Soft Skills Power the Challenger Sale

What are you doing with your sales teams to help them step up to increasing expectations from sophisticated executive buyers?

From my perspective, the worlds of selling, consulting, and coaching are converging in ways that are going to significantly improve the business outcomes we’re achieving and the human relationships on which these results are built.

These enhanced outcomes are enabled by the integration of knowledge and skills which are well known and deeply understood by the coaching community, who know how to use them and teach them.

This four minute video post is part two of a multipart series, “Is Solution Selling Dead?”

Read the Text of the Video:

 

Business schools discover the power of EQ in leadership development

This is a very readable journal article on how a business school invested in a program to explore and develop the emotional intelligence of its students. It is well researched and its reference list would be a great place to start your own research into the history and contributions of emotional intelligence.

My take: While the study focused on a business school, its report and its supporting research have significant implications for all business and organizational leaders.

First finding of the study:  In this study, they were able to see a significant improvement in EQ competencies after a two year program of assessment and development

Second key item of interest, the writers referenced a study in which employers ranked the core MBA program objective of “knowledge of fundamental business concepts” only 12th out of 15 dimensions explored. Those organizations identified “courses that aided in the development of interpersonal skills” as the most significant shortcoming of traditional MBA programs.

Abstract: Over the past two decades an escalating interest in the construct of emotional intelligence (EI) has made its way into the popular press, professional press, and peer reviewed journals. Not surprisingly, an interest in EI is also gaining ground in academic settings (Parker, Duffy, Wood, Bond & Hogan, 2002; Parker, Hogan, Eastabrook, Oke & Wood, 2006; Parker, Saklofske, Wood & Eastabrook, 2005). Several major longitudinal studies have laid a sound theoretical foundation supporting the development of EI competencies as a component of the MBA curriculum (Boyatzis, Stubbs & Taylor, 2002; Boyatzis & Saatcioglu, 2008). This paper will describe why and how one MBA program took theory to practice and piloted the integration of content designed to develop competencies related to emotional intelligence into its curriculum. It will also review the results of an applied multi-year study that measured the results of the curriculum pilot. The study was conducted using one of the most widely used instruments for measuring emotional intelligence, the Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (Bar-On, 1997), to identify significant changes between the beginning and the end of the program in the aggregate measures of emotional intelligence competencies.

Click on the image of the report title page to read the entire report.

 

 

Are we really coin operated?

As a recovering sales manager, I have always laughed at the proposition that “sales people are coin operated”.  Notice that I said I laughed, not that I didn’t agree.

What would you say if I told you that quite a body of research is telling us that “extrinsic motivation” (e.g. bonuses and commissions, carrots and sticks) actually makes performance worse, not better.  On the other hand, “intrinsic motivation” (I work because I love what I do) is the more durable motivator, especially in the 21st century.

I’m reading Dan Pink’s book, Drive, and I recommend it highly. If you’d like a compelling TED video on this same topic, done by Pink in 2009, check out this YouTube video.

Salespeople provoke your customers… Sales Leaders, provoke your team!

Is Solution Selling Dead?

In an excellent article from the March 2009 Harvard Business Review, Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin, and Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) suggest that “solution selling” is getting long in the tooth, and prospects are getting hardened to that approach.  They are overwhelmed with suitors wanting to peer deeply into their eyes and ask open ended questions on “what keeps you awake at night?”  In my own selling, I’m finding my prospects increasingly unmotivated by the classical solution selling approach.  Even if I have an existing relationship or an introduction from someone they trust, I find their eyes glazing over quickly as I attempt a classical fact finding discussion.

Here is how the authors describe a more edgy alternative, “provocation based selling”:

“Provocation-based selling goes beyond the conventional consultative or solution-selling approach, whereby the vendor’s sales team seeks out current concerns in a question and-answer dialogue with customer managers.  And it differs dramatically from the most common approach still in use—product based selling, which pushes features, functionality, and benefits, usually in a generic manner. Provocation-based selling helps customers see their competitive challenges in a new light that makes addressing specific painful problems unmistakably urgent. This approach isn’t right for every selling situation you’ll face in a downturn, nor does it apply only under challenging economic conditions.  But for many companies that see their old approaches losing power, its time has come.”

Harvard Business Review, March 2009, “In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers”

So what does this have to do with leading and developing our teams?

Simple.

Our team members are our customers for our efforts to help them develop.  We are competing for their attention and sense of urgency as they make decisions on where to spend their time and energy.  Like their customers, they are overwhelmed with unmet quotas, reluctant prospects, and declining customer budgets.

As much as they want to please us, and grow, they are performing triage daily.  We have to provoke them and build a case for the importance of investing in their development of  their skills and effectiveness.  They have to feel enough urgency around their development objectives to make time and dedicate resources.

As you approach your next one-on-one, how will you provoke them with the value proposition for personal development, and the compelling impact on them and their business if they fail to act?