Knowledge is crucial to succeed in virtually any endeavor. For the sales professional, superior product knowledge is a prerequisite. Your ability to help your client make an informed decision on a solution in comparison to what they have currently, in comparison to your offering, and the offerings of your competition, set you apart. Product knowledge though is only half the story!
Sales guru @Mark Hunter during the recent ‘Virtual Sales Kickoff 2017’ defined a ‘successful salesperson’ as someone who ”helps others see and achieve what they never thought possible”. So how do you accomplish this?
Before I go on, I like to share with you an exercise I frequently do when providing sales training. I ask someone randomly if they have a family doctor. Of course, most do. I asked the approximate age of the doctor. Most times people answer that the doctor is in their 40s or 50s. So, chances are they graduated sometime during the 1990s. I then ask how they would feel if one day their doctor leaned back in their chair and said proudly “you know, I graduated in 1993…. almost 25 years ago! I really nailed it, and I haven’t opened a book or read a medical article since”. This usually elicits some laughter because of the absurdity of a professional, in the rapidly changing world of medical science, not keeping their skills up. As a sales professional you owe it to yourself, your company, and your clients to maintain a superior knowledge of how you can help your clients achieve what they never thought possible through remarkable industry knowledge, and amazing skill in persuading your client to an informed decision that will be of great benefit to them.
After extensive research, Dixon and Adamson, in their book ‘The Challenger Sale’ revealed that the most successful salespeople (worldwide), especially those handling complex, long sales cycle transactions, had superior knowledge that helped their clients challenge the status quo and therefore get better outcomes than they otherwise would. They accomplished this through, Teaching, Tailoring, and Taking Control (techniques revealed in the book). This requires high levels of technical knowledge but also the technical skill to effectively ’challenge’ the notion that ‘the customer is always right’.
In his iconic book. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, @Stephen Covey talks about not becoming so busy chopping wood that you won’t stop to sharpen your axe (habit number seven). This means taking time to renew, refresh, learn and update. By the way, when this series of posts is completed I will provide a list of recommended reading. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People will be one of the essential reads.
Here’s what I know for sure from my many years of observation as a sales professional and as a sales leader; Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) make more money. They are experts in their field striving to be a trusted advisor to their clients and prospects. They have the skills, knowledge and credentials to help their clients and prospects achieve what they never thought possible, and they delight in doing it. They are often happier and more confident than many of their peers who do not seek continuous improvement. They are students of selling, and spend lots of time ‘sharpening their axes’ in their chosen profession. They have the willingness and ability to challenge their prospects and clients to new ways of thinking. They do not sell product, they do not sell services, and they NEVER sell on price. They create value for their prospects and clients and consistently deliver superior outcomes. AND, they don’t wait for their employer to provide training, they go and find the information and training they need. SME’s are proactive.
A tip: to become a SME, seek out a mentor.
Then, when you have achieved your target level of excellence, become a mentor. Nothing keeps the saw sharper than when you have the privilege and responsibility of mentorship !
This is the second in a series of 10 articles on the traits and habits of highly successful; sales professionals. Please consider providing some feedback by leaving a comment. If you enjoyed this article and would like to read future articles please consider following me on LinkedIn.