Technology has put product and service information at consumers’ fingertips. They’re able to Google the lowest price of a service, or the ingredients of a product, watch YouTube videos to learn how to use features, and scan Facebook for reviews from past customers. This begs the question – what role is left for the sales team to play?
Read a little further, and you’ll find that the role of a sales team is a big one! It’s just, well, softer than before.
You see, sales has become less technical and more people-centric. So, to offer customers the purchasing experience they expect, your team needs essential human skills, like empathy and resilience. Some people have these skills naturally, but soft sales skills can also be taught online.
In fact, the benefits of developing the top soft skills for sales teams has seen many companies increase their investment in training. For example, a recent study found that just an hour of training each month resulted in a 6% rise in revenue for the salesperson.
So, what soft skills should your sales training and development focus on? Let’s take a look.
What are the most important soft skills in sales?
There are many sales soft skills that you can include in your online training programs, but we’ve listed the most essential ones for sales teams below.
Delivering the right message, in the right way, is something that salespeople are expected to do daily. Whether it’s answering customer queries in-store, or providing a demo to a group of customers in a webinar, sales staff need to be master communicators.
Plus, with an expanding list of communication tools, and a diverse global customer base, sales staff need to adapt their communication appropriately.
So, give your sales team the opportunity to learn and implement communication best practices in different, relatable situations. For example, your online communication course could include quizzes that test learners’ responses in various situations. Videos offer a great way to demonstrate different communication methods. Or, challenge learners to present a product demo to their peers via a video conferencing tool.
When it comes to the most critical soft skills for sales professionals, a close second to communication is persuasion.
Now, this isn’t the art of being ‘pushy’. Actually, it’s the art of influencing people to do what’s in their own best interest, but that would also benefit your company. For example, a financial advisor helping a customer to find the best insurance plan for their needs would also earn a commission.
When designing your online soft skills sales training, be sure to include PDF notes and videos about important theories of persuasion. For example, Dr Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion are widely applied in sales training.
Learners can also practice their persuasion skills in role-plays using tools like Skype, and then rate each others’ performance.
3. Active listening
The easiest way to make a sale is to give customers what they want and need.
How do you know what they want and need?
You listen (or have psychic abilities!).
The problem is that today, people prefer to make assumptions, interrupt, and rush conversations. Unfortunately, as a salesperson, this approach tends to result in slammed doors and dial tones.
So, it’s essential that your selling skills training include lessons on active listening. In other words, teach your sales team to listen, acknowledge, validate, and only then respond to customers.
In your online sales training, include notes and videos that explain how to be a great sales rep with active listening. Then, once they understand why it’s important, challenge them to practice their active listening skills in a role-play assignment.
Empathy is one of the key sales skills because it enables sales staff to understand and share their customers’ feelings. Once they understand where their customers or prospects are coming from, your sales team will be better positioned to assist them. This skill is especially important for avoiding frustration and conflict with prospects.
Start your soft skills training for your sales team with a self-assessment that measures their empathy quotient (EQ) – like this one. Then, provide them with interactive online learning activities, like branching scenarios, to help them improve their EQ.
Another great way to learn empathy is for learners to keep a daily journal, and then reflect on their interactions with customers in a team discussion forum.
With products, services, and markets changing so rapidly, salespeople need to learn quickly and continuously. When a new feature comes out, they need to know about it. When a process changes, they need to know about. And when the target customer changes, they also need to know about it. In other words, they need to be continuously curious.
With sales staff often being on the move, the best way to foster curiosity among them is to leverage mobile learning. Make bite-sized chunks of training available to sales teams, so that they can learn anytime, anywhere. This can include technical product updates, strategic updates, or even (ba-dum), soft sales skills training.
No thanks. Maybe next time. It’s not for me.
These words are painfully familiar to most salespeople. When rejection takes its toll, it can be enough to make even your top performers consider a career change. The way to keep them on the team is to build their resilience.
Teaching resilience is like teaching your sales staff to bounce back from rejection. Resilient people stay positive, view failures as opportunities for learning, and don’t take “no” personally.
To develop resilience in your sales staff, pair them up with a supportive mentor. You can also create an online course on growth mindset, to explain that extra effort to get a sale makes them stronger.
Over to you
Sales teams will always need training to acquire technical knowledge and abilities to perform their jobs. But to really succeed in their jobs, your sales staff need soft skills training. You know what they say, though. A (sales)man is only as good as his tools. So, be sure to use the best sales training software to deliver your training.