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Pattern Recognition And The Sales Process

by David Brock on May 10th, 2012

The human brain is an awesome instrument!  One of the things it enables us to do, sometimes almost unconsciously, is to instantly recognize patterns.  We encounter a situation, in nano seconds, our brains compare the situation with others we have encountered through our life.  It quickly enables us to recognize, “I’ve encountered something like this before—-this is how I recognized it, this is what I did, this is what happened as a result.”  We do it thousands of times a day, comparing everything we have encountered, looking for common patterns that have produced successful outcomes, then acting based on our experience of those patterns.

Top performers take this even further.  They move pattern recognition from the unconscious to the conscious.  They constantly compare the characteristics of what they are encountering to their experiences in the past.  They understand the characteristics or variables that are most critical to what they are trying to achieve, they assess the actions they should take based on those characteristics.  They also assess what’s different about these patterns and can quickly adjust what they do based on their past experience and the assessment of the current situation.

People who have mastered something–say a top athlete, musician, someone who has invested the 10,000 hours experts say is required for mastery have thousands of patterns built up in their brains, they have the ability to quickly assess situations they encounter, match that with the most appropriate patterns from their past experience and quickly act.  This capability is often called “muscle memory” or “instinct,” but is really the result of the brain’s tremendous pattern recognition, pattern processing capabilities.

Top performers in sales do the same thing.  They have patterns built up, based on their experience.  They are quickly able to evaluate a customer and just “know” the right way to deal with that customer.  They encounter a sales opportunity and are able to assess it against their past experience, leveraging that experience to develop and execute winning strategies.  Top sales people constantly seek to replicate that experience—find customer that fit the past patterns of success, find situations and opportunities that match the most successful opportunities from the past, and leverage that experience to be successful in these current situations.

When you speak to top sales performers about this, they can precisely describe what they look for (the patterns) and how those patterns influence their activities.  When you watch them in action, they are constantly looking for those situations that match the patterns of past success.  In fact, what they are describing is their personal sales process—the things they look for, the things they do, the responses they expect based on what they have experienced in the past.

The sales process–when taken from an individual level to and organizational level is really the collection of all those past patterns of success.  It is based on the collective experiences and collective patterns of top performers and what has made them successful.  The sales process becomes a “template” or a pattern that all other sales people can leverage to increase their success.  In some sense, it’s a shortcut to the 10,000 hours to mastery, because you are able to leverage the collective “10,000 hours” of all the top performers.

Do you recognize the patterns of your own past successes in sales?  Are you able to leverage them to improve your own personal effectiveness?

Are you leveraging the collective experiences and successes of everyone in the sales organization to contribute to your personal success–you can’t be doing this if your organization doesn’t have a sales process, or you aren’t using it?

Do you constantly update your sales process, based on the new patterns of success you see?

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  1. Dave,
    Very interesting insight on how the sales process can be seen as a collection of best practices of top performers that are institutionalized by a sales organization. Certainly that is one way to scale the success of a small number of individuals across a larger sales force. However, it is also important to recognize that what sets the top performers apart is how they stay aligned to their customers’ buying processes. They often do this instinctively, without recognizing that they are following the buyer’s process.
    A sales process that is simply designed to amalgamate the best practices of top performers misses the linkage back to the source: the buyer. Designing a sales process certainly benefits from a study of the the methods of the best reps, but an understanding of the ‘buyer’s journey’ is equally important. Put the two together and, as you suggest, constantly update on new patterns of success, and new buyer behaviors.

    • John, thanks for the comment. As you point out, top performers are not only aligned with the customer buying proces, but they know how to create value with the customer throught the buying process. This is integral to the sales process of every top performer. Understanding what they do, how they do it, how they create value for the customer in their buying process is critical to understanding best practice.

      Collecting those best practicess from top part of what needs to be done in creating high impact sales processes. Thanks for the contribution. Regards, Dave

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