Finding the right sales training program is key to your effectiveness with clients and customers. A sales training program should teach you all aspects of a sale, from approaching cold leads to closing a sale.

What is sales training?

A sales training or sales training program is designed to help sales professionals achieve sales success for themselves or their organization. Most sales training programs help develop sales skills and techniques needed to approach cold leads, create new sales opportunities, close deals, and build rapport with clients and customers.

Whether you’ve just started out on your sales career, or you’re a seasoned pro who has been in the game for years, the skills and techniques you carry with you are the keys to your success. So, you’ll always find room for improvement.

 Investing in your sales skills is essential to your sales success.

Learning the theory behind effective sales skills is a science, but mastering these skills and refining them successfully is an art. 

Sales Training Skills

What do you learn in a sales training program? Most training programs focus on essential selling skills. 

Forbes magazine reports that more than half of the people working in sales lack key skills for the industry — a knowledge gap that easily could be filled with a great sales training course. Companies that provide courses for employees to maintain and improve their sales skills after their initial training see drastic increases in their sales. 

Some research shows this increase could result in up to 34 percent more first-year sales representatives achieving their targets. 

We all learn new skills differently. Some of us might thrive in a classroom, others might find reading the best way to absorb information, and some might learn better by watching videos online. Whatever your learning style, specialized courses can provide high-quality training that you can learn in your own time to master the best sales techniques.

8 Essential Sales Skills

No matter which sales training program you choose, you should try to target the eight essential sales skills you need to learn. Make sure your sales training course includes at least a few of these sales skills. 

Sales Skill #1: How to Be a ‘Driver’

Do you know your personality type? Science suggests that people with traits of a ‘driver’ personality are more likely to come out on top when it comes to smashing those sales targets. These people are ambitious, optimistic, and competitive. You might have a driver personality if you often find yourself taking the lead, making decisions, and focusing on closing the sale. 

If this doesn’t sound exactly like you, don’t panic! The skills that make a driver great at sales can be learned and perfected through sales skills training. Some of the ‘driver’ traits you can learn with time and practice include the ones below. Rate yourself on a 1 to 5 scale (1 being needs work, 5 being you already excel). 

  • ___Communicating directly
  • ___Quick decision-making
  • ___ Problem-solving
  • ___ Being assertive

Did you give any of these skills a 1, 2, or 3? Then you should look for a sales training program that specifically addresses what’s called:

Sales Confidence: Sales confidence helps you communicate directly, make decisions quickly, and have appropriate assertiveness with clients. 

In our program, People School, we work with you on each of the sales confidence skills.

Sales Skill #2: Effective Communication

You’ve just brewed your second coffee after blasting through your morning to-do list. You’re feeling confident, motivated, energetic, and ready to make a big sale. It’s time to bring out the best of your communication skills.  

A great salesperson must be a great communicator — not just a good one, a great one.  

What is effective communication? People who communicate effectively are able to communicate their needs, boundaries, and ideas clearly and easily. (For more, read our Effective Communication master guide.)

Effective communication is vital for success, but it can be challenging to master alone. You will need to know everything there is to know about your product or service, actively listen to your client, and market toward their needs. There are also specific body language cues to learn and ways to control your voice that really can help boost your communication skills.  

Effective communication doesn’t just mean communicating your own points. It also means learning how to really listen to your customer. 

Research suggests we only remember 25 to 50 percent of what we hear after a ten-minute presentation!

This means you could be missing at least half of what your client is saying, which isn’t helpful for either of you!

How much time do you think you spend talking to your client?

Data shows that the average salesperson on a call talks 75 percent of the time, and lets their prospect or customer talk for the remaining 25 percent. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t get results. It justs creates a boring experience for the person exposed to the lengthy pitch. So, what’s the winning ratio? 

Your goal for sales calls is 43 percent talking and 57 percent listening to your customer. 

The right sales training course can provide you with the skills you need to develop effective communication and will include techniques such as:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Framing your views
  • Being open
  • Observation
  • Conveying a message
  • Giving feedback
  • Word choices

Not sure how strong your skills are? Take our free people skills test.

