Moving into sales from another industry is tough. There’s new language to learn, new processes to master, new tools to get comfortable with, and so much more.
There are many skills to master to become an expert salesperson, and those skills will change depending on the exact role. But there are a few skills that every salesperson needs for success. And luckily, many of these skills are ones you’ve already developed in your previous role.
So, what are these skills?
We’re going to break down the top 7 transferable skills that will help you stand out no matter what sales role you’re applying for. If you can really embody these skills, you’ll be a Sales Success, guaranteed.
Let’s dig in.
7 Transferable Skills
I’ve been in Sales for nearly a decade. And in that time I’ve worked in a wide variety of roles and industries. Each role has had unique challenges and required unique skills to succeed. But at the end of the day, Sales is Sales, and some things don’t change no matter what your role. That’s what this list is all about.
These are foundational sales skills that you have probably already developed in your previous role.
By improving these skills and playing them up in your interview, you can make yourself irresistible to hiring managers.
There’s no more important skill in Sales than the ability to effectively and clearly communicate your thoughts.
But there’s more to communication than being good at speaking. Without the right approach, you may come across as nothing more than a “fast talker.”
To engage prospects and close deals in Sales, you need a variety of communication skills:
Verbal communication: This is what you say, how you say it, and how you engage with your audience when speaking.
Non-verbal communication: Non-verbal communication covers everything from facial expressions and eye contact to hand movements. Non-verbal communication is just as important (if not more so) as what you say.
Listening: The best salespeople understand that listening and digesting information is critical to their success.
If you’ve already developed these communication skills in your previous career stops, let them shine through on your search for a sales job. If not, this is the first skill you should work on improving.
There are no two ways about it. If you’re going to win sales, you need to know how to negotiate. Every salesperson takes a different approach to negotiations, but everyone also shares the same goal — to close the deal.
Digging deeper, the way you negotiate is based largely on how you sell. Are you primarily on the phone with prospects? Do you do most of your communicating via email? What about face-to-face meetings?
This isn’t a skill you develop overnight. So any negotiation experience you have — even from a career outside of Sales — will work in your favor.
Tip: check out this article for psychological strategies for mastering sales negotiations. It’ll help you position yourself to showcase this skill.
The ability to stay organized is something almost every hiring manager is looking for. And this is especially true in Sales.
Sales is all about trying to juggle and complete an impossible amount of tasks and meetings throughout the day. Time management is vital. Every day you have cold-calls to make, follow-ups to send, reports to create and share internally, a CRM to keep up-to-date, and a team you need to communicate with (and that’s just the start).
If you’re not organized, you’ll struggle to succeed in Sales, and good hiring managers know that. So, use your resume and interview to show off your organization skills.
4. Ability to Work on a Team
To a certain degree, a sales career is an independent one. It allows you to work on your own and take control of your own destiny. But if you think you can reach the top without help, think again.
Sales is a team game, and each person is a critical piece of the equation.
For example, if you’re a new sales development rep, you’ll lean heavily on your manager and other SDRs to get up and running. They can answer your questions, help you overcome common challenges, and share invaluable experience and knowledge.
Approximately 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re a new sales professional or if you’re moving into an executive role, teamwork is critical to your success in Sales.
5. Problem Solving
Even the most experienced professionals face new and unique challenges every day. The difference between average salespeople and top-producers often comes down to one thing — problem-solving.
If you’re interested in transitioning into a career in Sales, you’ll need to provide concrete examples of problems you’ve solved in the past. For instance:
- A hot prospect who has suddenly gone cold
- Administrative tasks that are taking away time from selling
- Technology that’s causing more harm than good
If you can confidently refer to yourself as a problem solver, you’ll have much more success finding a sales job and performing at a high level.
6. Ability to Think on Your Feet
Some careers allow you as much time as you need — within reason — to make key decisions. But that’s not typically the case as a sales professional.
The ability to think on your feet is a must-have skill. If a prospect asks a tough question, you need to provide a timely and accurate answer. If a prospect questions your pricing model, you need a rebuttal ready. If you’re about to lose a prospect to a competitor, you need to know the perfect thing to say to win them back.
You get the point. You only have a split second to make an important decision. Get it wrong, and your deal is over.
Thinking on your feet under pressure is easier said than done. The spotlight is on you, and your response will dictate what comes next. This is one of the most important transferable sales skills. And unfortunately, you either have it, or you don’t. Some people work well under pressure, and others wilt like a plant on a hot summer day. Expect hiring managers to put you on the spot in interviews to test this ability.
7. Relationship Building
Salespeople are professional relationship builders. They know what it takes to connect with prospects, instill confidence, and give them a reason to make a purchase.
The famous poet, Maya Angelou, said it best:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And that’s what relationship building is all about.
When you genuinely care about your prospects, you make them feel good about your business and what you can do for them. They’re confident that you’ll take care of them, and that trust is critical to growing your career. Trust is your primary currency in Sales.
Think about your past roles and how you’ve built relationships with others.
Maybe you managed an entire department. Or maybe you worked in retail, where you only had a short period of time to gain a buyer’s trust.
If you’ve built relationships in the past, you can do it again in the future. Have examples of this ready for your interview.
Sell Your Transferable Skills
Now, there’s one last thing to do — devise a strategy for improving and displaying these skills on your resume and in interviews.
It doesn’t matter how many of these skills you have if you can’t prove to employers that you have them. The good news is that if you have these skills, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Think of this as your first sale. The product is you, your prospects are your potential employers, and these transferable skills are your product benefits.
So, Identify your transferable skills, and start selling!