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Are You Learning Yesterday’s Skills For Tomorrow’s Buyers?

by David Brock on October 28th, 2018

Every time I meet sales enablement and sales executives, I ask, “What are the critical skills you are focusing on training and developing your people on?

The answers are varied, but generally fall into very specific, and classic selling skills:  Qualifying, questioning, listening, prospecting, objection handling, closing, call planning, deal planning, account planning, time/territory management, establishing rapport, communications styles, and so on.

These skills are important, in fact they are table stakes for all professional sales people.

But they are yesterday’s skills and insufficient in working with tomorrow’s buyers.

Going back to those conversations with sales executives, I usually follow that initial question with, “What are you doing to train your people in curiosity, what about critical thinking and problem solving?  Have you considered project management, consensus building, facilitation, change management, systems thinking?  And then there is the perennial, business acumen.  It’s been on my list for decades, but I don’t see many organizations addressing this, despite tremendous resources being available.

By now, about 70% of the people are looking at me cross-eyed, inevitably thinking, “Those aren’t selling skills, what’s this guy talking about?

Hmmm, it’s interesting, those aren’t selling skills, but there are more than selling skills that are critical to being a high performing sales person.  Why are so many limiting their thinking to selling skills and not looking at the skills critical to sales success?

About 25% respond, “We’re struggling with things like value creation, communication, delivery.  Or they may site specific programs like Insight or Challenger Selling.”

These are important and can be game changing.  The problem is, without a foundation curiosity, critical thinking, consensus building, problem solving, and so forth, it’s really difficult to apply these approaches effectively.

Then there’s the 5%.  These are the organizations with consistent high performance.  These are the people looking at where the buyers are going–or where they need to be going.   These are the organizations that recognize customers struggle to buy, so they can create great value in helping the customers navigate their own problem solving/buying processes.

It’s no wonder that we see a widening gap in sales performance.  Year after year, the percent of people making plan declines.  Year after year, the chasm between buyers and sellers increases.

A large part of this is we are focusing on yesterday’s skills, but not developing the capabilities to create great value for tomorrow’s buyers.

If you are a sales enablement professional, or a sales executive, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities.  If you are a sales professional, committed to your own professional development, recognize that all the skills you need to be successful in selling are not selling skills. Look beyond these and start learning the skills critical to your success.

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