I was introduced to the hard knocks sales experience when I started 12 years ago. I sold B2C Garden furniture over the phone and door to door. I had four things. A product, 2 hours of sales training and a 222 page manual to read, a list of 100s of neighbourhoods to call and a phone. 6 am the next day my alarm goes off I'm hitting the road. 11 hours later, 45 min break in between while biting a sandwich and writing an agreement letter to a prospect. The day ends and I've no Idea what just happened but feel I've worked a good day.
You may look at my early start to sales and say what a fool just pounding away going through the grind. It still made me money doing the numbers and putting in the hours.
That was the problem. The fallacy of marginal results. Sometimes even poor processes and inefficient habits done long enough get you results. We can fool ourselves into believing we're doing ok. I never took the time to consider whether what I was doing was the best thing to do. Unfortunately in sales on a whole thinking isn't held as a skill to be desired. We're paid to produce and producing doesn't come with thinking as a prerequisite but its something I now encourage sales leaders to build in as a practice in sales meetings.
Now more than ever our ability to synthesis mounds of dense and complex information, find patterns or offer insights personalised for your customers requires a new form of thinking. Thinking that allows you to consider choice as a series of results and not just activities.
Forward 10 years and I've had the opportunity to work across in multiple industries and sell into 22 different industries learning different ways to work and build success in sales. Out of the many skills I learnt the ability to think better has by far helped me the most. What do I mean by thinking better?
Thinking better is your ability to cultivate a practice of reflection, evaluation and challenge of your day to day activity, habits and results. The impact of this practice can be explosive as you begin to recognise poor habits or new opportunities you hadn't discovered.
The reality is I didn't arrive at this practice over night in fact it was 6 years later that I really learnt the power of what Daniel Kahneman writes as thinking fast and thinking slow (helpful video).
So what actual benefits are there to taking thinking more seriously as a daily practice? Here's five I've personally benefited from.
- You gain greater clarity and perspective on the right things to act on so you can maximise the time you spend to get results.
- You come up with better and more insightful questions to ask prospects/customers which gives you answers that really matter.
- You more easily identify potential blocks in your way of achieving and get help faster to overcome it.
- You can better understand yourself as you hear the inner story and questions you ask yourself. The act of writing out what you think and feel about a situation will help centre your emotions and enable you to show up as your best self.
- You become someone who is better able to deduce, see unhelpful and useful patterns or behaviour. Like Sherlock Holmes things will just become "elementary".
Two things you can do today to think better?
Schedule in time to think - I usually take 20 min at the end of each day and ask three questions:
- What decisions did I make today that impacted my results? (Build in the practice of thinking about decisions as results - how does this produce a result to achieve a goal, build a relationship or do something difficult)
- What decisions did I avoid today that needs to be looked at? (We sometimes procrastinate on many things. Its important we weigh those things up and deal with them otherwise it will continue to take up valuable thinking power and you need it for the important stuff)
- What decisions do I need to make tomorrow? (Based on the first two start to plan your decisions for tomorrow so you prepare your body, emotions and mind for the task)
Write out your decision - When you have a decision to make. Write out your first answer, then write a second and try to come up with a possible third. Notice the differences between them and weigh the implications (benefits and challenges of all three). Depending on the importance and impact of the decision ensure you also consult other people involved but come with pre thought out ideas but be willing to let those ideas go for better ones that give you the result you want.
I believe in the full holistic view of sales development. Thinking in sales is something I'm becoming more and more passionate about and have seen it help to transform the results account managers have with their customers.
If you're a key account manager, sales leader or consultant wanting to get more from your key customer relationships. Get connected to my customer growth email series HERE. You can start the process of learning a new framework of thinking to growth. www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.