September 4, 2023

Empowering sales reps to rise above the competition

15 min read

The sales industry has a mixed-bag reputation. Those who work in a sales or revenue team know just how difficult a field it can be, while those on the receiving end often find it overwhelming, pushy, and something of a minefield to navigate. The expectations are high on both sides. Sales teams can feel like the weight of the company is resting on their shoulders while prospects, recognising they hold the cards and have plenty of choice, are happy to play hard-ball while they try to get it all for nothing (or as little as they can without sacrificing anything on their need-to-have list).

For sales reps in particular, there is a need to stay ahead of the game, and to succeed there is a need for a multifaceted approach. Ask any sales rep what their biggest problems are, and standing out from the competition will likely top that list. But they also need to balance this with their normal outreach responsibilities, conducting demos, and building rapport, maintaining open communication, demonstrating value, and even keeping the deal in good, steady momentum.

Why do sales reps need to stand out?

Navigating an over-saturated marketplace is hard work. Increasingly, initial outreach is happening online, and inboxes are flooded with sales and marketing messages.  But this isn’t one area where digital developments are making life easier, in fact, according to Freshworks, a staggering 91% of sales emails are left unopened.

So, it’s obvious that persistence is key for sales teams. Rejection and ghosting are sadly a part of the day to day for most revenue professionals, but that doesn’t mean you should give up at the first hurdle. Prospects typically need multiple touchpoints before they’ll even commit to a conversation with a sales rep. On average, 80% of sales require five follow-up calls, but 44% of sales reps never bother with a second follow up. It’s perhaps not surprising then, that by the fourth follow-up, 94% of sales reps have given up. However, this also shows that there’s a big market for success for the persistent salesperson.

While it may seem that the odds are always stacked against sales teams, it’s also obvious that there is an unrelenting need for them to differentiate themselves from their competition. By setting themselves apart, sales teams can help build trust, reputation, and rapport, but the underlying question remains: How can sales reps stand out from the crowd to ensure success?

The top 5 skills of the best salespeople

Sadly, these days it's not enough just to be a great salesperson. There’s so much competition in the market, that sales reps are finding more and more, that their biggest challenge is having an edge that sets them apart from the crowd. However, before sales reps can even consider their own USP, it’s essential that they’re smashing the basics. So, what are the top skills and traits of the best sales professionals?

  1. Simplification – The art of simplification is essential in selling. Salespeople deal with complex and confusing matters every day, but being able to take a complex offering, situation, or problem, and boil it down to its core element, a simple root, is game-changing. Prospective buyers are often facing a range of pressures and stresses that make them less open to additional complexities, so the ability to present a condensed and concise solution is key. Using straightforward language and offering transparency will help build trust and confidence with prospects too.
  2. Trustworthiness – Trust is essential between sales reps and prospects because it forms the foundation of a successful and sustainable business relationship. Prospects are more likely to engage and buy from salespeople they trust, as trust creates a sense of credibility, reliability, and honesty. By building trust salespeople can establish rapport, address prospects’ concerns or scepticism, and better understand their prospects' needs. When there's trust in the relationship, sales reps can also capitalise on referrals and networking. Word of mouth and personal recommendation are highly valuable when it comes to winning new prospects, in fact according to SBI, 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral.
  3. Likability – Being a likeable, personable contact for a prospect is key to establishing a positive rapport. When prospects feel they ‘click’ or connect with a sales rep, they become more likely to trust, engage in conversations, and feel comfortable discussing their needs and concerns. Likeability also fosters a sense of authenticity and relatability. When a prospect is taking multiple calls from different companies, entertaining different solutions, as a sales rep, the ability to use personality to enhance the overall customer experience will also increase the chances of building a lasting relationships and successful sales outcomes.
  4. Transparency – Transparency is crucial in any sales/prospect relationship because it contributes to so many other aspects of the sales process. For example, transparency helps build trust and establishes a foundation of honesty. When sales reps are transparent about their products, pricing, and potential limitations, it encourages open communication from the prospect too. This transparency helps both sides make informed decisions, reduces misunderstandings, and ensures that the solutions offered align with the prospect's actual needs. Ultimately, transparency enhances the overall credibility of the sales process and paves the way for lasting relationships between sales reps and prospects.
  5. Organisation – To ensure a seamless and efficient communication process, organisation is another factor with a growing importance to sales reps. Well-organised sales professionals can effectively manage their interactions, track progress, and deliver timely follow-ups, which builds trust and credibility with prospects. Increasingly, sales reps are finding their role extends to project management-type responsibilities, so these planning and organisation skills are only becoming more important. When reps can provide accurate information, address prospects' needs effectively, and create a positive buying experience, the prospects themselves become more open to commitment and future upselling or cross-selling potential too.

Challenges sales reps face

Sales reps today face several common challenges. With the ongoing evolution of the internet, information is easily accessible to anyone who has time for a quick Google search. But what are the specific issues sales teams face?

