Soft skills are interpersonal skills that enable you to succeed in the workplace. Soft skills differ from hard skills, which are technical skills you need to complete a specific job – like knowing how to use a certain computer program, or how to speak another language. Hard skills are acquired through education and training, while soft skills are honed over a lifetime of experiences.
When you’re interviewing a sales rep, it’s critical to identify which soft skills a candidate has, and how they align with your organization. Understanding these soft skills will help determine the candidate’s cultural fit within the organization, which may be the single biggest factor in a successful hire.
There are hundreds of soft skills to consider, but some of the most common soft skills include:
- Ability to be a team player
- Growth mindset
- Personable attitude
Here are the top five soft skills I look for in every rep I hire:
1. Problem solving ability
Ultimately, you need reps who can think and act on their own. Companies buy solutions because those solutions solve a problem, and great sales reps need to understand how to think critically and creatively about a client’s problems and clearly explain the most relevant solution.
2. Determination and drive
B2B sales can be competitive, grinding and stressful. That’s why I look for reps who have strong internal motivation. In the sports world, it’s called “heart”. They strive to be the best at everything they do, and they won’t settle for anything less. This kind of personal drive can’t be taught.
Great reps seek to understand their clients’ or prospects’ problems. They are always learning and asking questions. The best reps ask questions not because they’re “supposed to” to succeed, but because they are generally interested in learning. The byproduct of this is that these questions often lead to uncovering new problems and therefore new opportunities.
4. The ability to listen
In my career, I’ve been surprised by how many sales reps I’ve encountered who are terrible listeners. They lose opportunities because they pitch their product or service without listening to what their prospect or client needs or wants. The ability to listen is one of the most important soft skills a candidate can have (and it’s easy to identify from whether or not they listen during an interview).
People change, prospects change, industries change, products change. Sales professionals need to evolve too, but many don’t know how. They get stuck on what has “always worked” and don’t seek out opportunities to learn – or even admit they need to keep learning.
What works today may not work tomorrow, and great reps have the ability to look critically at how they can improve – without letting their ego get in the way.
These five skills apply to many sales positions, but not all soft skills are applicable to all B2B sales reps. When hiring new reps it’s important to understand which skills are most impactful for your roles and look for those skills in the candidates you are interviewing.
Why is sales rep turnover at an all time high? Find out here.