As the year comes to a close so do we present the 12th and final Sales Trend for 2014. This sales trend is seeing a new kind of salesperson emerging in our midst. Not common by any stretch of the imagination, but appearing in businesses slowly but surely. Smart companies are becoming aware that they need a new kind of salesperson, especially at the higher levels of business. The days of the flashy, aggressive, all talking ‘pitch master’ , or ‘you’re my mate’ schmoozer are fading fast from most industries with only a few industries stuck in the good ol’ days mentality. Even some of the latest offerings in the ideal salesperson arena such as the contrarian sales challenger will be faddish at best.
Customers worldwide are looking for a collaborative, more enlightened approach to selling, where they can work with sales professionals who bring their in-depth knowledge an understanding of how solutions can be applied and who work with their customers who also have an in depth knowledge of their own business and challenges.
The enlightened salesperson is aware that they work in a complex world, a complex system where nothing has an iron clad guarantee or a predictable outcome. They can live with ambiguity and uncertainty, yet they operate with a sense of purpose underpinned by self-discipline and determination. They know that today customers strenuously resist dealing with salespeople who know it all; salespeople who attempt to take control or confront decision-making processes.
Instead, these salespeople are observant of what lies beneath the surface and look for the deeper meaning which makes them more perceptive, discerning and intuitive. They slow down their pace and can perceive the nuances in an idea or situation. They can see the links and areas for opportunity that will benefit both their client and themselves and the organisations they represent.
One of their defining features is their curiosity. They have an ongoing, intrinsic interest in both their inner experience and the world around them. They are attracted to new people, new ideas and new experiences, and are rarely bored. Their curiosity benefits them socially and professionally. These salespeople are considered good listeners and conversationalists; good problems solvers and solution crafters. Their thinking is not constrained and their curiosity drives their interest in innovation and collaboration. People seem to like them too. These curious salespeople tend to bring interesting ideas, fun and novelty into relationships. In the business realm you can see why being curious is also attractive to clients.
Still few in number and usually independently evolved, smart companies know they cannot wait to find these enlightened individuals, knowing that the search can be long and costly – like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Instead, we will see smart businesses begin to cultivate a more enlightened sales culture where curiosity and other enlightened qualities such as active listening, reflection, intention questioning, stillness and detachment will be core skills to enable great client engagement and business success.
The power of Curiosity and its links to high performance
You may think this is sales nirvana but research is finding that curiosity is associated with intelligence and problem-solving ability. Whilst researchers have not yet identified the pathway by which curiosity leads to cognitive growth, a likely explanation concerns the rich environment curious people create for themselves as they seek new experiences and explore new ideas. Put simply, curious brains are active brains, and active brains become smart brains.
Curiosity is also associated with high performance in both academic and work settings, and so it is with selling. There is evidence to suggest an upward spiralling relationship between curiosity and knowledge. The more we learn, the more we want to learn, and so on.
These salespeople operate with a sense of detachment, stepping back and looking at things objectively. They let go of things they cannot change and allow clients to be themselves, arriving at their own decisions through insightful questioning and skilful listening. These salespeople know that sales results are an important sign post of sales success but are not desperately attached to the sales result because they know it will happen if they work with the whole situation in clear perspective.
Interestingly, the Eastern approach to a ‘we’ culture and the practice of listening and collaboration may be a further signpost that we are definitely evolving into the Asian Century. The western world needs to pay attention to these subtle signposts. The enlightened salesperson, regardless of their origin knows that the balance is a combination of both cultures – Yin and Yang.
The profession of selling in the west has been out of balance for some time and to its detriment. If we look at how selling has been evolving over the last 50 years, we can see a distinct shift occurring from the aggressive one sided approach where conquest was king (too much yang) to a more delicate balance between the masculine and feminine aspects of yin yang.
It cannot be denied that selling requires yang – a proactive, focused, go-out-into-the-world and find opportunity approach (prospecting;) however, selling must now be balanced with the ability to genuinely listen and respond to the subtleties of more complex relationships which involves patience, nurturing, and dealing with ambiguity which is yin. Think of the types of conversations smart companies and their enlightened salespeople are having with customers – a selling and buying approach where listening, questioning, resolving problems, collaboration, empathy and understanding are encouraged and flourish.
With that we would like to extend to you and your families season’s greetings and we look forward to assisting you on your sales journey and sharing our insights and research with you in 2015.
And you can now purchase the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2015.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.