I am a chef by training and as such my wife tells me that I am a food snob. I am not sure if that is true or not, but what I do know is that I hate foo-foo food, meaning food so complex that it becomes unrecognizable. I love dishes that are simple, and where the chef loves what he or she does so much that you actually taste the love in their food, kind of like how your mother would cook it. To me, selling is no different; some salespeople are knowledgeable about the “mechanics” of the sales process that as soon as you meet them you know that the dance has begun, while others are so bad at it that as soon as you meet them you cannot wait to get away. The trick has always been to find that happy median where rapport makes buying or selling seem like a casual affair. Selling is one of the most challenging career paths with an extremely high attrition rate, not because it is difficult, but because a great portion of those that call themselves salespeople have never received proper training on the subject matter. I use the word training loosely because of the picture that it paints when you hear the word, but what I should have said is that they never received the proper education on the subject matter, so that when they received sales training it would stick. More on this a little bit later.
The 80/20 rule has always been tossed around to explain the failure to success ratio of selling professionals, but the reason that it has lasted so long and continue to be quoted even today, is because the majority who refer to it do not have a plan of action to effect the 80%. But because the statistics points to the 20%’s ability to figure it out on their own, they easily rationalize the failure of the 80%. It’s not that we do not train or that training is not available, it’s our understanding and approach that needs to be re-evaluated. Okay, you are probably asking what exactly do I mean by that; well in order to truly understand my comment, I want you to take a moment to ponder the following statement: “we interpret what things mean based on all of our life experiences to that moment.” In other words, whatever it is that we think we know about what we are asked to do, will determine how to perform that task. Does that make sense? The primary reason why our salespeople are struggling to perform to the level of our expectations is that we teach them activities. For example, step one do this and step two do that and as a result, they interpret how to do these tasks based on their training and life experiences to date. Does this make sense? The toughest pill to swallow is that the majority of our salespeople have significant knowledge gaps that are preventing them from doing their jobs correctly.
The term core competency refers to the mandatory things that the individual must know in order to do their jobs correctly. These core skills are things that the selling professional must know first and be proficient at before they can take advantage of traditional training. This explains why technique based training programs will always fail to meet expectations because it demands that the learner have preexisting knowledge of the skills required to benefit from what is being taught. For example, if I am teaching a specific closing technique or negotiating skill and the learner does not know how to listen correctly or how to interact with different personality traits, then their effectiveness at that skill will be drastically diminished. So you see, it’s not the training that’s the problem, it’s the learner’s interpretation that must be addressed. I have been a student of my craft for over two decades and during that time I have read countless books and attended numerous seminars on sales, management, leadership and motivation; however, I have never seen or heard about the core competencies for selling professionally. It finally dawned on me that what I picked up over the years was a result of my personal quest for knowledge or my own personal development plan, if you will. But as in all great recipes, the ingredients may be simple and readily available but if the chef does not have access to it or does not know in what proportion to use it, then the food will not taste the same way that mama made it. So with that being said, let me share with you the ingredients for creating an effective selling professional that knows how to Build, Maintain and Manage a book of business.
The ingredients that we will use to create an army of super selling professionals will come from six buckets consisting of skills, systems and processes and they are: People Skills, Technical Skills, Professional Development skills, Business Development processes, Customer Relationship Management processes and finally Business Management Systems also known as how to manage a book of business. The skills are the individual ingredients that the learner must know first to be effective at executing the activities found in the systems and processes. Let’s take People Skills for example and apply it to the road to the sale. The very first step in this process is the meet and greet where we currently teach our salespeople how they should behave; for example, they should smile, be courteous and so forth. With this form of instruction, the individual will have to rely on their varied personal experiences to determine how to interpret how to execute each activity. On the other hand, when the learner is first taught Effective People Skills which includes topics such as, The Art of Listening, The Art of Asking Questions, and Understanding Social Styles and then they are taught The Road to the Sale, the meet and greet takes on a totally different meaning. The professional will be able to use their knowledge of asking questions and listening effectively to identify what social style the prospect has in order to establish rapport quickly.
So with that being said, I can remember when I first started selling, my sales manager would often tell me that people will always tell you how to sell them, if you listen well enough; but the funny thing was that he never taught me how to listen!
In Part II of the Recipe, we will connect the dots even further by discussing systems and processes and why they are the keys to producing predictable, repeatable and track-able results!