Welcome to our Smarter Selling series where we call upon respected professionals in our industry to offer their insights about the sales process. This month we welcome Scott Stroud.
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When does a salesperson truly become a sales professional?
Simply put, a salesperson becomes a true professional when they reach the point where they unconsciously view their buyers as more important than the transaction.
Getting to that point isn’t easy. Why? For one thing, sales managers hammer their sales teams to meet quotas and deliver sales, often without the training, coaching and fine-tuning required to master key selling skills. The art of listening, building rapport, and maintaining trust are missing, largely because they are not skills that the managers themselves posses. So, they manage for the average, not the exceptional.
When I was a new sales recruit a sales trainer walked me through the four stages of sales competency. Though they are older than I am, I haven’t seen them addressed for a while, so here they are:
Unconscious Incompetence: We start off not knowing anything about sales and are completely unaware of what it takes and how much we have to learn.
Conscious Incompetence: We start to read and study the craft of selling and suddenly begin to realize just how much we have to learn – and how bad at it we really are.
Conscious Competence: Through study, practice, coaching and experience we begin to put into action effective selling methods and techniques. Selling becomes deliberate as we become aware of the steps to take, the sequence to follow, the words we use and our prospect’s responses. But we still have to think through each sale.
Sales teams are full of consciously competent sales counselors that can handle most sales situations and make a decent living. But at this point, they are still aware of the process and often too focused on what can go wrong with the deal instead of listening to and responding to their buyer’s needs. They are still focused on the deal, not the buyer.
Unconscious Competence: This happens when experience and coaching allow the salesperson to put the transaction on autopilot with the absolute confidence that if they focus on the buyer’s issues, needs, pains and feelings – and take care of their buyers – the transaction will take place. They are helping people instead of selling people. As a result, they outsell most of their peers.
Being totally focused on the buyer above the sale requires confidence that can only come from experience and hard work (and helped along with the aforementioned coaching if available). It’s not something anyone is born with, but is a level of professionalism everyone should aspire to achieve.
By Scott Stroud