Like hard skills, soft skills can be taught, but learning and adopting them isn’t as straightforward. They can’t necessarily be measured or tracked, which can make it challenging to even know that you may be lacking them.
What are soft skills for sales?
To work on soft skills, you first must understand what they are. While hard skills are quantifiable and measurable (such as grammar proficiency or computer programming), soft skills aren’t. Hubspot’s Sophia Bernazzani defines them as follows:
“Soft skills are the combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that make it easy to get along and work harmoniously with other people.”
What today’s buyers want
Awareness about the importance of these skills in selling is on the rise–and for good reason. Modern buyers’ needs and preferences don’t align with the stereotypical salespeople of the past: pushy reps who talk a lot and embrace the “always be closing” mantra. According to SalesFuel’s Voice of the Buyer study, more than half of B2B buyers say “caring about me and my business” is a top attribute they seek in sellers. And top deal-breakers include encountering reps who talk too much about themselves, treat others poorly, possess bad social skills, and push for a decision.
As the research shows, if you want to succeed with today’s buyers, and progress your career, you must possess soft skills. And while they aren’t measurable, they are teachable. Bernazzani shares seven soft skills that you should consider adopting, a few of which are discussed below.
Team player attitude
It’s time to rid yourself of the lone wolf persona. Your ability to work on a team, whether it’s with fellow sellers or a prospect and their company, impacts your success. As Bernazzi points out, “A positive, can-do attitude when it comes to working with others is essential to team harmony, which means you need to be able to run an effective and inclusive meeting, be open to new ideas, and work respectfully with others.”
Industry professional Dennis Doran agrees. In a Manage Smarter podcast, he discussed the importance of soft skills, and specifically, the need for this team player attitude. “The better you are at how you are with the people that you work with and work for is going to be one of the reasons why you succeed,” he explained.
How do you handle change? Setbacks? Roadblocks? Your answers can shed light on whether or not you have a growth mindset. By adopting a growth mindset, you boost your resiliency and ability to adapt. “A soft skill that's critical to your ability to persevere is having a growth mindset — a term psychologist Carol Dweck coined to refer to a frame of thinking that reflects viewing your abilities, talents, and intelligence as skills you can grow and improve upon,” Bernazzi explains.
SalesFuel’s CEO C. Lee Smith agrees, noting that adopting a growth mindset allows sellers “to be resilient and pick themselves up off the mat whenever they've had adversity handed to them.”
Want to develop and hone this soft skill? Psychology Today suggests a few ways to do so. First, it’s important that you recognize, and embrace, imperfection. No one lives a challenge-free life, and inevitably, in your sales career, you will encounter obstacles. Trying to control one’s path to be carefree will only result in disappointment and frustration. Rather than fight the inevitable, embrace it and approach it as a learning experience.
Another way to nurture a growth mindset is to view each stumble or challenge as an opportunity. “…stop and reframe the situation in your mind,” the article urges. “Consider your challenge as an ‘opportunity,’ thus slightly shifting your perspective to make it easier for you to engage. Each challenge or opportunity invites us into a new experience that is a sort of adventure.”
Open to feedback
Receiving feedback professionally and thoughtfully is an important soft skill because it allows you to improve and grow as a seller. It can be tough to hear any feedback that isn’t glowing, whether it’s from your sales manager or a prospect. But genuine constructive feedback is necessary because it pushes you to evolve in order to give your best. One way to do this is to consciously not take feedback personally but approach it from a place of gratitude.
“The key to giving and receiving feedback is to come into the conversation from a place of kindness: You aren't receiving constructive feedback because that person hates you personally, it's because they want you to be the best you can be,” she writes. “You should be chomping at the bit to receive feedback that can help you more effectively hit your goals.”
You can teach yourself to get past the discomfort and glean value from feedback. To work on this soft skill, consider these tips.
It comes down to attitude
These soft skills, as well as the other Bernazzi discusses, all involve a common element: a positive attitude. While you may not naturally possess a positive attitude, working to cultivate one can positively impact your soft skills.
These tips can help sellers evolve into more emotionally intelligent sellers who can communicate effectively. You’ll progress both as a salesperson and an employee and teammate, and though it may take time and effort, it’s worth it. As Manage Smarter guest Doran notes, “Hard skills involve the mechanics of doing the job and soft skills are all about how the job gets done—the recognition of emotional intelligence, an understanding of the generational differences in a workforce and a style of communication that drives stellar results…it's the soft skills that are the difference maker [when] getting to know people, getting to know them well, learning to understand them, and coming to value and respect them.”
Photo by Thirdman from Pexels
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