Sales teams with strong soft skills can improve customer engagement and overall success at your business. This article discusses the 11 essential soft skills for sales teams and how you can teach them to your sales employees.
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Soft skills—non-technical abilities relating to personal interactions—are vital in the workplace. These skills, such as communication, adaptability, and problem-solving, enhance productivity and workplace harmony.
A sales team with great soft skills is an especially powerful asset. Sales professionals must be well-equipped to build relationships and manage client interactions—both crucial for your business. Yet, many sales teams lack these essential abilities.
As a sales manager, team leader, or business owner, you might have sales teams brimming with technical know-how. But without the right soft skills, they could fall short of their potential. They might struggle to communicate effectively, build relationships, and understand their clients’ nuanced needs and emotions. This can hinder their ability to close deals and cultivate long-term customer satisfaction.
In this article, we discuss the most important sales soft skills and how to foster them in your team.
- Emotional intelligence, humility, active listening, and persuasion are some of the most valuable soft skills in sales.
- Fostering soft skills within your sales team will mean better customer engagement, better employee performance, and more sales.
- With Connecteam’s training features, you can make training fun and help teams improve their soft skills more quickly.
What Are Soft Skills in Sales?
Soft skills in sales refer to the non-technical abilities that enable salespeople to interact effectively with customers. Unlike hard skills, which are job-specific and often involve technical knowledge, soft skills center on personal attributes and interpersonal skills.
Examples of soft skills include emotional intelligence, effective communication, empathy, and adaptability. Salespeople with these skills can better connect with customers, understand their needs, and make successful deals.
11 Essential Sales Soft Skills
Emotional intelligence is one of the most vital soft skills for salespeople. It’s about recognizing, understanding, and managing your own emotions—and other people’s emotions, too.
This skill is important during sales calls and meetings with prospective clients. When salespeople possess high emotional intelligence, they can connect better with their prospects. They can empathize with their pain points and propose solutions that resonate with them.
Emotional intelligence also helps salespeople stay resilient and motivated in challenging circumstances. Those with high emotional intelligence can better recognize when their own emotions are getting the best of them.
Here are some key ways you can cultivate emotional intelligence in your sales teams:
- Encourage self-reflection. Regularly reflecting on emotions can lead to better reaction control. Have sales team members keep a journal and write down any strong positive or negative emotions that arise from interactions throughout the sales cycle. Emphasize that the journals they keep will remain private. Then, hold a relaxed session each week or month where team members can choose to discuss these events with their colleagues. This way, the sales team can all learn from each other’s experiences.
- Teach empathy. Understanding a prospect’s point of view can build a stronger connection. You can conduct empathy training workshops or role-playing exercises that simulate various customer scenarios, allowing sales teams to step into prospects’ shoes to practice understanding their needs.
- Offer feedback. Regular feedback can help individuals understand their emotional blind spots. Implement a structured feedback system that provides specific examples of emotional blind spots observed during sales interactions, along with suggestions for improvement. For instance, you can hold monthly one-on-one meetings with each team member, provide them with written feedback every two weeks, or offer feedback over the phone. In any case, ensure feedback is constructive and you share it regularly.
We often overlook humility in sales, but it’s important for trust and teamwork. A humble salesperson will admit when they don’t know something and go find the answer. They listen to the needs of their customers and prioritize customer satisfaction over making a quick sale.
When salespeople embody humility, they can build stronger, trust-based relationships with customers. They’re more open to learning about customers’ needs, leading to a deeper understanding of the products or services that best match them.
You can foster humility within your sales teams by encouraging them to:
- Accept feedback. Receiving constructive criticism gracefully can lead to growth and improvement. Encourage team members to actively listen to feedback without becoming defensive, ask clarifying questions, and reflect on how they can apply the feedback to enhance their performance.
- Admit mistakes. Displaying humility by owning up to errors can increase trust with customers. Lead by example by openly acknowledging your own mistakes and discussing how you plan to rectify them.
- Recognize the contributions of others. Encourage team members to appreciate the value each team member brings. Implement regular team recognition programs or meetings where team members can openly acknowledge and appreciate each other’s contributions.
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Time management is a must-have skill for salespeople. It helps them focus on the important tasks and get things accomplished.
