A career in sales is often tough, but it’s also highly rewarding. Even after gaining a position, it can be hard to develop the level of skill, performance, and thick skin required to be successful in this career path. Software sales requires even more skill than many sales jobs, depending on the product and specific market you are selling to. Acquiring these skills takes a great deal of dedication and resilience, but the payoff is well worth the effort.
Many people are unsure about what it takes to become a great salesperson. Professionals and beginners alike are constantly trying to improve their sales ability. With all of the information available, it can be difficult to discern the good advice from the fluff.
After interviewing thousands of salespeople from the SaaS industry, we’ve discovered what it takes to truly succeed in tech sales. It starts with a clear understanding of your prospect’s goals, what it takes to persuade someone to take action, and a genuine desire to help. From there, you can begin cultivating qualities and habits that will help you become a high-performing salesperson.
While there is certainly a lot to learn on the path to becoming a better salesperson, you can take steps in your development right away.
Old-school sales tactics aren’t just ineffective. Some of them have even become offensive.
That’s because modern sales isn’t about coercion, manipulation, or other sleazy tactics you might associate with sales. It isn’t about enthusiasm, or cheap tricks for closing deals either. In fact, it isn’t even about your sales pitch.
While a positive attitude and a good script don’t hurt, the true goal of a salesperson is to help your prospects make a decision. To do this, the salesperson has to focus on bridging the gap.
What is that gap? It’s the difference between the prospect’s current state and their desired state.
As a salesperson, it’s your job to understand that gap and guide your prospect to the other side. This may happen in stages, but it can’t be forced. Even if you manage to push your prospect into closing in the moment, any decision they make without being truly convinced won’t stick. They’ll end up churning (no longer being a customer) later on.
That said, bridging the gap is less about tactics or tricks and more about becoming a trusted guide. You need to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information and an advisor who has the prospect’s best interests in mind. After that, you will begin to close deals naturally.
Much like planting a tree, you can’t make the trunk shoot up or the branches sprout leaves. Instead, you cultivate the ground. You create a hospitable environment, plant a seed, then nurture its growth. Similarly, if you can create trust between you (the guide) and the prospect, diagnose their problems, and present a valid solution, you’ll have a better shot at closing the deal.
This is the true goal of sales. At Prehired, we call this Clarity > Closing®. Reorienting your sales process toward achieving clarity will make you a better salesperson right away. From there, developing qualities and habits that help you achieve this goal is how you rise to becoming the best in the industry.
Some people say that great salespeople are born for it, but that’s only partially true. Sure, some people possess qualities that will naturally make them better suited for a career in sales. However, raw talent only goes so far.
Instead, we believe that good sales performance can be taught to anyone with the right frame of mind and a willingness to learn.
Beyond that, even the most naturally gifted in sales need to hone their skills and develop traits into functional habits over time. That said, think of the following 8 qualities as miniature goals for your own ongoing development as a salesperson.
Since modern sales relies heavily on trust and relationships, it goes without saying that a good salesperson will be relationship-oriented. When you jump on a sales call or send an email to a prospect, the first concern should be establishing a connection with that person. This connection doesn’t have to be overly friendly, but it should be more personal than transactional.
This also means that salespeople need to have a high degree of empathy to be successful. That is, they need an understanding of how people think and feel. You should be eager to get to know your prospects from multiple angles. Empathy will allow you to establish trust right away.
A work-oriented salesperson has both patience and endurance. Remember that sales is not about tactics or tricks for closing. It is also not about a single event. Instead, a sale occurs when you put in consistent work toward your goal.
More often than not, try to focus on the practical steps. The key is to start putting in the required effort over a period of time (sending emails, making phone calls, scheduling follow-ups and demos, etc.) rather than expecting the gratification of a close right away.
This is why adhering to a sales process is so important. While some prospects will require more work than others, salespeople who trust a proven process end up making more sales.
Especially in software sales, the sale isn’t so much about the product or service itself but the solution it promises. In other words, you need to show the prospect the value of the product in terms of their own needs.
Because of this, salespeople need to be both creative and analytical at the same time. You need to be analytical to understand the complex needs of your prospect, the unique features of the product, and the constraints under which the decision is being made. You also need to be creative in how you present your company’s software as a solution to those problems.
To do this, salespeople should be curious about the prospect’s main issues and focus on innovative problem solving.
