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Sales Training And Human Interaction

by David Brock on June 16th, 2014

Annually, billions are invested in sales skills training.  On top of that, millions are spent on books on sales techniques, thousands of articles are written.

People are constantly looking for an edge, “What are the ways I can get by the gatekeepers?”  “How do I craft an opening sentence that captures the prospect’s attention and gets me a meeting?” “What’s the best way to handle the objection?”  “How do I close the customers?”

In too much of the training on sales techniques, the customer is an abstraction, the object upon which we execute our techniques, bending to our will — at least if we execute the technique properly.

OK, I’m exaggerating quite a bit–there’s a lot great sales skills training and important concepts that help improve our ability to connect with customers.  But sometimes, I think we overcomplicate things or lose site of what all of this is about:  Basic human interaction.

Selling is about people, interactions between people, how we engage people most impactfully.

Understanding what drive humans interaction, developing our skills to interact with humans, as humans is sometimes lost in all the stuff we wrap around our sales techniques.

Imagine, for a moment, stepping out of our roles as sales people.  Think about how we engage people as “civilians.”

The interactions we have with “civilians” are very different.  We don’t think, “Which type of question should I ask right now?”  “What close should I use?”

Instead, we converse, talk, engage, interact.  We are curious, we ask questions that are meaningful and relevant, we probe, we’re interested.  We express our own opinions, we may debate, we exchange ideas, we laugh, we convince.  Generally, to some degree, we “care” about the person we are talking to–even if only it’s a passing conversation.  We gravitate to people we trust, we avoid those we don’t.

Think of the conversations we have with colleagues in our company.  We want to accomplish things, we engage them in conversations, sometimes difficult discussions.  We collaborate, coordinate, convince.  We don’t think so much about our objection handling techniques or how we close our managers in getting support.  We just engage in natural conversations.

Through all this–whether they are professional conversations where we are trying to align and move forward on a project; conversations with friends where we may be debating ideas; or conversations with our families; we accomplish things.  The conversations move forward, we accomplish things.

Perhaps much of our sales skills training overcomplicates things.  Perhaps, we are more effective if we focus on human interactions.

(Thanks to Mike Kunkle for the inspiration on this.)

  1. “People buy from people who sell.”

    And, that is an Interactive process. Simple.

    Great Blog keeping us all thinking, Dave. Thanks.

  2. Nice to see I inspire someone other than my dog, Dave. 😉 (Endless bad humor potential here, I’m just too tired for puns at the moment…)

    This was my exact point the other day, when I joked that if we could get the customers to tag along, it’d be worth sending reps and their clients to marriage counseling.

    We can’t spend all our time talking about the weather, either, so I get that the dialogue must span beyond personal, beyond “rapport,” beyond “relationship” to move into business discussion and real value creation… but it still needs to be an authentic, transparent dialogue, with clarity of communication, with active listening, with intent and reception aligned, and with all the things we humans often miss, in our attempts to communicate with each other. We need to do better at this, and less on technique. This is what I love about Richardson (their dialogue and Consultative Selling core) and Franklin Covey (Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play – Helping Clients Succeed)… it’a about really communicating, not just models and methodologies. I’d love to see more from you on this, Dave.

    And Brian… with the best of intent and meant kindly.. because you have a very serious, good point.. I literally LOL’d at “People buy from people who sell,” because it just struck me as hilarious. But also very true, and I get what you mean. 😉

    • Mike, thanks first for inspiring this post and for the comment. I think we are both talking about a purposefulness to the conversations we have. Maybe, bridging from here to Brian’s comment that people buy from people who sell, we should look at selling in a broader context. Perhaps selling should be recast to go beyond actions that culminate in a PO to looking at getting things done, selling our ideas/projects, etc. While we don’t call it selling, and perhaps don’t measure people on how much they’ve “sold,” it’s about getting things done through people, persuading, convincing, influencing, getting outcomes we seek. In that context, many more people sell, and very few are trained in selling technique–yet they are effective and impactful.

      What do you think? Regards, Dave

      • Dave, I think that’s exactly what’s needed. I’ll write more when I’m not mobile, and maybe I’ll even blog about this. But I’m so crazy, but I am for a completely performance and outcome based compensation system, with sliding schedules for outcomes, not just for sales people, but for companies in general. That would change everything.

  3. It was this Blog which provoked me into Blogging about the Sales Education gives Sales Performance myth.

    Sales exists inside Sales politics, and often those politics prevent, or limit, selling. Salespeople are told to ‘deliver’ the pitch. Salespeople are expected to ‘know’ stuff, and are told what to know, are coached in how to deliver what they know.

    Yet we hold perfectly effective informational or persuasive conversations as ‘civilians’. Ignorance does not hold us back in a civilian conversation, but sometimes politics does.

    It’s time we had a look at Sales politics, and spent less time and money on knowing stuff which we are expected to ‘tell’ the Customer.

  4. Great blog! I think what often undermines any interaction is our own insecurity. If we fell inferior to or intimidated by the people we are communicating with, we behave differently than when we are feeling confident. The same is true for salespeople. As you have discussed before, finding your “sweet spot” and gift allows you to feel confident in what you are selling or discussing. Positive human interaction begins when we feel comfortable in our own skin or with what we are trying to interest others in.
    Ken Schmitt

    • Great observation Ken. When we are outside our “sweet spot,” we are outside where our expertise and experience base is. The more we focus on our sweet spot, the more we can engage customers confidently in value based discussions.

      Having said that, every once in a while it’s powerful to venture, experiment and learn–perhaps growing our sweet spot.

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