Communication Skills for Sales Representatives Have Evolved
There is no doubt that selling changed forever following the pandemic. And when the channels change, the critical skills for sales representatives also change. Although some skills like adaptability remain over time, others – perhaps overlooked and difficult to measure in the past – have taken center stage when we analyze high-performing individuals and teams.
In order to achieve long-term success with virtual selling, Gartner advises taking three specific steps. As a Chief Sales Officer (CSO), you should:
1) Plan and prepare for virtual customer engagement. Plan for an entirely virtual engagement selling experience with customers to reduce channel friction and ensure you can be successful despite limited customer access..
2) Deliver engaging virtual customer interactions. Find ways to make interactions with customers more engaging. “Customers’ expressions, body language and other cues are harder to observe and track. Sales leaders must arm sellers to adapt, teaching them to adopt new behaviors while interacting with customers over video and teleconference platforms.”
3) Enable sellers virtually. Make sure the sales force is able to perform optimally while operating remotely or hybrid by adapting whatever the agents need to do so.
The first two recommendations have a solid connection to the capabilities of your team and, beyond that, to the technology you use to support them. In the following sections, we will examine some of the competencies that are still essential in these times. We will also pay attention to soft skills as necessary communication skills for sales representatives today.
Coaching, Training and Recruiting: 9 Communication Skills for Sales Representatives
There is no better way to brush up on communication skills for sales representatives than by reviewing what recruiters and hiring experts recommend. Career portal Indeed suggests a list of communication talents you should be aware of.
1. Product knowledge
By learning and memorizing your product and the problems it solves, your sales representatives can deliver a powerful pitch to clients and customers. They will also have an easier time establishing credibility and trust with their counterparts.
2. Verbal and writing skills
Your representatives must continually improve both their verbal and written communication skills. They will be communicating with customers constantly over the phone, via video calls, and by email, pitching your product to them all the time. The way in which they express themselves in all forms will significantly affect whether or not they make a sale.
3. Active listening skills
Active listening is one of the vital communication skills for sales representatives. To demonstrate genuine concern and care for clients, your reps must understand their needs which, at the same time, will also help them build a rapport.
4. Rapport-building skills
Interacting with their clients in a way that fosters long-term relationships is a critical communication skill your reps should have. Customers are more likely to make future purchases when they have a personal, meaningful relationship with sellers.
5. Social media skills
Communication skills for sales representatives must include the ability to connect via social media. Even though this isn’t necessary for all sales positions, it’s vital to be familiar with how to relate through these networks. Your representatives will find it beneficial to have a working knowledge of various social media platforms when prospecting, for example.
6. Problem-solving skills
Your sales team needs sales representatives who can think critically and solve problems. Regardless of the complex situations or issues that may arise, they need to be able to adapt to them and learn how to overcome them. They must embrace and implement new solutions when they become necessary.
In these scenarios, communicating effectively with clients and other business areas is crucial.
7. Information-gathering skills
Reps must be able to accurately research competitors, current market trends and vendors, and various potential clients. They can use the information and knowledge they gather to make better decisions, communicate authoritatively about the product, and build closer relationships with prospects and clients.
8. Collaborative skills
Collaboration with other sales representatives and the ability to work as part of a team is instrumental. Over time, displaying patience and being a good team player can improve organizational culture and sales metrics.
9. Conflict management skills
With sales, customer rejections and complaints are the norms, so your reps have to know how to handle them. They are more likely to achieve higher sales if they have developed conflict management skills and a proactive attitude in these situations. This ability is a combination of various sales communication skills.
Here’s the big question: What’s the most effective way to measure all these soft, communicational skills? In the past, it was challenging, if not impossible, because there were no objective and accurate methods or a scalable way to evaluate every rep in every scenario. You, your managers, or coaches had to spend a lot of time on manual tasks in order to assess these talents the best way you could.
Managers recognize their importance, but many believe they cannot measure them. What some of them don’t know yet, is that modern advances in behavioral science and AI have made these skills measurable just as well as technical product knowledge.
Related: 3 Ways Inclusive Leaders Communicate
What Are Soft Skills and How Can You Measure Them in Sales?
All the items in the previous section have one thing in common: They are related to soft skills your sales representatives need to develop to be more effective in 2022 and beyond. Soft skills “include the personal attributes, personality traits, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in their relationships with others.”
When managers think about soft skills assessment, training, and coaching for their sales teams, they get stuck thinking about how to determine what works and doesn’t. It is difficult and highly subjective to manually assess an individual’s level of empathy, curiosity, self-control, relationship building, or emotional intelligence.
There aren’t any precise standardized assessments or benchmarks for salesperson communication skills or connection skills. If you want to understand how employees’ soft skills can be improved, you can use online feedback tools, of course. The problem is that most of these methods aren’t objective either and they don’t go far enough, so you’re still not sure what matters and how much progress your team is making.
You need a scalable and intelligent solution that makes it easy to set quantifiable goals to tackle this challenge. A platform like this can improve soft skills effectively and sustainably by continuously allowing sales teams to assess their soft skills. A science-driven coaching platform should provide individual progress tracking, a customized training plan for lower-scoring skills, and a motivating goal achievement program.
How Can You Measure Communication Skills for Sales Representatives?
Understanding your team’s soft skills is still mostly done informally and randomly if you don’t have the right platform on your side. Traditional tools usually have questions on situational or behavioral topics. And yes, you can get a sense of soft skills from their responses, but they may be biased or rehearsed and only measure a handful of skills.
Instead, you can follow these three steps to keep track of your sales team’s soft skills and design an effective training program for improvement.
Identify the skills they need
Identifying the soft skills your organization needs the most is crucial to addressing your challenge in this particular case. When you define the essential soft skills to level up your sales teams, you can create a strategy for finding and retaining salespeople who have those skills. Your team members can also use these strategies to improve themselves.
Your sales team will receive a company-specific soft skills program based on the link between behaviors and sales outcomes.
Integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into your assessments
Traditionally, methods for assessing soft skills are highly subjective, variable, and are not very valuable on their own. An alternative approach would be to use questionnaires, seminars, and virtual training. Mixing up strategies lets you see which candidates and team members have the soft skills you’re looking for.
Additionally, you can boost it all by adding an AI-coaching platform. When you work with the right partner, you can evaluate your sales team in a much more objective, science-driven manner and integrate it into your existing workflows.
Create a science-based soft skills training program
Growing an organization requires engaging and developing its employees. AI-powered assessments, feedback, and training are the best way to achieve this. Based on benchmarks from top communicators, cutting-edge solutions provide personalized improvement plans.
Sales reps need precise feedback and actionable recommendations based on your organization’s long-term development objectives. Enabling them with a modern platform to continually measure their communication skills and provide them with personalized training gives them the resources they need to take charge of their success. They will save time and be able to invest their valuable hours in more strategic tasks to bring in revenue.
Quantified offers an AI-powered coaching platform to improve communication skills for sales representatives and teams at scale. We enable organizations and their leaders to eliminate guesswork and measure critical sales performance predictors. With the world’s most advanced conversation intelligence platform, you can empower your team and leaders with precise and personalized insights to transform every conversation into a winning one. If you’re interested in learning more about how Quantified can help your organization assess and improve soft skills, request a demo.