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Is “Figuring Things Out” A Critical Sales Skill?

by David Brock on February 20th, 2018

It seems much of the trend in sales is to provide our sales people all the answers they need to cover every situation.  We provide sales automation tools that instruct the sales person exactly who to call and what companies.

We script the conversations, providing questions that get the answers we want.

We provide playbooks, we provide endless amounts of content, new programs, ready to send emails.

All the sales person has to do is follow the playbook, stick to the script, blindly make the next call on the list.

We focus and instrument everything a sales person should do, striving for predictable revenue.

And it works until it doesn’t…..

Increasingly, it seems not to be working.  There is a disconnect between the customer and sales people.

Customers complain that sales people don’t understand them.  Sure, these customers are the target personas in our target ICP.  But each is different.  Their situation is different, their priorities are different, what they think and believe is different and will change over time.

In complex buying, they are dealing with very challenging problems and they don’t know how to buy.

Their buying group struggle with aligning their own agendas and interests in the buying process, they struggle with priorities, they struggle in a constantly shifting business and competitive market place.  What was true for them yesterday is no longer true for them today.

And their buying journey is constantly changing, and each different customer has a different buying journey.

Our sales people struggle to engage these customers in a dynamic environment.  Overlaid on the customer environment is the constant change in our own organizations, new products, changes in policy, changes in priorities, new programs, new resources for support, new hurdles we have to jump just to present solutions to our customers.

Everyday sales people face an infinite number of possibilities for which there are no pre-scripted answers.

But in all our help, we are dumbing the sales person down.   We are making it increasingly difficult for them to respond in this dynamic environment.

We think we are being helpful.  We think we are driving greater efficiency, but we aren’t equipping sales people with the ability to deal with the situations they may face in the next call, or the next deal, or in managing/growing their account, or in finding new opportunities.

The more it isn’t working, the more we pile on, in the spirit of enabling them, where perhaps we are really disabling them.

Perhaps a different approach is required.

Perhaps, if we prepared our sales people to “figure things out,” they would be better prepared to deal with that situation that is different from the previous situation.

Perhaps, if our sales people knew how to “figure things out,” they could create great value by helping customers “figure things out.”

Perhaps, if our sales people were skilled at “figuring things out,” we wouldn’t have to invest so much in doing things that dumb them down.


As sales performance declines and organizations ratchet up the volumes to try to stay even.

Customers are increasingly tough to reach.  Yes they are busy, but they are still searching for solutions, but dealing with sales people isn’t providing them what they need.

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  1. David,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been bucking the trend in managing salespeople for a long time. I am all in favor of tools that increase efficiency or even give a macro view of the sales environment in which one operates. But sales pros really need to have their own voice and treat every interaction as if they had never seen it before…because they haven’t. There is no guarantee that words, actions or strategies that worked once will work again.

    • Well said Michael, we need to focus on principles first then layer on the tools. By the way, just discovered your blog, love it!

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