Why look at soft sales leadership skills? Aren’t the hard ones most effective at pushing your sales team to achieve?
Well, no – although it might seem counterproductive at first.
In the current, ultra-competitive world of sales, where disruptive startups are challenging traditional sales methods, it’s more important than ever to have a sales leader with soft skills to use alongside the traditional hard ones.
This applies whether you’re looking to hire a sales manager or promote from within. But why?
Why Are Soft Leadership Skills Important in Sales?
The reason is that soft skills will
- enable your sales leader to motivate and inspire their team effectively in the sales role.
- be the means of building strong working relationships within the team.
- maintain staff commitment and limit staff churn.
- ensure the reps will improve their own soft skills by osmosis, communicate better, and win new contracts, clients, and customers whatever the channel.
Clearly, soft skills are basically interpersonal skills. And, of course, they’re the same in any leadership role.
In this article, we’ll discuss the most important soft skills you should be looking to find – and encourage – in a sales leader. And we’ll give examples of how and when they’ll show up usefully in your sales team.
What Are the Most Important Soft Skills in Sales?
You can find anything from five to 20 soft skills listed online as “crucial!” Here, we have room to discuss half a dozen of the most important ones.
Key traits of emotional intelligence (EI) are self-awareness, mindfulness, and relationship management. This soft skill enables leaders to evaluate their own emotions, and recognize and influence others’ emotions in different situations.
Before interacting with reps about a missed target, your sales leader will evaluate their own emotional response (perhaps feeling responsible, or angry at a particular rep’s part in it) and understand how this will affect the team – before discussing it with them.
Following on from EI, it’s obvious your sales leader must be able to communicate effectively with the team. This is not only talking and explaining, but also listening respectfully in order to make well-informed decisions.
Your sales leader has conveyed the missed target to the team with clear language, honesty, and authenticity. Some reps will then want to feedback with a different perspective. Your sales leader will calmly accept and clarify those viewpoints. And as a result, the reps will feel heard and involved in working towards the remedy the leader decides to set up.
Having the soft skill of empathy is not a sign of weakness. It’s the basis of understanding where your team is coming from – emotionally, and also as unique individuals with a life outside the sales team. It’s a seed that fosters kindness and healthy workplace relationships.
Let’s suppose your rep has indeed had a part to play in upsetting a significant warm lead that results in that missed target.
Your sales leader shows empathy by making it clear they understand that rep’s account, context, and thought processes. Not to exonerate but to be able to respond in a compassionate way. They’ll accept where the rep is coming from and offer a suitable way forward.
What is the soft skill in team building? Basically it’s about treating each team member as an individual.
You might do this by
- Investing in an assessment tool to discover basic personality traits.
- Discovering how reps prefer to learn or receive feedback.
- Having a curious attitude towards the team’s hobbies, family members, etc.
- Noting skills they excel at.
That rep who has lost a client! Were they unable to close the deal because they didn’t have the documentation they needed (being a “detail person”)? Have they had training in empathy and listening? Would they make a better account manager, working through others who excel at people skills? Do they feel part of the team and involved – or didn’t they much care what happened? Team-building soft skills will help ensure this doesn’t happen.
One of the important soft skills of sales leadership is to motivate reps to perform to their best ability, increasing morale, and so improving productivity. Leading by example results in the “osmosis” we referred to up top. It’s motivating.
When that rep has fallen short or made a mistake, they’ll already know from experience in your team that your sales leader always admits any shortcomings, apologizes, changes things where possible, and remains motivated about the task. They’ve set up an ethos of honesty, accountability, and humility.
Your rep will therefore be able to recover without feeling blame, guilt, or shame. And most of all, they’ll know (from the sales leader and you) how to keep up their motivation whatever happens.
Conflict resolution is a highly paid global career! But in essence, it consists of a group of soft skills that sales leaders can also use effectively in the workplace. Conflict is unavoidable. An important sales leadership soft skill is to be able to mediate issues and resolve them harmoniously by
- remaining impartial,
- listening to feedback,
- empathizing with each individual’s experiences, and
- providing guidance to the team, especially when emotions are heightened.
Your sales manager hears some of the team expressing negative comments in the coffee break about our example of a missed target. They’re split on whose fault it really was, expressing unhelpful – and probably false – assumptions. And it’s descending into an argument due to overwork and stress.
Your team leader can use EI understanding to calm emotions, followed by careful listening, empathy, team building, and motivational talk to restore a stable, effective workday for the whole team. In effect, your sales leader, or you, will be using all the soft skills above.
We Can Help you!
Even good sales leaders face challenges today in their role. They may need to work on their skills or learn new approaches that have been proven to work effectively in the current climate. At 360 Consulting, we work with sales managers to help you identify any knowledge gaps in your team, and create solutions that increase your sales.
Schedule a free consultation today so we can help you develop your sales leader’s soft skills and bring you lasting success, whatever the disruptions to the market place.