In today’s highly competitive sales landscape, the ability to connect with customers on a personal level is more critical than ever.
While sales development representatives may possess impressive product knowledge and technical expertise, these hard skills are insufficient to close deals and build lasting relationships. That’s where soft skills come in.
From active listening and empathy to communication and problem-solving, soft skills training can differentiate top-performing sales reps from the rest. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of soft skills training for sales reps and provide tips for developing these critical abilities.
How valuable is a Sales Rep with incredible Soft Skills?
A sales representative’s most important task is to build relationships.
It is more important than closing deals as once trust is established, the customers will stay. So, effective communication and relationship building are invaluable soft skills that each person in the sales team should possess.
However, the soft skills training list is not limited to these relationship building and communication. Helping team members during crises at the workplace and keeping the team together are equally important qualities. A sales rep with these additional skills will keep the customers happy, and the entire team motivated. These skills help prospects and teammates trust a sales rep.
A sales manager’s job is to build an army of excellent sales reps to make their work life easier. However, if a sales team lacks an excellent sales rep, there is nothing good soft skills training cannot solve.
Why is Soft Skills Training Essential?
Bad communication skills can give rise to a chain of repeated mistakes. At the same time, excellent soft skills training minimizes the probability of such errors. A sales team cannot afford a person with average soft skills training.
It doesn’t mean that anybody who doesn’t fit the box will be fired, but those who don’t will be trained to communicate better. Training is only possible if the sales rep is willing to learn, as soft skills improve with practice. Soft Skills training can do wonders for those reps ready to learn. Soft skills training is crucial for SDRs for several reasons like
- Effective communication – SDRs initiate communication with the leads and prospects, so strong communication skills, active listening, and empathy are a few things required for building a strong rapport with the prospect.
- Customer Engagement – SDRs should possess the skill to engage the prospect in conversation so as to know their needs and desire.
- Adaptability – As SDRs often face objections, rejections, and challenging situations, so soft skills training would help them to cope with the situations and take the right decision.
- Critical thinking – Soft skills training enhances the problem-solving and critical thinking capabilities of an SDR. They need to analyze the prospect’s needs, identify their pain point and give appropriate solutions.
What is the Essential Soft Skills Training?
The list of soft skills training is extensive. Some of the most significant attributes are:
1. Strong verbal and written communication skills
2. Active listening to the prospect’s pain point
3. Empathize with prospects and understand their perspective
4. Capability to adapt to different situations and adjust their approach and communication style.
5. Effectively manage time by prioritizing the tasks, managing the sales pipeline, and maximizing productivity
6. Strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills that help to think in a creative manner to deal with the prospect.
7. Work effectively in collaboration with team members.
. These qualities make an employee work better with internal teams and also help when dealing with difficult customers affable to collaborate with.
While hard skills such as meeting sales targets and thoroughly understanding the products are quantifiable, soft skills are equally crucial for a successful sales team.
- A team-oriented sales representative supports their colleagues rather than fostering a cut-throat competition that undermines teamwork and a positive work environment.
- If a sales representative possesses empathy, they actively listen to a prospect’s concerns and are adept at addressing objections.
- A skilled communicator in sales approaches their manager when facing challenges in meeting their targets, seeking to collaborate on finding solutions together.
Although measuring these soft sales skills can be challenging, it is essential to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses to develop and enhance the team’s soft skills effectively.
A Word of Caution Before You Start Measuring
Soft Skills are undoubtedly measurable, and it is crucial to be thorough with them as you would with hard skills. At the same time, assessing soft skills can be challenging since they are intangible and subjective. Self-assessment can be misleading, and one can skew personal assessment in case of personal biases. Moreover, providing feedback on soft skills can be a sensitive issue, and it is often easier to criticize a lack of hard skills than soft skills.
Soft skills are often overlooked and not typically incorporated into key performance indicators (KPIs). Despite the direct correlation between those skills and sales performance, sales professionals are not explicitly evaluated for their soft skills, such as empathy and communication.
Sales managers are responsible for measuring and managing sales performance metrics, including soft skills. Incorporating soft skills training into performance management will not only improve the relationship management skills within the sales team but will also enhance a sales manager’s leadership skills.
Measuring Soft Skills
Judging a sales rep’s proficiency level at their job based on their activities is essential. Sales managers can create a list of the activities that can help sales reps get better at a particular soft skill (such as communication or teamwork).
The sales manager can then share this list with the team to ensure everyone understands the importance of that particular soft skill and what is expected of them. These activities will serve as the key performance indicators (KPIs) for soft skills and should be monitored regularly to evaluate the team’s progress. For instance,
- A sales representative who is good at managing relationships builds rapport with prospects, remembers essential details from past conversations, follows up promptly, and builds positive relationships within the team.
