Sharpening the Saw – How to Keep Your Skills Sharp


Did you know it only takes two weeks for a muscle to atrophy? What about our skills as a sales team? I love the following scale:

  • Unconsciously Incompetent – we don’t even know what we don’t know.
  • Consciously Incompetent – we’ve become aware of what we don’t know. This is typically more frightening than being Unconsciously Incompetent.
  • Consciously Competent – we now know what we need to do and are working diligently at it.
  • Unconsciously Competent – we don’t even need to think about it anymore.

Is it possible for us to remain unconsciously competent in our sales skills? I don’t believe so. There is so much change in the constantly moving, ultra competitive marketplace. Our solutions should be constantly moving too. We should consistently be refining the questions we ask to ensure our research remains relevant to the people we are talking to.

How many times have we seen this movie? There’s a sales call coming up with a typical target buy to discuss our primary solution, and the team spends little time preparing for the conversation. We may do fine, but what could we had achieved? It’s incumbent on us to prepare for every conversation.

Everything happens in the 3.5ft conversation. Our success and failure are directly proportional to our ability to manage the conversation. You’ll hear many reps say “I don’t have time” or “I don’t need to prep because I’ve run this ‘play’ before.” The simple truth is those excuses are keeping us from taking full advantage of our opportunities.

Ask yourself a few of these questions to see if you and your team are prepared:

  • Do we know what this person is measured on in the current year?
  • Has it changed because of new priorities of competitive pressures?
  • IF we have a reasonable understanding of their Business Issue – do we know the challenges they face in trying to achieve it?
  • What questions do we need to ask to solidify this understanding?

Secret Sauce time- What is the ability of you and your team to maximize those precious minutes you have with the prospect when we get into the problem box? Are you going to tell the prospect why you’re unique? That takes a lot more time and wastes your precious minutes than coming prepared with problem probing questions that get the customer to agree to having problems that you know your solution uniquely solves.

Test yourself right now! In your next call, what are your three best problem probing questions to uniquely differentiate you from the competitive landscape in the context of what might matter to that target buy? Do you know them? If you have those questions and they are succinct – congratulations! If not, perhaps it’s time to strengthen the muscle and sharpen the saw.

As Founder and CEO of Visualize, Scott spearheads the company’s overall strategic direction, planning and execution. Scott has over 25 years of experience in sales and sales leadership, building profitable companies.