Be sure to pick a sales training program that covers comprehensive effective communication strategies.

Sales Skill #3: Digital Sales 

Social media is one of the most effective sales tools of our time. With just a few minutes of your time and a couple of clicks on a website, your product can be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world (if you play your cards right). 

A sales training program that teaches how to sell on social media will cover how to communicate with your clients, how to advertise your product, and how to draw in new clients.

  • Advertising 
  • Social media strategies
  • Using complementary platforms
  • Building a network
  • Creating content

This fact will blow your mind:

Studies suggest that 78.6 percent of sales reps who are using social media consistently perform better than those not using social media. 

These social media savvy sellers are more likely to reach their targets, attract new customers, and build better relationships with their clients. 

Which platform is best? LinkedIn.

The most valuable social media network for selling is LinkedIn, with a study reporting that 40 percent of reps using LinkedIn regularly could attribute revenue to the website. LinkedIn is a great place to network with potential customers, share knowledge, and attract clients to your business. However, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all can help build your brand’s online presence, establish a reputation, and grow your business. 

Action Step: Use our 15 Steps to Improve your LinkedIn Presence RIGHT NOW.

Sales Skill #4: Relationship Building

You already may have mastered many of the skills needed to build meaningful relationships in your personal life, but connecting with clients and prospects brings a whole new challenge to the table.

Networking and relationship building in business goes beyond just trying to make friends. Instead, it is an important way to open doors to new opportunities. This includes expanding your client database, and encouraging returning customers. 

Here are some basic relationship building skills you should make sure your sales training program has:

  • Active listening
  • Mirroring and matching
  • Finding common ground
  • Building trust
  • Following leads
  • Maintaining relationships

In my book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, I break down relationship building into three phases: captivate 3d cover, captivate book 3d cover

  • The First Five Minutes: This is your first impression and when you gauge someone’s basic likeability and competence. This level is the front door — can you get invited inside someone’s inner circle?
  • The First Five Hours: Once you have made it past the first level, you get to have a first meeting, first phone call, or first pitch meeting. This is when you move past first impressions into rapport building. This is where someone decides if they can trust you.
  • The First Five Days: This is the final level. You want people in this level who you would be happy to have a long-term working relationship with. It’s the ultimate level of trust and connection. 

What level are you at with most of your clients or customers? Where do you need to be? Be sure your sales training program addresses how to move someone through each of the three levels. 

In People School we actually break down specific conversation starters into the three levels. This is called the Conversational Blueprint, and you learn it in Skill #7. You can use this with clients as well as colleagues and existing partners.

Sales Skill #5: Delivering engaging presentations and demonstrations

For some of us, there is nothing more fun than the thrill of the stage. And for others, just reading the words ‘public speaking’ might bring on the nervous sweats.  

Salespeople often find that speaking to an audience is a vital part of their job, whether it is a small group at a car show, or an audience of thousands at a product launch. 

Again, like all of the other skills listed here, public speaking is a skill that can be learned. 

Here’s 10 presentation ideas to get you started.

The right sales training program should cover the basics of public speaking and presenting. We teach A LOT about public speaking here at Science of People. 

 First, dive into our master public speaking guide.

Second, here is a sneak peek at some of the public speaking content we cover in People School:

Sales Skill #6: Time Management 

Successful people agree, better time management gives you more time in the day to achieve your goals.

How much time do you think you spend selling?

Forbes magazine reports that sales representatives only spend around 35.2 percent of their time selling. So, it’s clear time management is one of the basic skills lacking in the industry. 

Effective time management is a vital skill for salespeople. It helps make the most of every minute in the day so you can spend more time on actual sales. Some time management skills that might be taught in a sales training program include: 

  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Planning your day
  • The 80/20 rule
  • Setting deadlines
  • Tracking time
  • Pomodoro technique
  • Project management software
  • Batch tasking
  • Establishing an effective routine

Action Step: You can work on your time management right now. Here are a few resources we have to help:

Sales Skill #7: The Art of Persuasion 

Not all techniques to improve your sales skills are born of the digital age. Some come from as far back as the era of Aristotle. The Ancient Greek philosopher described three rules of persuasion:

  • Establishing your credibility
  • Appealing to emotion
  • Making a valid argument

Modern psychologists developed these rules, and have furthered the understanding of social influence. Here are some examples:

The principle of reciprocity’ Provide potential customers with a free trial or a free sample. This technique opens a quid-pro-quo relationship, and the client is more likely to purchase the product. 

