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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:

  1. Candor

  • Was the salesperson a straightforward talker?

  • No exaggeration

  • Honest about ignorance

  1. Concern

  • Cares about what the customer feels and thinks

  • Listens

  • Motivated by client’s interests

  1. Competence

  • Professionally sound

  • Technically proficient

  • Experienced

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:

  1. Solve current problems

  2. Prevent future problems

  3. Increase efficiency & effectiveness

  4. Increase productivity

  5. Reduce day to day friction

  6. Meeting deadlines

  7. 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.

Here is another quick, fact-based snippet from additional research that supports Mr. Rackham’s study:

To be successful in the sales profession today, you must build trust with your prospects and clients. To build trust, you must start by looking at problems and opportunities through the customers’ eyes. Trust starts with operating reality and continues with effective questioning and active listening by finding the customer’s pain and helping them fix it. It really is that simple.

At Butler Street, we focus on building Six Key Skills of Sales Effectiveness with the foundation being Operating Reality. Contact us to learn how we can help your sales force build trust and demonstrate concern for your customers resulting in profitable growth.

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