  • Changing buyer behaviour – not only are customers better informed than they’ve ever been, meaning sales reps must provide unique insights to keep their attention, but today’s buyers are also opting for self-research over conversations with sales reps.

    This type of buyer may well have started their own decision-making process before engaging with a sales rep, requiring a shift in sales strategies. According to a recent survey, 77% of B2B buyers stated that they wouldn’t even speak to a salesperson until they’d done their own research, meaning revenue teams need to ensure their brand and reputation are pristine to even engage in conversation with some prospects.
  • Saturated market – as technology continues to develop, there’s always another solution popping up, making life harder for sales teams. Not only do they have huge amount of competition that they’re racing to the post, but also, when you’re not a household name, it makes it that much harder for a prospect to remember any one above everyone else. There’s a need to bring increased personalisation to the forefront. Sales reps need to differentiate their offerings and provide compelling reasons for each individual prospect to choose that product rather than any other.
  • Over-stretched – whether it’s working more prospects, handling more data, or taking on new responsibilities, since the Covid-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, many companies have restructured, meaning that those left in roles are invariably taking on more responsibilities.

    Alongside this, sales reps' roles are evolving to include more project management skills and tasks, giving them even more on their to-do lists. With more prospects, comes more data, more deal specifics, and more time pressures. Juggling so many aspects can be overwhelming; managing a high volume of leads, meetings, and follow-ups while maintaining quality interactions requires effective time management too.
  • Time crunch – while sales cycles get longer, prospects are demonstrating shorter attention spans. In today’s digital-influenced market, traditional sales tactics (and timeframes) hold less value. There is more need for sales reps need to engage and capture a prospect's attention quickly, before they lose interest or can be poached by the competition.

    Time is particularly important when it comes to responding to prospects. In late 2020, released a report stating that 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first. So, to add to the growing list, sales reps also need to make sure they’re responding to queries in just a matter of hours, to ensure their company stands any chance of securing the deal.
  • Fire breathing gatekeepers – well, maybe not literally, but there are an increasing number of gatekeepers to get past, and they’re getting increasingly wily! B2B sales often involve multiple decision-makers, requiring reps to navigate complex decision-making processes. On top of that, with many countries facing difficult economic times, there are even more hoops to jump through when it comes to getting details on budgets and sign-off on spend.

    With more decision-makers to please, sales reps can expect more questions, concerns, and rejections. However, these roadblocks aren’t necessarily the no you might think. Take the time to get to the bottom of the real concern, and you still have a chance of addressing their concerns and saving the deal.

Overcoming these challenges requires sales reps to continuously adapt, upskill, and refine their strategies to meet the ever-changing demands and anticipations of prospects and existing customers.

5 ways sales reps can stand out from the crowd

For a sales rep to really stand above their competitors, they need to have mastered the main skills that make a great salesperson, but then they need to push on and grow beyond these expectations too. Considering the challenges they face, here are the top five ways sales representatives, and revenue teams, can elevate their game and get ahead.

  1. Offer something unique – with information freely available on the internet, sales reps must offer something truly unique for their clients and prospects. When prospects are being inundated with information and dozens of options, it’s essential for sales reps to provide more than just a product or service pitch. By offering a distinct value proposition, tailored insights, or innovative solutions, sales teams can capture the attention of prospects and demonstrate their commitment to addressing specific needs.

    Providing a personalised and valuable experience not only builds trust but also sets sales reps apart, placing them almost in an advisory role in which their understanding of the challenges and aspirations of their prospects are kept at the forefront of the conversation. The bog-standard copy and paste approach falls short today, so offering something unique is key to forging meaningful and lasting customer relationships.

    With Google joining in on the ban of third-party cookies, the old ways that many sales professionals rely on (intent data), are about to get a lot more difficult. For the smart sales rep, this opens a door of opportunity. Sales solutions such as Selligence offer pre-intent data in the form of sales triggers. These business triggers don’t rely on cookies and so will not be affected by Google’s ban. They also get revenue teams ahead of the competition by up to three months, by alerting users to a company in the very first stages of the buying-cycle – much earlier in the process than intent data. Integrating a solution like this into a workflow will not only impress prospects with a sales rep’s efficiency and timing but will also keep them well informed to support that rep’s credibility.
  2. Ask questions – for sales reps everywhere, it’s only by asking questions that you’ll truly understand exactly what a prospect is looking for, and exactly what their hang-ups are. Every answer will arm you with a better understanding, and the insight for addressing their concerns. It’s particularly important to ask the difficult questions.

    Nobody wants to hear that the prospect they’ve already invested hours into isn’t ready to commit, or doesn’t have the budget until next quarter, but it’s better to know that now than later. With a full picture of the prospect’s position, sales reps can better judge whether to apply a bit more pressure, or to step back and revisit in a few months' time.

