“Soft skills,” which include empathy, listening, and storytelling, are known to not be as important as hard skills. If you’re an architect, your hard skills are what you learned in school—i.e., how to design a building. If you’re a lawyer, your hard skills are what you learned in law school and passing the bar. If you’re a keynote speaker, your hard skills are knowing how to put together a talk that has a beginning, middle, and end—i.e. the craft of speaking.
No matter what your profession, mastering the soft skills is what makes you stronger than your competition. Recently, a top architecture firm had me speak to their team about how to build better client relationships. Their old way of winning new business was to show their design and hope that would be enough to get a new client. When a client told them they were going to hire the firm they liked the best, because the project would last 5 years, they panicked. “How do we become more likable?” they asked me.
Enter: soft skills! I told them that one of the best ways to increase your likeability is to show empathy. The more people think you understand the stress they are under and how you can help them, the more they like and want to work with you. Telling stories is a great way to build rapport, especially when you tell a story of origin around what inspired you to do what you do. People love working with people who are passionate because they usually means the process will be fun. When I showed them how to turn their case study into a case STORY, about when they helped a client meet a deadline, the prospect new client knew they have found the right firm for them.
The best storyteller wins!
Lawyers have “contests,” where they have to pitch against other firms to get hired. If everyone just talks about where they went to law school and the stats about how many cases they won, there is no emotional connection. Instead, when a law firm shows how they connect to a jury using the soft skills of storytelling and really listening to a witness, they win more cases and new clients.
When an event planner is interviewing a speaker and all the speaker talks about is how great they are and not how they are going to customize their talk to meet the event planner’s goals, the speaker doesn’t stand out from other speakers. The speaker who tells a story about how they love to have dinner the night before their keynote and meet and talk with as many people as possible to really have an in-depth feeling of what their challenges are is the one who gets booked and gets the highest ratings.
When you create content that shows you have empathy, people get to trust, like and know you. Putting myself in an event planners shoe’s, I created a blog for them on 4 questions to ask speakers to help them make a decision. What kind of content can you create to show your soft skills of empathy and storytelling?
Here are three things you can do to make your soft skills even stronger:
1) Make soft skills just as important as hard skills in your culture. When you invest in training that helps your team practice listening and empathy, it will become stronger—just like your physical workouts.
2) Practice telling your case stories and stories of origin with your co-workers. That way, when you have a request to pitch for new business, you are ready to go!
3) When you don’t win a new client, sit with your team and ask for the real reason they went with another person. Rarely is price the reason people don’t buy from you. If you dig deep, you may discover ways to show more empathy and understanding of the problem for the next pitch. When you do all these things, your soft skills will be stronger and stand out against competitors.