What’s the Difference Between Pilots and Sales Professionals?
I know that title might seem to be a little bit odd but, when it comes to recurrent training, pilots outperform salespeople hands down. For whatever reason, the sales profession has the perception that getting trained once is enough for a salesperson to be proficient throughout his/her career. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For those of you that have been in sales for ten or fifteen years, you may have noticed a huge shift in the way buyers behave. Add to that the fact that gaining access to those buyers is much more challenging today than it was just a few years ago. Voicemail, email, the internet, and buying processes have all conspired to make significantly more challenging for a salesperson to gain access to a decision-maker.
Then, once access has been gained, the decision-maker is much more knowledgeable and educated than he/she ever was ten or fifteen or more years ago. As a result, the buyer approaches the first meeting with a salesperson armed with specific knowledge, features and benefits of the seller’s products and services as well as the seller’s competitors.
This makes advancing or closing the sale even more challenging. While all of this change in the buying process and the behavior of buyers and decision-makers has occurred, salespeople have invested very little time in recurrent training in order to keep their skills in alignment with the new processes and procedures in the marketplace.
Practice Makes Perfect
Pilots, on the other hand, are constantly seeking to upgrade their skills to stay abreast of new navigation procedures (GPS et cetera) that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Add to that, pilots recognize that their skills diminish during period of non-use. As a result, prudent pilots (those that do not want to be part of the evening news) recognize that their skills get “rusty” without practice, repetition and enhancement.
Likewise, salespeople’s skills get rusty, even if they’re selling every day. Many salespeople confuse daily selling activities with polishing their sales skills. But, if you’re doing the wrong thing and you continue to do the wrong thing, you’re reinforcing the wrong patterns, behaviors and approaches. While role-playing is the bane of many salespeople, it is also the “secret sauce” of top performers.
Practicing presentations and dealing with objections, deflections, questions, et cetera is the core attribute of top-performing salespeople and sales teams. If you are an individual salesperson, I encourage you to practice with the video camera on your smartphone. If you’re the manager of a sales team, I encourage you to practice in simulated selling situations (a.k.a. role play) with your sales team.
Treat your selling skills in the same light that pilots treat their piloting skills, and you and your team will be much more successful, confident, and rich.
Good Luck and Good Selling!!!