ATD’s sales competency model builds on four foundational competencies: collaboration, solution, insight, and effectiveness.
Popular sales methodologies include consultative selling, relationship selling, challenger selling, insight selling, solution selling, and account-based selling.
What competency models and methodologies provide is a starting point. They codify what it takes to succeed in selling.
What they all have in common can be boiled down to seller behaviors. What highly successful sellers do more frequently than less successful sellers includes:
- Involving the buyer in meaningful ways
- Dignifying the unique needs and preferences of individual buyers
- Linking buyer problems to tailored solutions
- Following through on promises and deliverables
- Inspiring and enabling the buyer to try new things
- Demonstrating a commitment to the buyer that transcends the transaction
- Celebrating shared success with the buyer
Every one of these behaviors leads to sales success. And every one of these behaviors is easier when sellers develop strong critical thinking skills.
That makes critical thinking skills a high-priority competency for sellers and a backbone for most sales methodologies.
Where to Start When Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Sales
You will never develop strong critical thinking skills unless you’re willing and able to move outside your own echo chamber.
Can you really do it? Is this even possible? How open are you to the idea of truly considering others' opinions and perspectives?
Entrenched thinking and a refusal to entertain new ideas is natural. Everyone struggles with this at times. Truly stepping back to understand other perspectives is difficult AND essential.
To build your mental might and eradicate lazy thinking, you’ll have to be humble enough to acknowledge that you might not have all the answers.
In sales, this acknowledgement alone will make you more effective. That’s because buyers prefer to work with sellers who don’t bring ready-made, fully-baked solutions to them. Buyers want the experience of participating in creating what they want. They want to be engaged in the process. They enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to infuse the solution with personal meaning and their own imprint.
Involving buyers in the process and hearing their ideas actually makes the work of selling easier. As buyers participate, they’re also committing themselves to the solution. They create the solution and, by doing so, they sell it to themselves. All you have to do is get out of the way! That, too, is a critical thinking skill.
Listen all the way to the end for of this video for a challenge. Take the challenge to build new habits and expand your own perspective.
Critical Thinking Changes What You Look at and How You Look at It
Accessing information from a variety of diverse sources will expand your view. You’ll get more and different insights because you’re looking at more perspectives.
Think of it this way. The lens you look through affects what you see. A microscope shows you less than a telescope. You need different lenses for near sight than you do for far sight. Having access to and using binoculars gives you the chance to see more than you otherwise could.
When you look at something close up, you can see it and understand it differently. The way you look at it – with an open mind, an appropriate lens, and an ability to see clearly – gives you more to work with.
It’s the same in sales. You can view all buyers as largely the same and never look closely at them individually. You can keep a small-picture perspective and look only at the current revenue goals you need to reach. And you can rely on the same sources of information over and over again, thereby limiting the perspectives you’re exposed to.
Alternately, you could look more closely at each individual buyer. You could think longer-term and more strategically. And you could open yourself up to multiple sources and perspectives so you’re constantly getting new ideas and raising “what if?” and “what else?” questions.
The smaller, more contained option is a choice born out of lazy thinking. The second choice demands mental prowess and a desire to challenge yourself with critical thinking.
Next Steps for Getting a Bigger-Picture Perspective
If you’re responsible for hiring or training sellers, be sure you’re hiring for or building the competency of critical thinking. Look for new hires who have a long-term, big-picture perspective and can see how their actions engage buyers and set the company up for future growth.
If you’re responsible for revenue growth and customer satisfaction, work on your critical thinking skills to continually develop a strategic and forward-looking approach to selling.
This is part 16 in the series of posts about why and how to build critical thinking skills you can use to excel in selling. Be sure to bookmark the CONNECT2Sell Blog or subscribe to our weekly newsletter so you won’t miss these posts. Each one offers additional ways to build your mental might. If you want to go back and catch up on the ones you’ve missed, just click on this link.
Read chapter 1 of Stop Selling & Start Leading today!