- A sales rep who is a good communicator exhibits excellent verbal and written communication, receives few or no complaints or conflicts with contacts or customers, and communicates positively and professionally.
- A team player works towards shared goals, collaborates on projects to push the business’s best interests, and proactively supports and assists other team members.
The assessment process can be time-consuming, but it is essential to include an evaluation of relevant soft skills in quarterly or annual review meetings.
Here are some strategies for measuring soft skills:
1. Behavioral Interviews: Interviews to assess behavioral factors are essential to draw an idea about soft skills. Behavioral interviews can help measure communication, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and also empathy. The main focus of such interviews lies on the past experience of the sales reps which helps the manager gain insights into the behavioural aspect.
2. 360-Degree Feedback: 360-degree feedback involves collecting feedback from multiple sources, including colleagues, managers, and customers, to gain a holistic view of a sales rep’s soft skills. This approach can help identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.
3. Self-Assessment: Although it can be tricky, it is still helpful for measuring soft skills. Sales managers must encourage sales reps to self-assess their soft skills and provide guidance to help the reps identify areas where they can improve.
4. Performance Metrics: Incorporating soft skills into key performance indicators (KPIs) can help measure and manage soft skills. For example, measuring customer satisfaction ratings can assess an employee’s empathy and communication skills.
5. Observation: Observing sales reps at work can provide valuable insights into their soft skills. For example, observing how they interact with prospects or collaborate with their colleagues can help sales managers identify a rep’s communication and teamwork skills.
6. Role Playing and Simulation: Creating scenarios that would replicate real-life situations and would require the application of certain soft skills. Observing how the SDR handles the situation, like understanding the situation, communicating, coming up with a solution, etc could help.
Using sales CRM tools can help automate, monitor, and measure a sales team’s soft skills.
Using CRM to Measure Soft Skills
Instead of using spreadsheets and paperwork, a sales CRM tool provides a centralized place to store all activities and client information, making it easier to track and identify areas where team members need improvement in soft and hard skills.
Using automation in the CRM, managers can set triggers to alert them when there is a problem, such as a sales rep taking too long to follow up with a lead. Sales teams can generate reports in seconds to identify whether this is a regular occurrence. Managers can work with team members to improve their communication skills and prioritize activities in the buyer journey.
Using the CRM to track and prioritize activities, team members can also identify areas where they need improvement in their soft skills. This is an opportune time for managers to offer relevant advice, sales coaching initiatives, soft skills training courses, job shadowing opportunities, or sales-specific training programs like Pipedrive’s Sales Pipeline Course.
Now that we have discussed soft skills and how to measure them let’s discuss Soft Skills Training.
How to best give sales reps Soft Skills Training?
Soft skills are often considered more challenging to train than hard skills, as they are more intangible and subjective. However, there are several ways to develop and enhance employees’ soft skills, including:
1. Coaching and mentoring: Provide regular coaching and feedback sessions to help employees develop their soft skills. Pair them with a mentor or coach with excellent soft skills who can guide them through practical situations.
2. Workshops and training programs: Organise soft skills training programs and workshops to help employees learn and practice soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership.
3. Role-playing and simulations: Role-playing helps employees practice soft skills in a safe and controlled environment. Thus building their confidence.
4. On-the-job Training: On-the-job training is the best way to develop the soft skills of your employees. Try to encourage them to take on additional responsibilities and new challenges. When they step out of their comfort zone by taking challenges, their soft skills are bound to improve.
5. Self-Learning: Most humans remember more of the things they taught themselves than the ones they are taught by others. SoHence, as a manager you need to encourage your sales representative to take certain aspects of initiatives their learning and development into their own hands. You can support them by providing them with learning resources like online courses from Udemy or Coursera, books, YouTube videos, and articles, etc so learning gets easier.in order to make their journey easier.
The importance of soft skills can be denied by none. In most cases, they are as important as hard skills and in some cases, they hold a lot more importance. It is highly likely that a potential customer makes a buying decision only by assessing the nature of his salesperson.
Therefore, it’s essential for prospects to have a pleasant experience while interacting with sales representatives and for sales reps to establish connections with prospects through their problem-solving skills, work ethics, and active listening.
A proficient salesperson with excellent soft skills can successfully maintain customer relationships, exude positivity, follow up regularly, and communicate in a friendly manner, making them capable of selling sawdust to a lumber mill.
However, good soft skills are more than just meeting sales targets. Employees who possess excellent soft skills can also foster a positive work environment, enhance the workday experience for their colleagues, and be exceptional representatives of the team and the company they work for.
Additionally, they can alleviate the challenges of their sales managers, which is undoubtedly a valuable asset in any contemporary workplace.