Soft skills sales training is becoming just as important as the hard skills training, we are most familiar with in the world of training. We know we live in unprecedented times but most of all, when it comes to the sales profession, these are times of profound change. And this change in the buyer to supplier relationship is affecting everyone.
Salespeople may have the technical knowledge, the hard sales training, the product knowledge, the sales presentation skills plus the functional skills to work through the entire sales process. However, today to be really successful in a sales career, salespeople will need something else to succeed in selling. No matter how advanced their technical and hard selling skills are, they will need soft skills, too.
Today, a Google search or social media has put product and service information at a customer’s fingertips. They are able to access reviews, download product sheets, compare solutions, and learn all about a company’s business without ever engaging with a salesperson. Which poses the question, what is the role of salespeople in the modern sales process?
The sales role is still critical even with the advent of seamless transactions because some aspects of the sales process or the product complexity still requires human to human contact. However, hard skills need to be balanced with soft sales skills. Customers and buyers expect a more personalized and enriching experience, otherwise what is the point in talking to a salesperson. They want to feel understood, connected, educated, valued, informed plus they want to trust the person they are talking to. This required all salespeople to have empathy, emotional intelligence, communication skills etc.
Some salespeople develop these soft skills naturally, but soft sales skills can be taught online. So, what should soft skills sales training entail? Let’s check it out.
Soft Skills Sales Training Checklist
Emotional Intelligence is a salesperson’s ability to attend to and use their inner experiences (both good and bad) in a more mindful, productive way for their sales career. Developing emotional intelligence involves cultivating curiosity (business and personal), growing their knowledge, and producing new ways of looking at things. On the surface, it’s a repetitive process. So, salespeople will need consistency and patience.
Tending to emotional intelligence brings new opportunities from discovering a new sales tactic, having a eureka moment, connecting the dots between two issues, getting involved in a lively sales conversation with a customer. Research shows that one of the most important foundations of emotional competence “accurate self-assessment” was associated with superior performance among several hundred people from twelve different companies.
The best salespeople know how to get into the heart of people’s needs or pain points, addressing them and turning objections around into a sale. There’s an opportunity there to connect even deeper because you’re being given insight into that customer’s way of thinking. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) recognizes those opportunities.
Communication is the activity of conveying information in the sales process. The word communication has been derived from the Latin word ‘communis’, meaning to share. It basically involves a sender, a message, and a receiver. It involves the transmission of information, proposals, messages, ideas, attitudes, or emotions from one person or group to another or others primarily through channels. There is communication wherever one source elicits actions or influences an audience via transmission over the selected channel to accomplish a specific goal.
As a process, communication is not discrete, static, or solitary. It exists in time and changes constantly. In sales, communication is the sum of all the things a salesperson does when they want to create understanding in the mind of a customer. It is a bridge of meaning and purpose. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening, and understanding.”
So how and why do we communicate? The why is very simple, we interact with people for only three fundamental reasons to 1. Inform 2. Persuade and 3. Entertain.
Empathy in Soft Sales Skills
The modern buyer wants to feel heard, acknowledged, understood, and appreciated. These are not just business requirements but basic human characteristics. It’s something we all want, and it’s heightened when we have a question, a problem or need an answer. A first step in understanding empathy is to figure out what it means to you in sales or business terms. The ability to empathize has real business value. The rise of social media has eroded your grip on pricing, discounting, and financing, and has stripped you of your trained sales techniques or “tricks of the trade.”
Now, the connection between salesperson, purchase and subsequent post purchase experience is what builds a customer’s trust, loyalty, and further spending. Future proofing salespeople will align with the customer’s intentions beyond the sale, understand the customer’s point of view and primary concerns, and build a personalized experience to support the customer’s needs. A sales skills training program will bring awareness to this skill.
Gentle nonaggressive persuasion is another important soft skills for salespeople to master. This is not about being overly assertive. What it is, is the skill to influence a customer on the options available to them, the cost of doing nothing and what is in their own best interest to solve the pain they recognize. When undertaking an online soft skills sales training program, be sure it includes videos, PDF downloads and templates.
Confidence as a Soft Sales Skill
We know that the selling process consists of collecting information about a prospective customer, developing a sales plan based on your research, transmitting messages to implement the plan, evaluating the impact of these messages, and making adjustments based on this evaluation. Research into purchasing emotions shows that buyers are reluctant to back a proposal that’s being pitched by a salesperson who is nervous, fumbling, and overly apologetic. On the other hand, they are likely to be persuaded by someone who speaks clearly, who holds his or her head high, who answers questions assuredly, and who readily admits when he or she does not know something.
