Selling isn’t something that you can learn to do in sales training. It isn’t something that you can learn from reading books or by reading sales blogs. And it surely isn’t something you can learn in a University course.
You only learn to sell effectively by selling.
Then What Is All This About Reading and Studying?
The benefits you receive from sales training, sales books and blogs, or by taking classes is that they expose you to principles. Sales training introduces you to foundational ideas and methods, and it gives you an opportunity to practice them.
Books and blogs about sales introduce you to ideas about sales. They introduce you to stories that serve to demonstrate both good and bad selling techniques, methods, ideas, and beliefs.
I teach a University course on Personal Selling. It’s a survey, meaning it touches on all the big ideas without delving to deeply into any one area. The truth is, each of the 14 segments could (and should) be its own 14-week class.
The benefit of all of training, reading, and studying is that it exposes you to ideas. It gives you the ability to build an understanding of sales and selling. It arms you with the ideas that you can utilize in your sales practice. It gives you direction and something on which to build.
But the map is not the terrain. It only resembles the broad contours of the terrain. To really learn to sell effectively, you have to feel it for yourself.
I Can Feel the Fire
You don’t learn to complete an effective needs analysis without doing hundreds of them. On your way to effectiveness, you make a lot of sales calls where you ask questions and, over time, you learn which questions are the most powerful in helping you and your client understand their needs.
At some point, you start to feel what works and what doesn’t work.
When you ask a question, you take in the immediate feedback from your prospective client. Sometimes the feedback comes in the way of an answer to your question. But for those who learn to sell well, there is other feedback.
You feel the impact the question makes not only by the content of the answer, but by the impact it makes on your prospective client. You can feel whether or not the question is important to them. You take in the verbal and visual evidence that it made your dream client take pause and think. Even if you don’t what it was that you picked up on.
You can feel whether or not their responses to your questions or your statements mean that they are dissatisfied enough to take on a change initiative. You can feel their excitement about some idea that will allow them to breakthrough and produce the results that need.
You can also feel when your dream client doesn’t yet have the trust to move forward with you and when they are struggling to give you the advance that you need. You can also feel when your ideas frighten them, and when the changes that they need to make are overwhelming to the point that they aren’t going to run headlong into fixing them.
How do you feel it? Is it their words? Is it their body language? Is it something else? You feel it through all of these things. You sometimes sense it in the words that are said, as well as the words that aren’t said. You get an impression of what your prospective client thinks through their body language and facial expressions. You sometimes feel it even when there is no evidence that you can point to—you just feel it.
At some point, when you have made enough sales calls, you just start to feel it. It’s intuition, but it’s more than that. The Germans call itfingerspitzengefuhl, or “finger tips feeling.” It’s a sense that you can’t obtain through reading and studying. You have to go and have the experiences in order to obtain it. But when you have it, it’s like being able to predict the future, and it informs what you do next and why.
You never get this point without making sales calls. In fact, you don’t gain this level of competence in anything without actually continuously doing it.
Back to the Books
All the books, all of the blogs, and all of the studying are what build your repertoire. They build your fundamental understanding so that you have the effective beliefs, ideas, tactics, and strategies to implement in the field while you are on your sales calls.
You become effective with what you learn only after you use it. You become truly effective only when you have practiced what you have learned long enough to be able use it effectively–and when you are finally able to feel it.
Do you ever know something even though you don’t know how or why you know it?
Have you made enough calls to be able to feel things?
Does your mind pick up cues that you would have a difficult time identifying or explaining to others?
Why can’t you learn sales—or anything else—without the experience?
How do you simulate the experience to speed up your learning?