Intuitive Selling—More Than A Feeling

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Have you ever experienced talking about an opportunity, a situation, or strategy with a very high performing sales person?  Or been with someone dealing with a very complex deal, and all of a sudden they come up with the right answers, or strategies?  Or that individual that just seems to always have the right answers for dealing with the tough situations?

Seemingly, they pull the answers from thin air, but they are, almost always, right on target.  Somehow they “get” everything in a flash and manage to perform at levels, many of us aspire to.

When you ask them, they can’t really explain it, they just seem knew what to do.   Often, they chalk it up to instincts or intuition.  Because they can’t explain it, we often try to explain it with, “they just always seem to be very lucky….” or “they must be born with it….”

Intuition can be a form of “pattern matching.”  It correlates what we experience in the moment,with patterns based on past experiences.  Those past experiences represent unconscious knowledge we leverage to fit the current situation.  In some sense, the brain is a predictive/pattern recognition machine.  It combines what we experience in the moment with our collection of past experiences.  It’s been called “…learned expertise in disguise.”

It’s a variant of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to mastery (Though it may not take 10K hours).

One might be tempted to chalk this up to years of experience–yet we see plenty of people with decades of experience who perform poorly. 

On the other hand, we see people with relatively few years of experience performing, almost intuitively, at very high levels.

Most of this, actually, is pretty well understood.  It’s the result of purposeful practice.  We apply what we have learned in a structured way, we think about it, we refine it, we revise it.  And when it no longer seems to be working we seek to understand what’s changed and we change and adapt.   Not meaning to get to philosophical, it’s being present and paying attention to what we do.

Each of us have the same opportunity, but too often we fail to exploit it.  Perhaps we don’t care, we are just going through the motions we’ve been told to go through, without really looking at how we make them work.

Much of our training fails, because we teach people the concept, perhaps they practice it a couple of times.  But to embed the behaviors and understanding, it requires constant reinforcement over a much longer period of time. 

Managers play key roles in helping their people develop these learned responses.  They do it through continued coaching and reinforcement.

But what can we learn from these “intuitive learners?”  How can we start to adapt what they do to improve our own abilities.  Some thoughts:

  1. They are curious, they are driven to learn, explore, experiment.
  2. They have the ability to break down complex ideas into smaller parts, then they practice on each part until they have mastered it, putting all the parts together as the learn.
  3. They experiment, iteratively testng themselves on what they have learned or a new approach idea they are trying.  It’s in this process, they make mistakes, refine and adjust based on experience.
  4. They do this in “the real world.”  The ideas are not an abstraction, but things they start applying in what they do every day.  For example, as sellers, they constantly try new ideas in working with customers.  They iterate constantly, learning from their experience, refining their approach constantly.  They practice “informed trial and error.”
  5. They build on their prior experience, bridging what they have learned in the past to the new areas they experiment with.
  6. They manage overwhelm and overload.  They know too much information may create confusion or distract them from what they are seeking to achieve.  They manage to identify and leverage that which is critical to what they are doing.
  7. They are constantly refining and improving on what they have learned and what they do.  They recognize without this they will fail to achieve their goals.
  8. They actively seek feedback, both formal and informal.
  9. They care about what they are doing, they are driven to mastery–more measured by their own concepts of mastery than externally driven metrics.
  10. And they do this all the time!

These are practices each of us can adopt, improving our own abilities to learn and perform.  Managers play a key role in constantly reinforcing these principles in coaching/developing their people. (But they have to be careful to manage overwhelm/overload, focusing on one area at a time.

Intuition is powerful, but it’s more than a feeling…….

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

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