Most people think hard skills — abilities you receive with training, like a degree, a certification, or experience with a specific software — are the most important requirement for a job. But in sales, soft skills are often more important. Soft skills are the personal attributes that allow you to be effective in your job. They’re characteristics and traits that are often hard-wired to an individual — meaning you either have them or you don’t.
Over many years, my teams have interviewed thousands of sales professionals. Here are the top five soft skills that I look for in any sales candidate:
Problem solving ability
Sales isn’t easy. As a sales professional, you’ll encounter challenges on a daily basis. That’s one of the reasons sales professionals are often rewarded for good work with a hefty commission. But to get there, it’s important for a sales professional to have the ability to figure things out themselves. By doing this, they drive their sales process forward more effectively. The best sales professionals don’t wait for someone to help them. They take the initiative to solve the problem and move forward.
Harvard Business Review noted that only about 24% of workers say they feel curious in their jobs on a regular basis. One of the most important qualities of a highly effective rep is curiosity — asking smart questions. For curious reps, this comes naturally. Because they’re generally interested in an industry, product, or process – and how to add value – their brains are constantly evaluating what other information they need to know. Good questions during a sales process are key to an effective (and timely) deal. Those who do not ask good questions often encounter major hurdles at the tail end of their sales process.
Harvard Business Review notes that “Some economists believe that persuasion is responsible for generating one-quarter or more of America’s total national income.” On any given day, a salesperson is persuading — convincing a prospect to take an initial call, schedule a meeting, following up on a meeting, or seeing the value of a product/service. Persuasiveness requires a delicate balance of being knowledgeable but not arrogant, persistent but not overbearing, and friendly but not off-putting.
Sales can be a grind. Reps who are naturally persistent and not deterred experience more success than others. It takes the average tech sales rep eight calls before a decision maker will pick up the phone and a new opportunity can be created. The sales rep who stops at the seventh call will never create an opportunity.
The best tech products are never done; they’re constantly evolving to keep up with new science and changing customer demand. The average app updates once every 8 days. Similarly, the sales world constantly evolves, and reps who do not adapt and change with the times will go extinct. Great reps keep up with trends, seek advice from their peers, and continuously test new technology and methodology. They evolve and improve. If you have the mindset of “making it” to an end state of ability or success one day, you’ll do yourself a disservice.
Part of evolving is having a growth mindset. Reps who are constantly improving are consistently winning. If you have the mindset that you have to be a little bit better every single day, you will be successful. Your top competitors are improving daily, so if you aren’t doing the same (and more), you’ll lose out on opportunities.
There are many more valuable soft skills that make top sales professionals, but these five are always on the top of my list. They’re the soft skills that most often predict winners. Identify which are your strongest and include them on your resume or in your interview.
Want to learn more about what hiring managers are looking for? Read 5 Things All Sales Managers Look for During an Interview