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- Kim Tasso is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and has worked in marketing – as a director and a consultant – for over 25 years.
- She specialises in professional services marketing – working with lawyers, accountants and surveyors. She is also a psychologist and a qualified coach
- She taught on CMC marketing courses for several years both at Guildford University and in London
- She has written seven books on business development, communications, social media and selling – Her last two books “Better Business Relationships” and “Essential soft skills for lawyers” are particularly relevant to today’s discussion on soft skills
Q: Obviously professional and technical marketing skills are important but what about the importance of soft skills for the next generation of marketers?
- I have written extensively in the past about the different branches of marketing skills – the RATIONAL technical, analytical skill set and the EMOTIONAL psychological skill set
- Marketing has always been my passion as it combines these two very different strands and skill sets
- Research indicates that up to 75% of long-term job success depends on the mastery of soft skills rather than technical and technological skills
- When interviewing people for marketing roles to some extent I take their technical skills for granted if they have the relevant CIM or similar qualifications. So I am really assessing their “fit” and soft skills.
- A 2018 report by Bersin™ Deloitte noted that employers are as likely to select candidates for their adaptability, culture fit and growth potential as for in-demand technical skills. Employers such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft have highlighted the importance of learnability – curiosity and a thirst for knowledge – as a key indicator of career potential.
- And as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation take an increasing number of jobs – having great soft skills makes us a bit more robot-proof – I explained this in a video recently using a toy robot and a soft and fluffy worry monster
Q: Which are and will be the most important soft skills for marketers?
- Well, if you look at the CIM’s professional marketing competencies you will see that the outer circle are mostly soft skills: creative, inspiring, challenging etc
- There are lots of soft skills required by all professionals – in my recent research for essential soft skills for lawyers we identified over 100 in categories such as communication, personal effectiveness, relationship building, selling and team leadership.
- But for me, the essentials can be summarised in four areas:
- Communication – Non Verbal Communication (NVC), questioning, listening, influence, persuasion, storytelling – engagement is critical for marketers. There was some research a while ago (see the book on How to get people to help you by Heidi Grant ) that said people were 34 times more likely to agree to a request for help if it was made face-to-face too. Also, we often have to be educators ourselves – to help our businesses to understand the contribution that marketing can make – so we need to be able to see things from their point of view, articulate the benefits of marketing and help people understand what contribution we can make
- Creativity – As marketers we must be creative. Otherwise we are just following everyone else. To look at the data and see an insight. To ask a really original question. To challenge assumptions. To have bold, big ideas. Curiosity really underpins creativity. You can’t automate curiosity and creativity. These themes are explored further in the book The Human Edge by Greg Orme
- Confidence – Speaking up, standing out – many of the things you will talk about when it comes to personal branding later on in this podcast. The best ideas in the world aren’t going to see the light of day if we don’t feel able to ask the right questions or sell our ideas or campaign concepts. You have to believe in yourself. You have to get others to believe in you. It’s not so much WHAT you say or do but HOW you say or do things that convey confidence. You have to overcome your inner critic and imposter syndrome to be effective. Yet without being over-confident and aggressive or arrogant. It’s a tough balancing act. I’ve written about confidence in the past as it is constant theme in workshops. Imposter syndrome is discussed further here
- Collaboration – No man or woman is an island. Today’s solutions need multiple perspectives and inputs – so you need to be really good at establishing relationships quickly and working effectively as part of a team. The Covid pandemic has shown how really hard it is to collaborate with people remotely and virtually.
I’d particularly like to comment on one area of communications skills. Many leaders that I speak to comment that the younger generation prefer to hide behind emails or online chat rather than picking up the phone. Yes, the telephone is more intrusive and you don’t have a record of what’s said. And it is harder to control the conversation. But we receive so many emails that they are easy to ignore. And emails are one way and it’s easy to misinterpret. The telephone is two way – and you can pick up nuances that you might otherwise miss. Plus people are more likely to say things than write them down. And you can build a relationship over the telephone but not so much with emails
Q: And in your books, blogs and training sessions you focus a lot on Emotional Intelligence – how is that relevant for marketers?
- Hard skills are the technical, rational side of things whereas many soft skills are more about the emotional side of things
- Whereas general intelligence (IQ) is fairly fixed – EQ can be developed – our brains are elastic
- Sometimes people are surprised that even in tough, commercial B2B environments all decisions have an element of emotion in them. People buy people. And people are often unaware of their sub-conscious emotional reasons for their choices. Neuroscience research shows that
- Tested alongside 33 other important skills EQ subsumes the majority of them including time management, decision making and communication
- EQ accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs and is the single biggest predictor in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence
- 90% of the high performers are also high in EQ – people with high EQs make more money
- I usually explain EQ or EI as comprising four elements:
- Self-awareness – know what you are feeling and why – take a moment
- Self-control – managing your emotions – take control of how you express them. These are pretty important for managing well being and avoiding stress too
- Awareness of how others are feeling – that’s empathy and seeing things from the other person’s perspective
- Relationship management – how you respond to other people’s emotions. Obviously relationship management is critical for marketing, business development and sales roles
Q: So how do marketers improve their soft skills?
- There are lots of online assessments to help you work out your strengths and weaknesses in soft skills
- On emotional intelligence I recommend a book that includes a confidential online assessment of your EQ with guidance on how to develop your EQ that you can track over time
- There’s an incredible array of training resources – online courses, webinars, videos, books etc.
- You can also learn a lot simply by observing other people and developing your own self-awareness
- But take things steady – look at your overall personal development plan and input from your appraisals at work – and plan which technical and soft skills you need to develop as a priority. Don’t try to eat the elephant! Bite sized pieces
- But at the end of the day – a soft skill needs you to try out a new behaviour and practice. So you need to be brave and have a go
- And the other thing is – and I’m sure that whilst your students are battling away with their studies and looking forward to graduating – is that you have to commit to lifelong learning. You never stop learning. And new soft skills are emerging all the time – a really recent example was how to manage your profile through online meetings. That was a whole new world of soft skills for just about everyone!