When I speak to groups of CEOs and VPs of sales, I often ask: How many of you have seen a change in your business in the last six months? Twelve months? Two years?
Almost every hand in the room would be raised. (Even before the pandemic.)
I followed with a second question: How many of you have changed your sales approach to better meet the changing needs of your prospects and clients? Not as many had, but a lot of heads looked left and right, wondering what everyone else was doing to manage change.
Effective leaders and sales leaders MANAGE change because they have MASTERED and teach the EQ skill of self-awareness.
Emotional self-awareness is the ability to know what emotion you’re feeling, why you are feeling it and how that emotion affects how a seller or sales leader shows up each day.
When facing change, it’s common for human beings to experience the emotion of fear.
- “I know my old approaches to sales aren’t working. But I am FEARFUL that I can’t master the new skills needed to succeed in a world gone virtual.” (So I will just stick with my tried-and-true approach to sales - even if it’s not working.)
- “This change is risky. Translation: I’m comfortable with what I know. I’m FEARFUL I could fail and look stupid in front of a prospect, blowing a great opportunity.” (I’ll run back to my comfort zone, where results are mediocre, but at least I know what I know.)
- “Changing and learning new skills and habits is a lot of work.” I FEAR that it’s going to take too long to improve and I could lose too many sales. (And you know the end of this sentence.)
Self-aware sales managers recognize that the emotion of fear drives nonproductive selling behaviors.
They don’t ignore fear. They address it head-on with their sales team.
Self-aware sales managers know that fear is fueled by negative thoughts. During coaching sessions, they ask provocative questions to change their seller’s thoughts, which lessens their fears and decreases resistance to change.
For example, many sellers still resist the change to prospect and sell through video calls. In-person sales calls will return. However, the reality is video sales calls are here to stay. Asking the right coaching questions improves your seller’s self-awareness about their non-productive emotions and self-limiting belief systems.
Q: What is your biggest fear about selling through video calls rather than face-to-face calls? (This question raises the seller’s awareness that this selling challenge isn’t about skills.)
“I’m going to blow a big opportunity.”
Q: Is that worry based on perception or reality? (This question improves the seller’s self-awareness about stories she’s making up rather than what is actually happening.)
Q: So, when you’ve mastered new selling skills in the past, how did you go about making the change? (This question increases the seller’s awareness that he’s successfully made changes before.)
“Well, I studied, asked for advice and practiced new approaches.”
Q: How can you apply those same strategies to this situation? (This question raises awareness about accountability and responsibility. It also increases the seller’s feeling of control, which decreases fear.)
Self-awareness is key to sales and sales leadership success. As I often tell my clients, that which you are not aware of, you cannot change.
Great sales managers work at improving their team’s self-awareness because increased awareness helps sellers accept change, decrease the emotion of fear and increase sales. It’s a soft skill that produces hard sales results.