Our guest on this week’s podcast is author and President of LDK Advisory Services, Anita Nielsen. Anita has a lot of thoughts on how sales is changing and the increasing role of technology in the profession. She also tells John how she advises reps on future proofing their careers and why empathy is an essential sales skill they must learn.
In this podcast, you’ll learn:
- The Death of the Average Sales Rep
- Can You Teach Empathy?
- Future Proofing Your Sales Career
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The Death of the Average Sales Rep
Anita Nielsen: We’re not going to be obsolete as sales professionals, we’re not going to disappear into thin air. That’s been mentioned by nearly everyone out there in sales. The transactional sales are going that way because you can do that easier and quicker without a human.
But if you are a sales professional who does already look at things in complex way, like if you’re looking at more complex sales but not transactional type stuff, your opportunity to differentiate actually has gotten bigger.
When you are getting ready to call the airline for example and get the automated bot on the phone. How annoying is that? If the FAQs on a website don’t help you but there’s no support. With higher level stuff, the human is worth more than any other way of dealing with a situation in sales or customer service.
Your ability to be curious is huge. Those things that computers and bots can’t do, let’s focus on those. And you’ll be amazed at how great you can be in your craft when you do that.
Can You Teach Empathy?
John Barrows: So, I think both of us have thought about this a lot. What is happening to the reps who are sending blanket email cadences and running BANT calls and bad demos. How are they rising up to the next levels to avoid that “robots taking our job” situation? I know this is leads into what you’ve written about in your book, but what have you seen most on this?
Anita Nielsen: After my classes and coaching I was asked if I was writing a book a few times. So I did it, but one thing kept coming up in my experience that was mentioned a lot in the book because of that.
One quick story about it, I was talking to a rep I worked with who was having a hard time. He was struggling with some personal life things which were impacting his work. We talked things out and I found I could relate to him, really understand and look for a solution. But we know that doesn’t always happen, because performance is what managers want, regardless of circumstance.
John Barrows: So on empathy, I think that personally I am higher on the EQ scale than the IQ scale. That’s just how I’ve become as a person and how I work. Some people are higher and some are lower. Can you teach that skill?
Long story short, I was looking at an email a rep sent out to a prospect and it was attempting to empathize with the guy. But really it was a first touch so the empathy was fake. Can you teach that skill of doing it right?
Anita Nielsen: I think empathy is something that’s a gift. If you’re born with it, that’s phenomenal and it’ll just serve you well throughout your life. However, if you’re not born with that gift, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to mimic what somebody who is given that gift does. So, you know, it really boils down to being able to think about the world and the perspective of the person that you’re speaking with.
And as you can train yourself to listen for certain things, you can train yourself to look at body language and listen to speech patterns. If you really want to do it, there’s a lot of ways to do it. It’s not easy. And so I think the people that are gifted with the empathy, it’s a shame if they don’t use it. The people who don’t have it, it’s a shame if they don’t work on it because it is going to serve them really well.
Future Proofing Your Sales Career
John Barrows: So when you’re new into sales and trying to make it, you’re working hard and making your activity metrics. Hitting the phone and hammering email, all that stuff. If you’re living week to week, month to month it’s hard to get your head above water and think long term. How can you begin to do that?
Anita Nielsen: Tell yourself, Hey, I gotta look for the long game and these are the skills that I’m honing because ultimately I am going to get the job that’s going to let me do that. But right now I have to pay the bills. I have to get through this with whatever it takes. It’s that “whatever it takes” pressure that pushes you through what you’re working on to have room to breathe.
Meet your numbers, do what you have to do and know that if you’re looking long term, you will get what it is that you want. You’ll find that role where you’ll be able to shine, but it’s not the role that you’re in right now. And that’s why you’re doing it. Ultimately the skills you’re working with are less than what you will have, so do things as best you can and if you’re dead set serious about improving, own the process of learning the skills that can make immediate impact on you now. Then you’ll start to pull away from the waterline. That’s future proofing your career but not ignoring the stage you’re at.
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