If an acquaintance asked you to help them move this weekend would you willingly raise your hand or might you quickly come up with a reason to opt yourself out? Likewise, if one of your good friends asked you to help them move would you willingly accept because it would make you feel good to lend a helping hand to a friend in need?
Truth be told, I would like to opt out of both situations. I hate moving furniture, but I know that I would help a friend in need and we would somehow find a way to make it an enjoyable experience. It is not rocket science as to why I would help my friend and not the acquaintance in this situation. Emotions drive behavior and while the thought of helping either of these individuals move does not sound appealing, I know that my friend deserves my help because of all of the things they have done to help me in the past and will do to help me in the future. And because of our relationship, they are going to get my discretionary time, effort, and weak upper body strength to help them out.
When you think about friendship, so many of the things that make a great relationship are considered “soft”. Things like really getting to know somebody, understanding what motivates them, listening to them when times are tough, celebrating each other’s achievements, and building trust over time amongst others. It has been my experience that when you talk about the things above when concerning friendship there is little to no awkwardness, but that is not true when you talk about the soft skills as they pertain to sales management and coaching. Start talking about the “soft” skills in a room filled with sales managers and things get eerily silent. Everyone kind of looks around as if to say, ‘I’ll admit the soft skills are important if you do’, but the reality is that the soft skills are very important.
Some of the smartest sales managers realize that during the course of a year they are going to have to ask their sales producers to help them “move” on more than one occasion. And when this time comes, they know that they need to be more than simply an acquaintance to those on their sales teams. They do not have to be best friends with their producers to get their discretionary effort, but they do need to have some equity and trust built up with them to help them get through the tough times. How is this equity built? Well, mostly through the soft skills. Skills such as holding regular 1 on 1’s that focus on both personal and professional objectives, taking the time to recognize accomplishments in ways that are unique and special to each producer, being humble enough to ask for help, doing ice-breaker activities to build relationships, caring enough about the relationship to give them undivided attention (no electronics) during meetings are just a few examples.
The challenge with soft skills is that so often their ROI cannot be measured on a spreadsheet. But if you can get your salespeople to help you “move your furniture” the numbers at the end of the year will speak for themselves. Are your sales people willing to help you? I’d like your feedback. Comment away.
Director of Business Development