Skill or Luck

3 minute read

Working with over 50 customers in the last 10 years, who are all striving to increase the effectiveness of their sales people, has been eye opening. Changes in the Buyer/Seller relationship over that time has, in many ways, distilled the role of the Sales Professional back to it’s pure elements by better establishing the traits of sellers.

The need to create value is paramount and the ability to shape the Buyer/Seller interaction to mutual benefit is essential. Without this skillful confidence, luck decides your fate.

(To take part in a ground-breaking survey on the changing role of Buyers and Sellers, click here)

Relying on luck is the cardinal sin of the sales professional. It’s much better to gain control and reduce risk and surprise by applying skill. Sales Leaders dread surprise, which is why so many programs intended to improve skills receive funding, and hopefully offset the ‘sit back and wait’ lottery.

Skill requires knowledge and practice.

However, there is a problem. Not often do these two co-exist. It is the age old dilemma of skill vs. will. The people with the knowledge and experience get comfortable and lack desire to change, learn and improve. The people who lack the knowledge, although motivated and keen to learn, need lots of time and support to gain the required understanding. Typically, a sales team will only have 15% in the ‘Star Performer’ Quadrant. Helping the ‘Core Performer’ boost performance can deliver huge impact to the business, see the diagram below.

For any skills program to be effective, it must cover the how, not just the what. People learn in different ways, and it is essential that new ways of selling can be communicated and rehearsed long after the trainer has left. Spending time defining how people will gain new knowledge and practice new skills is pivotal in making the change happen and become sustainable. A leading indicator is looking at the role models of success within your current team. What are the traits of the top performers?

A dynamic that commonly exists is the generational divide in a sales team. The Sales team can generally be divided into 2 groups. Let’s call them Old and Young. In case my strict ‘pigeon-holing’ offends – there are pros and cons to being in either group. Instead of the top sales people coming from the group with the most experience, there will instead be top performers in both groups. Rather than age being the common factor, other characteristics will dictate which sellers win more.

In order to maximize results, you have to serve your apprenticeship (which never ends) and learn your trade. Without this self-directed drive to learn, you either never gain, or quickly lose, the required skills to win.

So what do you look for? Here are 5 traits of the Best of the Best.

  1. Courage to try the new
  2. Versatility to adapt
  3. Ability to protect the time needed to learn/think/practice
  4. Know how to draw the best out of others and adapt accordingly
  5. Aptitude for solving tough problems

Having a solid sales process to manage opportunities enables the right coaching by the right person. Good coaching elicits the required knowledge, or helps put into practice the never learned, or already forgotten skill.

So, the first step to up-skill you or your team is to make sure you have a common framework that helps them acquire the knowledge (ask the right questions) and practice the skill (ask the questions in the most effective way).

With this foundation, you will: 1) Up the skill level, 2) Reduce the risk and 3) Increase your win rate.

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