Anyone familiar with the Spiderman comic series and movies can relate to the superhero using his special skill to detect trouble before it happens. In sales, we often dismiss these intuitive skills as special gifts or “it just comes with experience” and so on. But science has helped us understand the underlying mental actions that are at work when we use our intuitive instincts, or said more simply, our “Spidey-Sense!”
Researchers Peter Fadde PhD. and Gary Klein PhD., have led the way on studies in natural settings−typical work environments such as sales, which suggests that intuitive expertise (Spidey-Sense) plays a dominant role in expert performance. A chief component of intuitive skill centers on situation awareness.
We mostly associate situation awareness with emergency professionals such as fire, medical, and rescue. These are people who have to make life and death snap decisions with a high degree of accuracy. This raises the question, “What is the role of situation awareness in selling?” While it is not life threatening to mishandle a sales objection, knowing how to adjust to situations can be critical to success. One common trap that often entangles salespeople is the idea of following a prescribed script or presentation and failing to adjust based on the situation. For example, if you’re calling on a large company that has been a customer of your competitor for the last 10 years, your messaging would differ considerably from that of a smaller business that uses a much smaller (less complex) product from a different competitor. Although most salespeople make mental notes of these types of details, we must also adapt our sales behavior and message to the situation.To activate your Spidey-Sense, the key is to notice and prepare for your most common selling situations in your environment. Believe it or not, most of these situations can be broken down into a handful of common ones. To build situational selling, you focus on detecting and properly reacting to these common scenarios. Although, there will be one-off situations that always come up, you don’t have to prepare for every situation in order to be effective at situations. When you master the predominant scenarios, your Spidey-Sense kicks in allowing you to be ready for other ones when they arise.
Consider this list of typical selling situations:
- The prospect objections and hesitations (fears and concerns)
- The prospect’s product or service needs (implicitly expressed)
- The prospect’s authority level (executive, mid-level, lower-level)
- The prospect’s group and individual dynamics (one-on-one, one sales rep to two prospects, etc.)
- The prospect’s buying readiness and needs recognition
- The prospect’s industry and business conditions
- The prospect’s internal politics and silo dynamics
It would be a wise idea to make your own list based on your selling industry. Once identified, focus on noticing and mentally categorizing each situation during your interactions. Following this approach, you will find that your intuitive sense heightens over time exposing new insights that help build communication momentum which leads to more favorable sales outcomes.