The Skills Every Successful
Sales Team Needs to Have
As an experienced sales manager, you’ll know all about the tangible, industry-specific skills that reps need to succeed. Expert knowledge of the product, general business acumen, prospecting skills and more are all essential to hitting targets and getting results for the wider business.
The presence or absence of these qualities are usually at the front of every sales leader’s mind, but it’s important not to let soft skills fall by the wayside. Although soft skills are harder to quantify, they’re just as important as the more tangible skills that have a direct impact on the sales team’s metrics.
In this post, we’ll look at five of the most important soft skills every sales team needs to succeed.
It should come as no surprise that communication is at the top of our list. Communication is a huge part of a salesperson’s function at a company, whether it’s writing routine emails, talking to leads over the phone, or hosting a product tour over Zoom, Slack, or a similar tool.
With each individual conversation that one of your sales reps takes part in, the people they speak to should be able to understand them perfectly, and feel like what they have to say matters.
In today’s digital-first business arena, it’s important to make sure any training covers the many different communication channels that a modern sales team will work with. One innovative way to do this, especially if your team is working on a fully remote or hybrid basis, is to encourage reps to communicate internally using the channels they’re less confident on. Award-winning sales software provider Sopro suggests sales managers “encourage your team to use video internally to communicate” as a “great, low-stakes practice” for honing communication skills.
Closely tied in with general communication skills, active listening is another essential soft skill your sales team will need to develop to ensure its long-term success.
Many sales reps have backgrounds that have pressured them to focus on landing as many sales in as short a time as possible, leaving them great at pitching to leads and prospects, but not so great at listening to them.
Nodding along to what contacts are saying and dropping in the odd conciliatory phrase will give contacts the impression that they’re being listened to, but good salespeople need to truly listen during every conversation they’re involved in. This means putting in the work needed to understand what customers are trying to achieve with the product, and the challenges and pain points they face.
If active listening hasn’t been a big talking point in your training and development, then it may be time to make it more of a priority. Training your reps to avoid interruptions, stay aware of contacts’ body language and word choices, and ask questions for clarity, will help to show your customers that they’re important to you, and allow your team to glean powerful new insights about your customer relationships.
Sales is all about crafting close relationships that benefit both sides. With this in mind, it’s essential that your sales reps are able to put themselves in their contacts’ shoes, understand their pain points and end goals, and craft their messaging based on this information.
Professionals of all stripes can’t stand aggressive, overzealous reps who come across like they only care about meeting their quotas, and not how the solution they’re selling will help the end customer.
Don’t let your sales team become characterised by ‘pushy salesman’ stereotypes, and instead take steps to ensure that every rep is taking active steps to work on their empathy.
One simple but effective change you can make within your team is to amend any pre-call processes so that reps are taking the time to truly analyse the contact profile, consider what they’re trying to get out of your relationship, and articulate how the customer will see the upcoming call. This will empower reps to see every individual contact through a more empathetic lens, and encourage responses that will make them feel seen, heard, and valued.
Rejection and failure come with the territory of sales, but as many have pointed out before, a truly great salesperson isn’t one who lands every sale on their first attempt, but one who’s able to bounce back from failure with a positive and proactive attitude.
To ensure the long-term success of any sales team, you’ll need to actively develop resilience among your reps. This means continuously reviewing calls, demos, and other communications that could have gone a lot better, and fostering a sense of perspective that will help sales reps to get back on their horse.
Working to instil good psychological habits in your sales team, such as focusing more on their wins than their losses, not taking rejection personally, and remembering that all successful pitches take time, will empower them to come back to each task with a positive attitude and a willingness to improve the standard of their work.
Any salesperson that’s good at analysing their work, understanding the feedback they receive, and then actioning the lessons they learn from these, will be well-equipped to delight their prospects and smash their targets.
Adaptability will not only be conducive to incremental improvements in the short-term, but will also empower your sales team to tailor their methods to the ever-changing standards of their industry.
As you set about making adaptability a priority for your sales team’s training, remember that honing adaptability as a soft skill shouldn’t have a singular focus on your department’s quantifiable goals.
Leadership development consultancy Center for Creative Leadership cites three different kinds of adaptability: cognitive, emotional, and dispositional. Channelling a disproportionate amount of resources into one or two of these categories could cause the remainders to suffer, so make sure that you’re accounting for all three, and using them to create a balanced, well-rounded training plan.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
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Though measurable hard skills are certainly important in a sales team, failing to hone its collective soft skillset will cause the whole team to stagnate, and fail to meet its potential. By making these soft skills a priority in all your training and development, you can set your team up for a future full of delighted customers, exceeded targets, and more productive, happy sales reps.
About the Author
Gemma Williams works remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus toward growing her personal brand, connecting with leading experts in the industry and providing value in topics related to career development. Connect with her on Twitter: @GemmaHartTweets