In my experience, sales is mostly about doing – about taking action.
Thinking in advance is important, vital in fact, to focus action on the right things, and to make action “automatic” when it's time to act.
But at the end of the day, sales happen “in the moment” face to face with clients.
In line with this, most sales people tend to be action-oriented. So I find when I'm helping most sales people to improve their performance, my work often focuses around helping them with their thinking. Perhaps they need to better target and select their customers. Perhaps they need to identify better ways of generating leads. Or perhaps they need to rethink the way they hold sales meetings and interact with clients.
But when I work with the people who sell professional services – the lawyers, accountants, consultants and other professionals themselves – it's a different story.
Most professionals tend to love thinking. They'll analyse and debate a problem to death. So I find that my work with many professionals is to get them to be more action oriented.
The professional's seemingly inbuilt fear of rejection and losing face adds to this tendency to think rather than do. Doing involves risk – the possibility that you'll have an unpleasant interaction with a potential client. Thinking is safe – at least in the short term.
In sales, the second best plan implemented today is often much better than the best plan implemented tomorrow. But that really goes against the grain for professionals trained to search for the very best solution to any problem.
With professionals, the key to helping them improve performance is therefore often less about new ideas and insights – and more about coaching and coaxing to take action.
PS If you're wondering about the graphic – it's an Einstein Action Figure – the perfect combination of thought and action!