I enjoy teaching and coaching salespeople about the hard skills of running an effective sales call, what I refer to as the “Sales IQ.” It’s challenging — and fun — to analyze and figure out the best strategies to unseat a strong incumbent, attract the attention of an overloaded prospect or eliminate price objections.
But I am also aware of the importance of focusing on the soft skills, the Sales EQ, needed for sales success.
If a salesperson isn’t executing the right selling behaviors, there is a good chance that self-limiting beliefs might be the culprit. Beliefs drive our actions or inactions. I can train and coach hard skills all day long, but if a salesperson has a self-limiting belief, it will affect the execution of those selling skills.
Take a look at a few examples.
#1. Existing competitors. The self-limiting belief from a salesperson might be, “There is no way they are going to switch. They’ve been doing business with Pete for 10 years. It’s too much of a hassle to switch.” The salesperson throws in the sales towel before she even runs the call and doesn’t devote the time to uncovering hidden gaps in the competitor’s offering. The sales meeting is average, at best so the prospect stays with the incumbent. The salesperson self-limiting belief is fulfilled!
#2. Competing against larger competitor. Imposter syndrome and “we’re-not-good-enough” self-talk can appear in these selling situations. The salesperson starts believing bigger is better. As a result, the salesperson shows up at to the sales meeting and oversells to justify why your small company is good enough to play in the big leagues. Overselling always creates a seed of doubt in a prospect’s mind. The salesperson loses the deal. Not because your company is small, but because your salesperson doesn’t believe that small is a competitive advantage.
#3. Deal size. The salesperson has landed a meeting with a whale. This multimillion-dollar deal is the largest she’s ever sold. Then the negative chatter begins. “The prospect is never going to invest this much money. This is a lot of cash.” The salesperson ends up taking her wallet to the meeting and sells a smaller solution, one that is comfortable with her concept of money.
Now, some of you might be thinking the “belief system stuff” is pop psychology. To change your own belief systems, step outside the profession of sales and examine other scenarios where people aren’t demonstrating the right behaviors — even when they know they should be.
- Friends that continue to date losers because they believe they can’t attract — or deserve– a nice human being.
- Colleagues that believe age is affecting their success. “I’m too young for anyone to take me seriously. I’ve been selling for a long time. Why fix what ain’t broken?”
Coach to the right end of the sales-performance issue. Apply the EQ skills of self-awareness and impulse control. When salesperson starts giving excuses about your company being too small or its prices are too high, manage your impulse to provide more sales technique training. Examine what soft skill might be affecting this salesperson success.
In order for me to stop teaching, preaching and convincing, I manage my impulse control and remove my coaching hat. I replace with my investigator hat which helps me ask more questions and better questions.
- Existing competitor. “Unseating an incumbent is always a challenge. What’s your biggest worry in meeting with a prospect that has a long relationship with the competition? How do you think that is affecting how you show up to the meeting?” These simple questions help the salesperson uncover a negative belief, based solely on perception. It also starts a self-discovery coaching conversation about how this belief is affecting the rep’s desire to engage in effective pre-call planning.
- Competing against a much larger competitor. “Your concern about our company size is a fair one. What’s beneath the concern about our company size? Is that belief based on perception or something the prospect actually said?” These questions help salespeople understand that they are making up stories, ones the prospect never brought up or cares about.
- Deal size. “What do you believe the difference is in selling an average-size deal and a larger deal? How many of those selling skills do you currently possess? How many of those skills are you capable of learning?” These questions help the salesperson recognize that many of the same selling principles apply — regardless of deal size. It also helps the salesperson realize they can control their destiny because learning new skills is well within their control.
Keep coaching the hard selling skills, the Sales IQ skills. Prebriefing and debriefing calls are important and impactful. And equally important is coaching and improving the soft skills. Soft skills do produce hard sales results.