Trust your gut: Sales expert Christine Volden on why intuition is the secret to successful closing

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Contributor, Sell to Win

Nutshell’s BOUNDLESS 2020 event was full of insights from big names in sales, marketing, and customer success.

One of our favorite BOUNDLESS 2020 sessions featured Christine Volden, a leading sales and CRM evangelist and the founder of SoulfulSelling.com. Christine was interviewed by Nutshell’s Head of Customer Experience, Katherine Mays

Christine has more than 15 years of experience assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs, and her online sales training programs have been viewed by more than 500,000 people.

The quiet selling method: Listen more, talk less

Christine has developed a sales technique she calls The Quiet Selling Method. Over the course of her 15-year career in sales, Christine noticed she was actively listening to her customers in a way she felt her counterparts were not. By listening more than you talk, you allow your clients to give you insight into their objectives and needs.

A conversation between a toddler and Bert, the Muppet.

Christine noted, “The focus was really on listening, which I think a lot of salespeople try to do, but they don’t always do effectively. “ Christine’s method is detailed but at its heart, the method is founded on listening to clients and your own intuition to lead.

Experts agree that active listening is the number one skill anyone going into sales should acquire. Listening is crucial in correctly ascertaining what your client is looking for so you can fill their specific need.

Because of the difference in the rate at which we speak, a slow rate of 125-150 words per minute compared to the speed at which we listen, 400 words per minute, your clients are trying to give you a message but they are only able to relay approximately 11% of their thoughts to you in conversation.

The role of intuition in sales

Christine emphasizes the importance of listening to your subconscious or gut when working in sales. While sales revolve around numbers, Christine contends that following your intuition when interpreting those numbers is vital. 

Your subconscious analyzes visual cues and background information and is the key to understanding non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, gestures, and body language. One study found that only 7% of communication is verbal, the remaining 93% is conveyed through body language and tone of voice.

A ridiculous person in a bee costume dancing.

Awesome fact: Bees communicate through body language, which is sometimes referred to as a “waggle dance.”

Trusting your gut when making life decisions

Based on her industry experience, Christine emphasizes that small business and startup founders are particularly at risk of getting overly consumed by data analytics. While data analytics is a powerful sales tool, getting bogged down in data can cause paralyzing indecisiveness.

Christine recommends taking a break—get out of your head and away from the computer. Just stepping away can often allow you to regain your focus and pinpoint the most useful data you should concentrate on in order to close the sale. This is sound advice to take when facing any life decision, particularly if you are in a high-stress situation.

3 simple steps to getting sales professionals in touch with their subconscious

In conjunction with Nutshell, Christine set up a special website outlining 3 simple steps sales professionals could take to tap into their subconscious to regain focus if they find themselves feeling overwhelmed and unable to determine an actionable path. 

  1. Find a quiet place and focus on your breathing by taking five deep breaths.
  2. Engage your senses by concentrating on the sights, sounds, smells, and any textures you feel in your environment.
  3. Visualize yourself knowing the correct course of action to take. Through visualization, you can decrease the stress load on the body. If you cannot visualize yourself identifying the best solution, Christine recommends you focus on a place where the issue at hand does not exist.

If you read these steps and they seem simplistic, don’t worry—these steps are meant to be easy to achieve. Christine also warns, “The more elevated your stress level, the more you will have to get physical.” if your stress or anxiety level is very high, take a run or do 20 jumping jacks. The goal is to distract your mind and reboot your brain.

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The need to respect the intuition of your sales team

Christine observed that when a member of a sales team trusts their intuition and uses that to advocate for a certain sales strategy, they are often met with replies like “Okay, you can make that decision, but I need the data to back it up.” Christine argues that responses like this discount trusting intuition to interpret data.

A sales professional’s gut feeling, based on reading the room, may not show up in quantifiable data analysis. As Christine argues, “There might not be data on the fact that everyone was lukewarm at an event when the sales professional made a specific offer.” 

In a situation like that, Christine contends a sales professional can explain that they are basing their reasoning on their observations of how clients received a pitch. If you can detail how a significant percentage of clients respond negatively to an aspect of a pitch, your argument should be recognized as valid, as if it was a quantifiable statistic.

Convincing a data-driven manager that intuition is a powerful sales tool

If you are dealing with a sales manager who believes data is the driving force behind successful sales conversion, Christine suggests you present data of your own supporting the power of your own intuition.

Actor saying "trust me on this, okay."

Having to explain your intuition can be frustrating.

Christine notes that those who are almost singularly invested in data as the basis for all decisions focus on data because it makes them feel safe and tells a story. A good case for giving credence to intuition can be made by simply pointing out that somebody has to interpret the data.

The unbeatable combination of practice and knowledge

Questioned about a quote often attributed to her, “Selling is 20% numbers and 80% confidence,” Christine contends the 20% that hinges on the numbers is just the businesses of sales. For the 80% attributed to confidence, Christine identifies practice and product knowledge as the two most important factors in building the confidence level necessary to be a successful sales professional.   

Consistent practice, making 20-30 calls each day, is crucial for building a sales professional’s knowledge about their products and services and their target customer base. Once you have this understanding, Christine argues, you will be better equipped to recognize and pay attention when your gut is telling you there’s a need for a certain course of action.

Visualization as a tool for success

Christine, along with numerous professional sales consultants recommend sales professionals take a cue from athletes who have long used the power of visualizing the win to set themselves on the road to success. As a sales professional, you must visualize success.

Visualization, along with practice and product knowledge, will help you build confidence in your abilities as a salesperson. But more importantly, Christine asserts, “It trains your subconscious to get more accustomed to success and… even expect success.”

Managing client expectations

It stands to reason that to exceed your clients’ expectations, you must have a clear understanding of what those expectations are. