What are the most important skills for a successful sales professional?

As a Sales Enablement professional, I designed sales capability programs and trained thousands of sales professionals around the world. Reoccurring questions, despite the geographic location, culture or even seniority, include: What are the most important skills for a successful sales professional and what skills do you look for when hiring sales professionals?

My answer has always been preceded by a quick distinction between innate and learned abilities. Innate abilities are acquired from birth while learned abilities come with training. In either case, both abilities demand practice to breed success or leave an impact.

When hiring entry-level personnel, I focus on specific innate skills as I am confident that a well-designed sales enablement vision can develop the overall skills needed to perform. Of these, the most important innate skills are curiosity and empathy, and to tied them together I add communications skills.


Successful sales professionals spend a good amount of time finding the customer’s needs and pain points.  From there, they can gain insight and assess how to create solutions, i.e. how to reduce cost or increase revenue. Natural curiosity is paramount for sales professionals, a true desire to learn more from customers and deliver a solution.  Some people are genuinely curious — This is the first ability to seek out.


Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Sales professionals with a high level of empathy can connect with customers quickly, activating their curiosity with a true sense of service. Sales professionals build a connection with their customers from understanding the customer’s position, by being genuinely interested. This is the foundation for crafting a solution. Empathy is the best path to knowing your customer.


Curiosity is a skill that comes to life with good questioning techniques. Asking the right questions at the right time is important. Navigating issues from open-ended questions to confirmation questions lays the path for curiosity to unfold. Empathy happens with active listening, listening to understand. Delivering your message, knowing your audience and adapting to it, are all part of communicating.  From creating the first impression to closing a deal, mastery of communication is the main link.

In conclusion, curiosity, empathy and communication are difficult to learn. Though difficult, they are the base for success in sales. These three skills are intertwined and interdependent. Look for them in sales candidates as these are a clear base to build other important skills needed to develop successful sales professionals. Some roles require technical knowledge, quick objection handling, financial acumen, mastery of presentation skills, etc. These can be incorporated in a capability framework and then developed into training programs.

At KUNAN we specialize in Sales Enablement and Capability programs for the Global Transport & Logistics Industry. Get in touch. We will ensure to create the right program for your commercial organization.


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