Career in Sales: 6 Soft Skills Every Salesperson Should Have

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 18, 2022 | Published June 8, 2021

Updated August 18, 2022

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A person looks inside a red car in a showroom of new cars.

In the sales industry, it's essential for sales professionals to engage their prospects effectively. To do so, salespeople are competent in interpersonal communication and are perceptive to their customers. Understanding how professionals use soft skills in the workplace can help you prepare for a position in the field.

In this article, we explore examples of sales soft skills and explain how to improve and showcase them for your job search.

What are sales soft skills?

Sales soft skills are abilities that enable salespeople to fulfill their occupational duties. Unlike technical skills, which often represent an ability to manage technology or speak in sales terms, soft skills are more prevalent in workplace interactions.

They refer to how an employee delivers their industry knowledge to prospective customers. Building a rapport and perceiving a customer's response are both important facets of soft skills and the sales profession.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Examples of sales soft skills

Here are examples of soft skills sales professionals use to perform well in their customer service roles:

1. Confidence

Confidence is an emotion that can enhance a professional's sales pitch, increasing their credibility and making their delivery sound more persuasive. Customers may feel more willing to buy a product from a salesperson who they perceive as knowledgeable about the product.

Salespeople often make pitches to strangers, so it's necessary for them to feel comfortable initiating conversations and sustaining the interest of the lead. Here are examples of confident behaviors:

  • Clear speech patterns: When you describe the product clearly and concisely, it may be easier for customers to understand. For complex products, such as technology, salespeople might explain the technical language to better relay their messages.

  • Relaxed demeanor: Salespeople avoid distracting mannerisms, such as using wide gestures that can distract from their words. Instead, they use purposeful gestures and other nonverbal cues and speak in a neutral tone that conveys their enthusiasm and appeals to their audience.

2. Emotional intelligence

With high emotional intelligence, salespeople can perceive the customer's reaction to their sales pitch. It's important to detect how willing the lead is to make an investment and what concerns they need to address to make the sale. Emotional intelligence helps professionals recognize the customer's emotions throughout the conversation.

For example, a salesperson notices how the prospect's interest seemed to change after discovering the price of the product. To steer the conversation in a positive direction, the salesperson then pivoted and emphasized the lifetime warranty and diverse usage, which ultimately converted the prospect into a buyer.

Read more: Emotional Intelligence: Definition and Examples

3. Humility

Humility is necessary to prevent overconfidence. As a salesperson, you may not know the answer to every question the customer asks. However, admitting your lack of knowledge and vowing to find out the answer can make you appear more personable and trustworthy, instead of arrogant. You can approach the customer confidently along with the humility to be transparent.

For example, the lead declares that a competitor's product is more popular with a more affordable price. The humble salesperson confirms the statement but responds that supporting a local business can elicit a sense of pride among customers. The lead appreciates the salesperson's admission and appeals to their countering point. Finding a balance between humility and confidence allows salespeople to relate to customers.

4. Adaptability

The sales industry is often fast-paced, justifying the need to be adaptable. Professionals can adjust their activities to reflect changes in the environment, such as pitching a brand new product or targeting a new demographic.

Adaptability can also materialize during customer encounters. Suppose a prospect remains unresponsive to the sales pitch. The salesperson modifies their technique to better engage the prospect. Every customer may have a unique response to a sales approach, which is why it's essential for salespeople to have flexibility in their methods.

Sociability

A communication technique, sociability allows professionals to connect with potential customers. They use a friendly tone and positive attitude, and they understand how to maintain a conversation. As a salesperson, being sociable can help you build a relationship with prospects, bringing you one step closer to convincing them to make a purchase.

Active listening

Active listening is the ability to hear and comprehend the words of a conversational partner. In the sales industry, professionals use active listening for the following activities:

  • Understanding questions: The first step is to know what the consumer is asking. Next, the professional delivers a response that satisfies the consumer's curiosity.

  • Replying to opinions: Suppose the prospect expresses a desire for having the product the employee is selling. The salesperson can explain beneficial features that can convince the prospect to buy the product.

  • Assessing concerns: After the sales pitch, the customer might explain concern over the durability of the product, leading the salesperson to lead a helpful demonstration.

Read more: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

How to improve sales soft skills

To strengthen your sales soft skills, contemplate following these steps:

1. Reflect on your work performance

It's important to understand the accomplishments and challenges you've experienced with your current level of soft skills. Reflecting on your work performance can unveil your strong abilities and the ones you may want to improve. Recall recent interactions with customers and how they responded to your sales pitch. It might be useful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What percentage of my customer interactions result in purchases? Knowing your overall success rate can help you determine the strengths of your soft skills. For example, if you've consistently surpassed your sales goals, then you can conclude you are proficient at building a relationship with consumers and convincing them to invest.

