Daniels Executive Education offers a three-day sales skills workshop this February
To say that the sales discipline has changed massively in the last 30 years would still be an enormous understatement.
The COVID-19 pandemic robbed salespeople of in-person, face-to-face interaction—perhaps the most valuable tool for gauging and adapting to a customer’s verbal and non-verbal cues. Videoconferencing kept things afloat during the pandemic, but it was an unattractive necessity for the more productive, in-person exchange of ideas and interpersonal relationships.
And then there’s the internet, which, for more than 30 years, has changed the game—introducing digital processes while placing more information, data and power in the hands of customers.
These and other changes have altered how salespeople do business. Certain personality traits remain important. However, the days of the natural-born salesperson with a quick smile and firm handshake have yielded to a discipline defined by planning, strategy and measurement.
Yet, according to Dan Zuch, faculty member in the Executive Education program at the Daniels College of Business, sales remains both an art and science.
“Today’s most effective salespeople have a combination of natural ability and learned skills that are focused on discipline, which means sticking to a plan,” said Zuch, who is also a 36-year veteran of senior level business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales in the technology, luxury hospitality and consulting industries.
“So, it comes down to a combination of art and science,” he said. “The art has to do with the raw skills and talents of the person, and the science has to do with working a playbook and using sales methods the salesperson has learned to use.”
In February 2023, Zuch will join Michele Cunningham, a 20-year Daniels faculty member and director of the College’s Sales Leadership Center, in teaching a three-day sales workshop, “Sales Skills for High Impact.” The workshop will help new-to-mid-level sales professionals learn how to leverage the sales skills of top performers while improving their interactions with customers. The in-person workshop will be held on three consecutive Thursdays, beginning Feb. 9.
A playbook is a dynamic manual created by the sales organization—with input from other organizational stakeholders, including marketing—that provides the strategy and tactics for making a revenue number.
“The playbook has multiple components led by a strategy statement,” Zuch said. “It describes the organization’s distinct sales methodology and its sales process, which is all the executable action steps needed to advance and close a deal. It also outlines the variety of assets and tools associated with those tasks, including a budget.
“Importantly, the playbook is updated each quarter so a sales organization can press the accelerator on the things that are working and stop doing the things that aren’t.
“With those pieces in place, the playbook becomes a valuable training manual that covers everything from generating leads to getting a deal closed, all the way to the customer success components that include product or service upgrades, add-on revenue and retention,” Zuch continued.
Zuch said the February workshop will incorporate use of a playbook as a training manual.
“We’ll essentially be using a playbook as the class curriculum,” Zuch said. “It’ll be a highly interactive course where we divide the B2B and B2C sales process into stages. We’ll take the industries that the students represent and adjust the tactical training accordingly. It will be applicable to what they do every day.
“We’ll also work on messaging and the art of persuasion,” he continued. “Communication is an extremely important part of the sales discipline, and we’ll delve into reading customer responses and ascertaining the self-talk of the audience.”
Personality Traits: Are There Natural-Born Salespeople?
Zuch doesn’t entirely buy into what he considers the antiquated notion of a natural-born salesperson. However, he believes that effective salespeople typically share certain traits.
“In terms of the art of sales, my top two attributes for hiring, especially on the individual contributor level, are personality dynamics and athleticism,” said Zuch. “Is this person interesting? Do I want spend time with this person? Does this person motivate me? Do I find them inspirational in one aspect or another? Are they authentic?
“I don’t look at athleticism in the strict sense of the word, qualities like physical strength, speed and agility,” Zuch continued. “It’s the athletic and competitive mindset of the person that are critically important. I want to understand how hard this person is going to try. Are they goal-oriented? And do they care about winning. It’s these qualities combined with the discipline of planning your work and working your plan that make salespeople successful.
“The workshop brings the art and science of sales together in a very practical way, while also helping students understand and address the broader changes that continue to alter the sales discipline.”