It would be great if you could hand a new salesperson a manual, ask them to read it, take a knowledge test and they could successfully begin their job. Selling is a different animal and you will often hear the term “soft skills” in reference to training a salesperson. What are soft skills in sales? Let’s try to demonstrate that with a short example.
Salesperson walks into prospect's office (or enters Zoom room), they greet each other and salesperson says:
“Thanks for seeing me. I know we have many solutions that could help your business.” or
“What could we accomplish today that would make this a great meeting for you?”
Which of these approaches demonstrates a more skilled approach to a sales conversation? We certainly hope that you chose the second. That is just one example, but a salesperson’s ability to deftly open a meeting, ask enough, great questions and really listen are examples of what soft skills are needed in sales.
Since the most important soft skill for us to learn in selling is how to master our ability to ask not just questions but masterful questions, let’s explore that a bit.
- How do we get information from other people? We ask questions, right?
- When you ask a question, what kind of question do you ask? Are they technical in nature or for gathering data?
- Do your questions really probe and make people think?
- Are your questions focused on the prospect’s core business issues or problems or are they about your products?
- Do your questions sometimes make the prospect uncomfortable and do they bring out the real issues?
What about after you ask those questions? How well do you listen? I mean, really listen. How often can you repeat what someone is saying to you? How often do you take a key word in their answer and use that to phrase your next question or questions? Typically, there are two things going on in most sales conversations. Salespeople are hearing and not listening. Secondly, if they are listening, they are listening to themselves instead of their prospect.
Try this the next time you are in a conversation with someone and you ask them a question. Really focus on listening. Identify who you are listening to. Are you making internal statements or creating internal thoughts about their answer? If you are, then you are listening to yourself.
The Soft Skills of Selling - Asking Questions
It is a universal truth that often in a selling situation; salespeople will not ask the question because they do not want to disqualify a prospect. Be truthful, hasn’t this happened to you? The best part about mastering the soft skills of asking questions is that you will become more courageous as you get more comfortable ‘drilling down’ with your conversation. This will not only help you become better at qualifying your prospects, it will help you clean the deadwood out of your sales pipeline. And that gives you more time for prospecting, the number one job for all salespeople.