Always Trust Your Instruments
But How About Gut Feel, Instinct, and the Human Touch?
“Always trust your instruments.”
“Always trust your instruments.” This is what my dad instilled in me when he taught me how to sail. Because when you are sailing at night or through a fog, human instincts and intuitions are often misled.
The same mantra is taught in flight school, as the gauges on an aircraft’s instrument panel are designed to guide pilots during conditions of low visibility. It is called IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) — the process that governs aircraft that fly in instrument meteorological conditions.
A fata morgana, or mirage, may suggest water in the desert, an island on the horizon, or a Flying Dutchman, none of which are there.
Hence, always trust your instruments.
So how about in Sales? Is gut feel a fata morgana? Is reading between the lines misleading? Is intuition fogging the facts? Many salespeople pride themselves on having a sixth sense when it comes to their ability to understand customers and close deals.
Nicole Peeler seems to agree and suggests to “ never trust the process. Instead, trust what you can control. Your butt in a chair. Your fingers on a keyboard. Your ability to take criticism and learn from it, either to grow, to modify your approach, or even to realize when you’re legitimately chasing your tail.”
Here is a very different thought from Salesmate: “ Selling without a sales process is like wandering in the wilderness. You have no clue about what to do next. You are unable to track metrics or predict closure.”
So, what is it? In several articles, I have praised the value of statistics, systems, and processes and labeled them as essential foundations for a successful sales team. And I equally believe in the human powers of being able to abstract using intuition and to receive information not gained through the recognized senses (or the sixth sense).
Let me describe a situation where both come to play, and both contribute to the success. Or, as Jeffrey Gitomer describes it: “Making sense out of sales, and sales out of sense.”
Within a business, an individual sales opportunity can be evaluated against all other past and current opportunities, those lost and those won. Metrics like contract value, length of the sales cycle, stage duration, customer type, … and relative to all other opportunities, these metrics allow us to estimate the close probability. Not as a guesstimate, but rather with statistical probability.
Most non-transactional sales require multiple conversations between the salesperson and the client. They often involve words or statements coming from the client that seem to be reoccurring from sale to sale: phrases like “I do not have a budget,” “my boss is traveling,” “the topic dropped from the agenda,” or “we really like your product.” The salesperson now needs to use experience and intuition to look beyond the literal meaning of the words spoken. What do those words really mean for the sales opportunity at hand?
The combination of intuition and data provides the best visibility.
The challenge with intuition, though, is subjectivity. It is driven only by one’s own experiences; and also by wishful thinking, personality type, and even outside pressures regarding the expected outcome. In the age of AI and machine learning, we can do better. Software listening to the calls, or reading emails, will let us know what the client really cares about and what obstacles stand in the way of a deal.
Its objectivity is based on science and the collective intuition of many salespeople.
So, what is left for salespeople to do? What role does a human play in sales today? McKinsey provides a very positive outlook: “ In an environment where habits and practices have changed so quickly and will likely continue to do so, sales leaders need a clear view of what their customers want and what steps their company can take to address their needs. Traditional face-to-face interactions have given way to sales and service support by videoconference, webinar, phone, human chatbot, and other means.
In this remote and digital world, however, there is still a crucial role for the human touch.”
Great Sales Leaders understand this. They embrace all available technology, align digital and human interactions, trust their instrument and the process, and use the deliberate human touch to their advantage.
Nicole Peeler — Don’t Trust the Process
Jeffrey Gitomer — Making sense out of sales, and sales out of sense
Photo by Anne Gosewehr
Originally published at https://www.vendux.org on August 12, 2022.