Three key Ingredients to Boost your Perceptual Skills to the Expert Level:
We’ve all seen it first hand, that brilliant sales performance where the expert seems to nail every aspect of the selling interaction. But what exactly is that “it” in selling, the part that’s hard to put a finger on and we most often dismiss as simply having a knack or “it just comes with experience.” But when we peel back the onion a bit more, we discover the underlining intuitive actions that are actually at play. And not only can we unravel the mystery of implicit selling, thanks to science, we can now learn to repeat and improve these skills without sacrificing large amounts of selling time.
One key element of recognition involves situation awareness−a term commonly used in the emergency (fire, medical, and rescue) and military domains. These professionals have to be able to make life and death snap decisions with a high degree of accuracy. This raises the question of the role of situation awareness in selling. While it is not life threatening to mishandle a sales objection, knowing how to adjust to situations is essential to success.
The Price of Oblivion:
One major reason that many salespeople struggle to succeed is because of missed cues, a blindness of the sales environment. By blindness, I mean the seller will often ignore cues because she doesn’t see a reason to react. Others may lack intuitive skills which lead them to take the path of least resistance. But either way, if she is consumed with her own presentation, the opportunity for connecting is often lost.
Here’s my Recipe for Improving Sales Recognition:
1. Add 1 pound of “Attentionality” (Laser Mental Focus). To best understand attentionality, we turn to an example in sports. Let’s say a football team wants to win a big game against their arch rival. During the course of that contest, if the players think about scoring touchdowns and winning the game, inevitably, they don’t perform as well. Therefore, excellent coaches guide their team’s thinking to focus narrowly on the task at hand. The offensive linemen focus on executing the proper blocking techniques while the receiver visualizes the perfect route and catch actions he has drilled all week. And of course the quarterback, hones in on the defensive coverage, before and during the play so he knows exactly where to pass the ball.
During interactions, expert sellers don’t think about the past or the future−only what’s happening in that moment. They aren’t thinking about what they had for breakfast or stressing because they just realized they forgot to call a customer back. Instead they’re minds become like trained ninjas, disciplined and focused on achieving the goal by executing selling tasks to the best of their ability.
2. Sprinkle in some feedback from your sales manager or peers. Ride-a-longs make a great way to build connecting skills and reflective learning. The ideal time for a reflective discussion is right after the joint sales call. The sooner you can talk after ending the call, the more accurate your recall will be. But for reflective learning to take place, you must be open to receive feedback from your colleague. Ask your ride-a-long partner to observe the buyer’s reactions to your presentation as well as your reactions to their messages. The idea is to think about your thinking in order to become more aware of the meaningful cues that affect sales outcomes.
3. Use the Right Utensils and Tools for Improving Your Recognition Recipe. Though it’s not necessary to try to identify all situations you might face, it’s useful to prepare for the most common ones. Make a chart of the most common situations you face in selling along with successful responses that you or other experts have used.
In sum, you now have the recipe for success when you add attentionality to your thinking, sprinkle in some colleague feedback, and use the right utensils to enhance and expand your recognition skills over time.