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The best and most consistently successful salespeople don’t just have the power of persuasion, charisma, or an in-depth knowledge of the product they’re selling. They also possess a particular suite of soft sales skills that, combined, make them a hard-to-beat sales powerhouse.

The following soft skills and characteristics give salespeople an edge in increasingly competitive industries. Whether you’re looking to hire a rockstar sales rep or enhance your own sales skills in 2017, familiarize yourself with the following traits:

Empathy

Good salespeople always try to understand where their prospect is coming from, and what’s motivating the prospect’s fears, uncertainty, or frustration. These salespeople don’t just passively listen, or add the odd “Ah, I get it” to the conversation — they actually try to connect with their prospect, and draw connections between their day-to-day lives and their prospect’s. This level of empathy forges a bond with the prospect, making them feel as though the salesperson truly understands their experiences, needs and challenges, and that he or she can be trusted to help.

Coachability

The best employees, in any role, welcome the opportunity to be coached and receive feedback. They know that that openness makes them approachable, and that coaching from a manager or other senior sales rep puts them in an excellent position to succeed: they’re getting direct feedback and skill-shaping from the people that can help make or break their employment with the company.

Flexibility

Employers and prospects alike appreciate a salesperson who can roll with the punches and successfully adapt. In the case of the latter, a good salesperson will be willing and able to accommodate rescheduled meetings and requests for changes in service. They won’t let themselves be pushed around, but they will happily work with a prospect to arrive at mutually convenient place where the conversation can continue. When it comes to their employer and their role, smart salespeople know better than to remain rigid in their job function. They offer — or gladly accept — opportunities to help out with different company activities, or to move to different projects and clients.

Optimism

What’s a salesperson without optimism? This blog has previously discussed how, thanks to steep competition and frequent rejection, sales requires more motivation than other jobs, and the same goes for a sunny, it-will-work-out attitude. Successful salespeople rarely let themselves feel completely defeated by a failed deal, or a slow quarter. Instead, they take a moment to analyze what went wrong, then jump back in with a refreshed approach and a renewed optimism. A sunny attitude goes a long way in relationship-building, too, both in the office and with prospects and clients.

Patience

There’s rarely ever an immediate ‘Yes!’ in sales, or a firm ‘No,’ for that matter. Like a good fisherman or pastry-maker, a good salesperson knows that he or she must learn to wait, and not to rush. Knowing to how wait gracefully is amongst the most important soft sales skills; a prospect who feels rushed or pressured is more likely to walk away.

Clear communication

Cold calls, catch-up calls, face-to-face meetings, Skype chats, emails, text messages, social media posts … sales communications take many forms, all requiring a delicate, strategic and friendly touch.

The best salespeople, above all, are masterful communicators. They persist, but don’t push. They give strong handshakes and consistent eye contact, but they don’t invade space. They are excellent at reading body language, and they’ve mastered their own. They are specific, they ask questions, and they listen really, really well.

To put it simply, they rarely ever risk being misunderstood or misunderstanding, and they do this while putting those in their company at ease. Weak communication skills are often the culprit in weak salesperson performance.