Another effective method used by people harnessing the art of persuasion includes tactics based around the ‘principle of scarcity’, or our tendency to anticipate regret. Techniques such as only making certain deals available for a limited period take advantage of this psychological quirk.

Mastering the art of persuasion, and implementing the techniques from the opening to the close of your sale is a sure-fire way to improve your success in the business. Here’s what’s most important: 

Your approach to persuasion should be authentic NOT manipulative.

Action Step: This is essential to look for in a sales training program. We teach 8 of our authentic persuasion skills right here to get you started.

Skill #8: Storytelling

Once upon a time, in a town far far away, there was a great salesperson who could tell a great story. 

Okay, maybe don’t start it exactly like that. But wrapping up your pitch inside an entertaining story is vital to communicating why someone should buy your product. Our brains love the promise of a story … which is why ‘once upon a time’ is so enticing.

Just about every great salesperson is well-versed at wrapping their pitch inside a compelling story that does more than just communicate the reasons why a prospect should buy. Adding stories to the facts, such as using real life examples, helps potential clients know how your product could be great for them. 

Also, thanks to some clever brain chemistry, storytelling helps build bonds. Because we all love a great story. Our brains actually release a chemical, oxytocin (known as the ‘trust hormone’), when we’re being inspired in this way. Research suggests that this can motivate people listening to the story to act in a more cooperative way. Perfect for when you’re trying to close a sale

Some key points you will learn about storytelling in a sales training course may include:

Storytelling is most definitely an art and takes time, practice, rehearsals, and repeating to master. Although you can learn the theory behind it using a sales training course that includes this type of communication. If storytelling is something you struggle with, try finding a sales training course that helps you with the basics.

How to pick a sales training course

So many great sales training courses are out there. So, where do you start when you are trying to pick one? 

First, check to see if there are any courses specifically aimed at your field. Plenty of sales training courses have been tailored to different fields, whether you’re in the business of real estate or technology or high tech. 

You also should investigate courses that specialize in an area that you’ve identified as a weakness. Perhaps you know that you should be using social media in your sales strategy, but you’re not sure where to start. Or you know you need to improve your public speaking abilities. 

The rest of choosing a sales training course really just comes down to:

  • Finding the right course curriculum for you
  • Great reviews (Videos of real students are best. We have a gallery of videos from our students here.)
  • Watching preview videos (Most courses will let you see small video snippets such as the one we gave you above, or this one for ours.)
  • Finding a teacher whose perspective you like. I wrote this article to give you a taste of how we approach sales. Watch my TED Talk to see more of my content here:

You want to pick the right sales training course for you — or a few. Sometimes different perspectives can be a great way to level up your sales skills.

What Are Online Sales Training Courses?

We’re in the digital age. We have artificial intelligence making decisions in our home, robots to clean homes, and more computing power in our mobile phones than the computers used in the rockets that landed men on the Moon. So, it’s no surprise that some of the best sales training programs are online. 

Can you really beat the experience of sitting in a classroom with a real teacher right there? Absolutely. 

Online sales training programs are usually available 24/7, and should include interaction with your teacher through comments or office hours. For example, in People School we reply to every comment and assignment, and have live office hours every few weeks as you learn and try out the material.

Online programs also typically have lots of ways you experience the material. This can be better than an in-person day where you have to consume all the content at once and might miss some of it. Most online sales training courses give you access forever. Our videos never expire, so you have access to re-watch as your business grows. We also deliver the content to you through videos, a physical workbook, downloadable reading material, and even interactive question and answer sessions. 

Online sales training courses are great for people who need to fit their learning around a busy schedule.

Interested in our next class of People School? Let us tell you more! I would love to meet you and help you achieve your sales goals. 

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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