19 May What’s the Fluff About Soft Selling Skills?
Question: My company conducts a significant amount of sales training on our product line and on sales techniques, yet very little in the area of “soft selling skills”. Is there any research which shows the effect of training in these areas?
Answer: If salespeople focus strictly on product knowledge and sales techniques, they have a one in sixty four chance of connecting with the customer. This is based on research conducted by Impact Sales Training, LLC and Synergyworks, LLC. So, you have to ask, “How important is it to connect with the customer?” We think it’s very important. If you cannot identify the most effective approach to use with a customer, (the do’s and don’ts and psychology behind the sale), then don’t bother with product knowledge, the customer won’t be listening. By marrying soft selling skills with product knowledge, techniques and strategy, sales persons significantly increase their likelihood of a sale.
Let’s start by looking at the entire sales equation, and then we’ll define and break down soft skills further.
There are four basic components of an effective sales skills equation. They include product knowledge, sales techniques, strategy and soft-selling skills. Take away any piece of the equation and you lose a quarter of your sales advantage.
Product Knowledge – Many sales persons present product information using a standard feature/benefit approach. It is much more effective to translate product information into values for that particular customer. Begin with values that are specific to that customer’s needs, and use benefits and features to support how you accomplish those values. For instance, if I were selling golf clubs I may say to you, “I have a new set of golf clubs I would like to show you. They are made out of a new kind of titanium which enables you to drive the ball farther.” I didn’t grab your attention very quickly. Instead, if I start with the value, I gain your attention quicker, “I can show you how you can take five or maybe even ten strokes off of your game.” Now I have your attention. Then, you can talk about the features and benefits where needed. And remember, value is only value if it is important to the customer. If you don’t golf, this wouldn’t matter!
Sales Techniques – These are the foundational tools that any sales person needs as core competencies including questioning skills, listening skills, the ability to handle stalls and objections and the ability to make recommendations and provide solutions. Because these are techniques, they need to be practiced and perfected. Successful salespersons anticipate and plan for these prior to each sales call, and evaluate their success after each call.
Sales Strategy – This refers to the strategy needed to position yourself for the sale. Included is customer profiling, account strategy, identifying and persuading key influencers, relationship building strategy, negotiation strategy & skills, prospecting & territory management. Successful salespeople plan for sales success and analyze how they have progressed after each sales call.
Soft Selling Skills – Refers to the skills needed to communicate and influence different buyers. They include behavioral styles, communication styles, rapport building and relationship building skills, and the ability to read buying modes. Soft selling skills may be the most important piece of the sales equation. If you are unable to address the specific “hot buttons”, then it won’t matter how polished your other skills are. Here’s a summary of the key soft selling skills: