When it comes to hiring, soft skills are hard, yet when you’re bringing on a new employee, these are the skills you should be hiring for. An employee who is great at relating to clients is the person everyone wants to get their hands on and this should be on your ideal employee profile.

What if you’ve got a bunch of technically proficient employees who need some client skills? It’s harder to train for those, but possible. Let me give you a few suggestions to get started.

Role Play

Role playing is a great way to help employees who are uncomfortable dealing with clients. To do this, start by pulling out some of the ‘hard’ scenarios that have come up in your business. You take the role of the client and work through it with your employee.

Sure it’s going to feel fake at first, but you should practice like it’s real so that when the next issue arises with a client, dealing with that situation just feels like practice.

I’ll give you an example from one of my personal experiences. One of the best things I did when working through my finances was listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcast. (If you’ve never listened to The Dave Ramsey show, he takes calls from people with financial questions — many of them deep in debt — and he guides them to solutions.) Listening to him work through issues with thousands of people gave me a huge wealth of knowledge about how to help people struggling with their finances.

Eventually, as I listened to the show and callers posed their questions, I could answer the questions just like Dave would. I’d treat it like a role-playing event. I would pause the show to answer the question and then listen to his answer to learn if I was close.

Once a week, pick a scenario that has come up in your business and use it as a role play with your employees. Talk through how they handle the role play and how they can improve.

Join a call

Join a call with your employees. Let them take the lead (it’s going to be easy for them to default to you). Sit back and don’t say anything even when it’s hard.

When that call is finished, talk with your employee about how the call could have gone better. Even loop back to role playing parts of the conversation to try out the alternate suggestions.

Make this a regular practice since the more you do it the more your employees will act like themselves.

‘Mini’ mastermind

Technical mentorship is pretty common. Have someone who’s not great with JavaScript and someone else who’s great with it? Of course you pair them up on a project so that the person with weaker skills can learn how to be better.

But don’t stop with technical skills. Have you tried pairing up a few of your employees who are awesome with clients and a few that aren’t? Try it. Pair them up for weekly (or whatever time frame) ‘mini’ masterminds on client relationships.

Encourage them not to talk technical but focus on how the relationships with clients are going. What’s been tripping them up and what’s been going awesome.

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Let your employees learn from each other. Not only will this help the employees who are struggling with client skills, it’s going to empower the employees with strong clients skills to act as mentors.

Employees want to be trusted and empowered, so you’re ultimately going to get better work out of those mentors.

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