Traditional sales training often focuses on tools and techniques. ‘How to’ build rapport’ ‘How to’ overcome objections; ‘How to’ close the sale and so on.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. They are all important things to know.
But in my experience there is something fundamental missing. Something that is often overlooked.
The best tools and techniques in the hands of someone without self-awareness is the same as giving a precision tool to a child. At best a waste of money, at worst, dangerous.
Self-awareness is not the same as self-absorption or self-obsession.
Self-awareness means, quite simply, that you ‘know yourself’ – your feelings, thoughts, motivations and drivers… your ‘hot buttons’, fears, hopes, strengths and weaknesses. You know when your emotions are driving your behaviour and how to course-correct. You know when the pressure is getting to you and how to calm yourself down. You know when you are in ‘flight, flight or freeze’ mode and recognise what you can do about it in the moment. You know when someone is being provocative and how to respond without getting would up.
And knowing all this is likely to help you build better relationships. And as we know, great sales people are great at building relationships.
People buy people. Like most clichés it is absolutely true.
But that’s just the start
You also need to know how others perceive you – how the ‘way you are’ helps you get what you need and when it doesn’t. (And this is not about changing your personality – it’s about working on unproductive behaviour).
And it’s only when you know yourself well that you can start to understand others – and particularly potential buyers. What drives them, annoys them, excites them. Awareness of others means you are attuned to what is happening when you are with them. You can pick up the signals, the language they use (particularly the emotive words which will give you some great clues…. If you actually hear them)… and work accordingly.
People with self-awareness have highly tuned antennae.
They know when to talk and when to shut up.
They admit it when they don’t know an answer to a question rather than waffling hopelessly and digging a big hole.
Now, the often given advice in selling is that ‘you are not as important as you think you are’ and ‘it’s all about the buyer.’
I agree with that – but only to a certain extent.
Because you need to know yourself FIRST and do the work on yourself FIRST if you truly want to be able to build relationships and focus completely on your potential buyer.
And get more sales.
So here’s the truth.
I won’t buy you if you don’t listen, if you treat me as a number, if you interrupt me, if you don’t answer my questions, if you don’t find out what I need and if you don’t pay attention (I can see you trying to jump in with an answer before I’ve finished speaking).
I won’t buy you if you reek of stale cigarettes or booze, if you turn up late, deliver a dull PowerPoint presentation in a monotone, (the same one you clearly delivered to your last five prospects) and have a set of questions which you ask regardless of how I answer each one.
I won’t buy you if you haven’t bothered to find out about my business, about the context in which I operate, and what my competitors are doing.
I won’t buy you if you’re ‘doing’ sales techniques on me (I can spot them a mile off).
And I won’t buy from you if you’re not focused on our conversation and constantly distracted - checking texts/emails/messages. Am I important to you or not?
I won’t buy from you if you’re working (obviously!) from a script, gabbling too quickly and not pausing for breath.
I don’t care how many smart-arsed questions you’ve got in your ‘toolkit’ if you haven’t got any self- awareness.
So, Sales Managers, Sales Directors and Sales Trainers --- start focusing on the right things.
Help your sales teams to develop their self-awareness.
Here’s three ways you can start:
1) Help them to recognise their emotions
How are they feelings about a sales conversation or sales meeting or a particular buyer? What are the beliefs they are holding that may lead to success – or failure?
One question to start you off (adapt according to your own needs):
‘On a scale of 1-10 how confident do you feel about that sales conversation?’
‘If it’s a 5 – what would need to happen for your confidence to be at 6 – or 7 – or 10?’
2) Help them to prepare – mentally and physically
It goes without saying that they’ve done their preparation on the client and the client’s organisation, right? But what about their own personal presentation? This might be some strategies to help them appear cool, calm and collected when they walk through the door. They might need to walk more slowly into the room to demonstrate their authority and credibility. They might need to do a mini practice-run with you to help them articulate clearly the questions they want to ask.
3) Give them honest feedback on their Impact
I recently worked with a Sales Manager who is the life and soul of the party – always the comedian. She loves to get everyone laughing. In her old job that worked quite well a lot of the time. But now she’s selling bigger, more high-end products to senior executives she can be seen as lacking authority or credibility. And sales have been lost as she’s not taken seriously.
Which is a shame because she knows her stuff. And she’s got hundreds of tools and techniques!
But she’s had to develop her self-awareness.
She had to hear the feedback. Digest it. Then decide what to change.
She’s working on being more ‘regal’ and less ‘slapstick’ (‘more Helen Mirren than Jo Brand’ as she put it).
She’s changing her language to be more ‘grown up’ and less ‘childlike’.
In a nutshell:
Good self-awareness leads to stronger impact leads to more sales!
A coaching approach to developing your sales team
Lynn Scott has over fifteen years’ experience of providing bespoke, practical and game changing leadership development for senior leaders and teams in the corporate world. She is one of only 40 ICF Master Certified Coaches in the UK. She writes practical no BS leadership tips on her weekly blog www.lynnscottcoaching.co.uk/blog.
Contact Lynn on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01729 548024