Pick One: Candor, Competence, Concern
Two weeks ago, I attended a Sales Symposium at Ohio University that included a very interesting study presented by Dr. Michael Ahearne, Executive Director of the Sales Institute at the University of Houston. Dr. Ahearne referenced a study that was commissioned by Ernst & Young and conducted by Neil Rackham (author of Spin Selling) that asked what traits clients look for in salespeople they trust:
Was the salesperson a straightforward talker?
Honest about ignorance
Cares about what the customer feels and thinks
Motivated by client’s interests
They then asked customers if consultative salespeople calling on them rated adequate or better in each of the aforementioned traits?
As you can see by the graphic below, 83% said their consultative salesperson was adequately candid. Sixty-six percent said they were adequately competent. But only 35% demonstrated adequate concern for the customer.
Surprised? We were not!
Of the Six Key Skills we teach in our Sales Effectiveness Training, the first one is your ability to be in the customer’s operating reality. It is sort of “empathy on steroids” and the customer feels your concern as a result. It is your ability to see problems and opportunities through the customer’s eyes. It is the foundation for building trust and moving from a competitive relationship with your customer to trusted advisor relationship. Put simply, being in the customer’s operating reality is your ability to:
Solve current problems
Prevent future problems
Increase efficiency & effectiveness
Reduce day to day friction
Maintain a sense of well being
Unfortunately, most consultative sales people (65% according to the E&Y study) do not put themselves in the customer’s operating reality. At Butler Street, we are so committed to ensuring the sales people we train can function in the customer’s Operating Reality, we trademarked the following statement as a constant reminder:
If we solve our customers' problems, we'll solve our own.®
It becomes readily apparent that salespeople struggle with the concept of operating reality at the outset of our two-day training. Most sales people think in terms of selling a product or closing a deal, rather than how the can find the customer’s pain and fix it.