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What makes a great B2B salesperson in the 21st century?

In any company, of any size, salespeople are the ones responsible for bringing in business and profits. Although the company must function well as a whole, the sales team is often considered to be the cornerstone. It takes a lot in this day and age to be a fantastic sales team – prospects are a lot more clued up and don’t just want to be sold to. It’s that tricky balance of pulling them in and persuading them to buy, without being pushy. 

There are pretty much two main sets of skills that salespeople have. Soft skills, which are often less tangible and have more to do with your personality and hard skills, which are the sales basics that even “bad” salespeople usually have some of. We’ll take you through what skills you need and can work on to become better at what you do.

As a basic, a great b2b salesperson will understand their product and how it will impact/improve life for their audience. The b2b sales cycle is also often longer than b2c, which means it much more important for the salesperson to build up a relationship and rapport with the prospect in order to close them. The delicate art of closing a prospect without pushing must be mastered.

Taking feedback

Not just to the prospect! Being able to take on board feedback from your sales director, coaches or even other salespeople is vital. Businesses spend a lot of money on sales coaching and tactics, so paying attention and learning what you can is vital. When was the last time you spoke to the best salesperson in your company and asked for their advice, or simply listened to them at work? 

Finding opportunities

Although lots of companies have teams dedicated to bringing in leads for salespeople to follow up, in many cases past of selling is finding prospects. Ultimately, if your pipeline is consistently full you’ll usually make pretty consistent sales. So focus on networking, referral marketing, using your LinkedIn profile, cold calling, whatever it is that works for you to bring in as many leads as possible.


Listening to the prospect is step one, but being able to make each conversation relevant and specific to what the prospect is telling you is vital. Adapting your pitch to the prospects pain points, industry and experience will help you build trust and a relationship much more quickly.

Product knowledge

Sounds simple, but you won’t be able to adapt your pitch to each prospect, answer their questions, and be in control of the conversation if you don’t know enough about what you offer, which will impact the relationship and trust you are trying to build. Companies are constantly evolving their offering, so staying up to date should be a regular part of what you do.


It used to be seen that salespeople were out for themselves, ready to steal a sale out from a colleague’s nose, but it just doesn’t work that way anymore. A sales team has to be collaborative, working together to bring in business, and while a little competition is healthy, you need to create a supportive environment for salespeople to flourish. 

Time management

How you allocate your time between lead generation, follow up, research and training will impact your sales results. It’s important to have a schedule and stick to it. There are tons of tools out there to help you – online calendars, task management and sales tools, but make sure it is actually saving you time. If it becomes more time consuming to organise and update, you might be better off with a more old-fashioned approach.

Emotional intelligence

You’ve heard of IQ (how clever you are), well this is EQ - how emotionally mature you are. How well you understand yours and others’ emotions, and how well you work with and respond to them. We all know people who are naturally grumpy, petty or argumentative, which indicates a low EQ. A large part of this is how you’re raised, but with hard work everyone can improve their EQ and become someone who responds much better to criticism, is naturally happier, and has a much more mature response to others.


Many salespeople will be able to tell you about a time they didn’t do their research thoroughly enough and were caught out, losing a sale because of it. Know the company you’re pitching and consider how your services will impact them. Use all the tools at your disposal – LinkedIn, Google, blogs, social media etc. to find out as much as you can about the company or person you’re speaking to.

Be trustworthy

Stick to your promises. This can’t be highlighted enough. You are trying to build a relationship and foster trust with a prospect. If you say you’ll send them info, or that you’ll get back to them by a certain date, make sure you do. Why should they trust you to provide the service you promise, if you can’t even respond when you say you will. It’s incredible how often this still happens, especially when it’s such a simple thing to fix.

Overcoming objections

This can easily come under product knowledge, because if you know your offering well enough you’ll already know what the best way is to overcome each objection. You can get better at this by coming up with a list of all the likely or common objections (your colleagues can probably help with this) and prepare a response. It’s not perfect, because you’ll need to adapt each one, but at least you’ll be prepared!


Similar to EQ, most people think you can’t change how empathetic you are. In sales, being able to feel what the prospect is feeling and put yourself in their shoes is invaluable. You can practice anytime by stopping, listening and considering something from someone else’s perspective regularly. The more you do this, the more naturally it will come to you.

So, how do your existing skills stack up? Do you need to take a step back and work on yourself to become an even better b2b salesperson? Hopefully you’ve found this useful and are on your way to being top of the sales board. 

If you want more, I recommend the sales masterclasses at the Northern Business Expo in March 2020. They’re free to attend, are run by some of the best in the industry, and are part of the biggest business event in the North of England. You just need to get your free ticket here, then head to Manchester ready to learn!
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