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Top 5 Soft Skills for Sales Success

By Briah on Sep 1, 2022 2:46:59 PM

Picture a top sales rep who manages to close big deals and exceed quotes; what do they look like? What sets them apart from the rest of the team; what traits do they have that let them reside at the top of the leaderboard? 

Chances are high that it’s not simply their product knowledge or experience in the industry. Sure, knowing your product inside-out and those technical hard skills play a large role; but in customer-facing positions where closing deals depends on how well sales reps build trustworthy relationships with the customer, soft skills are the real key to success. 

In fact, with the post-pandemic skill shift we are seeing, skill building has never been more critical than it is today. 90% of CEOs report seeking to invest more in the development of their employees in light of their importance to the profitable performance of the whole. 

So what are the top 5 soft skills for sales professionals to help them succeed in the new business world? What are the soft skills that the top performers carry? And how can sales reps achieve developing those soft skills? 

What’s in this post?

  1. What are soft skills?
  2. The post-pandemic skill shift: Why sales pros must develop soft skills 
  3. The top 5 soft skills for sales success
  4. How can sales reps develop these soft skills?

What are soft skills? 

To put it simply, soft skills are those intangible, interpersonal skills that play a big role in determining how well we communicate and interact with others. 

As opposed to hard skills, which are acquired through formal education and training programs (such as computer programming, language learning, and writing) soft skills are attributes that impact interpersonal interactions and productivity, which can also be developed (such as leadership, time management, and adaptability).

For more detailed information on the difference between soft skills and hard skills, read our blog “Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills. What’s the Difference?” here or click below.

softskills vs hard skills


As we see digitalization, automation, and even smarter machines take over the physical, repetitive cognitive tasks, the demand for soft skills is on a rapid surge. 

However, it’s easier said than done to find candidates who possess the necessary soft skills, despite this current skill shift.

Mckinsey's report shines a light on this skill gap, with 37% of HR professionals reporting that problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity are the top area of missing skills in employees currently, followed by the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity (32%) and communication (31%). 

The post-pandemic skill shift: Why sales pros must develop soft skills 

The hurried hike in remote work and digitalization fuelled by the pandemic has placed demands for new skills on both employees and employers.

In fact, 69% of organizations are focusing more on skill-building now than they did before the pandemic.

According to the LinkedIn Learning Report for 2021, up-skilling and re-skilling were ranked as the number one priority for learning and development (L&D) professionals globally; 59% of L&D pros globally identified up-skilling and re-skilling programs as their number 1 priority (a 15% increase since June 2020), ranking higher than leadership and management (53%) and virtual onboarding (33%).

The top 5 soft skills for sales success

Often movies and media have rooted the misconception of the personalities of successful sales reps - that misconception is that all salespeople that are equipped for the world of sales are extroverts, but it's not as straightforward as that. 

Soft skils wolf of wall street

  1. Growth Mindset

    A growth mindset is defined as a belief that construes intelligence as malleable and improbable. To put it simply, someone who carries a growth mindset is likely to embrace challenges, not see a failure as negative, but instead as an opportunity to improve on themselves. Further, those that possess a growth mindset don't see their intelligence or personality as a fixed state, but as something that can be trained and developed. 

    So what benefits come with having a growth mindset for sales teams?

    Over the years, neuroscientific research has yielded results on the link between a growth mindset, and intrinsic motivation. Specifically, this study by Moser et al. suggests that individuals with a growth mindset are receptive to corrective feedback, exhibiting a higher positivity waveform response, which is correlated with a heightened awareness of and attention to mistakes.

    The bottom line is, that sales reps who carry a growth mindset are likely to have heightened awareness of how they are perceived by others, attention to and open to their errors and tus improvement, and have the ability to neutralize their response to negative feedback, which are all underlying mechanisms of intrinsic motivation. 

