Standout Sales Professional top 5 competences

Among the changing market circumstances faced by Sales organizations worldwide is the changing modern workforce. The new generation of millennial and Gen-Z professionals have brought and continue to bring their own unique traits, skills, and values to companies. Nevertheless, there are a handful of timeless competences that have remained essential to becoming a successful Sales executive. In this article we outline 5 core competences needed to become a stand-out in the Sales profession.

1. Business acumen

The first competence we want to discuss is perhaps the one that is also the hardest to define and the most difficult to develop. We would define a person with business acumen as someone with an affinity for how businesses work. They have an intuitive understanding of good business practices and how to represent oneself and their organization. Additionally, they have a good (acquired) knowledge of market conditions in their specific niche. They stay up to date with trends and developments and are proactive in responding to them. They know their competition inside and out and are able to develop comprehensive strategies and business plans to achieve their commercial targets.

Business acumen can only partly be taught: it depends, to an extent, on a person’s natural disposition and commercial mindedness. However, it is still useful for an ambitious sales professional to devote time to further developing themselves in this area. Here are some suggestions to train business acumen:

• Read the economic, financial and business sections of daily newspapers.
• Do a scan of your direct market competition. Get to know the ins- and outs through networking.
• Learn about the (financial) structures of companies.
• Look up inspiring examples of business leaders and study their career trajectories.

2. Leadership

Even for autonomously operating Sales professionals without team responsibilities, leadership remains an important skill to have and develop. Why?

Because leadership comes in at almost every level of work in Sales. From inside sales teams to customer service employees, from office management to direct colleagues to marketing colleagues: no matter your level of independence in your Sales role, you will deal with people that work together with you to achieve common goals. Your ability to assist, collaborate with and, most importantly, motivate those colleagues is essential to your development in Sales. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself to reflect on your level of leadership within your direct team.

• How do you deal with colleagues that don’t deliver work you need in time?
• How do you make sure you keep your communication clear and professional, keeping everyone aligned towards a common goal?
• How do you motivate your team after a commercial failure?
• How do you differentiate your approach to a colleague depending on their personality? Do you think a tailored approach is needed at all?

Leadership comes in at almost every level of work in Sales

3. Stress resistance

No matter the industry, organization or context you are working in, any sales professional will need excellent stress resistance in order to build continuous success. Adhering to strict deadlines and targets and making tough decisions under time pressure are inherent aspects to sales.

Some people will naturally be more resistant to stress than others. However, there are ways to train yourself in dealing with stress. Below are a few suggestions from us:

• Take some time to reflect on a recent situation you found stressful. How did you deal with the situation at the time? How did it affect your mood? Identify points of strong emotion for you and try to pinpoint the underlying cause.
• What do you need from other people during times of stress? Do you need help from your colleagues, or would you rather be left alone? Discuss with your colleagues how to most efficiently work with you during crises or stressful times.
• Define the circumstances when you are at your best and at your worst. How can you mitigate circumstances that make you perform at your worst? Does, for instance, a change of scenery work for you during those times? Or do you maybe need to tweak your work schedule?

4. Drive for results

An obvious and indispensable competence for a sales professional is a drive for results. The ideal sales executive is someone who can deal with setbacks and obstacles without losing motivation or energy. The first step in developing a drive for results is to have clearly defined and well-thought out goals; in a previous article we described just how to set goals for the year ahead.

After you have your goals clearly in mind, there are several areas in which to differentiate yourself as an excellent sales professional:

• Continue in achieving goals that others have given up on.
• Be able to remotivate a demotivated team for the commercial goals you have in mind.
• Know when it is time to admit to small defeats in order to progress to big wins.
• Keep track of all of your goals on the calendar and know what to do to achieve them day by day.

5. Political sensitivity

Finally, aside from a deep understanding of business, of leadership and of performing under high pressure, an outstanding sales executive will need to bring a healthy dose of political sensitivity. This means you are able to maneuver your way through corporate politics in a sensitive manner. Knowing how to always show appropriate deference to your superiors and respect to your direct reports, you can not only resolve conflicts, but anticipate them.

Here are a couple of questions to help you reflect on your level of political sensitivity:

• How do you deliver bad news to a superior?
• How do you handle it when your superiors impose a policy you disagree with?
• Have you ever had to mediate between two people in your organization? How would you handle such a situation?
• How would you orient yourself in an organization with a different culture than what you are used to?

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