Jeffrey Tucker, in the Epoch Times, commented on a fascinating article he saw in the Wall Street journal concerning the skill levels of new hires, even in fields such as engineering. He said, “Firms are taking in new graduates only to discover that while they might know much, they can’t actually do anything, not even basic things that every engineer is supposed to know. The reason is that most of these kids have only done Zoom classes. They have no practical experience.”
The freshman class of 2020 got hit with a virus mania in the spring, and then, in-person classes ended. Their sophomore year was awful, just staring at the screen. When they came back, if they did, they did so behind masks. Their junior year was more of the same with off-and-on classes and seriously truncated experiences.
Think about the isolation, the online classes, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, digitized lives of social media and in-home entertainment. What happened to face-to-face skills? What happened to negotiating outcomes and the natural give and take learned between people in normal interpersonal situations?
Face-to-Face Skills Remain in Demand
Mr. Tucker’s article asks the question, “What are young people prepared for? Maybe a zoom job pretending to work in a management position—exactly the sort that’s vanishing as major corporations are desperately cutting labor costs by purging management of its outrageous excesses. It goes on daily.
When CVS announced huge layoffs, it made it clear that there would be no losses among the people who are customer facing. Those people remained in huge demand. But how many of today’s college graduates are even prepared to stand behind the checkout counter and speak coherently to people, much less handle money or deal with scanning codes and the like? Not many.
Real skills are what make the world work. We got an entire generation, or maybe two, that simply lack the life skills we took for granted. The loss of skills is having a profound effect on our lives.”
Focus on Teaching Sales Skills
Now let’s take all of this and turn it towards sales—which mostly revolves around interpersonal skills, yet today’s young people even experience high anxiety over how to go on a date with someone they’ve just met.
Teaching a sales process and its steps is extremely important to the success of new reps. So for today’s young reps to be the best, they will need mentors and coaches who patiently teach them how to handle the complex interactions with people—especially the specific types of interactions important to their jobs and to high sales and incomes.
Teachable Skills for Young Salespeople
Here are the 15 face-to-face interactions, or interpersonal skills sets, for today’s great sales coaches to teach and drill as habits. Depending upon the sales position, one of two of them may not be needed, but most of them will touch every sales position in America. Please choose from the list and put together your own customized sales training to make your people the best in your industry.
- Go into the community, network, and meet people
- Use the phone to set appointments
- Introduce themselves in 30 seconds or less to prospects or customers
- Adapt and communicate with different personalities during the sales process in retail situations
- Greet people and begin building rapport with them. How to handle the “I’m just looking customer,” or the “I’ve got a problem customer”
- Prospect and set first appointments
- Communicate an agenda and ask questions before doing a presentation
- Design a set of discovery questions that will help them understand the typical prospect’s needs and problems
- Ask discovery questions while they are actively listening with their facial expressions, taking notes and using other verbal signs of being present
- Design and make customized presentations and proposals
- Handle at least 6-8 typical fears, concerns, and questions
- Propose buying actions or ways to ask for a decision
- Follow up with people who are still trying to make a decision
- Follow up with new customers to make sure all has gone well
- Ask for referrals
None of this knowledge is learned through Zoom or Facebook. It is learning through trial and error, mistakes and successes. However, you can supercharge their progress with intentional training in these areas and by being with them to coach and cheer them on as they attempt to put these habits into practice. That’s because all of these skills, from listening to adapting to personalities, make them a better person with the significant people in their lives.
Now, make your coaching great in these 15 fundamental skills, and you will help your people succeed in one of the greatest professions of all time. You will help them be the salespeople that customers love and respect.