The 3 Letter Word Most Sales Training Overlooks | Interview with Mike Kunkle

August 09, 2017 Nick Rini

Selleration CEO, Nick Rini, interviews sales expert Mike Kunkle about how one 3 letter word is the key to increasing the Selling Judgement of sales reps.  Mike Kunkle is the Vice President of Sales Transformation Services for Digital Transformation Inc., and founder of Transforming Sales Results LLC.  


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NR: It is absolutely astonishing that Selling Judgement has not come to the forefront of more sales organizations when it comes to measuring it, understanding it, and improving it.


MK: I think it is a little of what FranklinCovey calls ‘The Whirlwind’. You go to a training class, or attend a strategic planning meeting. The week ends and you go through the weekend. On Monday morning, you are back into the whirlwind of daily business.


Knees are bouncing off of foreheads. Quotas need to be met. There is a customer problem here and there. You are not really stopping and thinking about what are some of the things we can do to upskill and raise the level of selling competence across our whole salesforce.


We as sales leaders don’t step back enough I think to try and figure those things out, so I think Selling Judgement gets set to the side. It’s also not something you can easily teach in a classroom or in e-Learning like you can teach some sales methodologies.  It’s more like: ‘Oh, Here’s a six step process for resolving a customer’s concern.’ and you teach the process and hand over some examples and then suddenly they are off and running.


Trainers and sales managers don’t even do all the things that are necessary to translate that training into sales knowledge and selling skills to get better results. So when you consider that most organizations aren’t even teaching those sales skills well, it’s not that surprising that companies miss things like developing sales judgement.


I have tried in several companies in the past to see if we couldn’t raise the level of sales judgement. We did it very situationally using case studies and scenarios sourced from the salesforce and clients. What happened is we would drop somebody into a scenario to see what they would do, then give them feedback and repeat the scenario. It takes a lot of discussion, coaching, and analysis, but eventually you start to see people get into better patterns.


It’s hard to get purposeful judgement into an unconscious competence place in the brain, but you can teach people to think about being present, and consider whether they are interpreting customers correctly.


You can also teach reps techniques like going away and coming back, the same way as they would to overcome a concern. You understand, empathize and categorize a customer concern, then you go away to formulate a response. You can do the same thing with Selling Judgement.


Most people in sales training are teaching people what to do, and how to do it. But they don’t teach people to understand WHY they are doing each of the steps in the sales process.


Do reps understand why they should stop and make an empathy statement to acknowledge a concern that a customer has expressed? Do I understand why I’m going to question someone a lot about a concern, even though it’s uncomfortable? Reps tend not to follow through on steps they have been trained to take if they don’t understand the ‘why’.


If I’ve got to speak up and suggest a different course of action than my CEO thinks is the course that we should take, I’m probably not going to do that in the company meeting where the CEO is making the announcement. But, I might set up some separate time privately to have that conversation and express some concerns.


When you do things and where you do things are  big elements of judgement too - and they have to be worked into your sales training, case studies, and simulations if you have any hope of helping people develop Selling Judgement. Most of the time I see ‘when’ and ‘where’ being skipped. That’s a big piece of Selling Judgement.”


NR: “Applying Sales Judgement means that you have options to chose from. Most salespeople don’t even think about the options, they just launch into a direction without a great deal of thought about how they are going to approach something.


We had an interesting experience that I want share. We had a gentleman at, John Hancock, with which Selleration had done a case study and a focus group. One of the salespeople said that after going through the sales simulations within UPtick and getting back on the phone with customers, they started thinking about the different paths they could choose in the conversation.


For them, it brought to light that there are options, and that they should consider their options before they jump in. I thought that was fascinating. Selling Judgement cannot be underestimated.”


To hear the full interview with Mike Kunkle, and more about how sales leaders can measure and improve Sales Judgement, listen to  Sales Acceleration with Selleration on iTunes.

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