Sales is a complex profession that takes a certain skill set to truly excel. Sales skills can be broken down into two broad categories.
“Hard” skills are directly related to the job. For example, having the ability to find new prospects and opportunities, qualifying prospects, and presenting, to name a few.
Hard skills can be taught, and can vary depending on the company you work for and the industry you work in.
The second type are the “soft” skills. These are people skills like effective communication, empathy, and relating to your prospects.
Soft skills also include "personal" skills like goal-setting and effective decision making. While these can be developed, top sales people have an innate sense of these skills. In fact, having these skills are often motivators that can drive people towards a career in sales.
Crafting a strategy, asking questions, handling objections and selling value, these hard skills are easier to teach and train.
However, it's people skills that can be the foundation for a successful career in sales. In today's competitive business market, the growth of the Internet as a research aid means that the hard sell is effectively dead.
Your potential customer has done the research, knows what they need, where they can find it for the best price, and have no interest in a traditional sales pitch. The fact is, “soft skills” are more important than ever!
Let's take a look at ten soft skills that every salesperson must have (or develop) to be a top earner in their field.
1. A High Empathy Quotient (EQ)
Having a high EQ allows you to relate to your prospect's emotional experience. You can develop your EQ by spending time thinking about how you interact with prospects, from their point of view.
Replay conversations and imagine what made your prospect say what they did. Try predictive conversation as well. Based on your knowledge of your prospect, try to anticipate their response before you ask a question.
Today, a customer-centric approach is critical to sales success. Understanding your customer's needs and providing personalized solutions close sales. EQ is a way to build value and stand out.
2. Communication Skills
Communication means more than simply sending email or texts. You must be able to engage with prospects face-to-face. An effective communicator is concise, and accurate.
They avoid buzzwords, cliches, or industry “jargon.” Begin to improve your communication skills by starting with written communication.
Before you send that email, check for frivolities, meaningless phrases or fluff. Strive for clear, concise and relevant.
The "lone wolf" approach to sales is over. Sales "teams" are the new normal. You must be able to work with multiple team members, technical specialists and management.
Develop the skills required to both lead and participate. Being a team player means having the ability to contribute and take constructive criticism, without bias or ego towards a common goal. Team players go far in sales.
Flexibility is a challenge for some salespeople. Today, you must be flexible with schedules, responsibilities, and utilizing internal resources - for example being a part of, leading or managing sales teams.
Today you'll most likely be called upon to assume various roles at various times. Flexibility means meeting every challenge with enthusiasm, and 100 percent commitment.
5. Good Decision Making Skills
Knowing when to pull the trigger is important. Good decision making skills include having a full understanding of a situation, the right information, and a clear goal. When you're faced with a difficult decision, make sure you have the facts at hand.
Don't slip into procrastination mode by “exploring your options,” act! Knowing when to pursue and when to back off a prospect is important to a salespersons success. Be decisive. Work on your decision making skills and increase your value to the company.
Integrity means being able to admit when you're wrong, take responsibility for mistakes, and be wiling to admit “you just don't know” sometimes. Not lying is easy, the hard part is being able to admit you're wrong and take responsibility.
Don't tell a client, “the ball got dropped,” tell them “I forgot to do X, I'm sorry, I'll make this right.” Building relationships is the cornerstone of sales. Integrity reveals a depth of character that gains trust and respect.
People like to be around and work with positive people. Learn how to accept praise, and how not to over react to criticism.
Remain positive not only with prospects, but also with your co-workers. Maintain a positive attitude and people will love to work with you.
8. A Drive To Excel
Driven people are dedicated to providing value to clients, employers and themselves. They strive to excel both in an outside of work.
They schedule their day with meaningful tasks to take advantage of every minute and show initiative rather than waiting to be told what to do. On a fundamental basis, your willingness to do a job affects how well it gets done. Be driven to succeed.
9. Time Management
Whether your new to sales , or a grizzled veteran, time management is a must have skill. Salespeople are often on their own schedule, setting appointments, traveling, networking and pitching.
Learning how to prioritize and manage your time is crucial to success. Periodically, assess how you're spending your time. How much time do you spend on sales and how much on everything else?
Confidence is behind every top producer. You have to have confidence to succeed. Selling can be tough. It's not easy to hear “no” and it's even harder to turn that no into a yes!
Learn to display confidence. Turn every “no” into an opportunity to learn and grow. Confidence builds credibility, credibility breeds success!
Learning the techniques and strategies for being a great salesperson is only half of the equation. Soft skills like people skills, drive, and confidence can't be taught, but they can be developed.
To truly excel at sales, don't neglect the soft skills. Develop them and they'll turn you into a true asset to your company.