We have all worked with sales people. Think about the last great sales person you worked with – the one that helped you make the right decision for your business. Chances are that person is engaging, committed and dependable. Most likely that rep has had soft skills training. Of course, the sales rep has also learned how to prospect, position the product, and negotiate. But those technical skills are not the skills that have made you a loyal customer. When it comes to being a successful salesperson, sales managers say that soft skills training matters most.
- According to a survey by Millennial Branding and American Express, 61 percent of managers value soft skills over hard skills.
What are the key soft skills every good salesperson should possess?
- Empathy - Experts say that sales reps that have high emotional intelligence and can empathize with the needs and feelings of their customers are more likely to be successful.
- Positive Attitude – Sales reps battle difficult selling processes, competitive markets and factors beyond their control, such as client budgets, so keeping a positive attitude throughout the negotiating process is integral to a sales rep’s ability to be successful.
- Strong Communicator - Good sales reps must establish open communication with their clients and be able to listen to their client’s problems and challenges in order to present a solution that fits their specific needs.
Brent Kelly, a speaker, trainer and coach says that, “Customers buy because of likability, relationships, trust, or maybe even just a feeling.” In other words, they buy because of the sales rep’s soft skills.
The important thing to recognize is that soft skills are not strictly innate human characteristics – although some personality types are more naturally inclined to be better at things like empathy and communication. Soft skills can be learned, which means that sales training teams need to commit as much or more time to training sales teams on soft skills as technical capabilities.
The good news is that soft skills can be taught in effective sales training programs. Here are five ways to teach soft skills.
- Microlearning – Microlearning breaks concepts down to a single component and ensures better retention of information. In microlearning, soft skills are taught through storytelling, short quizzes and guided response questions that mimic real life situations for the sales rep.
- Repetition – In order for a customer to be comfortable with a sales rep, the rep’s soft skills must be natural not forced. So it is important to give a rep who struggles with soft skills many opportunities to practice them, whether in online sessions, in-person training or coaching and mentoring situations.
- Role Play – When it comes to learning soft skills there is no substitute for real-world practice, which means trainers should provide sales reps with ample opportunity to practice in role play situations. During in-person training sessions or over the phone, reps can pair up and take turns playing the customer role, so each can practice empathy and listening.
- Acknowledge positive behaviors – Millennial sales reps especially appreciate recognition for displaying appropriate skills, or a job well done. Sales managers should be careful to reward and commend reps for a job well done across the sales process, making sure to highlight the soft skills that build relationships with the customer, not just the signed deal.
- Review real-life scenarios – Sales managers should incorporate as much soft skills training as possible into real-life selling situations. For example, during the deal review process a rep should consider how they empathized with the customer, encouraged open communication and established a positive relationship with the client.