The internet is upending several business models – with information at their fingertips, customers are being able to quickly search the best price for a product, compare them with other substitutes, scan through reviews by earlier subscribers and provide their own experiences and watch videos to learn on how to use them. In such changing times, the role of the sales team is also continuously changing – its less technical and more people oriented. To be able to make a successful sale, the importance of essential human skills like communication, empathy, active listening and resilience can’t be undermined. While, some people may have these skills naturally, but most sales soft skills can also be taught online.
Here are the top 10 soft skills to focus on for the sales teams:
Sales folks are expected to be master communicators –handling a customer at the store, the opening pitch to a prospect or negotiating a deal – sales professionals are expected to be adept at this essential skill. With changing times and digital intervention in businesses, sales staff must be skilled at handling various formats of communication – face2face, telephonic, over mails or live virtual - sales people must adapt their communication appropriately. Sales teams can benefit from a large catalogue of online courses available to learn and implement communication best practices in different, relatable situations. An appropriate online course can include videos that demonstrate various communication methods, quizzes that test the responses of the team in various scenarios and may also include challenges where the learners are asked to present a product demo to a prospect using online video tools.
Persuasion, the art of persuading people to do what is best for them (that would also benefit one’s own company), without being ‘pushy’, is a close second to communication, as an essential skill. An insurance agent advising a customer to pick up the best insurance plan shall also earn a commission! An appropriate online course teaching persuasion shall include appropriate reading material with case studies and shall also include practice sessions in role plays using virtual sessions with the trainer.
A veteran sales professional knows that it is important for a sales person to know what the customer needs; and for that you must listen actively (rather than making assumptions, interrupting and rushing the conversation). An online course on active listening would be essential for all sales professionals that teach them the art of listening, acknowledging, validating and then responding to the customer. The course should include notes and videos to explain the concept and then challenge them to practice the art through role-plays.
An essential sales soft skill;once having identified the customer’s problem, the sale rep should be able to act decisively and confidently and present the right solution or service to close the deal. Most of such discussions taking place in person or over the phone, the ability to act decisively in the moment is the difference between a closed deal and a missed opportunity. An online course can help learners improve this skill through various scenarios and real sales interaction simulations. With nearly 60% of organizations having no structured or standardized process for sales training, it is not surprising that their salespeople would mirror this lack of decisiveness in their sales approaches.
Empathy is one of the key sales soft skills vital for avoiding frustration and conflict with prospects; it is the ability to feel what the other person is feeling and helps sales professionals understand the customers feelings. For, only if you know where the customer is coming from, you will be better positioned to assist them. An appropriate online course shall start with an assessment to measure the empathy quotient and then provide online learning activities, scenarios and simulations to improve this.
It is essential for sales reps to be able to read the emotions of the person on the other side and express their own appropriately to achieve the desired results. Being empathetic, confident, humble and reassuring are essential trainable skills for a sales person. Emotional intelligence tests, case studies, Ted Talks are all useful resources to hone this skill.
With products, services, customers and their expectations and target markets changing so rapidly, salespeople need to learn and unlearn quickly and continuously. They will need to continuously learn the changing features of product, the change in pricing policies, the new competitor; and for all this they need to be continuously be curious.Researching information from multiple sources, scrutinizing them and using that information to help improve customer experience are valuable skills. Harnessing the power of mobile learning can help train the sales teams through bite-size modules – technical product updates, new product launches or even soft-skills!
The art of bouncing back from rejection and failure is what resilience is all about - when rejection takes its toll, it can be enough to make even the top performers consider a career change. Resilience teaches people to remain positive, see opportunities in failures and build a ‘never-say-die’ attitude. You can teach this essential skill through an appropriate online course that pairs the learner with a mentor and help build a growth mindset!
According to a study by Forbes, sales reps spend about 35% of their time selling and the balance 65% to do everything else. The study also pointed out that sales rep who manage their time more efficiently spend about 19% more time selling – evidently that fruitfully adds to the bottom line of the companies. The constant need to follow up by a sales person, because deals do not close on the first interaction, makes time management a critical soft skill. Lack of time management, a passive habit of several sales persons, can be improved through a course that helps them understand how an improvement can lead to a better income for them and lower work-stress.
A valuable skill for all employees, being able to adapt to changes at the work place is a critical soft skill for sales professionals. When a potential customer cancels a meeting, an expert sales rep will be willing to reschedule the same at the customers convenience (which may be outside of the 9-6 schedule); hence the importance of improving this skill can’t be undermined. With sales teams spread across geographies, organisations need to discover a way to teach these skills to all of them. The ability to over come adversity and manage change is an essential skill in today’s times.
Sales teams will need to continuously work on their technical knowledge and abilities to optimally perform their jobs. But to succeed in their roles, the teams will need soft skills training. An online training platform that can provide a blended learning experience to the learner (online, onsite and virtual) can add tremendous value to an organisation.
About the author
The article is attributed to Mr. Shantanu Rooj, CEO & Founder, Schoolguru Eduserve and Mr. Atish Bhalerao, AVP, Corporate Business Solutions, Schoolguru Eduserve.