Despite what some people say, the ability to sell is a skill that can be taught. It isn’t an innate ability that only certain people are blessed with. In fact, there’s an entire industry – high-priced consultants, colorful sales gurus, books, webinars, and an endless stream of articles – built around teaching sales skills.
But there are other, often overlooked skills that make a huge difference for salespeople. These are known as “soft skills.” Soft skills can be defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Put another way, they’re important but difficult-to-measure qualities that don’t depend on acquired knowledge.
While the list of soft skills is quite large. And many, such as courtesy or a positive attitude, are too obvious to discuss. Instead, we put together a list of less obvious soft skills that can make a big difference in your day-to-day life as a salesperson:
1. Non-verbal communication
This soft skill has to do with how you convey messages without speaking. It also includes your ability to read other people’s body language. It can refer to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and posture. Nonverbal communication helps people form a favorable impression of you. It can convey just as much to a prospect as words can. You can practice non-verbal communication by role-playing, and even by filming yourself speaking to see what you need to brush up on. This soft skill might be less important for inside sales reps.
Being friendly and likable is always a plus in sales. But you need to temper those characteristics with some level of assertiveness, or you might get completely run over by your prospects. Assertiveness mixed with friendliness and emotional intelligence is an unstoppable combination. It can help you take control of the sale instead of just being reactionary. Learning how to thread that needle is one of the toughest aspects of interpersonal relations with prospects. So, those who master it become true professionals.
3. Emotion management
Sales has an exceptionally high turnover rate. This is likely due to the ups and down that a salesperson goes through as a result of the job. Many people are simply unwilling to deal with this emotional rollercoaster, with its high highs and low lows. This is why emotional management can make such a huge difference. When things are going well, make sure you don’t get too high. Similarly, when things aren’t so great, don’t get too low. Learn to keep yourself on an even keel and you’ll be better equipped to deal with the stresses of sales life.
If you thrive on routine and predictability, then you might do okay in sales. But, you’re unlikely to thrive. One of the most interesting aspects of the profession is the ability to meet all sorts of people, all with unique circumstances and problems. This requires you to step outside of your comfort zone and make complicated deals happen. It takes adaptability and being able to roll with the punches. Not only that, but if you develop this soft skill, you’ll feel comfortable taking on any challenge thrown your way, which will be necessary in order to rise through the ranks in your sales career.
Everyone knows that one of the best ways to close a deal is to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. After all, if you can figure out why somebody might make a certain decision, you can figure out how to help them make it. There’s one soft skill that can help salespeople do this above all others, and that’s empathy. Learn how to empathize with everybody you talk to and you’ll shift your mindset from “How can I make them buy this?” to, “How can I help them with their needs?” And if that’s how you approach all of your prospects and customers, you’ll be the one they turn to when it’s time to buy.