Soft skills enable hard edged selling

Hi, this is Jim Cooper, and welcome back to “It’s Not Just About the Numbers.”

In the first post of this series, we looked at the question, “Is Solution Selling Really Dead?”

We concluded that Solution Selling is not dead, and it still fills a useful purpose.  But it is certainly no longer the state of the art.

In this post, I want to discuss “How can we help our sales teams step up to the new skills in what some people are calling “challenger selling”?

The research is showing that INNOVATOR customers highly value sales reps who are knowledgeable enough, and confident enough, to challenge them with new insights into their market, their company and their business issues ….

… AND to turn the tables on who is coaching who….

As a consultant and professional coach, I’m getting excited!

It seems to me that 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.

These new skills are:  … a command of emotional intelligence … and advanced listening and questioning skills.

Over many years, the professional coaching community has built a vast body of knowledge about these skills, how to use them, and how to help others develop them.

I also see an opportunity for improvement around the traditional market, customer, and solution knowledge which is basic to any consultative sale.

If it’s all about confidence and credibility, a challenger rep MUST have COMPLETE MASTERY of the market, company, and solution information relevant to the opportunity.

They need to be more independent of technical and industry specialists than they have been traditionally.

While this is easy to say, it is not easy to achieve, and the bar is higher than ever.

Companies will need to invest more in taking these skills from competence to full mastery.

Yet, even if the rep attains that level of mastery, these skills are no longer sufficient to ensure the success of the challenger sales model.

Getting back to my excitement earlier, there are a number of emotional intelligence attributes at play in the new model.

Research on high performing consultants shows that assertiveness is near the top in terms of the most important attributes of emotional intelligence.

Assertive people can express their feelings, beliefs, and thoughts openly. They’re willing and able to stand up for their personal rights. And they can do all of that while not being aggressive or abusive.

Emotionally intelligent sales people, armed with the mastery level of foundation knowledge and stronger relationship skills, will have the confidence to engage, and take bold positions with their clients.

Once engaged,  reps will need powerful listening skills and questioning skills to carry out a tough love dialogue with their client executive.

In summary, then, our next generation challenger rep will have full mastery of her market, customer, and solution knowledge.  Beyond that, she will have the confidence and assertiveness to engage in a constructive confrontation with her client.

All of this while counting on communication skills and emotional intelligence to pull it off without damaging the client relationship.

Actually, done well, this approach CREATES customer respect and loyalty.

In our next post, we will take a deeper look into these coach-like attributes and skills.

That’s it for this week!   Let us know what YOU think by your comments and emails.

Thanks for tuning in, and remember…  It’s not just about the numbers!



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