Is it social skill? Is it product knowledge? Trustworthiness?
For sales pros in any industry, every single one of these qualities is essential. You can’t succeed without them. And the sum total of all these qualities can be reckoned in just one word – READY.
In Spanish, the word listo – ready – has the special significance of defining a person who’s clever, bright, agile, and awake to respond skillfully in any situation. The Boy Scouts’ slogan, Be Prepared, captures a similar sense of readiness.
But since you never know what might happen in any situation, what does it take to be prepared for anything?
I think there are two principles at the heart of Ready: training and attitude.
Know your stuff so well you don’t have to think about it
Watch a skillful basketball player during practice and you might see him take the same shot for an hour straight until sinking that basket becomes embedded in his muscle memory.
With enough practice, the body learns the force, trajectory, and timing needed to hit the target perfectly every time. The same kind of training works for baking a cake, changing a tire, or handling sales questions.
When you say you’ve learned something by heart, you’re pointing to the interconnected neural networks that guide your actions without you having to consciously plan or think about any of them.
With enough practice, you can develop skills so well that your responses are automatic and right on target. You don’t have to think about them, they just happen naturally. That’s the first step towards being ready.
Ready means being open to everything
Most of the time, whatever the challenge, you can’t bank on any particular or permanent outcome. But you can be ready to take advantage of opportunities, make the best of failures, and not get dragged out to sea by disappointment and distress.
You never really know what might happen next, do you? Nothing is 100% predictable. Uncertainty pervades all facets of life and work, and that makes things interesting. Take unexpected sales questions, for example.
Can you trust yourself to respond to every question with the right answer? Right answers are only what works in a particular moment. Right answers depend on complex intertwined elements – who is asking, why they’re asking, where and when this is taking place, who else is present, and a lot more.
While I’m saying there’s really no such thing as a right answer, there are indeed good answers. Depending on the situation and the goals, good answers may feel more satisfactory to the person asking, and move the conversation in a specific direction. If you can provide an answer that does just that, you’ve responded well.
Good answers will arise naturally when you’re alert and tuned in to the situation. Whether you’re selling an idea, a phone system or aiming to win a new insurance client, focused attention and wide-open awareness are important skills to cultivate. (We might include curiosity here as well.)
The more you know about your target audience, the greater your chances for success. What do they value? What drives their sales engagement? What role do they play in their organization? Who and what are you competing against? These are just a few of the key issues that inform your ability to influence people.
Sales pros, like champion athletes, know how to get in the zone and stay present moment by moment. Like sinking baskets and cake baking, learning to manage the power of focused attention also takes training; training that really never stops.
Keeping an open mind is similar to keeping a clean workspace so you can find what you need when you need it, so that nothing gets lost and you’re always ready for anything.