Approximately 13.2 million people work in sales or sales-related positions in the United States. At first glance, it is a job tailor-made for extrovert personalities. After all, most people know at least one extrovert who can sell anyone on anything.
Extroverts possess personality traits that fit well with sales, such as being outgoing, talkative, and energized by social situations. Yet, there remains a question about whether sales is a natural talent or whether one can become successful from being taught.
Is There a Talent for Sales?
At some level, there is a natural talent for sales. Some people intuitively understand how others tick and what will induce them to purchase. These individuals routinely excel at sales, whether selling themselves in an interview or selling products or services as a salesperson.
Employers looking for sales staff will naturally gravitate to hiring such individuals. Yet, the same people who excel at sales often cannot explain how to do it to others. When asked how to be good at sales, they might reply: “You just get a feel for it.”
That gives the profession of sales a certain semi-mystical air. Either you have the touch for sales, or you do not, right? Maybe not.
Soft Skills for Sales
What a natural salesperson has that others do not is a set of well-honed soft skills. They struggle to explain their process because they often learn those skills through trial and error. It usually operates below the level of active consciousness, so they get “gut feelings” or intuitions about what will or will not work with a given customer.
The excellent news for non-naturals and introverts is that those soft sales skills that naturals take for granted are things that you can learn. Consider some of the critical soft skills you need to be good at sales.
One of the critical soft skills that salespeople and business professionals need is communication. Most people think that they communicate well or “just fine.” Yet, most people also struggle to share their meanings or ideas.
Good communication is partly about precision. You must convey your meanings with accuracy and do it efficiently. You can find training that will help you understand different communication approaches, which will help you find one that works for you.
An element of persuasion is involved in all sales.
Believe it or not, entire theories about influence and many approaches to getting a deal apply in part or whole. Again, you can find classes, courses, books, and articles that describe these approaches.
Sadly, active listening is becoming a lost art. Active listening involves listening through and not just to what the other person says, acknowledging their specific problems, before responding.
It is advantageous in sales because most people will tell you exactly what their problem is and what they need to fix it. Assuming your product or service can fix their problem, it is up to you to show that to them.
Sales is a profession with a lot of rejection. You will hear “No” repeatedly and probably daily. That kind of repeated rejection can prove disheartening for people.
You need good resilience to face that kind of daily rejection. However, you can learn strategies to improve strength, such as viewing rejections as challenging and keeping a positive mindset.
At a certain level, good salespeople have empathy. If you have not been in a psychology class for a while, empathy is the capacity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and glean some understanding of what they are feeling.
Empathy also helps you glean insight into what motivates someone to, for example, buy a particular product or service. That insight can help you tailor your approach to a given customer.
How to Be Good at Sales
While it is entirely true that you can learn how to be good at sales, it is not easy. Like any complex skill, it requires practice and patience.
You must hone and refine the fundamental soft skills listed above. For example, you can practice persuasion by conversing with people you meet in public. You can practice persuasion and empathy in conversation with coworkers and friends.
You can practice active listening with just about anyone because people enjoy discussing their problems. Once you practice those skills, it is time to move on to practicing selling. The good news is that you will get plenty of opportunities if you have a sales job.
Sales Soft Skills and You
The idea of the natural salesperson has some credence. Some people have an intuitive grasp of sales soft skills. Yet, they do not have a monopoly on those skills.
Anyone can learn and hone soft skills like communication, persuasion, empathy, and active listening. If you do that, you can become an effective salesperson. The critical consideration is time.
Sales is a skill, and it takes time to develop and hone. Building that skill starts with putting in the time to master the soft skills mentioned above.
Before helming Perpetual Talent Solutions as President, Jim Hickey held several senior leadership roles in both sales and operations for two of the world’s largest Commercial Staffing organizations. Jim is a dedicated professional who has been formally recognized as a Staffing Industry Subject Matter Expert.