The profession of selling is changing rapidly, and you need to up your game if you want to continue being successful in sales. Take a look back at this CONNECT2Sell Blog post if you doubt this to be true.
Sellers who stagnate find themselves struggling, often after it’s too late. Don’t be one of those statistics – the once great seller who can’t seem to get back on top. Complacency is the enemy of high achievers. It’s much easier to stay on top then it is to get back there after you’ve become complacent.
Research shows that one of the most important competencies in any career for the next 5 years will be learning agility. Check out “Agile Selling” by Jill Konrath if you’d like to learn about this competency and how important it is for your continued sales success. Learning agility is defined as being able to learn plus being able to apply what you have learned in a variety of situations. Being nimble and open to learning is a great compensator for other competencies you may lack.
Naturally, we all lack certain competencies. So having a backup compensator is just smart business. The biggest disabler of forming learning agility is defensiveness. If you are a seller who thinks you do not need to learn, one who has numerous excuses for your slipping numbers or who blames others for any aspect of underperformance, you may be unable to become learning agile.
So, step one is to check your defensiveness. The self-examination is worth it to form learning agility. Your next step, then, is to think about what you ought to learn, starting today. Here are three broad topic areas to consider.
1) The technical skills of selling
– This could include any skill of selling that you have struggled with in the past. Think about the sales process and every skill needed throughout that process. Give yourself an assessment. What is your weakest area? Is it cold calling, closing, needs assessment, proposal writing? Whatever it is, that’s a technical skill worth learning about.
– A technical skill you may need to focus on would be using technology and tools provided to you more effectively. Yes, systems are becoming increasingly complex. They are also becoming increasingly helpful for those who master them. Invest the time it takes to practice and become more proficient in using these tools for sales success.
– You may also need technical skills or increased skills related to the industry you serve. Consider what it is your customers know and how it would benefit you to have that insider track by knowing much of the same.
2) The soft skills of selling
– What skills do you need to connect with people more quickly and more effectively? Spend time learning how to ask quality questions, how to develop active and empathetic listening, how to tell compelling stories that will captivate your buyers and cause them to be able to visualize the solutions you are proposing.
– What about your presentation skills? If you present to a large group but have never taken a formal course in public speaking, what gap might there be for you that a program like Toastmasters can help you with?
– Think, too, about the skills related to building trust, maximizing relationships and qualifying to get more referrals from your customers. None of these are “gimmes.” Each is a discrete and important soft skill that no seller should operate without.
3) The profession of selling itself
– Become a student of selling. Stay on top of what’s new and how it’s being received. Look for both sides of what is being introduced into the world of selling so you can extract, for yourself, what will be useful to you in the way you sell. Don’t believe everything you read at first glance. Delve into the topics that are making waves across your industry. A good example of this would be the Challenger Sale which was popularized about two years ago and has since become hotly contested. Learn for yourself about both points of view so you can understand and apply what’s of value in the way you sell.
– Selling is a craft. It’s backed by a great deal of science and research. The same is true of buying. Knowing the psychology and the methodologies of buying will help you to make better decisions and to develop better instincts as you sell.
– If you’ve exhausted the learning across the world of sales, expand to learn more about companion professions. Learn more about marketing. Learn about sales management or that next level job that is of interest to you. Learn what it’s like to sell in different industries, or at different levels, or in different cultures. Expand your horizons.
Once you’ve decided what to learn about first, you will find that there are many choices for how to go about learning. Few other professions offer as many resources as selling does. Here are just a few starter ideas:
– Join LinkedIn discussion groups related to the area of expertise you are going to learn about. Interact in group discussions rather than lurking or browsing. Ask questions. Make connections with people who are experts and can help you continually learn.
– Download podcasts, radio shows and interviews. Sales experts around the world are featured in many free resources like these. This is a great way to spend your time in the car as you travel from one sales engagement to another.
– Books, e-books, white papers and blog posts are plentiful on the Internet and in bookstores. Find the authors who know your industry, have established themselves as credible experts and write in a style that you find appealing. Follow a number of authors so you get diverse points of view. Consider subscribing to or frequently visiting sites that feature multiple experts.
– Attend free webinars. There are plenty to choose from. Search by topic and look at sites that offer you a diversity of speakers and presenters. Many provide these resources with no cost and no obligation. The learning is yours for the taking.
– Attend training. It could be email training, live training, public training or private training held for your own industry or company. At least once a year, refresh your skills or expand them with instructor-led training and/or coaching directly focused on meeting your needs.
Remember: No matter how good you are, it’s imperative to push yourself to continually improve and develop more and more learning agility. It’s how the best of our profession will survive and thrive over the long-term.