The top soft sales skills you need to thrive in an SDR role in 2020 and beyond
No matter what the stock photos and book covers may suggest, a stunning smile isn’t all you need to be a great salesperson. The best sales development reps have one thing in common: They put time into mastering key soft sales skills.
What Are Soft Skills?
According to The Balance, soft skills are “non-technical skills that relate to how you work.” Soft skills influence how you interact with others and do your job -- which is why they’re so important in sales. Of course, you can use these skills for a lot more than selling. Personality traits and attributes transfer across every area of your life, so you probably have quite a few strong soft skills already.
And no, “strong soft skills” isn’t an oxymoron. The soft skills you use in salessupport your hard skills, making you more efficient and effective in your role. Therefore, recognizing your non-technical strengths and working to improve in weak areas will impact everything you do.
Essential Soft Skills for Sales Professionals
Which soft skills should you be building if you want to succeed in sales? There are dozens to choose from, but since you want to actually spend time working on your sales skills and techniques instead of reading about them for hours, let’s narrow it down to a few specifics.
Open to Learning
Notice how this pops up inallcareer advice? It’s true: You never stop learning. And if you want to succeed in sales, you need to tell that part of your brain that’s still hanging out in the college dorm, eating pizza and watching reruns of ‘80s sitcoms in an effort to avoid studying, to shape up.
Sales is a dynamic environment, especially in the digital age. With new tech emerging at a rapid pace, today’s approach to sales could become yesterday’s news overnight. Markets change just as fast as tech, so sales development reps can’t afford to be stuck in their ways.
So, it’s time to admit that you don’t know everything. (Take that, pizza-scarfing college self!) Go into every situation with a measure of humility. Be willing to accept suggestions and feedback from people with more experience. And when a new approach to sales comes along, get familiar with it. Even if you don’t wind up using it, you’ll still gain an understanding of how the changing sales landscape might affect your job.
Working in a Team
Collaboration plus communication equals better sales outcomes. Pretty simple equation, right? But it takes a little doing to make it work.
Salespeople don’t operate in disconnected bubbles. As a sales development rep, you either are or likely will be part of a sales team, so you need to be a great communicator who’s able to get along with people. Even when you have disagreements or they drive you nuts.
A functioning team needs members who provide help and value to each other to move the entire group forward toward common goals. It’s not about looking out for number one and being stubborn or competitive. This goes for when you’re working with other salespeople and when you’re interacting with people from other departments (like marketing) to reach sales quotas.
Good communication and collaboration doesn’t automatically eliminate confrontations. Facing objections and handling disagreements is part of being human! That’s why it helps to be a master negotiator.
The cornerstone of successful negotiation? Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Whether it’s a prospect, a client or a coworker, thinking from an outside perspective readies you to meet objections with clear, helpful answers. It also shows you how toadapt the way you interactto best serve each person based on learning style, preferred communication channel and level of knowledge.
With that said, you’re not going to hit the nail on the head every time. There will be pitches and presentations that fall flat, but don’t get discouraged. Learn what you can from the experience to improve in the future. Being Creative In sales, you don’t have to do things the way everyone else does. In fact, you shouldn’t -- because a lot of people doing sales are (let’s face it) kind of boring. It’s not that they don’t know what they’re doing; they simply lack the critical soft skill of creativity.
David J.P. Fisher of Hyper-Connected Sellinghas a great way of putting it: “Creativity doesn’t have to be learned as much as it has to be unharnessed.” That means putting aside fear of what other people are going to think and allowing yourself to think about problems in new ways
Play around with different parts of your job or your personal hobbies. How can you approach things differently? How can you do thingsbetterthan you’re doing them now? What tools do you have to power up your sales game? Asking these questions makes you more flexible in your thinking, which leads you to...
How good you are at this soft skill affects pretty much everything else you do -- in a sales development role and in life. Because change can (and does) come quickly, you need to be confident in your overall skill set. You can’t let every new thing take you by surprise.
Look at how sales has changed just over the past few years. Who could have predicted the enormous influence of social media? Or that sales and marketing would get to the point where the customer is calling almost all of the shots?
This goes to showthere is no “one size fits all” in sales. To set yourself -- and everyone else on your sales team -- up for success, you need to always be ready to explore alternatives, try new things and share fresh ideas. It’s another area where creativity comes in handy!
Learning Sales Skills: Can Soft Skills be Trained?
Wait a minute. If soft skills are personality traits -- a part ofwho you are as a person-- can you really learn them?
Short answer: Yes!
You’re already learning some of the best soft skills for sales professionals every day. Whether you’re in a sales development rep role now or looking for your next job, simply being around and interacting with other people can turn you into a better salesperson. And when youareworking as an SDR, you geteven more practice on the job.
Want to get started now? Here are a few ways to actively work on your soft sales skills:
Pay attention to your strengths as you work and interact
Ask friends, family and coworkers what they think you’re good at (this can be surprising!)
Watch others who are strong in the areas where you want to improve
Address weaknesses through role play with team members or a sales coach
Seek out a work environment that encourages learning and practice
A good sales training program can help you put this all together. The SDS Sales Leadership training course gets you fully equipped with the soft skills sales professionals need in the digital age. There’s a lot to learn -- and SDS is there with you every step of the way.