Sales is a fast-paced field. Even for an entry-level position like an SDR (Sales Development Representative), every day is packed with events and meetings, phone calls, follow-ups and more. In order to make the most of each day, salespeople must be organized in their scheduling and time management. If you miss a meeting due to a lack of organization, you probably won’t get a second chance.
You will also be talking to a lot of people over the course of a day, and you will likely forget details from time to time. Organize and manage your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data with high standards. This way, you can keep track of what information corresponds to each prospect and their industry.
However, even with all of this planning, you will still have surprises. Last-minute opportunities may not come a second time. A good salesperson will know when to disregard the schedule to take an important phone call or answer a time-sensitive request.
It’s well known that high-performing salespeople need to be confident. However, there is a difference between confidence and arrogance.
When prospects bring up concerns or suggestions that stand in the way of a close, don’t dismiss or deflect them right away. Failing to acknowledge another person’s objections isn’t confidence at all; it’s just ignorant.
Instead, have confidence by taking genuine interest in the client’s ideas, needs, and concerns. Present your claims with a strong belief in the value of the product. This doesn’t mean that you present yourself with so much enthusiasm that you stop being relatable. It simply means that you are confident in yourself as a trustworthy person and in the value of the product you are selling.
Your confidence should also come in the form of resilience. Salespeople (especially in B2B SaaS) will face rejection at every level of the process. To overcome that, you MUST have the ability to bounce back after a failure.
You should have a deep confidence in your ability to do the job well, knowing that rejection is not always an indicator of performance. You can’t become too discouraged or lose your spark in these moments because you know there are more prospects out there. What’s more, it’s important that you show up to each call with energy and enthusiasm, not projecting defeat.
To be effective, salespeople have to be excellent communicators. This applies to both written and verbal communication. Even with confidence and empathy, salespeople who cannot communicate well often struggle to make sales.
Communication isn’t about creating phrases that trigger emotion. It’s more about clearly conveying ideas, contextualizing your message, and helping the prospect along their journey toward a buying decision.
It also means listening well and understanding the context from your prospect’s point of view. This includes listening to nonverbal cues such as tone of voice and interpreting the emotions and intentions behind written messages.
Sales is a competitive field by nature, but that doesn’t mean a good salesperson tears down everyone else in the department for the sake of winning. In reality, a lone gun salesperson isn’t very strong at all. In such a fast-paced and difficult profession, teamwork is essential to creating the support network necessary to succeed (even on an individual level).
While some good-natured competition between reps is healthy, salespeople should mainly seek to outdo competing businesses. You should also be able to work in a team to develop better strategies, share tips, and work alongside other salespeople in the interest of closing more deals.
Anyone with enough experience in sales will understand the importance of quality. This applies not only to the process itself but also to the leads you bring into the pipeline.
You may be able to convince an under-qualified prospect to purchase your product, but they’re unlikely to become a long-term customer if the use case isn’t compelling or the budget isn’t available in the long run.
To become the best, you should know how to qualify leads according to the BANT framework. This stands for Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline. Based on each of these, you can decide if the prospect you are working with is truly qualified and worth your time.
Put this into practice by asking yourself the following questions about your prospect’s use case:
Now we know what a good salesperson looks like. Let’s then take a look at how you can achieve these attributes and perform better over time. These habits and practices will help you improve your sales performance while developing qualities that are essential to advancing your sales career.
At Prehired, a good attitude is a prerequisite for membership and engaging with our community. When it comes to developing as a sales professional, knowledge helps but a good attitude is undefeatable.
A good way to stay motivated is to remind yourself of where you hope to be in your career 5-10 years from now. Then, take a look at where you are now and why you are starting this journey in the first place. A positive attitude toward your goals is key to maintaining confidence. It will also help you persevere through challenges along your journey.
Be sure to also put yourself in the proper mindset to do the job, reminding yourself of the true goal of sales before you begin your process each day.
Since sales is all about relationships and communication, some people may find the process difficult. To get better at talking to people, practice having interesting conversations with anyone around you, even when you’re not at work.
Master the art of small talk. Then, practice moving the conversation into a more personal level. Ask deeper questions, be curious about the lives of other people, and enjoy the process of getting to know them. This will strengthen your ability to empathize and communicate effectively.
Relationships take work, and practicing the art of developing them starts with having a lot of conversations.
