Top Skills Sales Managers Assess Based on In-Depth Data

Published on Jun 7, 2021

In my last post, I discussed that having the ability to close was the number one skill top sales managers assessed in salespeople. This was the most important metric for 70% of sales managers. And it’s easy to see why given how critical closing deals is to profitability and the overall success of a company. 

I got my data from a survey conducted by digital learning and enablement platform Allego. Their data is incredibly robust, and while the ability to close was one of their main points of emphasis, there’s still a lot left to unpack. 

So for this post, I’d like to dive even deeper and go over all of the top skills sales managers assess, which is eight in total. Let’s jump right in. 

The 8 Top Sales Skills

In Allego’s survey, they determined which specific sales skills were most essential to sales managers, both when considering potential candidates for new hires, as well as assessing current team members. “We looked at the eight key aspects of sales competency including sales planning, prospecting, qualifying pipeline, pitching to prospects, negotiating contracts, closing deals, managing customers, and retaining customers,” they explain

As I mentioned in the intro, having the ability to close was the number one skill assessed by 70% of respondents. 

But just after that was the ability to prospect new opportunities at 69%. 

This indicates that the beginning and end of the sales process are the most critical areas of sales competency to measure. The best salespeople are able to effectively prospect new leads, move them efficiently through the sales cycle, and ultimately close. 

After that is the ability to retain existing clients at 59%. 

Churn is an inevitable part of running any type of business, especially a SaaS company. But it’s obviously something that needs to be kept in check, and sales managers will invariably want to seek out salespeople that help them retain the maximum number of customers. 

If you’re wondering, a retention rate of 35% over an eight-week period is considered elite for SaaS and e-commerce companies, so that’s a good number to shoot for. Here’s a graph that perfectly illustrates minimal churn (SaaS is the blue line and e-commerce is the orange line). 

Next is the ability to pitch a solution at 53%.  

Let’s be honest. Pitching isn’t easy, and there’s a serious art to it. Although having detailed product knowledge and providing salespeople with a formula and script to go off is a huge help and something I personally recommend, some reps are naturally better at it than others. 

When it comes to cold, hard selling, I honestly believe there’s only so much you can teach a rep. That’s why I consider having innate selling skills to be more important than extensive industry/product experience. Anyone can learn a product, but few people are A+ rockstars. So, it’s not surprising that having the ability to pitch is such a coveted sales skill. 

After that is the ability to qualify new deals at 52%. 

A qualified prospect is someone “who has a high probability of becoming a customer,” Zorian Rotenberg of HubSpot writes. “An opportunity should have a pain point your product or service can solve and an interest in the offering. Salespeople should ensure the opportunity is a good-fit for what they’re selling.”

Otherwise, your rep is basically wasting their time, which is why this is another key skill sales managers assess. 

This is followed by the ability to negotiate and the ability to plan strategically, which are both at 50%. 

When it comes to negotiation, reps will often be placed in tricky situations where they may need to adjust pricing, features, etc., on the fly to successfully close deals while at the same time remaining within the accepted parameters of your company. Because this has such a strong impact on closing deals, it’s easy to see why it’s such a major metric for sales managers. 

As for the ability to plan strategically, it’s a competency that affects virtually every aspect of a rep’s sales approach. From determining how to effectively qualify leads to building a script for pitching products to communicating with customers post-sale, reps need to have a clear strategy in place at all times. 

Finally, there’s effective time management at 46%. 

You may have heard the stat that nearly 65% of an average rep’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities, such as administrative tasks and downtime activities like checking social media. While I personally think that number may be a little inflated, it definitely illustrates the importance of effective time management, which is why this skill made the list. 

Let’s Recap

The top eight skills sales managers assess in reps breaks down like this:

  1. Ability to close – 70%
  2. Ability to prospect new opportunities – 69%
  3. Ability to retain existing clients – 59%
  4. Ability to pitch a solution – 53%
  5. Ability to qualify new deals – 52%
  6. Ability to negotiate – 50%
  7. Ability to plan strategically – 50%
  8. Effective time management – 46%

While there are a ton of factors that determine how likely a salesperson is to succeed, these eight skills are the ones top sales managers focus on the most. So, if you’re looking to identify the best of the best metrics for gauging candidates during the hiring process, or if you’re assessing the performance of current team members, these are excellent metrics to examine.

Looking for a surefire way to find elite level sales talent to close more deals and take your business to the next level? Check out HireDNA today. Brands that use HireDNA are able to eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes, and 92% of candidates recommended through it are top performers within their first year. 

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