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Characteristics of High-Performing Inside Sales Reps

Every day, hundreds of B2B inside sales reps hit the job market. Your ability to attract the best of the best will be a determining factor in whether or not you can achieve and exceed sales goals, outsell your competitors, and grow your overall market position.

To hire more intelligently and ensure your sales team is the best in the industry, you need to look for the right blend of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those that are learned, such as from training, classes, and educational content. Soft skills are more personality-based, such as character traits and interpersonal competencies. Salespeople should be devoted students, charged with adapting to research and trends and learning new technologies and systems. These are examples of hard skills. Buyers want to work with an enthusiastic, persistent, and curious salesperson who is also a strong communicator. These traits are soft skills. The best B2B inside salespeople have a balanced combination of the two. So how can you work toward filling roles based on these necessary traits?

Let’s first review a few examples of hard skills found in top reps.

  1. Technical Acumen: Salespeople should track and apply technological trends so that company practices remain ahead of the curve. Tech-savvy sales reps can easily adapt to new software and systems and seek out tech-based solutions to simplify aspects of their job. A primary example of this is the sales team’s use of customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce. Top B2B inside salespeople today use CRM systems to document all customer interactions and collaborate with the marketing department to leverage this data and improve the buying experience.

  2. Expertise: To sell it, you have to first experience it. Successful inside salespeople will have a firm understanding of all product features, benefits, and downsides to respond to any questions customers may have. Today’s buyers prefer a consultative and educational approach that tells them how the product will ultimately benefit them. Salespeople can use their knowledge and experience to personalize each customer’s pitch based on their individual preferences. With this deep understanding of what they’re selling, reps will be more organized and able to explain information in simple terms, serving as a guide to their prospect and building trust in the process.

  3. Good Judgment: Prospecting involves building and maintaining a database of businesses that could become buyers. The best salesperson can accurately identify these prospects and successfully integrate them into whatever stage of the buying process they may be. But not all leads are created equal, and you don’t want to waste time on those that won’t go anywhere. Once you’ve identified a list of prospects, how do you know they’re right for your company? The ability to qualify leads (determining need, identifying buying authority, and confirming resources are available to make a purchase) is critical to maximizing your efficiency and effectiveness.

The softer side of sales involves working with people, including prospects, colleagues, and the salesperson themselves! Let’s break down some essential soft traits that every successful salesperson has.

  1. Resiliency: Just like everything else in life, not every opportunity is going to go your way. Part of a salesperson’s job is to field rejection from buyers and prospects. It takes persistence and determination to understand and navigate the politics involved in the decision-making process. Stellar inside salespeople are often confident, goal-oriented and achievement-driven, with every action carefully calculated to ensure they get closer to reaching those goals. This is manifested through speaking confidently with high-level executives, engaging in cold calling, meticulously following up, and challenging customers to open their eyes to alternative ideas and creative solutions.

    When inside sales reps get knocked down, they spring back into action and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity. Reps shouldn’t take rejection personally; instead, they should focus on how this feedback provides valuable insight to the customer’s need for the product or service and what the salesperson can do to reposition the offering to the buyer. A salesperson’s strong confidence and emotional intelligence mean they don’t embarrass easily and can handle emotional disappointment. Confidence also influences the comfort and ease with which salespeople can talk about money. The ability to negotiate and discuss large figures is a critical quality in a great salesperson.

  2. Curiosity: Supporting the philosophy that sales today should focus on helping and empowering customers, top inside salespeople have an inherent interest in learning as much as possible about their prospects. And in addition to learning those details, reps sell and even use themselves a variety of technologies, products, and services that have frequent updates. Part of being a leading inside salesperson requires staying current on everything from new software and technology processes to market trends and competitive influences.

    Inquisitive reps will be attentive listeners and ask buyers provocative and probing questions, using the information shared as a means for improving the product, purchasing experience, and sales relationship. They want to use every customer encounter as an opportunity to win the business, constructively using each encounter to provide valuable insight that gets them closer to closing.

  3. Strategic & Creative Thinking: B2B purchase decisions are important and every company has unique needs, which is why buyers will often ask challenging questions to ensure they’re making the right choice. A strong inside sales rep not only has extensive knowledge of the product, but also has the finesse to address buyer concerns, adjust to that on the fly, and close the sale. If the buyer rejects the offer, a good salesperson will be fully prepared to present a new opportunity. This takes someone resourceful and adept at problem-solving.

  4. Emotional Intelligence: The best salesperson is constantly aware of what a customer thinks, feels, and needs, and also has a strong grasp on the complex politics of modern business. They know a sale will usually require the input and stamp of approval from multiple departments within an organization, each coming to the buying table with their own unique perspective. The salesperson should be prepared to deftly navigate this matrixed selling relationship by simultaneously cultivating relationships with multiple stakeholders and demonstrating the value that the product or service will bring to each team.

    Inside salespeople with high emotional intelligence are also team players and simply enjoy being around people. Their passion and enthusiasm for the product, the company, and its values are contagious. When buyers are happy and feel good about themselves, the excitement inspires them to sign on the dotted line. Sales reps should have excellent interpersonal skills to bond and build relationships with anyone and improve their chance of closing the deal.

  5. Communication: Frequent and transparent communication between buyers and sellers is crucial. Salespeople will take on the role of listener, presenter, speaker, storyteller, and negotiator across multiple interactions in the buying process. These touchpoints all combine to play a pivotal role in the end decision, so they should clearly showcase the seller’s point of view, their company’s value proposition, and demonstrate a strong business case.

Your company can attract and keep the best inside sales talent in the industry, but the first step to that is actually taking a step back and knowing what to look for. ServiceSource has been selling on behalf of some of the world’s greatest companies for more than 20 years. We have a deep understanding of this unique blend of hard and soft skills that is required to be successful, and that’s why we hire, train, and retain based on these competencies.

If you’re looking to augment your existing sales team, or outsource sales operations entirely, it’s important you find a team you can rely on. To learn more, download a copy of The New B2B Sales Reality, a complimentary whitepaper that sheds light on changing buyer expectations and how you can adapt. Or, if you’re ready to get started, reach out today and learn how our experienced sales team can help your business stand out from the competition.

Nick Herff

Author

Nick Herff