If all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Our decisions are colored by the history and experiences that shape our perspective. So it’s not surprising that each time I talk with my friends on the sales training front, they tell me that the path to increasing sales is to improve selling skills. Of course, my retort is that you won’t increase sales if you don’t have the right tools to compete more efficiently and effectively.

sales skills and tool skills

They would ask, “What good is a prospect research tool if reps don’t know how to get a decision maker to engage?” I would ask, “What good is it to know how to engage a decision maker if you don’t have the tools to quickly learn who the decision maker is?”

A sales rep may know how to use the proverbial hammer (the right skill) but they’ll never be truly effective or efficient if they’re using a rock instead of a hammer (the right tool) to pound the nail.

We shouldn’t be asking ourselves which is more important, skill-sets or tool-sets. Knowing and becoming adept at the right skills and making use of the most appropriate and effective tools are, I would say, on equal par.

Like pairing wine with food, skill-sets and tool-sets should be combined to deliver peak outcomes. How so? In the table that follows, I’ll take a look at the sales skills—both hard and soft—needed to overcome issues, and which tools they can be paired with to provide the best boost in sales outcomes. Hard skills include such things as effective cold-calling, presentation skills, overcoming objections, skillful questioning, getting past the gate-keeper, negotiation skills, how to sell value, qualifying prospects, and closing techniques. Soft skills involve emotional intelligence and include such things as empathy, interpersonal skills, assertiveness, impulse control, and problem solving.

Sales Issues Sales Skill-Sets SalesTool-Sets
Poor Prospecting Results:
Not meeting expectations for developing leads and converting them into prospects.
Hard Skill-Sets:
Understanding how to conduct pre-call planning properly. What do you need to know so you can be relevant? What to say to get the prospect to engage. How might you better ‘connect?’Soft Skill-Sets:
Impulse Control- delayed-gratification skills will put in the time to carefully map out a pursuit strategy, identifying the opportunities and the buying influences within each prospect account.
OneSource – Prospect Intelligence that tells you who to call, when to call, and what to say.

BombBomb and GoldMail – Communicate in a captivating and engaging way that gets noticed.

TeamVisibility- Identify and integrate best practices.

LinkedIn – find common connections and turn cold-calls into warm calls.

LevelEleven – motivate and reward reps based on desired behaviors (i.e. setting x number of appts)

Act-On or Marketo –contacting prospects when they’re most interested.

Inability to get a 2nd appt:
Not able to convert enough prospects into opportunities
Hard Skill-Sets:
How to properly conduct a sales call and uncover needs, add value and generate a desire to act. i.e. questioning skills, presentation skills, and industry knowledge.Soft Skill-Sets:
Problem-Solving, Assertiveness. The ability to listen and demonstrate a genuine interest. To confidently guide the prospect
Revegy – Know what to say for each situation. Take advantage of sales playbooks, relationship maps, account planning.

Postwire- Make it a no-brainer for your prospect to engage with your sales information.

Bloomfire- Collaborate with your team and channel partners on best practices. Share videos and more.

Too many deals get stuck:
Deals stall out or continually get pushed out into the future.

Hard Skill-Sets:
Understanding how to uncover hidden objections. Better knowing how to identify and engage all of the people involved in the decision process. Staying on top of tasks and ensuring sales-cycle progression.

Soft Skill-Sets:
Resiliency is one skill-set required to over-come stuck-deals. But problem-solving skills may help you keep deals from stalling in the first place.

iMeet – Build stronger, trusted relationships with video meetings. Get a better ‘read’ on your prospects interest level.

Yesware, ContactMonkey & ToutApp – Know if and when prospects are engaging with your email communications. Prioritize activities based on prospect behavior.

ShadeTree Technology – Deliver the right voicemails, emails, and marketing material based on buyer profiles and sales stage.

Sacrificing profits to win business.
Hard Skill-Sets:
Knowing what questions to ask to help the prospect realize their true concerns and the ability to put the purchase in prospective compared to other investments or against other options.Soft Skill-Sets:
The ability to use the right tone and phrasing in questioning and the confidence and assertiveness to carry it out.
VisualizeROI – Help your prospect visualize the value of your offerings. Establish value up-front.

PROS – Know what pricing is likely to win the business and how it differs for each prospect account.

iQuoteXpress – Deliver impressive proposals that reinforce the buyer’s stated objectives and the expected outcomes.

Closing a low percentage of forecasted deals:
Not enough forecasted opportunities close. Management can’t rely on forecasts.
Hard Skill-Sets:
Navigating complex deals and understanding where the risks are within the buying process.Soft Skill-Sets:
Interpersonal skills needed to get the prospect to share their real concerns, impressions and intentions.Assertiveness to close the deal before something happens to derail it (like shifting budgets or re-organizations).
DocuSign – Shorten the sales cycle and reduce deals lost at the last minute. Reduce the time it takes to get a signature.

FrontRow – Give reps and managers real-time insight into the true health of the pipeline based on activities and sales stages. Sales activity reporting that’s done quickly and with consistency.


These are just a few examples of how sales skill-sets and sales tool-sets line-up. Next time you’re considering the cause of a particular sales issue, don’t stop with skills improvement. If you want to hit the nail on the head, it’s not enough to know how to use a hammer. You have to have a hammer.

Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation.