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In the world of sales, it’s becoming more and more obvious that soft skills are the key to success.
But, what are soft sales skills and how can you be sure that your sales team has what it takes to perform?
The only way to ensure you have a competitive sales team is to give them the support and training they need.
In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of soft skills for salespeople in every industry and what you can do to give your team the upper hand in every deal.
Table of Contents
11 Soft Sales Skills for Salespeople AND Negotiators
What Are Soft Sales Skills?
Soft skills are those skills that can’t typically be tested or quantified. These skills are the interpersonal and intrapersonal personality traits that help salespeople communicate with and understand others.
These skills may include:
Salespeople who possess these skills can work more efficiently and reach their full potential in a sales role.
Why Soft Skills Are Important in Sales
Soft skills make it possible for salespeople to better understand their customers and what makes them tick.
The more information a salesperson can obtain, the more power they’ll have during the sales process and the closer they’ll be to making a deal.
Soft skills enable salespeople to establish trust with their customers by tapping into the buyer’s emotions and influencing their decisions.
The Value of Actively Training Your Sales Team to Practice Soft Skills
James Heckman, Nobel prize winner, claimed that:
“Soft skills predict success in life, that they casually produce that success, and that programs that enhance soft skills have an important place in an effective portfolio of public policies”.
However, in a 2020 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, it was found that soft skills are one of the most commonly lacking skills in recent graduates.
That being said, it’s becoming increasingly important for companies to invest in soft skills training for their employees.
The Maker Group is a team of experienced commercial negotiators specializing in negotiation training and workshops that emphasize the importance of soft skills training for sales teams.
Our programs teach employees how to develop the soft skills that are critical to the success of every negotiation.
11 Soft Sales Skills for Salespeople AND Negotiators
Not all salespeople are negotiators and not all negotiators are salespeople.
There is a line in the sand between these two roles.
Selling skills are about creating demand. Negotiating is about coming to terms with what that demand looks like.
They are two sides of the same coin, but two very distinct skill sets that are required at different parts of the journey.
When looking for sales and negotiation training for your team, you’ll want to make sure the following soft skills are included in the training.
#1: Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is what will help your employees know when to be:
Arguably the most important soft skill, emotional intelligence training can’t be skipped as it encompasses much of what is needed to understand how other people:
Salespeople who exhibit emotional intelligence can read the emotions of others and adapt their responses to achieve their desired outcomes.
#2: Communication: Asking Open-Ended Questions
Sales teams must master communication skills if they want to deliver the right message to the customer.
Asking open-ended questions is the only way to effectively relate to a customer and learn exactly what their wants and needs are.
Whether your team is answering customer questions on the sales floor or providing information to prospective clients, your sales staff must adapt their communication skills accordingly.
#3: Active Listening
Listening to your customers is the only way to know exactly what they want and need out of the deal. Sadly, many people today:
Make assumptions about what the other person wants
Active listening skills are what will allow your sales team to not only acknowledge the needs of your customers but also validate their concerns.
How your sales team responds to your customers can make all the difference in their potential to make a deal.
Empathy allows you to feel what another person is feeling, and it’s a key soft skill in the sales process.
Not only will your sales team have the ability to understand your customer’s feelings, but they’ll be better positioned to help them achieve their goals.
This can alleviate any conflict or frustration during a sale.
Unless your sales team has been taught how to empathize with your clients, they may face more rejection than necessary.
A good salesperson exudes confidence, and those who don’t will fake it until they make it.
When your sales team is confident, they’ll inspire confidence in their customers.
Your clients are far more likely to buy into whatever your sales force is selling if they are confident in their product and abilities.
But let’s face it — not everyone feels confident, which is why for anyone in sales, soft skills need to be trained.
Confidence is what will take your sales team from good to great.
#6: Time Management
Time management is a daily struggle — and the same goes for most salespeople.
In a 2018 Forbes study, 61.3% of sales reps reported having a time management system in place, but only 23% follow that system.
But why is time management such a crucial soft skill for salespeople?
The same survey revealed that salespeople who manage their time through a specific system will spend an average of 19% more time selling than those who don’t follow any kind of philosophy.
Most often, a sale doesn’t happen on the first interaction with a customer. Follow-up is critical — often reaching out to the customer at least five times — which makes time management one of the most important soft skills for sales training.
Sales positions require flexibility. Meetings can take longer than anticipated, potential customers can ask challenging questions, and rejection is a part of the job.
Having the ability to adapt to a change in plans at any given moment is an important soft skill for salespeople to learn.
There is no place for…
… in sales.
Salespeople must be able to take a step back and produce alternatives and solutions to the challenges that arise.
Integrity is a fundamental skill for salespeople to possess. Transparency and honesty can make or break a deal, but can this really be something that is taught?
When you teach your salesforce how to find the right product or service for each customer — as opposed to pushing any product or service — then they will quickly gain a reputation as being someone to trust in the industry.
Overpromising and under delivering can ruin a career, so including this soft skill in training for salespeople is critical.
#9: Resilience and Adaptability
Rejection can take a toll on even the best salesperson, which is why resilience and adaptability are key.
Resilience will help your sales team bounce back from rejection, whereas adaptability will allow them to stay positive and view that rejection as an opportunity for learning.
Salespeople who are capable of adapting to the constant ebb and flow of the industry will have far greater success than those who can’t.
Next to communication is persuasion. Not to be confused with being pushy, the art of persuasion is about influencing people to do what’s in their best interest.
However, your sales team must also be working for the best interests of the company.
Through the use of ethical persuasion, both can be achieved. Your sales team can effectively inspire your customers to make decisions that create a win-win situation in every deal.
#11: Optimistic Outlook
Having a positive outlook is essential for any salesperson. When dealing with failed leads, hang-ups, and rejected deals, it’s no wonder retention rates among sales positions are very low.
According to Bridge Group research, an expected 34% of sales positions turn over every year and much of this can be tied to a lack of support and proper training.
Optimism is directly related to confidence, resilience, and adaptability. All of which are soft skills that can, and should, be trained.
Can Soft Sales Skills Be Measured?
So, how exactly will you know if your team is measuring up?
More than looking for good communication skills, your team’s activities can be used as a way to measure their proficiency on the sales floor.
By creating a transparent standard within your organization, including …
Verbal, written, and positive communication skills; and
Team collaboration and shared goals
… you’ll be able to quickly identify which of your salespeople is performing, and who on your team needs training.
As a sales manager, you don’t need to accept yo