The Sales Development Blog

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3 Soft Skills to Master for Sales Success

It’s often said that technical skills will land you the interview but soft skills will land you the job. The same rule can be applied to sales – you might be able to get your foot in the door, but it’s the soft skills that are the differentiator between closing a deal and watching your prospects select the competition. Not sure what these “soft skills” are or if you even have them? Here are three to understand and master.

Your “emotional intelligence,” i.e., your ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, is generally a key factor in your ability to use your soft skills in interpersonal relationships and in business, especially in sales. In fact, much as been written connecting high emotional intelligence to career success and increased sales. In a sales situation, some say the soft skills you call on include reacting “on the fly” or “ thinking on your feet.” Whatever you call it, the point is that you understand your prospect and exactly what you need to say to him or her to build a relationship and ultimately close the deal. In fact, a study by Dr. Rich Handley showed that salespeople coached on specific soft skills hit 100 percent of their sales goal 95 percent of the time.

Intrigued? Here are some soft skills you should master to take your selling to the next level:

1. Attentive Listening
This is the true key to sales success. After all, how can you understand and interpret what prospects want if you’re not listening to what they’re saying? We all think we’re great listeners, but it’s likely you have a couple of communication habits that are holding you back. Ask your friends, family, or colleagues to rank your listening skills. They might be able to point out some traits that are sabotaging your sales. Do you interrupt when others talk? Do you try to take control of the conversation? Do you change the subject or refocus the conversation back to yourself?

Old habits die hard— focusing on a few tricks is the easiest way to move past those destructive traits. Try to be more self-aware during your next sales call. Be present at all times—don’t check your phone, your watch, or your email. These behaviors are distracting to your prospect and keep you from focusing on what he or she is saying. Working in inside sales, you might be even more tempted to multi-task while you are on a sales call. Are you talking to your prospect on the phone while checking your email or surfing the web? It can be easy to let technology distract you when it’s sitting right in front of you, and while you may have the advantage that the prospect can’t see you, they can tell if you’re not engaged. Show that you’re listening and are genuinely interested by keeping the conversation focused on your prospect’s goals, commenting throughout the conversation, and asking meaningful questions.

2. Empathy
Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes and see things from their unique perspective. Furthermore, you understand those feelings and use them to guide your actions. This is exactly what sales prospects need – the feeling that you truly want to help them, not just make a sale. (They can go to a competitor for that feeling!) Get in tune with what people want, and then deliver it. It’s as simple as that.

The good news is that empathy is something you can practice, which will improve your daily life as well as your sales goals. There are more than a few ways you can encourage your empathetic side. Highly empathetic people are also highly curious. Engage with people outside your normal social circles. Ask questions. Broaden your perspectives. Focus on ways you can relate to a person rather than fixating on differences. Using your imagination might help – dream up a scenario from someone else’s perspective. Lastly, be sure to nurture your relationships. Follow up, follow through, and check in occasionally – even when you don’t need something in return.

3. Storytelling
We’re not talking about child’s play here. When it comes to sales, storytelling is a serious skill. It’s communicating through the use of an example. Why? Because stories move people to action. Stories are memorable, they differentiate you from the other guys, and they help prospects connect with you, according to sales expert Tom Searcy.

Good storytelling takes practice. Remember, “show” don’t “tell,” from English class? That applies here, too. Good storytellers – and good sales people – don’t just tell customers that they will add value. They illustrate it in a way that is interesting and relevant to that person. Appeal to a prospect’s emotions and you’ll increase engagement. Keep stories short and simple and let the audience draw their own conclusions. Make it a soft sell not a hard one – don’t tell them what they should feel, just let them feel it.

Your success depends on you mastering these soft skills. Treat the development of these skills as seriously as you would the development of a technical skill or a certification. The time spent practicing and honing your listening skills, empathy, and storytelling is time spent furthering your career.

Looking for more tips to advance your inside sales career? Read more of the memoryBlue blog. Think you have what it takes to be part of the memoryBlue team? Get in touch to find out.

Since cofounding memoryBlue in 2002, Chris has helped provide inside sales resources to more than 150 high tech companies, and has hired, placed, or evaluated hundreds of high tech sales professionals. Chris spearheads the memoryBlue recruiting service, and is passionate about developing sales talent that generates results.

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