Soft skills are those skills that involve the way you, as a salesperson, interact with the people around you (whether this be in the workplace or not) and will influence how far you advance in your career as well as how well you do your job. These can include one’s interpersonal communication, attitude, personality and emotional intelligence. Some soft skills are universally needed while others can be seen as more suited to one type of career path than another. So what are the skills to work on when building a successful career as a salesperson?
Your skills (and the success of these) will rely greatly on whether you are able to listen to what your customer needs and then to try and fulfil those needs to the best of your ability. It is natural for salespeople to be talkative as they are selling a product and need to carry over lots of information in a limited amount of time but often it is best to sit back and listen. Listening forces you to realize any propensity you may have to cut off a customer when talking or being too forceful with your opinion. Along with listening to your customer, remember to also try to understand their context and how they look at the product. This will be helpful in knowing how to convince them of the use of your product when you know how they think and feel, as well as for future selling purposes to a similar target market.
In the sales industry a tough skin is needed since the word “no” will no doubt come your way on a regular basis. If one does not have the confidence to take the punch, learn from it and move forward, it will affect the way in which you deal with future sales pitches. This self-confidence should not flow over into arrogance but rather be a resolve that the product you are selling is good enough and that you can provide what the customer needs. Belief in your product inspires that same belief in your customers since your confidence gives them the feeling that it is a safe option to pursue and that you are the person that will help them achieve their goals with the help of the product. Along with confidence will naturally come persistence as your confidence will assure you that it is important to convince others of the same thing you are convinced of.
Domain expertise (knowledge of your product)
This seems like a no-brainer as your job is to punt a particular product or service. Yet many salespeople have only the most basic knowledge of their product and never try to take it further. Having this knowledge comes back to inspiring confidence in others. If a customer asks questions, one should be able to answer it. Also, with knowledge comes the ability to adapt and to place the customer’s needs into the context of your product. It also helps to understand how your product or service fits into the larger cosmos and industry to further equip you with the ability to see ahead and anticipate. Knowing your product also helps you to camouflage yourself as more of a product/service specialist, a quality many people prefer over a hard seller.
Many people know of six degrees of separation. This means that almost all people are connected to each other through a chain of six or less other people. Keeping this theory in mind one can see the importance of building relationships with the customers you come across in your sales career. Being in steady contact with people that you have sold to or even failed to sell to will become useful when looking for leads or getting recommendations.
Having met someone once does not qualify as having built a relationship; this merely shows that you have their contact details. Building a relationship means to stay in steady contact with a prospective, current or past customer. This could mean an email now and then to let them know what you have been up to (helps to remind them of your value and see your progress) and ask what they are busy with (allows you to make them feel important and to see how you can fit into this). Keep in mind that your attitude and personal demeanour can have an influence in your ability to build long-lasting relationships. Also, being authentic is one of the most important things as it is easy to see when someone is feeling obligated to make contact.
Despite having mentioned the importance of listening, it is equally valuable to be able to present your product or service in an effective and convincing manner. Stumbling over your words, being ill-prepared and talking too fast are only some of the faux pas that one can encounter. There are two things to consider when building presentation skills.
Firstly, look at your content. It is easy to think that one needs a lot of content to make a powerful pitch. Having too much content can cause your customer to lose interest and focus. Also, many salespeople spend too much time talking about the product or service and their company while forgetting that you need to place all of it into the context your customer is in. Remember, your customer needs to feel that they have got to have your product and not that they might need it, and the best way to do this is to focus on their requirements.
Secondly, there is the all-important verbal presentation. Your content will be of no use when it is not delivered well. Always take your pace (how fast or slow you talk), timing and key voice emphasis into consideration. Also, take note of your body language, gestures and facial expressions by rehearsing in your own time and in privacy how you would deliver a presentation.