This may be as big a surprise to you as it was to us when we heard it for the first – but definitively NOT the last – time from one of the early ESI customers.
Little did we know that this somewhat throwaway comment would prove to be a remarkably consistent and recurring theme when we are doing our problem analysis with customers & prospects. There is never much of a challenge validating the core business issue: a general shortage of sales capability driving a requirement for skills development.
However, we like to dig deeper to diagnose how that core issue shows up in the workplace on a day-to-day basis. It can sometimes be too easy to simply dismiss the sales organisation as ‘needing improvement’. What makes the problem more real – and, therefore more fixable – is an in depth understanding of what this means in practice, what does ‘required improvement’ look like? What should it look like?
This process yields a remarkably similar diagnosis no matter who the customer is – irrespective of size, sector or geography. When asked what specific behaviours are evidence of underperformance, these real quotations are typical of the responses we get all the time:
And yet one specific issue rises to the top of – or perhaps summarises – this diagnostic list all the time. The conversation – again and again – comes back to one simple statement that has become the clarion call of the buyers we deal with all the time: ‘Our salespeople lack confidence.’
The irony of this won’t be lost on anyone outside of the sales profession: the hackneyed old sales stereotypes reflect an oversized personality that naturally builds relationships and owns every professional & social room they walk into. Not only is the typecast sales beast confident, he or she is also likely to be brash and probably arrogant. They may be short on several of life’s finer skills, but confidence is not one of them- right? Wrong!
In today’s commercial world, large and loud personalities can be helpful – some of the time – but, by and large, they will not suit every sales situation and this personality type can actually get in the way of connecting with certain types of potential customers. To quote one of ESI’s earliest students, ‘Bravado will only get you so far…’
Yes, today’s high performing salespeople need to be confident – but in a different way. Sales confidence today comes from a conviction about one’s own abilities that is based on substance and not swagger. It is rooted in a genuine belief not just in the solution one is selling but also that it will truly solve a problem for the prospect or client. It comes from an ability to deal with more informed and very often more senior buyers than ever before. It stems from a rounded business acumen that allows the seller to present both themselves and their business in the most positive, collaborative professional light.
Salespeople today cannot simply pluck the confidence they need out of the air – they need to acquire it through formal and informal experiences of selling – and learning to sell. And this acquisition and maintenance of sales confidence for today’s professional is never over – it’s a process, not a task. It involves constantly fine-tuning soft skills over time by being tested in the white heat of getting a critical sales deal over the line.
So, if you or your sales team are feeling a little short in confidence right now, fear not! You are most definitely not alone. And the good news is that the solution doesn’t depend on a change of personality and it’s not something that can’t be acquired – it can! But it does involve working on your sales skills, both through real-world experience and through professional sales upskilling. We can help.
Time and again, as we discuss business impact and behavioural change, ESI customers tell us that one of the biggest changes they see from our virtual, self-paced sales skills development programme is the emergence of a new confidence. This is a core aspect of the ESI programme, which is ideal for sales teams working remotely or from a variety of locations. It enables sales professionals to get an overview of all the core skills needed to sell successfully and to deep dive into modules where their own skills need to be upgraded. For organisations, it facilitates a standardised approach to selling that can be quickly implemented across the business. It is also highly motivational for sales professionals, improving their focus on driving their own sales performance.
ESI offers the definitive, digital solution to upskill your sales team.