Last week we looked at two types of people who might appear to be good at sales, but who might not be good enough at sales to survive long term.
The point of my post was to urge those people to purposefully develop their capabilities. And to warn sales team leaders to consider that some of their apparent top performers could fall if their circumstances shift, unless you keep them pumping iron in the ‘sales gym’.
You can read that post – part 1 – here.
How your level of experience can obscure your real sales ability
Continuing with the theme, this week I’m going to issue a word of warning to the next two types of people;
- Those more experienced in sales
- Those less experienced in sales
Now, frankly those with average experience also suffer from the biases mentioned here, so now I’ve taken every single one of us out with my three shots. That’s fair I suppose. No one is off the hook.
Now let’s take a look at how your level of experience can bias your self-rating (and consequently and importantly your likelihood of improving) starting with the more experienced.
The more experienced
I commonly see two problems that can trip the experienced up:
First, sometimes they’re experienced and very good at out-of-date and ineffective sales approaches. Whilst their experience will count for a lot, and I personally find a charm and a lot of wisdom in some of the more experienced people I’ve worked with, if they can’t adapt to how people buy today, they’re going to struggle. These days, the old-school approaches will simply work with fewer people. Time to learn the rules of the new game.
Second, sometimes former star players have forgotten to update their self-image. They still see themselves as the sales super-star they once were! This will surely grind their ability to learn to a halt.
I asked a room full of experienced sales people in banking once to raise their hand if they felt they were great at selling. I think they all raised their hands. So I quickly located the exit and mentally planned my swift escape, then cheekily flashed up a slide of their recent relatively poor sales figures, and asked, “well how do you explain this?”
Luckily they were such gentlemen that they laughed, as did I out of relief. The point was clear. We forget to realign our self-perceptions with reality.
As the quote goes,
“we don’t believe what we see, we see what we believe”.
They had to see that their performance was generally declining and yet they weren’t learning up to date approaches (that some of the younger folk were successfully using). It was becoming costly to all.
The less experienced
What about the less experienced in sales? I spot one common trait when working with younger folk who have been recruited into sales or BD roles. They’re confident. Of course you have to be. But sometimes their self-belief can blind them from their need to improve, adapt and tweak their approach.
8/10 or 8/100
The less experienced measure themselves based on what they know (as do we all), but by default, what they really know about the world of selling is limited. They may feel that they are an 8 out of 10 in their current role, relative to the current expectations their employer has on them.
But as they progress, they’ll realise that the scale doesn’t actually end at 10 after all. It goes on to 100. There’s a lot more to learn and practice to become consistently strong at selling and able to adapt to a wide range of customer types and situations and still successfully sell.
Certainly in selling professional services, there is a sense of maturity required to build trust and make complex sales. It’s not an age thing. It’s more about attitude, care, professionalism, and total respect for your buyer. It’s certainly not about trying to impress your boss, your peers or yourself that you’re a sales whizz-kid. That’s going to back-fire sooner or later.
I’ve worked with some fantastic young BD professionals who have that maturity, respect for others, and willingness to question themselves, stretch, learn and grow.
And I’ve also worked with some who seem to think that they know it all already. And that their only requirement is more responsibility to prove themselves, or just a bit more product/technical knowledge, as if their behavioural capabilities are already spot on. Their learning grinds to a halt. Whilst those who think differently progress further in the long run. The hare and the tortoise springs to mind.
Stopped learning / stopped clock
People in sales who have stopped learning may make a sale every so often. And even a stopped clock is right twice a day too. But time will reveal that if you take your focus off continuously developing your sales capabilities, your results will eventually slide.
In sales, complacency and overconfidence is your nemesis, and I spot them most in the more experienced and less experienced.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus
Next week we’ll look at two more types of people whose sales ability could cost them. We’ll look at those who love to win or ‘take’ vs those who love to give, and explore how both of those can land them in deep trouble.