Most are fairly aligned on what makes a good sales professional; it is BOTH the art and science of sales. What is surprising, however, is that most sales training is focused on the science of sales – market analysis, stages of a deal, prospecting, etc., and yet we know, if sales professionals are not empathetic, good listeners, authentic, likeable, creative, (the art) they will be sub-par.
Focusing on the art of sales is starting to show up in the marketplace; for example, the Challenger Sale, StoryLeaders, and Selling with Noble Purpose. We need more of it. And, the piece that still seems to be missing is co-creation. When we (people) are involved in creating something, we have ownership and commitment. Yet, sales is still discussed as directional- we sell to the other; we offer, they buy; we have to challenge their thinking.
We must reframe the customer relationship to be about co-creation, from buyer-seller to collaborative problem-solving team. When there is mutual appreciation, we can play as equals and have the best shot at creating something transformational for both parties.
Human Centered Design, or Design Thinking, offers a codified process for developing customer centricity and co-created solutions. It is a process that demands empathy, expands discovery and delays solution generation until the best and broadest answer emerges. It offers tools and techniques to sales professionals that will help develop the art side of the practice.
One useful design method is for sales people to increase the frequency with which they observe end users experiencing their customer’s products or services—even experiencing it themselves as a customer. Direct observation and empathy lead to greater learning about how a customer’s business creates value for consumers and about unique opportunities for collaboration.
From our experience working with sales teams, we have seen tremendous gains in: passion for the work, getting face to face meetings faster and incredible jumps in pipeline and revenue.