Thinking Is Mandatory
I talk to all sorts of sales people and sometimes notice an “impatience.” When I ask, I get responses like:
“Would you just give us the formula to [insert whatever you want–prospect, get meetings with execs, close, handle this/that objection, fill my pipeline…..]?”
“What’s the script?”
“If I just had a killer pitch!”
They seem to want the answer to universal sales success. They want a formula or recipe for success. As if I could say, “Take a cup of this, a pint of that, a pinch or this, 2 tablespoons of something else, stir well, and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.”
Too often, they aren’t seeking to understand, but they simply want the answers, “Do this, then that……” Many times, they think it’s like the tests they may have taken in school, they are asking for the “right answer.”
A lot of what I see going on in the sales training, tools, and sales enablement community, perhaps inadvertently, seems to reinforce the notion there is a magic formula. We talk about playbooks, battlecards, we use checklists, templates we fill in the blanks, pitch decks, content scoring, and all sorts of other things (I’m as guilty in many of these areas as others). We standardize the approach, train, rehearse, train again until everyone can give “The Pitch.” I’ve seen scripted discussions, elegantly flow charted, covering every possible response a customer might give you (except for the one they actually give you), so that all the person does is blindly follow the chart.
In our quest to simplify, standardize, make more effective, make more efficient, we have had the unintended effect of removing thinking, analyzing, and just plain “figuring it out.” from the skill set of too many sales people. In our attempts to provide automated tools to help the sales person, we are actually automating the sales person. Just wind them up, point them in the right direction, turn them loose.
In the end, we forget, that for sales success, thinking is mandatory!
The ability to listen, probe, understand, analyze, then figure out a response–in microseconds. The ability to set a goal to close a deal in 12 months, visualize the path to achieving it, executing it, adapting it as obstacles appear. The ability to deal, simultaneously, with ambiguity and paradox, and to develop a plan of action. All these things are critical for sales success, all require the ability to think and reason.
It’s amazing to look at the sales training programs organizations put in place, not to find any programs on critical thinking, problem solving, or analysis.
It’s amazing as you look at the most heavily weighted competencies in recruiting sales people, closing skills, objection handling, prospecting, presentation and other skills often are more important than critical thinking or problem solving.
People come to me for answers about how to handle specific situations. My answer is always the same, “It depends…..” In truth, there are no right answers or many right answers — depending on your point of view.
It’s up to the sales person to sort through all of this and figure out, “what’s the right answer for me in this situation?”
If you want to be successful in engaging your customers. If you want to be successful in selling. If you want to be successful in virtually anything; thinking is mandatory.
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