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The Four Core Competencies Sales Reps Must Master

In a prior post, we outlined the five key traits of the modern sales rep.   Those traits are mostly inherent and rely less on training and coaching and more on good talent selection.  There are however four critical knowledge and skill areas that through effective training programs and coaching can be developed to subsequently build a high performing rep.

Those four core competencies are:

1.    Foundational skills 2.    Product and industry knowledge 3.    Tactical sales skills 4.    Strategic selling skills

So let’s now examine what makes up those core competencies and how we can best develop them.


Of the four core competencies, this is the one that is most closely related to key sales rep character traits.  When we talk about a sales rep’s foundational skills, we are referring to skills that are not just important in a sales role but in the professional world in general. Foundational skills include, among others:  

•    Interpersonal skills •    Time management and organizational skills •    Emotional intelligence (yes, this is a skill that can be learned) •    Effective task and project management •    Goal setting

Without these skills in place none of the knowledge and training around processes, product, and sales strategies will be as effective.   These skills are as the name implies the foundation of everything that all other skills are built upon.  I would also argue that an effort to cultivate these skills is more applicable to junior sales reps.  Any senior level sales rep who’s worth their salt should have for the most part developed many of these skills already.  If they haven’t……… they’re not the right candidate.  


I’ve never seen a high performing sales rep who doesn’t have a strong level of knowledge about the product they’re” selling and the common challenges and goals of the prospects in their target market.

The right sales enablement program ensures that the necessary product and industry knowledge is transferred to the sales team on an ongoing basis.  This means that the right content is in place and easily accessible, and that ongoing product and industry knowledge training programs are in place.  A sales rep who knows their product inside and out and, even more importantly knows the challenges and risks their prospects face, will create a competitive advantage during the sales process.


Tactical sales skills are difficult to develop simply because they require time and repetition to master.  Tactical sales skills are those that drive better interactions and engagement with prospects.  They’re rooted in great questioning and listening skills, and sound emotional intelligence.  

Tactical sales skills can include:

•    Understanding what questions to ask and when •    Proper levels of assertiveness •    Objection handling •    Cold outreach skills •    Closing skills •    Negotiating •    Building trust


While strategic selling skills become more important when navigating larger enterprise sales processes, they still maintain a level of importance when managing smaller opportunities.    Strategic selling skills encompass all that is required to properly navigate the big picture components of opportunities and the overall pipeline, including:

•    Stakeholder management •    Pipeline management •    Opportunity qualification •    Catalyzing status quo disruption •    Delivering effective and pertinent insight •    Building strong business cases •    Effective prospect research •    Building and delivering impactful proposals

Many of these strategic selling skills can be supported in large part through process development.  Components such as insight delivery, business case development, prospect research, and proposal generation and delivery can all be supported through process.  


Getting your sales reps to a place where they have mastered all four of these core competencies is not something that can be accomplished during onboarding or even over the course of a quarter.  And quite frankly it’s a never-ending process.  

In B2B technology sales we live in an ever-changing environment.  Buyer demands, business challenges, scope of products, and the competitive landscape are always evolving.  So too are the processes, messaging, and approaches that we need to implement in order to be as effective as possible.

To ensure proper sales rep development, ongoing training and skill development programs must be in place.  Sales leaders and managers must develop a structured approach to coaching that focuses on these core competencies and reinforces them with real time feedback, role playing, and making certain they are used.  

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