If you want to make selling easier for you in 2013, my recommendation is to focus on some of the soft skills which make selling easy rather than the deceitful and manipulative tricks that you get in many sales books.

These soft skills are actually life skills and they are all learnable. I know this because I had to learn them and continue working on them to this day! And the great thing is you can use everyday life as a teacher.

I wish you a very happy and prosperous 2013. Why not resolve to work on one or two of the skills below to make selling easier and more productive for you next year? I have prioritised them in the order I consider most important.

Rapport

People do business with people they like and trust. The skill of rapport is the ability to get on with people and form some kind of connection. It’s not about pretending you are their best friend. The key skill of rapport is finding things in common with others. We are all different but we are all human too. We will always find things that connect us if we look for it.

Setting expectations

People not only need to like us to want to do business with us. They need to trust us too. Creating trust is a skill. We need to be known as someone whose word can be trusted. This means we need to be open and honest and always deliver on our promises. If we say something will be done then we need to make sure it gets done. The skill is in guiding your client on what to expect. We need to take a long term view and balance the desire to please with the need to be trusted.

Empathy

This is the ability to see things from another person’s perspective and gain important insights about what it is like to live in their world. The essential skill for soft selling is in understand what is driving their buying behaviour or, indeed, would motivate them to buy.

Anticipation

This is the skill of taking the insights gained through empathy and applying them to the sales process. A common example might be anticipating a price objection and building steps in the sales process to ensure you build the value and filter out people who are unlikely to appreciate the value.

Attraction

This is the skill of making things look and sound attractive to a buyer. When you can see things from their perspective you can anticipate what would be attractive for them and then you need to shine a light on the thing that a buyer will find most attractive depending on their buying motivation.

Flexibility

The skill of flexibility will ensure you treat every buyer uniquely and tailor things to their needs. To be good at flexibility you need to have a solid sales process and know where the limits are. Paradoxically, to be good at flexibility you need to know where can be flexible and where you need to stand your ground.

Discovering

This is the combined skills of questioning and listening. In soft selling, the only point of asking questions is to discover information and it is pointless in asking a question if you are not listening to the answer. The underlying skill is being able to quieten our minds so that we are focused on what the buyer is saying rather than our own head chatter.

Encapsulation

This is the skill of brevity – being able to say things in as few words as possible without losing the meaning or attractiveness. Thankfully the gift of the gab is not a pre-requisite for soft selling and encapsulation is a learnable skill.

Storytelling

This is the skill of being able to communicate how you can add value to a buyer by the use of example. Buyers are more interested in themselves than they are in you and your products and services. The skill is in giving examples of other clients with similar problems and how you added value. Story telling is a key soft selling skill but people will not listen to your stories unless they are relevant and the buyer likes and trusts you.

Cross-selling

The mantra of soft selling is “start small and grow”. It is the way most smaller businesses win their biggest accounts. This is normally by accident and the key skill is to look for, and anticipate, ways in which you can add value to the buyer and then have a discussion about it. Using all of the above skills will make having a conversation and attracting interest very easy indeed. The important thing in cross-selling is in judging and focusing on clients most likely to want to buy.