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ATD Blog

What Is Behind the Sales Function?

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

We hear that selling is an art. That it is innate. That it is a science. Selling is convincing someone of something: a meeting, a test, a presentation, a bid, a pilot project, a sale, or a contract.

Skills support selling. The skills you need to master depend not only on the market but also your strategy. Here are the two aspects that most influence the skills needed to sell to new customers, increase sales, and retain paying customers.

1. The relationship between demand and supply.

When demand outweighs supply, customers are more open to ordering what is available. The skills to master in this scenario are the capacity to direct your actions toward the most profitable customers, the qualification, and the ability to manage them according to their potential.

When supply is almost equal to demand, sales teams must bring value to the client and reassure the customer that they are making the right choice.

When the offer exceeds the demand, sales teams must understand their customers’ needs to ensure they bring them value according to their reality. You must adapt your discourse to each of them. In a purchase decision, you must convince not only the decision maker but also the influencer and often the users. This is often termed political decision making.


It may look like we currently live in a reality where demand exceeds the supply. The vast majority of our customers, subject matter experts (SMEs), and large multinational companies are experiencing difficulties fulfilling their orders. The factories are full, or—if we want to be more accurate—the order books are full. Factories lack manpower, raw materials, and drivers for deliveries.

However, it’s a mistake to pause developing the skills of your sales teams, slow down the sales process optimization projects, or postpone the IT projects that affect sales. This situation is temporary, and the sales teams that will be best positioned to benefit from it are those that would have prepared their sales function before the recovery. By preparation, we mean optimizing their processes, developing or strengthening their skills, and implementing practical tools to measure and anticipate results.


2. Your targets according to your strategy.

For this point, let’s take two extremes to illustrate the impact of strategies on skills.

If you have a strategy of being the least expensive option on the market, your approach should focus on internet sales, inside sales, and a few representatives on the road for the key accounts. Efficiency is the key: The most sales for the least effort.

On the other hand, if you have a customer proximity strategy, develop your ability to understand the political decision-making process of your customers. This would also require a strategic account management approach and knowing how to approach senior executives, the C-level. Read more about this in the new book by Frédéric Vendeuvre and Éric Pinard, Key Account Manager.

Some vital sales skills didn’t make this list: knowing how to handle an objection; how to make a powerful speech in the first meeting; how to ask the right questions; how to conclude, negotiate, and keep control; having interpersonal skills; knowing how to listen; optimizing your territory; and more. In 2022, mastering all those skills is a minimum requirement to be in sales.

About the Author

Rodolphe Meynier is managing director of Celsius Solutions Sales and business strategy advisor. One of he's favorite areas of expertise is sales management. Over the years, he have designed a range of services and tools that allow their clients to, not only structure, but also optimize their sales department by increasing the synergy of their sales team.

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