What are the biggest skill gaps in sales?

As sales leaders, we all face the challenge of improving our teams’ skills and performance. But what are the biggest skill gaps that we should focus on? To answer this question, I talked to many exceptional sales leaders and compiled their insights.

Tim Rafferty, Head of Sales at 15Five

Active listening is the biggest skills gap on the market. Sellers ask questions and then do not really listen. I remember asking questions and muting myself to avoid interrupting.

When we focus on skilling up, we should get the managers to train new methods first and gather their feedback so they are fully bought in – then train sellers, not the other way around.

The most important piece is coaching reps, which usually get deprioritized. It has to live on their calendars.

Laurie Aaron, VP of Sales at RealNetworks

The struggle in channel sales is staying at top of the minds of customers.

Matt Gorman, Executive VP, Sales at Upshift-Work

Sellers lack empathy and connection to customer needs and pains. They do not get enough training on the problems their customers face.

Sachin Bhagwat, CRO at Andela

Sales leaders should be more proactive to change. Adaptability is a core skill.

Sarah Enxing, Sales enablement director at SOCi

The biggest skills gap is value-based selling – selling business value over features and functionality. Prospects are kind of forcing sellers to feature-pitch when asking: “Just tell me what the product can do.”

Brian Birkett, VP Sales and Account Management at OnePeloton

Sellers should learn to be skeptics. They have “happy ears” when forecasting.

David Kubick, EVP of Sales at Computershare

When building the ideal persona for salespeople, you must look at their level of self-awareness, intellectual honesty and curiosity, and the trustworthiness of their instincts.   They are often overlooked and those are key characteristics of the best revenue producers.   Additionally, guiding salespeople to avoid a long drawn out “maybe” from a prospect and helping them avoid becoming emotionally attached to a sales opportunity with a low propensity to close is very important.

Gene Plotkin, VP of Sales at Mimeo

Sales managers know what to do, but they lack the skills to coach that change. Leaders have to know how to deal with personal identity, values, beliefs, skills, behavior, and the environment. If you do not have the skills, you cannot change your behavior.

The biggest skill gap for sellers is discovery skills. If you do proper discovery, the prospect comes to the conclusion they need your help themselves.

Joel Rackham, SVP, Global Head of Sales Operations and Direct Sales at MarketStar

It’s adaptability and being able to change quickly. We identified 20 influencers across our business that represent different groups, and individuals who heavily influence our sales delivery. We work closely with them to get their perspectives and thoughts. We then leverage this information to guide our strategy

 and process for more broad changes. In this way, 2000 people feel that their voices have been heard, which is crucial for successful change management.

Jack Funchion, VP of Sales at Digital Realty

One of the most important traits of AEs for me is being a team player.

Nadia Milani (She/Her) 🇺🇦, VP of Marketing & BDRs at Proposify

As revenue leaders, we need to become the Chief Market Officers. Understanding and being that voice of the market, builds credibility within your team, C-Suite, and the organization. Also, bring the voice of the prospect (your BDRs) to your meetings and spend a lot of time with your customers to understand what and how buying behaviours are changing.

Chris Farwell, ex-Director of Enterprise Sales at GoGurdian

One of the biggest concerns for sales leaders and organizations is unqualified pipeline. Salespeople need to learn how to solve the right business problem and how their solution uniquely solves it.

From a sales leadership standpoint, the biggest struggle can be resistance to change and willingness to have difficult conversations.

Bryan Muzyka, VP of Sales and Marketing at 1-ACT

The top-of-the-funnel activities are the issues these days. Sellers should improve their time management and prioritization skills in these activities. We also focus a lot on discovery skills to improve both effectiveness and efficiency.

Incognito sales leader 🙂

It might be conflict resolution skills and having difficult conversations with clients. Also, there is a reason why salespeople are not accountants but financial acumen would my the second skill gap I have seen throughout my career.

Rozalynd Gaubault, Sales Director and eaneblement consultant at PowerToFly

Sales leaders should focus on their emotional intelligence. Set up 1:1’s where you get deep into what motivates your team and where they want to get careerwise.

Carter McCrory, VP of Enterprise & Strategic Sales at OneTrust

I would say that the biggest skills gaps of sellers are active listening, owning the outcomes,  perseverance, and emotional resilience.

If you survey salespeople, 95% of them might tell you it’s discovery skills. If you do not know the answers your customers might have, you cannot design great questions to ask in discovery. It’s about understanding our customers and their world first.

In summary, the opinions of these top sales leaders highlight a range of skill gaps that need to be addressed in the sales industry. These gaps include active listening, staying on top of the mind of customers, empathy and connection to customer needs, adaptability, value-based selling, skepticism in forecasting, coaching skills, effective discovery, team player mentality, customer-centric focus, and emotional intelligence. Addressing these skill gaps requires proactive leadership, effective training and coaching, and a willingness to adapt to changing customer needs and market trends. By focusing on these areas, sales teams can improve their skills and ultimately achieve greater success in meeting their sales targets.

Written by Petr Zelenka

Petr grew a startup with over 100% annual growth (3 years in a row), as a Chief Revenue Officer. Obsessed by building great teams, he’s run business transformations for Philip Morris International or HomeCredit and worked for some big brands across 12 countries: Merck, IKEA, Philips, Lime, IBM, T-Mobile, AXA, etc. Petr has become a Partner of Hackerly at PwC (Big4 joint business relationship) consulting around organizational growth, culture, and new ways of leading. As a Google Mentor, he advised high-growth startups and acted as an inspirational speaker at Grow With Google while co-founding the largest P2P coaching program for women in CEE. Having coached and trained over 5 000 leaders himself, Petr developed a globally unique sales coaching method that enables employees to coach each other and build strong connections. His mission today is “to make top sales leadership development accessible to everyone”.

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