  • How long does it typically take for customers to purchase the product? The answer to this question may discern your confidence level and interpersonal skills. Ponder if customers feel charmed by your personality so that they quickly decide to make their purchase, or perhaps you rely on your technical skill set to secure the lead.

  • Which of my techniques has the highest success rate at converting a lead? Discovering your strongest quality can unearth the skills you need to enhance. For instance, if lead conversions occur after you discuss things you have in common with the customer, then you can recognize sociability as your strongest skill.

  • When an unexpected situation occurs, how well have I responded? Ponder this question to assess your adaptability skills. For example, a new direct competitor influenced your customers' willingness to buy your product, so you realized you needed to change your sales pitch. Judge if your response helped your work performance.

  • Do I comprehend what the customer says during our conversation? Interpret your active listening ability and emotional intelligence. When customers reply to your sales pitch, ask yourself if you listen to their words and use their response to persuade them to make a purchase.

2. Develop a communication style

A communication style is a method that is unique to you and your strong interpersonal skills. Developing your niche can guide your approach to connecting with customers, and it can distinguish you from other sales representatives.

From your self-reflection, include your most successful technique. Next, think about other essential skills that can enhance your strengths and escalate the buyer's journey. Having a step-by-step outline of how to secure a deal can help you focus your abilities, as well as remain prepared for customers who may be more challenging to convince.

3. Practice your delivery

Practicing your delivery can strengthen your communication style. Rehearse in a mirror to see yourself as the customer sees you. You can also record yourself making your pitch to monitor your nonverbal cues and speech patterns.

When you've finished, consider sending the recording to a friend or family member or ask them to pose as potential customers as you deliver your sales pitch. They may provide feedback on how they perceive your credibility as a salesperson.

For example, they can say your confidence and personality made you seem informed about the product, so they would feel inclined to buy from you. Apply the feedback from your network and continue practicing until you're comfortable with your progress.

4. Contemplate your career goals

Your career goals can motivate you to perform well in the field. Think about what you want to accomplish in the next six months, for example, or five years. Ponder if you feel you're on the trajectory to reach your goals. In the sales field, situations can change how you handle your work tasks, such as shrinking attention spans and changing social habits among customers.

Anticipate challenges you may face as your career progresses and ignite a determination to achieve your desired results. Increasing your ambition can help you develop more innovative ways to make sales, even as the industry evolves.

Read more: How To Improve Sales Motivation

Sales soft skills in the workplace

Here are ways to use sales soft skills in the workplace:

  • Observe the customer's nonverbal communication: How a customer reacts without words can illustrate their feelings before they speak them. Using emotional intelligence, observe their reaction and facial expressions to detect enthusiasm or resistance to purchasing a product.

  • Search for commonalities: Connecting with prospects based on things you share in common directly relates to your sociability. For example, the customer is wearing a sweatshirt from a university you attended, so you discuss the school to make them feel more comfortable before your sales pitch.

  • Develop a backup plan: Be mindful that leads may have strong intentions to pass on the product despite your pitch. Adapting to their resistance can help you change their mind, which may also require confidence and humility.

How to highlight sales soft skills

If you're interested in becoming a salesperson, consider these guidelines to emphasize your soft skills during your job search:

On a resume

Demonstrating your soft skills on your resume can pique the interest of the recruiter during the pre-screening of the hiring process. You can show a potential employer that you have the abilities to fulfill the job responsibilities.

Study the job description to determine the soft skills the employer seeks in a candidate and list them on your resume in the skills section. For example, if the description states an employee needs to adapt to a fast-paced environment, then you can list adaptability on your resume.

Related: 5 Valuable Sales Skills for Your Resume

In a cover letter

A cover letter is an opportunity for you to provide more details about your sales soft skills. Discuss examples of you applying your abilities in the workplace. You can also include work accomplishments you earned by practicing your skills.

For instance, if you exceeded a monumental sales goal, the recruiter can realize you're competent at communicating interpersonally and have the determination to sell products. Use your cover letter to make a positive first impression on the prospective employer.

During the job interview

The job interview is another occasion for you to show you're qualified to be a salesperson. Consider practicing your sales soft skills in the conversation with the recruiter. Highlight your sociability and confidence, which shows you can establish connections with customers.

It might be helpful to emphasize your ambition to grow professionally in the industry. Additionally, while answering the interview questions, discuss more examples of how your soft skills enabled you to meet sales goals.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Sales Rep

Learn about being a sales rep—like educating customers on product features, conducting product demonstrations, leading sales calls and identifying new leads


Explore more articles