6 Skills That Separate the Best From the Rest in Technology Sales

Discover the data-backed rubric for better tech salespeople.

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By Andy Springer

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Acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones in the technology space is tough. It's a lengthy sales cycle, competition is stiff, and you're dealing with decision-makers from up, down and across the organization. And there's always at least one executive barking that familiar, dogged refrain: "Show. Me. The. ROI."

All of this means your salespeople need to be at the top of their game. As to what separates the best from the rest in technology sales, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research conducted a global study on the skills and behaviors of top performers. Here's some of what was uncovered:

Related: The 10 Traits Every Good Salesperson Has in Common

What characterizes a top performer in technology sales?

Before I dig into the skills and behaviors, let's be clear on what defines a top performer in technology sales. They do the following:

  • Meet their sales goals

  • Have challenging sales goals

  • Achieve premium pricing

  • Have higher win rates

Not surprisingly, salespeople earn top-performer status by winning more business. The average win rate of top performers in technology is 74% compared to only 47% for "the rest." As such, top performers are more difficult to find. In our study, they represent only 20% of respondents. Most technology sellers (80%) belong in "the rest."

Related: 3 Traits High Performing Sales Reps Have That Average Sales Reps Don't

The 6 greatest differences between the best and the rest

So, what sales skills should you look for in technology sales reps? More importantly, what skills most differentiate top performers and the rest? Our study found that the best sellers are much more likely to excel at these six specific skills and behaviors:

  • 2x more likely to focus on their agenda, not reacting to and getting derailed by others

  • 2x more likely to present overall value cases compellingly and persuasively

  • 2x more likely to tell good stories when selling

  • 2x more likely to have coaching to lead masterful sales conversations

  • 1.9x more likely to change habits when needed to improve results

  • 1.8x more likely to avoid distraction

Three important themes emerge from this data:

1. Driving productivity

Three of the top six skills and behaviors relate to productivity. Top performers are much more likely to stay focused on their agenda, adapt their habits when needed and remain impervious to distraction.

Despite the data, we see too little focus on productivity in the sales space. If you're looking for top performers in technology sales, look for a track record of accountability, proactivity and time management.

2. Effective coaching

Top performers are much more likely to have managers who excel at coaching them to lead masterful sales conversations. They have the tools to succeed with virtual selling, too.

Across the board, we found that top-performing sales managers in technology are more likely to have better coaching skills. The No. 1 sales management and coaching skill most separating top performers from the rest is "Coaching sellers to lead masterful sales conversations." Indeed, top performers (47%) are significantly more likely to excel here compared to the rest (23%).

The fact is sales are won and lost in the conversations sellers have with buyers. When sellers receive the coaching they need to lead effective conversations, it translates to results. To that end, sales managers should participate in ride-a-longs, listen to recordings of sales conversations and participate in simulations with their sellers.

3. Making the case

The second largest gap between top performers in technology sales and the rest is the ability of top performers to make a compelling value case. And this is not just about presenting an ROI case. There are five cases a seller must make to influence buyers:

  1. Priorities: Sellers need to influence buyers that this is important and worthy of the priority list.

  2. Approaches: Sellers need to show that this is the right approach to solving their problem. This is where telling good stories comes into play. Sellers who do this well show how their approach has worked for others and can and will work for the buyer.

  3. Return on investment: Most sellers talk about ROI, but few are skilled in making a strong ROI case. In fact, only 16% of buyers report that sellers are effective at making a powerful ROI case. This leaves a lot of room for improvement for most sellers.

  4. Decisions: Too many sales are lost to no decision. Sellers need to influence and persuade buyers to act.

  5. Partners: Sellers need to make the case that they are the best partner to help the buyer succeed. Relationships and value come into play here. The more value a seller can provide in the sales process and the stronger the relationship they're able to build, the more likely the buyer will view them as the preferred partner.

Related: 5 Tricks to Instantly Connect With Any Sales Prospect

Final word: When it comes to B2B tech sales, trust the data

To overcome the challenges of selling technology, your team needs to make finding and cultivating top performers a core competency. The data research clearly shows that people who know how to sell technology do things differently. They:

  • Stay focused on their priorities

  • Make persuasive value cases

  • Tell good stories

  • Have solid coaching

  • Adapt their habits as needed

  • Avoid distraction

That's the data-backed rubric for better tech salespeople. How does your team stack up?

Andy Springer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Client Officer at RAIN Group

Andy Springer is co-author of the bestseller "Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely" and Chief Client Officer of RAIN Group, a global sales training company helping clients improve sales results through training, coaching, and reinforcement.

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