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Andrew Armstrong

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Focusing on Trainable Skills for Sales Teams


For sales managers, there are two sets of skills to examine both during the hiring process and beyond. Those are skills that can be taught and those that cannot be taught. Some of the skills and personality traits that cannot be taught include drive, integrity, and self-awareness. If those kinds of traits are not already part of an individual salesperson's DNA, there may be a limit on how far additional training will take them.

In a Harvard Business Review article by Steve W. Martin, he points to research that shows "over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success." Identifying and hiring sales representatives possessing natural sales ability is key to building a successful team.

However, there are numerous critical sales skills that absolutely can be improved through coaching and training. These are the skills that management should focus their training efforts on with their employees. 

Top Sales Skills to Focus On

There are several sales skills that can be taught, but sales trainers should focus as much time as possible on those that will be the most impactful. These are just a few that many experts agree upon:

  • Time Management - While time management may not come naturally to everyone, it is a skill that can be taught. Encourage sales representatives to spend at least 15 minutes per day planning what they will be doing the following day. Whether they will be following up with some leads, getting new leads, or taking some time for training, it should all be built into a schedule. It is not something that takes a lot of time but it can make all the difference. 
  • Active Listening - Potential customers know when they are valued and when they are just another potential sales number. Potential customers should never feel like just another number, which is why active listening is so important. To help employees, try training exercises that include listening to someone talk for five minutes about a given subject. Then ask the salesperson to summarize the conversation in a few sentences. This will teach them how to be in the moment with potential customers and really listen is being said.
  • Product Knowledge - It is not enough to be a great salesperson. Employees also need to be experts in terms of their product or service offerings. Before sending anyone out into the field, take some time to thoroughly train them on their products and services so they can be ready for any question that comes their way. 

All sales skills are important for success, but it can be difficult to determine the right ones to focus vital training and coaching time upon. Top performers master all of the top skills but only focus on training one at a time for the best success. Find the trainable skills your employees need most and focus on those discipline to maximize the return on investment into sales training efforts.

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