A while back, Inc. Magazine contributor Jeffery James wrote about some interesting parallels between fighter pilots’ training and successful sales operations.
We thought those comparisons were great, especially since situational awareness – one of the must have qualities of any successful military operation — is a hot concept in sales training these days. Consider these three topics, based on that article, as key building blocks for success in your sales engagements.
In spite of all the talk about multitasking, social scientists observe that we can in fact only pay attention to one thing at a time. That goes for emotions as well as activities. You can’t pay attention to anxiety and be confident at the same time. Right Attitude, like The Right Stuff manifested by fighter pilots and astronauts, provides the mental armor to move beyond hesitation and fear of failure, with confidence and enthusiasm.
For sales pros, the key to Right Attitude is the desire to be of genuine service. By being enthusiastic about the opportunity to be of service, you move forward with confident interest and rather than anxiety about achieving a particular outcome.
Fear inhibits us while confidence lubricates all our interactions so that we can be open and flexible. When we’re not distracted by negative emotions, we’re right there with what’s happening in that moment and creative solutions can flow naturally.
Before any flight mission, pilots assemble myriad details about every aspect of the situation that might have an effect on the mission.
For sales pros the first order of intel gathering is to decide what you need to know to qualify or disqualify a genuine prospect. This is the mission-critical piece. Do they have a need? Is the budget there? When will they be ready to buy and who’s involved with those decisions? What are key qualifying criteria?
After the qualification blueprint, the next step is to gain perspective and clarity on each prospect. Some of this intel comes from doing homework: checking the company’s website, identifying their current suppliers and knowing with whom you might be competing.
When you’re talking with sales prospects, ask questions and probe to clarify as many details as possible. And don’t limit your inquiries to only the decision-makers. Make use of all available resources like telephone gatekeepers, and contacts in other departments at the company.
The better you know your target prospects and what concerns them, the easier it is to refine your approach so you can address their needs head-on and talk their language.
Make ‘go’ — ‘no go’ decisions
Sales situations are always dynamic – always changing. We have to be clear and recognize when a sales opportunity no longer offers enough promise of success and have the discernment and good sense to walk away so that we can focus our efforts somewhere else.
This requires salespeople to have a broader perspective that considers each opportunity against the whole pipeline of current and future ones. The question to ask is, “Would I be better off spending my time with another prospect?” You never know for sure, but if your instincts and judgment say “yes,” it’s time to move on.
Situational awareness is a big topic. As sales pros, the more we tune-in to all the players and processes that impact every sales engagement, the greater our power and chances for ultimate victory.