A salesperson who improves their time management skills will increase their productivity. They can effectively move a potential customer through the sales process while also juggling administrative duties and follow-up communications.
Consider this example:
Alex is the top-performing sales rep in a tech firm. This is not only because he has a deep understanding of the products but also because he excels at managing his time.
- He starts his day by planning out his tasks and setting realistic goals.
- He identifies high-priority leads and sets aside dedicated time slots to engage them.
- He allocates adequate time to respond to emails, update customer relationship management (CRM) entries, and pursue professional development opportunities.
Thus, Alex manages his time with discipline to maximize sales and keep up with administrative duties.
With your own team, there are many ways you can encourage better time management. For example, you can:
- Promote effective planning and goal-setting by encouraging sales reps to create daily to-do checklists and prioritize tasks by importance.
- Instruct them to prioritize high-potential leads for dedicated engagement time. You can tell them to set aside specific hours to reach out to key prospects or schedule meetings.
- Have them allocate specific time for administrative tasks, such as designating a block of time each day to read, respond to, and send emails.
- Teach them to use time tracking apps so they can easily see how much time they spend on tasks.
- Encourage ongoing professional development by providing access to sales training courses or organizing regular team knowledge-sharing sessions.
- Provide them with tools and technology such as content management software that automates data entry and integrates communication channels.
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We round up the best time management apps for 2023.
Sales can be a challenging field with many rejections. Resilience helps a salesperson bounce back from disappointments and persist in their efforts.
A “no” doesn’t easily discourage salespeople with high resilience. Instead, they view each rejection as a learning opportunity and use it to refine their approach.
To cultivate resilience within your sales teams, you can:
- Establish a healthy perspective on rejection. Rejection is a part of the sales job. Encourage your team to see rejection as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of a failure. Try conducting regular team meetings where you discuss and analyze rejections, share success stories of overcoming setbacks, and provide constructive feedback to help your team members learn and develop from their experiences.
- Celebrate effort, not just results. Incorporate employee recognition for effort rather than solely focusing on closed deals. This promotes a growth mindset and motivates your team to keep pushing, regardless of the outcome.
- Provide resources for stress management. High-stress levels can diminish resilience. Offer mindfulness training or wellness programs to help your team manage stress.
Active listening means much more than merely hearing the words someone is saying. It’s about listening to understand rather than to simply respond. Active listeners will look for clues in what the other person is saying—and even what they’re not saying.
In a sales context, imagine a potential client is discussing their need for a faster computer system. An active listener wouldn’t just hear, “I need a faster computer.” They would hear, “My business’s technology is too outdated to keep up with demand.”
By truly paying attention, a salesperson can understand their customers’ underlying problems, allowing them to provide the best solution. Plus, when customers feel truly heard, it helps build trust—a key ingredient in successful sales.
Teaching active listening skills typically happens in training and coaching sessions. You can teach these skills through training workshops, demonstrations, case studies, weekly coaching, and skill-building exercises.
There are several things to cover in your training, including:
- Non-verbal cues. A big chunk of what people communicate isn’t actually said out loud. Imagine your salesperson is in a meeting and the client is constantly looking at the clock or has their arms crossed. These body language cues can indicate that the client might be bored or not open to the conversation, for example. If a client seems bored, the salesperson might try to make the conversation more engaging or even suggest a follow-up meeting when the client isn’t as busy.
- Open-ended questions. Salespeople should use open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions to encourage more discussion. For instance, they can ask, “Can you tell me more about the challenges you’re facing with your current computer system?” This allows the conversation to flow better and gives the client the opportunity to share more about their needs.
- Paraphrasing. When a salesperson paraphrases, they’re basically repeating what the customer has said but in their own words. For example, after the client has discussed their need for a faster computer system, the salesperson might say, “What I’m hearing is your business is growing so fast that your current computer system can’t keep up. Is that right?” Summarizing what the customer has said can ensure your team has correctly understood the customer’s needs.
Communication skills in sales shape every interaction between the salesperson and potential customers. An adept communicator knows how to convey information clearly and persuasively, listen actively to understand the customer’s needs, and use this understanding to offer compelling solutions.
