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I often tell my clients that effective selling is a combination of physiology, psychology, and consultative skills. And for too long, sales organizations have only focused on teaching salespeople hard selling skills. It’s time for a new perspective. We live in the Information Age. Salespeople have access to more information on sales than ever before. They have podcasts, webinars, books, and workshops. In fact, American companies spend roughly $20 billion on sales training every year.

So we have to ask ourselves this question: With all this good information available, why are we still facing some of the same challenges in sales that we did 25 years ago? Based on research from CSO Insights, only 63% of salespeople actually make their quota. Can you imagine if every part of a company managed to these success stats?

  • 37% of products produced would be defective
  • 37% of invoices issued would be incorrect
  • 37% of customer service calls would go unanswered

The above stats aren’t acceptable, and neither is our acceptance of poor quota attainment. One of the root causes of lack of sales revenues is that most sales managers work on the wrong end of the problem. In an effort to improve close ratios, they coach and teach their sales team even more hard selling skills. They ignore soft skill training and emotional intelligence (EQ) skills, due to lack of knowledge or belief. Research from Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, shows that people with high EQ make an average of $29,000 more per year than people with low EQ.

Here’s a reality check. Most salespeople know what to do. But under difficult selling situations, they buckle and default to nonproductive selling behaviors. Emotions start running the meeting rather than effective selling and communication skills. Salespeople present solutions too soon — even though they know they should be asking questions. A salesperson offers a discount, right after attending a negotiation-skills training course.  


So CEOs and sales managers, what can you do?

#1: Teach your sales team the neuroscience of sales.

Help your sales team members leverage their intelligence and manage their emotions to achieve more sales. When a salesperson meets with a challenging prospect, it’s easy to get triggered, resorting to fight-or-flight behaviors. And when a salesperson gets emotionally charged, blood moves from the digestive tract to the muscles and limbs in preparation for fleeing or fighting. Heart rate goes up, adrenaline is released, and clarity of thought is compromised. All those good selling and influence skills are lost in a cloud of emotion, and the salesperson is left with the selling skills of a monkey.

#2: Teach your sales team the power of self-awareness and breathing.

Encourage your team to get in tune with their emotions and recognize when they are moving into survival behavior. They can limit the emotional response by taking two or three deep breaths to restore oxygen and logical thinking, thereby regaining their ability to execute effective selling skills.  

#3: Teach your sales team to change their story.

When triggered by a prospect, coach your team to ask this powerful question: “What else could be true?” Instead of the salesperson telling himself or herself a story about the prospect being a jerk, change the story. The prospect is defensive because another vendor over-promised and under-delivered. The prospect is worried that the same mistake will happen again. Change the story and you change your emotional response. Apply the EQ skill of empathy and step into your prospect’s shoes. Work hard to see the current selling situation from your prospect’s perspective because that view diffuses a fight-or-flight response.  

It’s important to continue to teach hard selling skills such as value propositions, asking effective questions, pre-call planning, and dealing with objections. It’s equally important to integrate emotion management and emotional intelligence into your sales processes to help your team execute the hard selling skills.

Most salespeople know what to do. But under difficult selling situations, they buckle and default to nonproductive selling behaviors.”

Colleen Stanley | President and Chief Selling Officer, SalesLeadership Inc.

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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