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Sales is a noble profession and too often maligned as a “soft skill.” It’s not. Being a true sales professional is a hard job, and yes, it does require a lot of soft skills. Sales jobs require hard skills as well. Hard skills are defined as skills where the rules don’t change. Math and grammar, for example, are hard skills. 1 + 1 = 2 every time. On top of all of that, they most often require some level of Subject Matter Expertise (SME). Fun fact: being a product or subject matter expert is your customer’s minimum expectation. They expect you know your stuff as it relates to your product or service.
Now add soft skills on top of all that! Soft skills are defined (at least by me) as skills where the rules can change and are typically related to those interpersonal skills or how well you interact with different people in different circumstances. Communication is a soft skill because the rules change when speaking to other personality types in different roles. You can’t use the same approach with a driven type A CEO as you would when talking to a soft-spoken methodical CFO. Those two people have different agendas, goals and speak different languages. Other examples of soft skills include personal accountability, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and many more.
Finally, we must acknowledge there is no “one size fits all” sales job. Different types of sales jobs will require a concoction of different hard, soft skills, product, or subject matter expertise and unique sales approaches and behaviors. For example, shorter, more transactional sales will recognize and reward different behaviors than a longer, more complex sales cycle. Other factors include the nature of the relationship between the buyer and seller post-sale. For example, acquiring new accounts, selling them, and handing them off to a delivery team is much different from managing the account post-sale through the customer’s life.
There is a wide variety of sales jobs requiring different skills; however, there are four attributes all sales professionals must have in order to meet their potential. First, success will require you to be PASSIONATE about the company you represent, the product or service you sell, and the customers you serve. If one of those isn’t in alignment, you’re not “all-in,” and success will be fleeting at best. Secondly, top producers have very high levels of AWARENESS. They see and hear things other people don’t. They pick up on the words their customs use, the emotions they express, body language, and countless other things. Said another way, their radar is always on high receive. The third attribute top producers have is CURIOSITY. The best sales professionals want to know, and ask about, everything. They know in the absence of good questions, good answers have no place to go. Finally, top producing sales professionals, like elite athletes, learn how to manage and generate ENERGY. They know time is a finite resource, and personal energy is a renewable resource. They know when to move forward when to slow down, when to recharge, and when to move on.
If you’d like to learn more about what type of sales job fits you best take this short assessment to learn more. If you’re a sales leader and want to discover who you should be hiring, email us at Les@LesLent.com and put ‘Benchmark’ in the subject line.