When I work with people who are new to sales, one of the first ideas that I instill is that the goal is to make each of them the best sales people they can be. I tell them, “Not a new and improved version of me, but an authentic sales version of you!”

To get to “authentic” sales status, you need to move through a three level competency curve. These competency levels, Baseline, Recognition and Ownership, coincide with your self-developmental, your product knowledge and your experience working with clients.

The Competency Curve

The BASELINE competency is the specific level of knowledge and understanding of your product/service that is required for you to talk to clients without damaging the brand. To illustrate, let’s imagine a young ballet dancer, taking lessons at a well known school. The focus in those first classes is not learning to “dance”. Instead the focus is on learning the mechanics of dance, basic pliés and relevés, for example.
Authentic
The next competency level is RECOGNITION. This is the level where you put the your knowledge and understanding in context for a client. Getting back to our imaginary dance studio, the choreographer shows more advanced dancers a passage and they can recognize where the plié and relevé work with other moves to become a dance.

The ultimate competency level is OWNERSHIP. When you are able to give your knowledge and understanding a context, you are selling through your authentic self! Moving from the rehearsal studio to the stage, our dancer is now able to perform each plié and relevé in a way that expresses her training, interpretation and life experiences. While the movement was obviously a plié, as our dancer performed it, it was HER plié!

Are You Authentic?

Take a moment to think about your sales practice and where you are on the competency curve. Are you – regardless of your years of sales experience – still learning the mechanics of your company’s products and services? Without this baseline competency you are forced to have inauthentic interactions when challenged by clients.
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Are you in a place where the customer can explain her needs and you can identify one or more of your company’s products or services? This recognition level will keep you employed and a consistent contributor to the sales team. Many sales professionals plateau their careers at this point. These professionals make up the bulk of the competency curve, making a decent living, but not thriving.

To vie for the top spots on the production board, you need to be able to work with a client who doesn’t necessarily know what they want or need. You can, through owning your experience, training and expertise, draw out your client’s needs and confidently recommend products and services to give the client the confidence to make a good buying decision.!

Getting to this ownership level – this authentic selling level – has benefits for your career, your clients and the sales profession at large. When your clients can see you are comfortable in your skin, your product knowledge and your expertise, your authenticity lowers their defenses, raises your value and increases referrals. In other words, authentic selling gets you everything you want as a sales professional.

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