Consider the example of Sarah, a team leader in a furniture company. Sarah is renowned for her exceptional communication skills. When she engages with a customer, she does more than list product features or benefits. She pays close attention to what the customer needs and then recommends the perfect furniture. Her emphasis isn’t on selling but on building rapport and helping the customer find the best solution.
These communication skills can be taught in effective communication workshops. You can conduct interactive roleplay exercises and teach team members how to use storytelling techniques. Employees should be encouraged to practice the use of several communication channels such as phone calls, emails, and face-to-face interactions. You can discuss how they can improve in coaching and feedback sessions.
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Persuasion is another crucial skill in sales, and it goes hand in hand with communication. While communication skills help a salesperson understand a customer’s needs and articulate a product’s value proposition, persuasion skills can positively affect customers’ decisions.
Salespeople with exceptional persuasion skills are often adept at the art of soft sales. This is a type of selling that focuses less on aggressive selling and more on relationship building. Those who use this sales technique don’t just aim to close the deal. They focus on persuading the customer that the proposed product or solution is exactly what they need.
To illustrate, let’s consider Tom, a persuasive salesperson for an insurance company. Tom’s success doesn’t lie in pushing policies on his customers. Here’s what Tom does instead:
- He believes in taking time to understand the customer’s unique circumstances and needs.
- He persuades them by outlining how the right insurance policy will give them peace of mind and security.
- He uses facts, storytelling, and empathy to show the customer that he genuinely has their best interests at heart.
Persuasion skills are often taught using role-playing exercises in persuasion workshops. You can also show your sales team case studies and examples and discuss them as a team.
Additionally, it’s often useful to pair up new sales staff with an experienced mentor who can demonstrate how to use persuasive techniques. And, of course, you can always discuss how to improve persuasion in weekly or monthly feedback sessions.
Adaptability is becoming essential in the world of sales. Markets are changing rapidly, customer preferences are evolving, and sales strategies must adapt accordingly.
Sales representatives who are adaptable can adjust their strategies to fit the customer. They can weather market conditions and work around personal shortcomings.
This skill is vital to ensuring longevity and success in a sales career. People who can adapt are typically more satisfied in their jobs, too, because they can better handle change and uncertainty.
There are several ways to build adaptability in your sales team.
- Embrace new technologies. Technology is revolutionizing the sales process. Encourage your sales team to be open to learning and using new technologies. This could be contact management software, employee feedback tools, or data analytics platforms. Provide your sales team with training sessions on how to effectively use these new technologies and encourage them to use them in their daily sales activities.
- Foster a growth mindset. This can help salespeople view challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles. They’ll be more willing to learn, change, and improve their sales strategies. Mindset development workshops or seminars work well here, as well as online courses that emphasize the importance of embracing challenges.
- Invest in ongoing training. Regular employee training ensures your sales team is up to date with industry knowledge. Use an online training platform that allows each sales team member to learn at their own pace with engaging quizzes, videos, and step-by-step guides. You can invite industry experts to discuss new trends, customer behavior patterns, and sales techniques so staff is always ready for changes in your industry. Set aside a specific amount of training time for sales staff each week so they take the time to keep themselves informed.
Decisiveness is yet another vital trait for sales reps. Being able to make quick and informed decisions can make the difference between closing a deal and losing a potential customer. Sales professionals must swiftly assess customer needs, their pain points, and the suitability of their product or service to address these concerns.
Imagine a scenario where a sales rep, Lisa, interacts with a client considering several vendors for their product needs. The client expresses doubts about delivery times—a considerable pain point for them.
Lisa decides on the spot to use her company’s internal communication app to check with her sales manager. She confirms that her company can definitely deliver. She chooses to check with the warehouse manager too, who gives her the go-ahead to make a promise of a swift delivery turnaround. This decisive action shows her understanding of the client’s needs and commitment to providing solutions. It builds rapport and makes a positive impression on the client.
You can help sales staff be decisive by outlining clear and well-defined sales goals so they know what they should focus on. This means they can make snap decisions more confidently.
Furthermore, encouraging regular team communication through internal communication apps means your staff can discuss common issues, leading to faster decision-making when similar situations arise.
