Are We Getting Better As Sales Professionals?
Some of you know that one of my biggest vices is high performance vehicles. My garages, at various times, have been filled with cool motorcycles, old American muscle cars, and occasionally an exotic vehicle. Recently, I indulged in buying a new car. It has some awesome technologies, all oriented to making my driving experience better and easier.
The car is fantastic, it almost parks itself (actually in Europe it would). It has cameras and sensors that guide me into the parking spot and forces me to stop just shy of the curb. When I drive, it keeps me from drifting outside my lane. If my attention lapses and the car drifts, the steering wheel vibrates, if there is a car next to me, the car actively steers me back to the center of my lane.
I could go on and on. It’s just loaded with features that make it easier for me to drive, help alert me, and help make me a better safer driver.
But that’s the challenge. I’m not sure it is making me a better driver. It’s taking things over for me, as a result I find my self just slightly less attentive. As an example, I don’t check my side view mirrors as much, because I know the car will keep me from changing lanes if there is a care right next to me. As a result, I’ve turned a lot of those features off, forcing me to be very attentive to what’s happening when I drive (though I still love the parking features).
I see much of the same thing happening in sales. Prescription has become the big buzzword. In prescription, we spell out the things sales people need to do to maximize their success. A sales process is prescriptive.
But increasingly, I’m seeing attempts to be overly prescriptive, trying t to consider every possible thing a sales person should do and every situation they might encounter. One of the simplest ways to think about this is scripting.
There are some positives to this, it improves consistency of execution across the sales team. If the script is based on what makes us most successful, then it should improve results.
But all of us have encountered or have been the struggling sales person when the customer seems to have a script that doesn’t match ours.
If gets more complex than this. There are hundreds of tools trying to help us be better sales people. They do our research of us, presenting talking points, they do analysis suggesting customers we should target, they help us refine and identify next steps and actions we should be taking. We can launch prospecting campaigns, blindly, with the touch of a few buttons.
So all these things done under the labels of sales enablement, training, and tools are focused on helping us be better sales people. These tools can provide tremendous help in improving our efficiency, sometimes even improving our effectiveness.
Sometime, however, I wonder if these are making us better sales people, or if they enable us to stop paying attention.
We blindly execute our scripts, not really listening, not quite engaging. We stop thinking, evaluating and responding.
We rely on the tools to help us, but focus more on volume and quantity, rather than thoughtful and impactful communication.
Too often, we go unconscious, going on autopilot.
All these things that are focused on making us better–and can if we apply them thoughtfully, can seduce us into not paying attention. Rather than making us better, we become sloppy, lazy, we stop thinking and analyzing.
I would never suggest we turn off these things, they do enable us—not make us—to be better and more impactful. But we have to be attentive, we have to recognize the intent is to help us focus, to improve the quality of how we engage our customers, to be more thoughtful and mindful in each interaction with every customer.
The future of driving is interesting. Within a few years, my car won’t need me as a driver.
If we stop paying attention, perhaps the future is the same for sales?
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