If I wanted to become a coding master, I could quickly google it to easily find pages and pages of content that will freely teach me everything to one day dominate the field. The same is true for virtually every hard skill: cooking delicious bread, learning how to fix an error in WordPress, or researching how to use SEO effectively.
What’s infinitely harder and significantly more subjective are soft skills: the atmosphere you create when you walk in a room, your work ethic, your self-confidence level, how you process and apply constructive criticism, and more.
During the course of our 3-day Sales Kickoff in Memphis, we interacted with a variety of speakers who discussed everything from how to improve our customer interactions to, arguably most importantly, how to develop yourself in your career and as an individual.
No matter if you’ve been in your position for one year or 20, it’s impossible to know everything. Technology changes, the market adapts to trends, and the needs of your consumers change.
Thus, as speaker Ryan Cahill, a partner at Winning by Design, taught us, those who become most successful in their jobs are the ones who learn from others, work on evolving within their role, and have a deep understanding of the buyer journey.
In the case of sales, individuals who began their career even two to three years ago can’t close deals today in the same way they did before. The needs of consumers have changed: they no longer want to be sold to, they want to be empowered to make an informed decision. Ryan calls attention to this change in the buyer journey, and emphasizes that the salespeople of today must act as “copilots.” It’s far more effective, he says, than the traditional pushy salesperson persona.
The hiring atmosphere has also changed: companies by and large aren’t looking for a jack-of-all-trades type. Cahill asserts they’re looking for someone who is willing to work hard, has a great attitude, and works well with their coworkers. These are skills that can’t be taught; they’re ones that the individual has to have worked on by themselves and be willing to continue to improve. This is why Winning by Design teaches that sales is a science, where the repeated practice of soft skills with a solid sales model leads to a much higher success rate for sales representatives.
Our very own Gene Plotkin agrees with this. He shared with us his belief in visualizing the impact that we want to have on our day as being just as important as our skill set. Before calling someone, do we think of our call as interrupting their day or adding value? he asked us. Do we think about what skills we’re going to learn and use or what behaviors we should be engaging in? All of these are important to winning “the battle” of the day: whether it be a sales quota, completing a project, or even personal goals.
These soft skill practices don’t exist in a vacuum. As we learned from one of our final speakers, Kristen Hayer, the CEO of The Success League, it’s integral that an entire company comes together to work hard and support the business. A department’s successes and failures directly impact the other departments. We must work as a team and not be afraid of failure, she said, as failure brings innovation.
Whether you’re looking to adapt within your role or a new company, don’t forget to focus on cultivating the soft skills necessary to improve as an employee and individual. Having a strong work ethic, not being afraid to fail, and being a great team player are what makes a company run and make it a great place to work!
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