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Why sales skills aren’t enough to succeed

September 21, 2021

Fancy a game of snakes and ladders?

If so, get into B2B sales.

Taking risks, jumping up ladders to success, and sliding down to failures…

The similarities between selling and playing the board game are striking.

And, much like playing a game of snakes and ladders, as a salesperson, you need more than skill to win!

Ben Riall, author of The pillars of an Elite sales career: How to build a six-figure sales career in tech, guides us through what more you need to succeed.

Flick through 👇 to see what you should add to your repertoire to get ahead in your sales career! 

Be a corporate athlete | Take ownership | Project manager or analyst? | Your reputation is important | More sales insights

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Be a corporate athlete 🏃‍♀️

No, this doesn’t mean you need to rally around doing the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge with your team!

Instead, it means your focus needs to be on how hard you work on your training and your job.

Because much like an athlete, you’ve got to do it all if you want to succeed!

Ben elaborates on this:

“If your skills aren't quite at the right level or they’re still developing, you can often compensate by just working a bit harder, but you’ve got to be wary of burnout. So, what you’ve got to do is build up as you go.”

“And then once you’ve built it up, and you work really hard with that skill set, you can get to where you want to be faster.  It’s a constant thing to work hard and develop your skills, but to also ensure there’s always a balance.”

Essentially, you’ve got to be a student of sales.

You’ve got to constantly work on improving your skills and to not get comfortable with mastering one thing.

Dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can, as often as you can!

And then, go beyond that. 

Remember, a javelin thrower can’t just have strong arms and a good throw.

They weren’t born as an athlete - they trained, worked their way up, and got really good at what they do.

And, they don’t stop once they succeed.

They’ve got to workout often, prepare mentally, and constantly strive to be better.

This is where you need to go beyond your skill set and:

  • Understand what metrics are important.
  • Keep your pipeline up by working with other teams (like your marketing and BDM teams).
  • Hold yourself accountable with your time management.
  • Be acutely aware of what you’re doing at all times so that you don’t drop the ball.
  • Ensure your mental health is in check.

And once you’re in your athlete mentality, you’ve got to 👇

Take ownership 📋

It’s one thing to get into the headspace of a professional athlete, it’s another to stay motivated and to benchmark where you’re at.

But how do you find that motivation? And, where is the benchmark?

Do you look to your sales leaders? Read another sales book?


You look to yourself.

“The ownership for motivation and assessing where you’re at in terms of your skills comes on ourselves. I don't think there's a single person that you can attribute that to. You own the path that you’re on in your sales career and you need to map out what that looks like for yourself.”

How do you do that? By following this checklist 👇

  • Set goals and hold yourself accountable to meet these.
  • Assess your performance and see where you can improve.
  • Ask your teammates and your sales leaders for constructive criticism.
  • Work on your weaker areas and highlight your strengths.

Further to that, you’ve got to develop your own perspective by asking yourself:

  • How far do I want to go on the journey of my career path?
  • How far am I willing to go to get there?

At the end of the day, the onus is on you to perform and strive to be better.

If you’re not taking responsibility for this, you’ll be sliding down a snake towards failure.

And, if you don’t want to fail as a salesperson, you could always become a...

Project manager or analyst? 👨‍💻

You could completely change up your career path if you really wanted to.

But that’s not where we’re going with this.

As a B2B salesperson, you need to fulfil other roles.

Ben explains:

“Salespeople are known for influencing people, getting them on board, negotiating, and identifying pain points - so we can propose the right solution. When you’re working with a prospect or a client of yours, you’ve got to take on that role and become an analyst.”

You’ve got to analyze and understand:

  • Your prospect
  • Their industry
  • How the prospect relates to other businesses in the industry
  • How they relate to competitors

“You also need to be the project manager and really own what you’re working on. You’ve got to ensure people are meeting your agreed deadlines, that they’re coming to your meetings, and so on.”

But you must never forget that you are a salesperson!

Work on being a better project manager, and delve deeper into your analytical side.

But remember that these are roles you’re filling, not sales skills.

Enhancing your project management and analytical knowledge will really help you stand out in your actual role of salesperson.

Once you’ve become an athlete, project manager, analyst, and salesperson extraordinaire, you still won’t have all you need to succeed.

Why’s this? You may ask.

Because if your reputation is not solid, your career won’t be either. 👇

Your reputation is important 🗣️

Yes, the sales floor is an incredibly exciting place to be.

Bells ringing. Applause roaring. Fists bumping.

But you’ve got to know where the line is.

“It’s important to have fun and work and to have fun on the weekend, but your professional profile should never be associated with what you get up to outside of work.”

“And, while you’re at work you need to be aware of your profile. You need to be aware of what you do and how you do things - that’s what people are going to remember.”

In B2B sales, you’ll come across people again, so it really pays to have a strong personal brand and a good reputation to boot.

As if Ben’s advice wasn’t enough, we’ve got something more for you! 👇

More sales insights 🚀

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