Today’s top sales people possess different skills than the top ones from a decade ago. The internet changed everything, including sales skills.
A decade ago, the sales person was in information control. That’s why you hated sales people. They knew more than you know and didn’t ever appear to tell everything. They present the features and benefits of a product in a way that worked to their advantage. Now flash forward. The best contemporary sales people operate in conversational mode. You don’t need them for information anymore. The sales person is responsible for helping you sort through all of your information so that you can make a good decision. Market needs have shifted the core skills of the sales person.
Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, focuses on three core sales skills: attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. The International Coach Federation stresses similar core competencies for coaches.
Attunement is at the heart of understanding the other person. It is empathy on steroids. You give up some control in order to step into the other person’s world more fully. You listen with your head and heart so that you understand the other person in their world, and not so you can sell them on your idea. The ICF stresses co-creating a relationship based on trust and intimacy. Active listening and awareness are also part of core coaching skills.
Buoyancy is the skill of staying positive in a world filled with “no’s.” Sales people get this. Top people in sales tell themselves, “I’m just one more ask away from a YES.” By its very nature, coaching requires positivity. The coach has a goal to create and raise awareness that leads to positive action. If the client isn’t progressing, the coach is charged to “positively confront” the situation.
Clarity is finding the right problems to act on and the right solutions for the situation. For the sales person, it’s finding the right frame for the circumstances. Coaches do exactly the same thing. Coaches create awareness around an issue and support the client in designing actions that fit the situation.
In short, the same skills that a good sales person has are the same competencies that a coach has. This is NOT to say that people good in sales are good coaches. That’s like saying a good quarterback will be a good football coach or a great business executive will make a wonderful executive coach. The potential has to be developed.
Sales and coaching are profoundly different activities. Just because you are good at one doesn’t automatically make you good at the other. How do you see the difference?