What Does a 5-Tool Salesperson Look Like?

Which five sales skills are shared by superstar salespeople? Following baseball’s lead, we cover the most critical tools when it comes to closing the deal.

June 12, 2017

  • A Baseball Batter in Action

Baseball scouts and fans alike salivate at the thought of a five-tool player – that rare specimen who hits for average, hits for power, plays exceptional defense, runs like the wind, and has a cannon for an arm.

That got us thinking: what would a five-tool salesperson look like? What special combination of skills would he or she possess?

Just as the traits of a five-tool ballplayer virtually ensure success on the field, a salesperson bringing these five sales skills to the table is destined for stardom:

1. Immense Emotional Intelligence

Some say that squaring up a 95 MPH fastball should be impossible based on the science, but many big-leaguers manage to make it look easy. Doing so requires keen awareness, studious preparation, and lightning-quick reactions.

Similarly, while no one can read minds, it doesn’t take any supernatural ability to manage your own emotions and affect those of others. Several of the same principles are at play for the salesperson as for the hitter. Head into meetings with knowledge of your prospect's pain points and needs. Read their expressions, tone, and mannerisms to find signals. Be reactive to the things they say, and always be ready for a curveball.

2. Major League Listener

Listening is one of those things that is profoundly simple in concept but often surprisingly tricky to execute. Once we get into a conversation, our minds begin racing with ideas as we try to stay one step ahead and control the flow. However, this can lead to drifting attentiveness and missed cues.

Yogi Berra once famously quipped that “baseball is 90 percent mental, and the other half is physical.” Well, in those terms, sales is 90 percent listening, and the other half is selling.

3. Eager Empathy

It is one thing to listen, but another to truly understand and relate to what is being said. The latter separates great salespeople from good ones. You cannot fake empathy; it must be genuine or it will miss the mark.

If you are unable to see matters through the customer’s eyes, adopting their perspectives and motivations, you might be in the wrong business. Those who shine in this area will not only excel at closing deals but also at building meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

4. Rabid Researcher

As we alluded above, the key to becoming an All-Star hitter is knowing opposing pitchers inside and out before you step into the box. The game’s finest batsmen put in the pre-game work to learn a hurler’s repertoire and tendencies, enabling them to anticipate what is coming at any given time. They do this by watching video, consulting scouting reports, and speaking with others who have faced the pitcher before.

In sales, research goes a long way. In the age of the internet, we now have more data and business details at our fingertips than ever before. Take full advantage by brushing up on a prospect’s company, industry, and contextual circumstances before shaking hands. By following this formula, you are bound to impress. 

5. Superb Soft Skills

The dictionary defines soft skills as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” While this tool overlaps with empathy to an extent, it goes beyond simply understanding. It is about intuitively knowing when to be assertive, when to be subtle; when to speak, when to listen; when to fill dead space in the discussion, when to let a pause strategically hang in the air.

For some, this comes naturally. Others have to work at it, but it is never out of reach.

The Whole Package

When you bring these five salesperson tools together, you have a recipe for consistent conversions and remarkable results. Just as with baseball, and any sport, the fundamental imperative when it comes to honing these skills is practice, practice, practice.

By subscribing to our blog, you can be sure to get your time in the batting cage so that you’re fully prepared to perform on game day. 

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