  2. Empathy 

    Empathy can be split into three different categories, namely affective, somatic, and cognitive. However, the general underlying soft skill of empathy is the ability to emotionally understand how others feel, to see their perspective, and the skill to be able to put yourself in others' shoes.
    Just like coordination or a language, a capability that can be significantly enhanced by purposeful guidance and conscious effort, and becomes especially crucial in job positions where success depends on how well you establish relationships and connections with clients -- aka. sales. 

    In fact, empathy within sales can be a make-or-break soft skill when it comes to creating powerful bonds with clients. When sales reps carry the soft skill of empathy, they are able to better understand another's emotional experiences, which directly correlates to creating powerful bonds with potential leads. 
  3. Adaptability

    Adaptive selling is a sales methodology where sellers use judgment to adjust their sales approach based on their buyers’ situation and state of mind. — Mike Kunkle, VP, Sales Effectiveness Services SPARXiQ

    The soft skill of adaptability is the capacity to adjust yourself to new, often unfamiliar situations and conditions. Being able to adapt is crucial when things are stressful -- especially in the business world, and that's no exception for sales reps. 

    It's the evergreen meta-skill that determines whether one will thrive during a state of unpredictability and change, or succumb to chronic stress - and one thing that we can't deny, is that the past couple of years have been more volatile, complex and uncertain than ever before. (Even before the pandemic, stress was costing organizations globally at least $1 trillion annually just in measurable areas like absenteeism). 

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the business landscape has changed the way we live and work, throwing us all sorts of curveballs, including sales reps. Face-to-face interactions turned to remote human engagement - basically, selling has had to go digital in a massive way. But those sales reps who were able to quickly adapt and continue to establish engaging customer journeys and meet their customer's needs were the ones set up for success. This goes for quickly reacting to market changes, handling unforeseen client interactions, or simply navigating through situations that don't go quite as planned.

  4. Resilience

     "I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't fail ... a lot. The good, the bad, it's all part of the success equation." - Mark Cuban

    The soft skill of resilience can be defined as a person’s ability to persevere in the face of challenges, setbacks, and conflicts. When it comes to sales, "no thanks" or "it's not for us" are all too common phrases for every sales rep - but the top performing sales reps who have strong resilience will not let rejection take a toll. In fact, they will bounce back from that rejection and see failure as a learning opportunity, a challenge.

    However, 'develop resilience' is definitely an easier said than done task, there is no doubt about that. But with a rapidly developing, unpredictable world, comes equally rapid and unpredictable curveballs, and building resilience and not taking "no" personally is going to be one of the most need-to-have soft skills looking forward. 
  5. Storytelling

    "You can't move people to action unless you first move them with emotion...." - John C. Maxwell

    Last but not least, the soft skill of storytelling. A soft skill that is often forgotten about, but that doesn't mean it isn't as important as the others. In fact, some even will argue it is a foundational skill, and not just for sales reps. According to the McKinsey study of 18,000 business professionals across 150 countries, storytelling is considered as a must-have soft skill for CEOs and leaders in the next decade. 
    The soft skill of storytelling in sales can be defined as a compelling way to provide information that your buyer can understand and process easily. Telling captivating stories that lead clients through an emotional journey not only helps build stronger connections but also aid in understanding client psychology and behaviour on a higher level.

How can sales reps develop these soft skills?

We know what soft skills are important for sales reps to get a head; we know why they must develop these soft skills, now more than ever before... but how can they achieve this?

How can sales reps develop these crucial soft skills to help them close more deals in this volatile business landscape? Furthermore, how to train soft skills in a remote environment?


Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm, and it's advantages are being seen in the learning and development scene as well. Video simulation is creating new possibilities in training, especially with its hybrid-friendly, scalable nature, and is taking center stage in the call for more innovative coaching approaches for customer-facing roles, such as sales.

Screen Shot 2022-09-01 at 14.29.49

Take, for instance, Retorio. Its AI platform combines video analysis with role-plays of client simulations to offer interactive soft skill training for employees, and such immersive learning strategies are creating ways for sales reps to solve real work issues that they may face, while in virtual settings.

Want to know more about how Retorio's AI can help your sales reps up-skill their soft skills?

Try for free

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Written by Briah

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