Confident and assertive salespeople inspire confidence in others: their customers, their audience, their peers, their bosses, and their friends. The ability to gain the confidence of others is one of the key methods in which a self-confident salesperson finds success. The good news is that self-confidence and assertiveness can be learned and built on and it’s well-worth the effort. To begin, it’s worth noting that projecting confidence should not be an exercise in creating a False Self but in expressing our honest values, goals, ideas, and needs. When people express themselves with assurance, we tend to believe them. This is the “confidence bias”. When listening to a confident salesperson, psychology proves that customers believe “If that salesperson seems to believe in what they’re saying, they’re probably right,”
What is Assertiveness in the sales process?
Assertiveness is the ability to express our opinions, views, insights, feelings, ideas, and needs openly, in a way that is true to who we are and respectful of others. It involves standing up for ourselves in a way that encourages conversation rather than defensiveness. It’s about being forthright and frank when putting our views across in life and when interacting with customers. It also is the yardstick for how far we will go to express our rights for what we perceive is right. Sales assertiveness and aggression are two very different things although the two qualities can become somewhat confused. Sales aggression involves disregarding other people’s feelings whereas assertiveness is a tendency to stand up for our personal values and constructively argue our own corner.
Why is Assertiveness important?
In soft skills sales, it is a genuine and honest form of communication that can eliminate the obstacles associated with talking to customers or holding things inside us. Failing to be assertive can make us feel uncomfortable in sales situations, resentful towards customers, and can also lead to stress-related physical symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and fatigue. Unhealthy alternatives to assertive communication are passivity and aggression. These forms are typically less successful because customers will be too busy shutting down to the delivery of our message to consider what we are saying. In sales, we don’t usually get what we want by being vague.
When selling, it’s a fact that we’re going to have a different opinion or view on certain topics or issues. We need to stand our ground by sharing our views.”
Creative in skills sales training can have different meanings for salespeople. The definition of creativity in sales can be as broad and wide. In a sales role, creative thinking really boils down to its impact on the salespersons productivity and ability to solve challenges. For example, a person working in a business development role could come up with a brilliant new value proposition to open a sales conversation that increases the number of prospects going into the sales pipeline. the time. This end goal of productivity is their masterpiece, and they did a lot of critical creative thinking to arrive at it.
This type of creativity in sales can be very helpful with efficiency and tasks in the sales role. Creative thinking is also valuable to the company because this type of sales mindset is the one that inspires innovation. There are several strategies can help build a person’s creative juices. One is to find a problem in the sales process that needs solving. Another is to be open to new opportunities, such as trying new sales methods or using a new approach to complete a sales task. Others include to change ones perspective, such as by imagining what a customer or buying group in a different industry might think of your sales approach. Remember, creativity requires risk taking and to be open to critical feedback. Be prepared to experience a level of discomfort, because this is what can lead to real innovative and better outcomes.
The cornerstone of any communication is the ability to listen and to accomplish this in an active manner. Often communication fails because people have not actually heard to the message or have only listened to part of it. As a result, they may have assumed or misinterpreted what was actually said. In soft skills, good listening skills are necessary in order to communicate that you want to help. Your soft skills training must cover this topic.
We may listen for comprehension, for ideas, facts, or detail. Sometimes we practice evaluative listening when we need to make a judgement, as in political debates. At other times we listen empathically, when someone is trying to be understood and heard while many times, we are just practicing appreciative listening, for pleasure. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is purely physical whereas listening involves not only hearing sounds but also responding. Selective listening requires concentration and attention. It also involves the ability to take in the whole message, accepting what is said without judging, understanding not only the words spoken but also the feelings that underlie the words.
Listening is a process that involves several steps. Preparation would include arranging yourself to listen, freeing your mind of distractions. Paying attention to the speaker to demonstrate you are actively listening. Active listening involves focused attention, and we communicate this both verbally and non-verbally.
Decisiveness is married to a salesperson’s listening skills in soft skills sales. The ability to act decisively and confidently on the information they have received. An online soft sales skills training program will definitely assist salespeople to help this sales skill. A good tip is to draft multiple scenarios where a potential customer has acknowledged a pain point, and then have the sales team must choose the next steps alongside which product or service they will propose to the customer.
Practicing decisiveness goes hand in hand with developing deeper sales skills, as well as negotiation tactics. Due to the onset of remote selling, many organizations now struggle to deliver sales training, so it is no surprising that many salespeople struggle with being decisiveness in their sales conversations. But with sales management willing to open up to online sales soft skills training, salespeople can quickly acquire this skill.
Soft Skills Sales Training Wrap Up
Salespeople will always need hard sales skills and product knowledge to perform their roles. But to really succeed in the digitally enabled sales environment, they will need soft skills sales training. Soft selling skills is about staying in contact with clients more frequently, educating them, not selling to them. Listening to them, not telling them. Do what it takes to be perceived as a Visible Expert—a respected subject matter expert and trusted advisor. The rise of relevance. Buyers seek out, are loyal to, and refer suppliers that they believe can drive their success. Increasingly, it takes specialized expertise to beat the competition. Sales talent is now a key differentiator.
A salesperson with great soft sales skills is the top factor that tips the scales for buyers. That means the quality of your sales skills directly affects the bottom line.