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This stat shocked me--are we in a sales crisis?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/2/21 9:29 PM

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I think I am in shock. I don’t even know where to start. There is no good way to say this, so let me just say it. 86% of sellers today are bad at consultative selling and the only thing we are worse at is closing.

I mean come on, the ability to actively listen and ask good thought-provoking questions is at the core of what consultative selling and sales is all about. And only 14% of sellers--out of over 2 million surveyed are good at it?

This is a crisis when you take into account that LinkedIn’s 2020 State of Sales Report showed that the number one trait buyers want in sellers is to actively listen to them. Yet, actively listening isn’t even in the top 5 traits that sales managers look for in their sellers.

So should we be surprised that the same report also showed that only 40% of decision-makers describe the sales profession as trustworthy. Well, actually I am a bit surprised it was that high.

How can this be? Would we be ok with this in any other profession? Can you imagine accepting that 86% of truck drivers don’t know left from right, or 86% of accountants are bad at math, or 86% of carpenters can’t read a tape measure?

Well, I am not ok with it, so here are 3 things you can do- right now- to start turning this around in your sales. 

First, if you want to be good at actively listening… then you just have to shut the hell up.

And not just keeping your mouth shut, but also keeping the voices in your head shut up too. 

This applies to all of us, whether you are a seller, a sales leader, or an entrepreneur. We all need to get better at this, myself included. 

Now The first part, keeping your mouth shut, is easy, just keep your lips closed. The second part is not so easy, because it requires you to be completely present in the moment. If you find it difficult, there are several things you can do in your day-to-day practice. 

You could meditate, do yoga, go for a walk without any technology. You can also do a vocal warm-up routine before your calls. Performers do this to not only warm up their voice, but also to put themselves in the present moment so that they can connect with their audience. All of life is but a stage and us performers in a play….

Now the second thing is also easy to do and that is to eliminate your distractions.

Turn off your email, Slack, and social media notifications. In fact, I recommend turning them all off, all the time. 

The constant pinging and dinging put your brain in a state of constant task switching, which is exhausting and inefficient. But we get addicted to it, because every little beep sends dopamine running to our brains by turning them off. 

Now, right now, come on cold turkey--you can do it! 

You will reduce your anxiety levels and increase your productivity because you are better able to do deep-focused work. Your buyers deserve that from you.

And finally, my third tip to help you be better consultative sellers, and leaders- is to just ask more and better questions.

I play a game with my coaching clients that call it the questions and periods game. The aim of the game is to answer every question with another question, to get the person asking to offer clarification. 

We even made it a game for our new years eve party, and if you slipped up and answered the question with a period at the end, then you had to take a shot. You can do the same thing with just about anyone around you--no shots required. 

Start with the clerk at the grocery store, when they ask “How are you today?” reply with “ I am good, how are is your workday going?” and you are off. Or start with your spouse and family, at the end of their day, ask them questions about their day. Be curious, without judgment or offering advice. 

Now here is the science behind these 3 tips.

A Stanford University study showed that when “elaboration questions” were asked, it helps the asker (ie: salesperson) understand other’s viewpoints. The study also found that these types of questions helped the person being asked (ie: the buyer) be more receptive to other ideas--even if they are contrary to their own.

Another study from Harvard University showed how disclosing information impacts the human brain. The functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed those who answered questions that required them to state their opinions “increased activity in the area of the brain associated with reward and pleasure.” That means buyers actually enjoy answering these types of questions!

And that is my science-based sales tip for this month. Start putting this into practice and monitor how much you are talking and how many questions you are asking. Be curious, have fun, and stay in the moment

Until next time!


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Topics: sales process, sales performance, sales mindsets, sales training