s.

“The days of grinding out 100+ phone calls, door-to-door visits and exhibiting at trade shows to generate leads are now being filled with savvy young sales reps who can create online content, generate leads and drive sales through social and online channels like LinkedIn,” Pfeiffer said. “Now, while these two sales approaches are quite different, I believe the Jedi sales professionals of the future will be the ones who are able to figure out how to leverage both old and new school prospecting approaches. You need to have a strategy that thinks through your offline sales approach, your online sales approach and how they work together to grow your business.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

This article is part of a series on the future of skills that you and your team will need to succeed moving forward. Our other articles cover: