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I read an article today by a so-called “sales expert”. He had two columns – The Seven Skills That Cannot Be Taught to Salespeople and The Seven Skills That Can Be Taught.

The first list is the “unteachables”:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Integrity
  3. Drive
  4. Passion
  5. Resiliency
  6. Self-Awareness
  7. Emotional Awareness

Those are the things that can’t be taught- at least by this expert. Then, there’s the list of his “teachables”:

  1. Pipeline Generation
  2. Business Acumen
  3. Time Management
  4. Sales Acumen (which is what? That we can act like every other salesperson?)
  5. Product Knowledge
  6. Big Deal Progression
  7. Negotiation

The two lists remind me how much I hate that my own book sits on the sales shelf in the bookstore.  And I’m also reminded how insufficient my industry – sales training, is.  I don’t read sales books.  I was never really ever into them. The more I became curious about selling, which to me was grounded in the hidden forces of empathy, cooperation, reciprocity, courage, inspiration, trust and human connection, the more I had to look outside of the sales shelf in the bookstore for answers.

I found inspiration in the groundbreaking work in the fields of the neuroscience, and the emerging fields within social work, anthropology and phycology. The sections outside of the sales shelf were giving answers to the questions that the “selling”profession chalked up to “un-teachables.”  Its ironic that a field grounded in questions hasn’t even been able to question itself. We’ve created a narrative in the sales profession that the very things that makes up the most influential people are unteachable. Maybe its because they’re messy and difficult to understand topics.  We’ve concluded that you’re either born with these traits, or not. You either have the gift or you don’t.  But that way of thinking is wrong.

Emotional awareness, curiosity, integrity, trust and resiliency – these things are learned and acquired skills that can be practiced when we understand them at a deeper level. But our profession – our leaders, have totally missed. They’re operating from a playbook from the late 20th century that is so outdated and the research bear this out.

You don’t have to look any further than why so many salespeople struggle and why it is that the sale profession is so universally disliked.  We’ve shoved aside the skills and traits that are imperative, and we’ve focused our teachings around the least common denominator: process, product and expertise.  Creativity, imagination, curiosity, emotional awareness and emotional intelligence have been pushed aside, and the unintended consequences is a is a disconnected, downright manipulative experience for everybody involved.

The ‘unteachables” – these skills are learnable, and by extension, teachable.  Its just that the answers don’t traditionally sit on the sales shelf of the bookstore, and aren’t being taught by sales trainers.

 

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