    Asking questions can benefit in several ways. By actively engaging in a strategic questioning process, sales reps not only demonstrate their genuine interest in understanding the prospect's unique needs but also pave the way for building a strong rapport. According to Chorus, successful reps are ten times more likely to use collaborative words like “us,” “we,” and “our” and avoid words like, “I” and “me”, so using questions to build a collaborative relationship is another great way to get ahead.
  3. Personalisation – it's no surprise that personalisation improves pitches, but when it comes to winning interest from your competition, personalisation could hold the key. Based on the findings of "The Power of Personalization: 2021 Email Marketing Report" published by Campaign Monitor, personalised email messages have a 29% higher open rate and a 41% higher click-through rate compared to non-personalised messages. What sales reps need to recognise though, is that personalisation goes beyond generic interactions.

    By tailoring all communications to reference pervious conversations sales reps create a more meaningful connection that resonates with prospects on a deeper level. Personalised outreach not only captures attention but also builds trust and credibility, adding a sense of value for the prospect.

    This approach showcases a commitment to the prospect, listening to them, remembering what they’ve said, and allows the sales rep to address specific challenges or offer relevant solutions. By presenting a tailor-made solution and demonstrating a genuine interest in the prospect, you increase the likelihood of engagement and conversion.

    A Wunderman study revealed that 79% of consumers in the US, aged 18-65, say brands must actively demonstrate a genuine care and understanding of them, before they will consider purchasing from that brand. Sales reps can take from this the understanding that customer loyalty, and therefore recurring revenue, is another outcome of this personalised approach. Personalisation enhances ROI and creates the potential for generating more income; a happy customer is far more likely to give you a referral for future deals too.

    When 84% of B2B buyers are starting their purchasing process with a referral, that’s a relationship sales reps definitely need to capitalise on. Ultimately, when a prospect or customer feels understood and valued, their own interest and commitment to a company increases dramatically.
  4. Perfect your timing – we’ve all heard the phrase time kills deals. But great timing is so much more than the deal breaker or maker. Sales reps are having to improve their punctuality, timekeeping and time management skills as the role continues to develop with an emphasis on more project management tasks. Time is precious to the prospect too, so making sure you’re armed with the intelligence you need to make a great first impression (and second, and third, etc), is crucial.

    For any sales professional, using sales triggers is a great way to ensure you’re reaching out at the best time. Engaging in conversation with a prospect at the optimum time can be the difference between winning their business or losing out to one of your competitors. Because sales triggers offer insight at the very first point of the buying cycle, you can also engage them before they have begun actively looking for a solution – and before they have a chance to speak to your competition.
  5. Always add value – when prospects’ inboxes are constantly full of templated messages, a simple but effective way sales reps can make sure they stand out, is to ensure that every point of contact offers value. By providing market insights, solutions, or relevant information tailored to the prospect's individual needs, sales reps establish themselves as a cut above the rest. This approach not only showcases the sales rep's expertise, knowledge, and credibility, but also demonstrates to the prospect that they are invested in helping them succeed. Adding value at each point of contact sets an expectation for the prospect too. By displaying value, a prospect is more likely to engage in conversation about a product or solution that is unknown to them but has a tangible value.

    The customer journey is so important because it acts as the foundation for building relationships. While this journey often starts without any input from a salesperson, it is critical that a sales rep only continues to build on the good impression that the company brand or reputation will have started. For sales professionals, sales triggers provide the insight for you to start conversations with buyers as soon as the ideal buying conditions arise. This  and situational relevance. Being proactive and reaching out at the first opportunity often helps to shorten the customer journey too.


While there are many good sales reps, it’s the great sales reps that are excelling and leading their teams to secure recurring revenue while smashing their targets. To be a great sales rep, you’ll need to go above and beyond. With increasing demands on revenue teams, a workforce that has been hit by downsizing, and clients that are always looking for the extra bang for their buck, sales reps are caught in a difficult place.

By ensuring you stand out from your competition, and for all the right reasons, the chances of securing deals, growing existing accounts, and building customer loyalty increase exponentially. In this environment, having made the best impression on your new customers, referrals should be the next thing on your mind. When 84% of buyers now start their buying cycle from a referral, there’s a huge part of the market to explore. Dale Carnegie research states that 91% of clients would give a referral if asked, but only 11% of salespeople will actually ask for one. In today’s market, sales reps can stand out simply by asking the right questions at the right time.

By implementing the five strategies explored in this article, sales reps will open the door to new opportunity and future sales. By ensuring you’ve mastered product knowledge, fostered genuine relationships, and embraced innovative technologies the role of a sales rep becomes much easier. With this elevated outreach and sales pitch, you’ll truly stand out from the crowd. Remember, it's not just about what you sell, but how you sell it. With dedication, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous improvement, you can carve your path to becoming a standout sales professional in today's ever-evolving market.

Want to see how sales triggers can help you stand out? Get in touch for a demo of the Selligence platform and start getting ahead of your competition today.

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