In addition, better training in your products, services, and processes allows your sales staff to confidently take decisive action in the future.
We list the 10 best internal communication apps of 2023.
A growth mindset is an attitude that developing your abilities is possible through dedication, effort, and learning.
Some of the skills we’ve already discussed feed into this growth mindset in your sales staff—for example, resilience. Resilient salespeople understand that not every deal will close, and every “no” is an opportunity to improve their sales strategies. They view these setbacks not as failures but as valuable learning experiences. They analyze what went wrong and use this knowledge to improve their future performance.
Humility, too, plays a part in fostering a growth mindset. A salesperson that understands there’s always room for improvement in their work is much more likely to be able to improve than one who believes they know it all.
Sales reps with a growth mindset will strive for continuous learning, aim to improve their product knowledge, and seek to understand customer behavior. They’ll also prioritize improving their communication skills.
A workplace culture that encourages open and constructive feedback can help sales professionals learn from their mistakes and grow. We teach you how to build a strong company culture in our comprehensive guide.
Here are some practical steps you can take to help foster a growth mindset in sales staff:
- Encourage continuous learning by sharing relevant articles, podcasts, or books on sales techniques, customer psychology, or industry trends.
- Implement a recognition program that acknowledges and rewards individuals for showing improvement in sales performance.
- Tie incentives and bonuses to individual and team growth goals instead of rewarding only those with the highest sales. This reinforces the value of continuous improvement.
- Offer coaching sessions to discuss strategies for overcoming challenges or improving specific sales skills.
- Have team discussions where members can share their challenges and lessons learned.
- Incorporate regular self-assessment exercises where team members evaluate their strengths, areas for improvement, and progress toward personal goals. Provide tools or worksheets for self-reflection on specific sales interactions or deals.
- Offer guidance on creating individual development plans to support personal growth and skill enhancement.
📣 How Connecteam Can Help You Create & Conduct Online Sales Soft Skills Training! 🌟
Are you looking to level up your sales team’s soft skills? Connecteam has got you covered! 💪
With Connecteam, you can easily create and conduct engaging online sales soft skills training sessions. Say goodbye to outdated and monotonous training methods and say hello to a dynamic and interactive learning experience. 🚀
✅ Customizable Training: Use templates or create training materials from scratch. Incorporate videos, images, PDF files, surveys, and quizzes to create engaging and personalized courses. Measure learners’ knowledge retention with quizzes and ensure effective learning.
✅ Tailored Content: Customize training to fit your company’s unique needs. Use existing documents, videos, and resources to make soft skills training directly relevant to your team’s roles, maximizing engagement and effectiveness.
✅ Mobile Accessibility: Access training materials anytime, anywhere, using the Connecteam mobile app for Android and iOS devices. Empower your team with instant access to information, saving time and enabling real-world application of knowledge.
✅ Progress Tracking: Effortlessly track training progress using the central dashboard. Monitor course completion and quiz performance in real-time. Identify areas where additional help or training might be needed and make data-driven decisions.
✅ Real-Time Communication: Engage your team with the built-in chat feature. Foster discussions, idea sharing, and instant feedback. Connecteam enables seamless communication, enhancing the learning experience and promoting collaboration.
Equipping your sales team with soft skills is crucial for their success and your business growth. Without these skills, they may struggle to effectively communicate, build relationships, and understand the nuanced needs of their clients.
By understanding the 11 essential sales soft skills we’ve outlined, you’re well-equipped to start cultivating them within your own sales team. We recommend using Connecteam, an all-in-one digital platform with features to make training flexible, accessible, and interactive.
For more information, read our ultimate guide to starting successful employee training programs and how to set realistic training objectives for your team.
Is selling a soft skill?
Selling can be considered both a soft and hard skill. It requires strong interpersonal and communication skills, empathy, and the ability to effectively address customer needs. But it also requires product knowledge and technical skills.
What is soft selling?
Soft selling is an approach that focuses on building relationships and trust with customers rather than aggressive sales tactics. It emphasizes understanding customer needs and providing solutions.
What is the most important soft skill in sales?
While many soft skills are essential in sales, communication is often considered the most critical. It enables sales professionals to understand customer needs, articulate product benefits, and build relationships.