Yes, it is true, I am a fan, a believer, a devotee of soft skills. If it were up to me, we would update school curriculums to include the art of speaking, the skill of writing, and the science of how to build relationships with people. Again, if it were up to me, organizations and companies would have at least one-half of their learning and development budgets set aside for leadership development, relationships and communication courses. The result I believe, would be less stress, more engaged students and employees, and most importantly hard, tangible and positive bottom-line results.
Why am I such a fan of soft skills? Well, there are many reasons; I mean who doesn’t enjoy working and engaging with someone who understands how to hold a two-way conversation, or reading a well-written article, or working for a leader who can listen, engage and develop people? However, if I had to keep my answer short and simple, I would say I am a fan because I believe the soft skills are the fastest route in this economy to profitability.
In fact, in today’s world, I believe that soft skills are the only real competitive advantage that we have. These are very different economic times. This is not an economy that is up, not an economy that is down, it is an economy that is different, radically changed and it is never, I mean never going back to the way that it was.
Think about it; with globalization, advancements in technology, increased competition, we could all sit around in our underwear for weeks on end and google until our hearts are content, and have everything we want, need and desire delivered right to our front doors – everything. We have become the kings and queens of Amazon Prime. We can order food, products, services; we can meet new people, date, make friends, attend events all online. We can do almost anything we want without ever talking to or speaking with another individual, without ever having to leave the comfort of our own home.
That fact right there changes everything! It makes what we sell or offer a commodity, but how we sell or offer it, that is our competitive advantage. And how we offer it – that has everything to do with our ability (and our employees’ abilities) to deliver the soft skills.
If you want to succeed in this economy, an economy that I have come to call the “trust and value economy“, then you need to invest in getting yourself, your team, and your entire organization up-to-date on the soft skills! As a leader, you need to understand how vital these skills are in attracting new customers, the value of deepening and expanding existing relationships, and the role they play in attracting, retaining and developing talented employees.
Here are five must-have soft skills for today’s economy:
- Flexibility – how stretchy are you? How willing are you to bend to accommodate a customer, a co-worker or the marketplace? Yes, the hard skills tell us precisely the rules, policies, and procedures we need to follow to be successful. And while those serve as a useful guide, success in this economy is all about your ability to adapt. Customization is critical when it comes to adding value to the customer relationship, and you need to invest in helping your team understand how to deliver the personalization, how to be flexible without breaking the bank.
- Communication – Business professionals who can communicate with customers in a way that ensures understanding, buy-in, and then ultimately action, is the person who wins in this new economy. Your ability to communicate your vision, exemplify your values, and match your efforts to your words will have a significant impact on the success of your company. Communication is a powerful soft skill that helps customers and employees understand who are you, what you are about, and the value they gain from doing business or working with you.
- Connection – your ability to emotionally engage with other individuals, build bridges, and create cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships is a skill you need in a shifting, uncertain economy. Connection in this economy is how we emotionally bond with our customers and employees. It is how we establish trust and win their permission to take the relationship to the next level whether that means getting a customer to buy a product or service, or an employee to engage with our organization truly. Your ability to connect will significantly increase your chances to win customers and retain talented employees.
- Attitude – this economy is tough enough, no one and I mean no one, most of all a consumer with many choices, wants to be around anyone with a negative, defeated, or just plain rude attitude. Consumers who are willing to do business and spend money are looking for companies and individuals that are a pleasure to be around, fun to engage with, and leave them feeling good about the experience. The attitude of not only you but your team set the tone in your company, and a positive attitude shouts confidence and success.
- Team Player – the more people who succeed in your organization, the better off you are – employees and customers alike. It would be best if you were a leader that inspires, trains, and rewards teamwork. As a leader, you need to act as a team player and reward those that exhibit those traits – someone who is collaborative, someone who works to put the success of the whole ahead of the individual win.
Success today is about embracing and then mastering your touchy-feely side. You have to invest in developing and delivering on the soft skills and understanding that what you offer in this economy is not nearly as important as how you make a sale. How you present yourself, and your company has everything to do with how well you and your team are executing on the soft skills.
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To learn more about soft skills and how to master these skills to produce hard bottom line results, sign up for Meridith’s LinkedIn Learning Course, Soft Skills For Sales Professionals: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/soft-skills-for-sales-professionals/what-it-takes-to-become-an-amazing-salesperson
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