Joe O’Neill – When managers are asked how they develop their sales peoples’ selling skills they frequently report that, if they do anything at all, they focus more on building product knowledge than soft skills. That probably isn’t enough if you understand that product knowledge contributes only about 20% to a successful sale. They must focus on soft skills to sell more.
Developing Soft Skills
Sales trainers generally believe the key to becoming a solid sales professional is developing soft skills. These skills include:
- building rapport;
- becoming an active listener;
- understanding customers’ needs;
- developing empathy;
- answering objections, and
- being resilient.
If you believe that the main job of a salesperson is to help people, then the rationale for developing these skills is evident. Why isn’t there a greater focus?
Soft Skills Take Effort
One of the challenges in developing soft skills is the tremendous commitment, self-awareness, and discipline it takes on the part of the salesperson. Soft skills are hard. It takes technical training and practice, just like an elite athlete. It requires endless repetition; objectively assessing progress, and commitment to continuous improvement.
Steps to Develop Soft Skills
Most of us believe in giving our customers answers, not asking questions. It’s how we got to where we are. However, asking questions which elicit answers rich in information is a soft skill that is absolutely critical. Asking high gain, open ended questions, listening and understanding what the information is telling you distinguishes you from your competitors and delivers value to your customer.
So, what do we need to do to strengthen your soft skills?
1. Accept that these skills are valuable. You’ve got to want it.
2. Set up development of these skills as a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
3. Determine what soft skills you need to cultivate to be at the top of your game.
4. Understand that achieving these higher order skills is challenging and takes time.
5. Commit to improve.
6. Objectively assess your progress.
7. Willingly seek guidance and training to achieve this goal.
8. Celebrate success when you apply these skills in a real-life situation.
If you are committed to your profession and accept that proficiency in soft skills is worthwhile as well as necessary to achieve superior results, it will place you in a special category among your peers and help you achieve your goals.
Want to sharpen your soft selling skills? Click here to learn more.