Article | Talent Strategy

Getting the Blend Right

Identifying the right mix of soft skills and hard skills for sales development reps

Soft Skills and Hard Skills for SDRs: Getting the Blend Right

As with any role, recruiting the right person means getting the right mix of skills – when it comes to both technical ability and soft skills. When hiring an SDR, or Sales Development Rep, that’s more important than ever, because you need to consider your product offerings and the type of sales culture you’re fostering within the company.

When we talk about hard skills, we’re really talking about technical abilities, such as role-related qualifications, niche knowledge, languages and other competencies that require experience and training, such as exposure to a similar product offering, or a software package used by your organisation. These technical skills are fairly quantifiable and can be easily confirmed at interview. However, for sales roles such as SDRs, soft skills, such as interpersonal/influencing prowess, are critical, highlighting the importance of getting the right mix of both.

Let’s delve into the types of skills interviewers need to look out for. As we’ll see, finding a candidates with the right mind-set is just as important as technical skills.

Resilience, perseverance and self-awareness

SDRs have to be able to take rejection. They’ll be encountering quite a bit of it in their day-to-day work, but, at the same time, they need to have the resilience to bounce back along with the conviction to engage the same prospect again if they feel they can secure a different outcome (for instance, if the product offering changes, and the SDR feels it now meets the needs of the customer).

Another thing interviewers should look out for is self-awareness. Candidates that show that they are able to analyse their own behaviours in specific scenarios and modify those behaviours to drive sales can deliver real benefits for the business. SDRs who practice mindfulness, for example, are more aware of their own traits and triggers, and react accordingly, to bring about better outcomes.

Look out for listeners, as well as talkers

Knowing the customer and understanding their needs is vital when it comes to successful sales. And that means listening and reading between the lines for insights. Every sales person needs to be able to know which questions to ask in order to understand what the customer wants, before developing a sales strategy that meets those needs. If a customer sees that you’re listening, instead of simply delivering a robotic sales pitch, they’re more likely to listen. As a result, it’s much easier to build a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.

Emotional intelligence

Leading on from the need for strong communication skills, empathy and emotional intelligence are two other traits to look out for. Salespeople with strong emotional intelligence are more able to tune into what’s going in a prospect’s head by picking up on subtle cues, related to body language, tone of voice and even in digital communications such as email.

IT-savvy with a willingness to learn.

Today, there are a lot of sales and CRM software packages and other IT tools out there companies use in their sales and marketing functions and, with the advent of AI and other new technologies, those tools are developing all the time.

While potential candidates should have experience in some of these from previous roles, it’s important that they show a willingness to learn and develop those skills further in order to bring most value to the sales function. That trait will apply equally when it comes to new developing new products.

A sense of team-play

While the SDR typically sits at the bottom of the sales department hierarchy, they normally work as part of a bigger team and liaise extensively with the marketing department and the product development team. As a result, they must be able be able to collaborate and work together towards shared goals. The last thing you want is a lone wolf, focussed on their own targets - one that may be willing to sacrifice team goals in order to hit personal objectives.

The difference between a good SDR and a great one is getting the right blend of hard and soft skills for your company and your product. Doing that means really delving deep into a candidate’s psyche, as well as their CV. And you can’t do that without investing in a solid talent management strategy.

Talk to Eximium to a talent management review to put the right strategy in place for all of your organisational needs.

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