Sales Bullpen Sales Newsletter - December 2003
The end of the year is always a good time to take time and think about the past year in preparation about how you are going to improve your approach to selling in the coming year. In my book, Accelerate Your Sales, I talk about becoming 'Unconsciously Incompetent'. This means that you don't know what your aren't aware of that you might be doing wrong or doing right in your approach to sales.
When is the last time you tried a new sales approach with your prospects, a different telephone cold calling introduction, or tried hard to really understand the business problem the prospect in front of you is trying to solve? We are all creatures of habit and we all settle into whatever seems to work for us or has worked for us in the past. The true professional is always looking for ways to improve their skills, learn new techniques and try new approaches to try and improve their success rate!
A famous American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, developed one of the leading theories regarding how humans learn. Maslow developed the concept that there are different stages to conscious learning by human beings. There are four stages of learning and in order for you to grow and learn something new, you need to pass through each of these four stages.
Stage One Unconscious Incompetent
Stage Two Conscious Incompetent
Sales skills are like any other skill. It requires understanding, practice, focus, and an open mind in order to keep learning and improving your skills set. The conscious incompetent stage can last for several weeks to well over a year. If you are fortunate, your company offers a structured training program for its new sales people to make this transition as easy as possible. Take advantage of this opportunity to get a good foundation in basic sales skills, as well as training on your company's products and procedures.
During my first year with I.B.M., we were put through a very rigorous training program that involved taking classes at their executive sales training center in upstate New York over the course of several months. We were given training on the history of I.B.M., the culture of the company, information on I.B.M's products, the basics about how businesses function and an introduction to the I.B.M. sales process. At each step of the way, we were tested, videotaped, graded, critiqued and videotaped. At the end of that program I felt like I.B.M. had given me the equivalent of an MBA in professional selling. That sales training gave me the foundation of sales skills that I continue to build on today.
Stage Three Conscious Competent
During my first year of training at I.B.M, I kept asking those around me, 'When am I going to feel like I know what I am doing? There was so much to learn, the basics about the data processing industry, product information, and company sales policies.' Everyone kept saying that one day the light bulb will come on and everything will fall into place. In fact, that is exactly what happened.
One day, I was meeting with a client and when asked a question about one of our products, instead of having to think for a minute the answer just blurted out! I suddenly realized at that moment that all the product knowledge I had acquired had become internalized. It was now a part of me just waiting to come out.
I understood the client's problem and knew instinctively what solutions might solve it. I was consciously competent and felt like I knew what I was talking about.
Stage Four Unconscious Competent
Without realizing it, you have come full circle. You have gone from being unconsciously competent to being unconsciously incompetent again. You are back to where you started when you first began in sales. Except this time, the reason you are losing deals is because you have not kept up with the latest product developments or maybe you haven't kept up on the competition's newest product announcements. You suddenly find yourself back to where you started, 'you don't know what you don't know.'
This is a moment of truth. You can either continue to do the same things over and over again, and start to lose more and more deals or you can 'wake up' and take a hard look at your current sales approach and think about trying to learn some new selling skills.
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