Sales effectiveness drives the world around – economy, business, and relationships.
Business might be disrupted, markets may collapse, artificial intelligence may replace many jobs but a great sales person will always thrive. As a profession salespeople are brilliant at training and development with a long, proud history.
In this article, we explore the next frontier through the lens of biology. We ask the questions: can we get any better at sales? What has been achieved in sports and elite combat teams over the past 30 years is startling. Shouldn’t we be striving for the same things – Faster, Higher, Stronger? But not only in individual performance, as a team. Consider the power of modern teams such as the All Blacks, Team NZ and Navy Seals.
Sales productivity training has excellent business, organisation and influence initiatives but not as much emphasis on constant analysis and improvement. What if we could take the same sport psychology strategies that the very best sports teams use, and convert it to the sales environment? Would it be possible to create elite sales teams? If so, what must productive sales teams learn and practice?
Watch Dr Sven Hansen on how resilience and the right mind set are key to productivity:
First, we must understand the concept of flow. When you enter the state of flow, productivity can improve 500% (McKinsey, 2013) and team productivity can double. In flow you are calm, focused, absorbed and devastatingly effective. It feels wonderful. This is you at your best. When your team blows targets away, they are in flow.
Today we understand the science of flow and what exactly can be done to increase the amount of time in flow. This is not trivial. When you are in flow your brain is supercharged with gamma waves, dopamine, endorphins and anandamide. Everything is fast and fluid. Learning how to do this takes considerable skill and a lot of practice.
Most of us are so motivated and overstimulated that we fail build the rest and recovery required to charge our biological resources for flow. This makes flow unlikely at best. Once well rested there is a series of phases to negotiate to get back to flow. Experts set a clear challenge that is a bit scary but not overwhelming. Then they find a way to calm their physiology – heart and mind – while maintaining the adrenaline surge.
Second, bounce is a simple necessity. Not everyone will buy. Sometimes three fantastic deals in a row go to competitors. A sales team can be crushed with disappointment. This is normal. What excellent sales people need are the skills to bounce fast. They have to recognise the symptoms of the downward spiral and learn precise actions to recover from distress, reconnect and refocus.
While many sales people are pretty good at bounce, very few understand the cognitive, emotional and physical signals of the downward spiral. Nor do they consciously target their bounce skills to what is required. Beer cannot solve all problems.
Third, energy is a vital ingredient for sales success. You can have all the rugby skills in the world but without excellent all-round fitness, deep sleep and sound nutrition, you will not survive a game. While some sales people keep in great shape, many are well below their potential. Imagine your sales team in top shape.
Part of effective sales training must include precise skills on how to maintain fitness, sleep and nutrition under the pressure of the sales process. Fitness is obvious and practical, sleep is often poorly defined and will be a cause for many emotional and performance problems as well as health issues. Selling effectively through a full day is not possible without good nutrition. These practices require knowledge and discipline.
Fourth, the ability to connect deeply with others – to discover their perceptions, needs and dreams is the core of sales success. From the customer’s perspective, he or she wants to feel safe, appreciated and cared for. That warmth, followed by competence and a good business case allows a negotiation to progress.
Too much competence before warmth and it is the end of the deal. Warmth without competence leads to contempt.
Science now has a detailed view of the extraordinary richness of human connection. The play of posture, breath, voice, eyes, upper face, hearing and hormones creates an exciting opportunity for sales people to practice and improve the art of influence. Technology such as heart rate variability and brain altering sound tracks can help you on the path.
Finally, these biological skills will power up all your other training. Imagine if your sales team fronts up well rested, fit, calm, nourished and ready to tip into flow. Mental focus and flexibility combined with self-awareness and empathy and charged by unlimited energy is a powerful combination. When things go wrong, the team knows how to bounce and get back on track.