You took out a fortune in loans to grunt out that business degree. You learned all the theories, all the executive sales skills, all the investment strategies to generate millions in revenue.
That Harvard MBA sheepskin touts your expertise from a place of prominence on your wall. You talk mean-variance optimization over coffee, and “CMS” and “CRM” are mere fillers on your impressive resume.
But now you are standing in front of a B2B buying committee, and it is becoming clear that there may have been some executive sales skills they didn’t teach in school. Little late for a refund.
No one would argue against the value of a business degree, let alone an MBA. But the applicability of that hard-won accolade has some relevance of its own. For example, many business owners will say that an MBA is more helpful “later” in a business’s development, and when dealing with “higher-end” issues.
Start-ups, however, are trying to get their wings, and perfect theories don’t always apply while flapping madly in turbulence. Relying on school for a complete education and preparation for the world of high-dollar commerce is short-sighted.
And “sales” as a curriculum or specialized area of study unto itself is a relatively new addition to collegiate business schools. Gone are the days of “personality sells” and “always be closing.” Executive sales skills, just like company offerings, are more involved…and evolved.
No matter how thorough (and expensive) that business school education is, there are still skills that simply aren’t (and/or can’t be) taught. And, while the following skills may sound a bit, shall we say, “soft,” they are the glue that hold together an otherwise stellar academic resume.
Here are 6 executive sales skills that you can’t learn in business school:
1. How to deal with people.
Could anything possibly be more important than good communication skills? Most business execs would take a “good” student with great people skills over a wallflower valedictorian any day.
Consider that sales have nothing to do with convincing the other party to buy, and everything to do with building a relationship. Your job is to find out how you can create a solution for someone else’s problem or needs, and that requires trust.
2. Learning how to fall and rise.
This is really a lesson in self-compassion. And it’s not a sappy, self-pitying lesson. It is as essential as teaching an ice skater to get comfortable with falling — sometimes really hard — and to get right back up and into the routine.
This is about learning how to recognize failure at earlier and earlier stages so that you can shift course, get out of the mistake, and move on without hating yourself or hanging up your gloves. People with this kind of resilience bounce back faster and grow from their challenges.
3. Being a visionary.
Champions in every arena of life capitalize on a clear vision of where they want to be and placing themselves into that vision as if it already is. Doing so plays into all the energetic principles like the Law of Attraction, creating a veritable magnet for the people and opportunities that help to manifest that vision.
A salesperson who is naturally curious has the unique ability to place herself into the customer’s shoes, and, by approaching the interaction from that perspective, better assess the problem and present a solution.
We all know the difference between people who can be left to themselves (and do the job in spades) and those who have to have everything spelled out for them, often to no avail.
People with internal drive are always reviewing, analyzing, looking for ways to better themselves and the company. They stay ahead of the game and are ready when opportunity presents itself.
This quality should be the backbone of life, and not just business. Unfortunately, it is too often lacking — in life, in politics, in business. And its absence has done much to create a stereotype of what “salespeople” do…and how they do it.
But when the quality of integrity is present as an executive sales skill, enduring and mutually profitable relationships are built. Not only is the job done, but it is done right. And the customer’s highest good is upheld.
An education is one of life’s greatest and most hard-won assets. But not all of what is essential — even in the world of big business — can be learned in a textbook or classroom. Many of the most important lessons enter the classroom with the student, and ultimately shape his or her success after graduation.
If you need help developing or honing your sales skills, we can help. Reach out to us here.