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“The greatest sales people in the world respect their buyers and leave them feeling confident that they have just made a fantastic decision that will help them achieve their goals more easily.”
~ Chandell Labbozzetta
AI is actually something of a red herring.
The truth is that we’ve all been using AI in the background for years without ever thinking much about it, but now it seems as though people are worried that it will take their jobs, their clients, and their business away. For some people that may be a real threat, but here’s the good news… It’s up to you whether AI is the promise of abundance or the threat of scarcity. That outcome is something you CAN control!
I’m working with sales professionals and leaders in many different fields who are using AI to accelerate and empower their sales results. For example, Jenny is using AI to locate ideal clients and research their background so that she can direct her conversations and focus on their highest goals. It has enabled her to get to a 91.3% close rate, more than doubling her sales value with less time spent and ensuring that she has a waiting list of highly qualified clients. Anna is using AI to motivate her team and help them track their performance more actively – as a result, individuals have discovered new strengths as well as ways to overcome weaknesses and plug the holes in their system. For both of them, AI has been the tool they never realised they were missing that enables them to fully use the human potential in themselves and their collaborators.
How is that possible?
It simply requires that you recognise what AI is good at and use it to help you track and perform those actions, while also letting your human side shine. AI is like your calendar or your PA on steroids – helping you plan and organise more effectively so that you have more time and energy to do the things you do best.
Scripts are powerful. They give us guidelines – rather like a rope in a cave – but when we depend on them too much, they turn human beings into tools and robots.
It doesn’t matter if you are delivering a formal sales presentation, having a phone conversation, or an in-person meeting… A script can be deadening or it can deliver results – depending on the other skills you bring to the conversation.
A recent example of this was shared during a session in which we played recordings of real conversations. It comes from a performance discussion:
Manager: How’s it going, Sally?
Sally: I’m having a terrible week, my cat had to be put down on Sunday.
Manager: Oh. (Brief pause) Well, how do you feel that’s going to affect your numbers this week?
Sally: (sounding disinterested) They’ll stay about the same.
Manager: Are you sure? I’d hate to see you lose your bonus.
I mean!!! Here you have two people face-to-face in the same room and all the manager can say is, “Oh!” before continuing on with the planned conversation. I’d have to say he deserves to feel threatened by AI because that was about as scripted and inhuman as you can get.
If Sally had been talking with a chat bot it might have at least been programmed to offer a response to her news about her cat.
As it happens, this manager has been passed over for promotion several times because he has not worked on his listening and conversational skills. He feels like he’s good at his job, organised, and cares about the company so he deserves a promotion. He doesn’t understand that leadership isn’t about competence as much as it is about influence which comes from being human and relatable.
I could have told you some equivalent examples from sales calls and presentations where the individual ignored the cues from his audience and pressed on with his prepared message. You can probably think of some yourself.
Effective sales people (and leaders) can tune into their audience, they know how to listen and pick out the key phrases or emotions others need to hear, and they can respond appropriately to other people and then return to their presentation or script gracefully, leaving the other person feeling they have been heard… And, therefore, open to listen in turn to what you are saying.
“The person with the most flexibility controls the situation.”
Traditional Sales Strategies can be a little like the manager I quoted above – so focused on the script and the message that they can’t manage to deal with any variations. Really effective sales people may use the same strategies and scripts as others, but they have the ability to pay close attention to the person in front of them, to listen closely, and to make adjustments to their language, mannerisms, and the way the present the facts.
In a thriving economy, scripts and systems are incredibly effective, but when things get tough, it is the connection and relationship that dictates the outcome. That means that you need the flexibility of authentic humanity and the more powerfully you can project that, the more effectively you will be able to sell you product, service, or idea to others.
The era of heavily scripted and automated sales is over. If that is your preferred (or only) method of selling it’s time to expand your range… Or you really will be an AI casualty.
If you think that your ‘Sales Team’ are the only ones who need to know how to sell your products and services then it’s time to reevaluate your approach. When I tell people that Sales is the #1 Life Skill, I often get pushback and a request to explain why I say that because it seems to me that when it comes to things people fear, if Public Speaking is the top contender and Death is second, then Sales is in third place. I get that… If you’re thinking of the pushy, sleazy sales tactics that are often associated with used cars and real estate…
BUT – the truth is that we are all selling
… Unless we stand back and take the approach which lets other people dig their own grave if they don’t immediately resonate with the advice we offer.
Natural consequences are great teachers – yet, as parents, friends, colleagues – and certainly as leaders – there are many lessons we’d all prefer to have our children or others learn from advice rather than experience.
That is why leaders in every context need to hone their sales skills and their ability to choose the right examples, present them appropriately with language and images suitable for the person listening to them… So that you can deliberately and purposefully lead others to examine their options critically, choose wisely, and follow through diligently.
As I’ve mentioned previously, sales skills aren’t just about selling products and making money – and they’re certainly not about manipulating others for your benefit at their expense. If the idea of ‘sales’ leaves a nasty taste in your mouth then you probably need to make a determined and decisive effort to reevaluate your position.
If you aren’t averse to ‘sales’ but recognise that your current skills aren’t sufficient for the future challenges you anticipate then you probably already know that I’m going to suggest that you improve your ability to:
Your question is probably:
“How can I take my existing knowledge to the next level?”
“Knowledge is not enough. You also need to practice, experiment, and get feedback.”
Which is why I’m excited that we can once again hold in-person events!
My Leadership Sales Summit is designed to guide you through this way of selling in an authentically human fashion so that both parties feel valued and end with a sense of satisfaction and a stronger relationship. This is not ‘merely theory’ it’s 2 days of solid practice and learning with the goal of enhancing your skills.
Click HERE to email the team and register for Early Admission and join us for this powerful and transformational experience.
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