Sales success is subjective. For some reps, it means crushing their sales quota by 100%+ each month, while for others, it could mean higher customer retention. 

A sales professional’s perception of success is often influenced by their work environment, the goals set by their sales leaders or organization, and their own personal attributes. 

Regardless of their differences, every salesperson must have some core sales competencies in common for individual and business growth.

This guide outlines the 15 sales competencies and practical strategies to build a high-performing sales team. 

Core competencies for sales teams 

Remember, the specific skills needed for sales can vary depending on your industry and the type of sales job. The competencies we’ll discuss are the core skills every sales professional must possess to carry out their activities productively and contribute to improving overall sales performance.

1. Product knowledge  

Sales reps must know their products inside out. However, multiple online forums discuss how most sales reps know that their product is “the best” but are unaware of what specifics make it the best in the market. 

The truth is, if your SDRs don’t know what they’re selling, prospects cannot understand, let alone guess. So, it’s critical for reps to understand their products in-depth before facing prospects or customers, especially if they’re selling a complex product.

But we get it. Knowing a product inside and out can be challenging if it is overly technical or complex. 

So add AI-powered tools like Docket to your sales workflow and support your teams with the right product knowledge. 

Docket is an AI sales assistant that integrates with collaboration tools like Slack to guide your sales reps with instant answers to queries throughout deal closure. Docket learns from your internal sources and integrates with other sales enablement tools for real-time Q&A assistance. 


2. Active listening 

While “listening” means waiting for your turn to speak, active listening involves focusing on the prospect’s point of view and making them feel understood. 

Undoubtedly, active listening is a core skill and a trademark of a successful salesperson. 

A few example scenarios where active listening comes into play are while handling objections on a sales call, identifying a custom plan to combat the prospect’s unique challenges, and summarizing the conversation. 

3. Upselling and cross-selling 

Upselling and cross-selling are incredible competencies for increased profits without significant effort. 


Live chat provides the best opportunities to cross-sell or upsell, as your sales teams already engage with customers or prospects in real-time. For example, they could weave subtle yet value-driven promotions on product bundles based on the user’s needs.

4. Relationship-building 

Whether B2B or B2C, person-to-person interactions form the basis of modern communication, especially in sales. 

This is not limited to prospects and salespeople. Building relationships with customers, fellow SDRs, sales leaders, and the marketing team is equally crucial in growing a strong sales career. 

“Relationship selling” is a newly coined concept that refers to building trust and a human connection with potential customers and avoiding transactional selling. 

So, to ensure your sales reps have access to the right information on each potential customer for smoother interactions, it’s essential to train them on CRMs, for instance, logging every small prospect detail from their last conversations to their recent activities.

5. Technology and tools expertise 

Being a sales rep with technical or tools knowledge should not be limited to setting up a Zoom call, managing a meeting calendar, or using dialing software.

With the rise in advanced sales platforms, automation, and AI, your sales reps should be skilled at using technically sound sales tools to develop their competencies. 

For example:

  • CRM software to log customer interactions, manage leads, and extract insights

  • AI-driven analytics platforms to make well-informed choices throughout the sales pipeline 

  • Sales enablement and assistant tools like Docket to develop and measure sales competencies  

  • Automation tools to automate outreach and lead generation efforts via channels like email, LinkedIn, or chat

6. Market and industry insights 

Sales reps are more capable of demonstrating value when they know the market and industry inside out. Therefore, industry and market education is a must to stay competent. 

For example, sales reps can understand the industry’s competitive landscape and whip out a plan to convey product value and what makes their solution superior. 

7. Time management 

Sales reps constantly chase deadlines and are often found between outreach, cold calls, emails, product demos, and administrative work.

Learning to manage time effectively reduces stress, clarifies goals, and lets them prioritize value-adding tasks. For example, a sales rep must identify when to move on from an unpromising prospect conversation and prioritize other leads. 

8. Strategic prospecting skills 

Strategic prospecting means identifying sales opportunities using stepwise methods such as lead generation, lead qualification, prioritization, and pre-call planning. 

During strategic prospecting, sales reps can use channels like social selling, email marketing, and content to find and build relationships with the ideal customer. 


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9. Emotional intelligence 

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to regulate one's emotions and empathize with others' feelings. 

A high EQ is another essential sales competency, as it makes salespeople skilled communicators who make customers and prospects comfortable around them. 

10. Negotiating skills 

Solid negotiating skills are a win-win for both customers and businesses. 

Sales reps who possess good negotiating skills create a tailored experience for new customers and get them the best deal on products and features while ensuring the business still meets its financial quota. 

11. Customer service 

Although sales professionals cannot expect to be available 24/7 to answer customers' or prospects’ queries, a solid foundation in customer service and support basics is essential for relationship building. 

For example, sales reps can be trained to approach each conversation in the sales process with a consumer mindset for conversion and retention. 

12. Willingness to learn and grow 

Coachability is a major requirement to look for before you even build a sales team. Because a sales rep with no intention to learn or improve their performance will never rise up to your expectations.

The best reps are the ones willing to train on new tools, explore technology, accept feedback, and, most importantly, identify and improve their weaknesses.

13. Data analysis 

The future of sales is data-driven. Numbers show that 80% of businesses saw a revenue increase with real-time data analytics. 

So, for sales reps looking to boost their performance, knowing how to interpret data used to make decisions relevant to their sales pipelines, strategies, and the customer journey is a vital core competency. 

14. Solution-oriented problem solving 

Sales reps adopting a solution-oriented approach are primarily “soft selling.” That means identifying the prospects' problems and objections before offering practical solutions.

For example, asking relevant questions before pitching the product. Say your sales rep is selling software. The first step is to ask prospects what concerns they may have with their current software. 

15. Post-sale relationship 

Every successful salesperson has built a relationship of mutual trust with buyers even after they’ve closed deals, thus leading to continued business and referrals. 

Simple things like providing ongoing assistance, resolving complaints, or offering custom discounts for loyalty sum up to a healthy post-sale relationship. 

Wrapping up

The first step to building a high-performing sales team is consistency. The best technical and human skills for sales are acquired with continuous training within a noncompetitive learning atmosphere. 

Investing in continuous learning helps your sales reps refine their core sales competencies, pinpoint their strengths, and deliver consistent results. 

If you want to speed up sales rep onboarding and training, invest in Docket

It’s an AI-based virtual sales agent that supports your sales reps with on-the-spot answers to critical prospect queries throughout the sales cycle. It can also answer RFPs on auto-pilot and save weeks.