Situational knowledge is the knowledge you gain from your experiences, from dealing with and understanding certain situations. You see things. You learn things. You start to identify the big issues and you start to recognize patterns. This situational knowledge helps you to help your clients and it helps you to win deals.
But it is difficult to gain situational knowledge.
If you are new to sales, you lack the experiences, and there is no amount of training in the world that is a substitute for actually having had experiences—you have to feel it. Even if you have sold for a long time, if you find yourself in a new industry, you immediately recognize that you are missing the situational knowledge you need to succeed—and to make a difference for your clients.
It’s tough sledding, but these four ideas will help you bridge the gap when you don’t have the situational knowledge.
Ask Before You Act
When you don’t know what to do to help your client, when you don’t understand their issues, their challenges, or how you should proceed, ask someone with the situational knowledge on your team to help you.
You are going to make mistakes, but you don’t have make the unnecessary mistakes that could easily have been prevented by asking someone what you need to know or what you need to do.
Ask Your Dream Client for an Education
If you don’t understand your client’s business, ask them to give you an education. You’ll be surprised how happy they are to help you understand their business. They know their business better than anyone, and most are willing to teach you—if you show the proper interest and if you are really interested in doing your part.
Simply asking for an education can ratchet up your situational knowledge.
Ask for Time When You Don’t Know
Sometimes your lack of situational knowledge leaves you at a disadvantage. Your dream client asks you something and you don’t know how to answer. Or they describe needs that you aren’t yet ready to help them with. The worse thing that you can do when you lack the knowledge to know what is right is to answer anyway.
If you don’t know what the right answer is, don’t answer. Ask your client for time to go and find the right answer. Promise them you’ll get back to them with the right answer, and then keep that commitment.
You will encounter a few clients that won’t forgive your ignorance, but most will be very understanding. It’s much harder to forgive your ignorance when you try to answer questions you don’t understand and your answers put your real ignorance on full display.
Bring Someone with Experience to Help
Sometimes you can’t afford to make a call without having the situational knowledge. You book an appointment with your dream client, and you are way out over your skis on this one. If there is too much at stake to go it alone, don’t! Bring someone with you.
This doesn’t only apply to new sales people or salespeople in a new industry. Sometimes we end up on a call where our technical knowledge is limited, and we know that we need someone with a greater depth of knowledge. It’s easier to bring these people with you when you can.
By bringing people that can help, you get a chance to listen and to gain a greater understanding. This improves your situational knowledge and better prepares you for future meetings.
What do you do when you don’t have situational knowledge?
How can you improve your situational knowledge when you are new to sales?
When are you challenged by a lack of situational knowledge?