If you are part of a sales team, that team probably already has a sales process or playbook in place. That’s because sales requires you to focus more on the work than the outcome of the sale. While you likely can’t throw out the company’s playbook entirely (nor should you) there’s often room to make small optimizations.
Take time on a regular basis to workshop how you choose to implement this process in your own way. Look for the unique skills you bring to the table as well as any ways you can improve.
Start by making sure each part of your sequence is focused on building relationships and solving problems for your prospects. Implement stages where you build a personal relationship and get to know the prospect.
You can also create notes on overcoming common objections so that you can quickly move past roadblocks and keep the deal moving.
Seek out high-performing mentors within your organization that you can learn from along the way. If you are able to sit with them and observe as they do their job, take time to do it regularly.
A good mentor will be able to help you see how they achieved their success with advice from their own experience. Be sure the mentor you choose is someone you respect and whose qualities you want to see in your own performance. Ask for feedback as your mentor reviews your calls or sits with you on the job. Look for tips and techniques that your mentor uses so that you can implement them yourself.
Mentors are a huge part of the Science-Based Sales® curriculum here at Prehired. Each member is paired up with a specific mentor that will help them master the sales process. Nothing teaches good sales habits like learning from someone else who does great work.
When you are in the middle of a sales call, you may not always pick up every detail. The same thing goes for your emails. Regularly reviewing your sales calls and rereading your emails with prospects can help you naturally revise them for better results.
While reviewing, take a second look at your pitch or any templates you use. Look for ways you can rephrase things to be more effective, integrate a personal touch, or provide valuable information to help the prospect make the right decision for them.
The most excellent salespeople take advantage of sales software and new technology to make the process more efficient. Study strategies for how to use CRM software (like Zendesk or Salesforce) and manage pipeline data within your team.
At Prehired, we make sure our members are familiar with essential communication programs like Google Workplace, Slack, and GoToMeeting. Salespeople should also know how to use other sales tools such as lead intelligence tools (like LeadIQ or ZoomInfo) and sentiment analysis tools (like Gong). Beyond that, it’s important to understand the best practices for social media, such as how to post and interact with other professionals on LinkedIn.
People who are naturally organized tend to do well in a sales position. However, if organization is not a natural trait for you, there are ways to easily organize your work.
Focus on building organizational habits into your regular workflow. Just like your sales process, your work day should have an organized flow to it. Practice making your daily schedule for each week, checking your calendar and planner often.
If you’ve got a day packed with research and cold calling, follow-ups can often feel like an extra step, but think about it this way — 80% of deals take an average of 5 follow ups to close. Don’t let solid opportunities fall to the wayside. Build follow-ups into your regular workflow.
For instance, make it a habit to mention a follow-up at the end of each call. You can even build it into your script. You can also set reminders in your CRM or mark a time on your daily planner for pursuing follow-ups at regular intervals.
Metrics are not just important to sales managers. These numbers are also key indicators of your performance as a salesperson. For any area where your performance is lacking compared with other reps, ask yourself why you did not reach that level. Ask your sales managers for direct feedback whenever possible.
That said, don’t be afraid of facing the reality of where you stand. Understanding your current performance is key to growth.
While developing good habits is a key part of the ongoing work of improving your sales performance, direct training is often the fastest way to become a better salesperson.
At Prehired, we teach Science-Based Sales®. This is a sales method developed from interviewing top performing salespeople and sales managers in the SaaS industry. We help our members understand how the best in the business achieve great results. In fact, this curriculum was ranked as the Top Tech Sales Bootcamp for the year by CareerKarma.
A position in SaaS sales is often very rewarding and can lead to a high-paying career with room for development in many directions. However, not all people make it past the entry level. Only dedicated, resilient salespeople will thrive.
While this may sound harsh, remember that great salespeople aren’t born. All it takes to succeed is a dedication to learning the craft.
For anyone looking to develop the skills of a great salesperson, you can take comfort in the fact that there is plenty of help available. Even if you have never made a sale in your life, you can still learn. People from a variety of backgrounds have had success with the Science-Based Sales® methodology, and all of them receive continuous support from the Prehired community for life.
If you are interested in a software sales career, you can join with no upfront cost. You won’t pay us a cent until you land your first job and receive your first paycheck. Learn more about how our team can help you become a better salesperson and launch you into a 6-figure sales career in just 12 weeks.
As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.
How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...
...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...
...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.
Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.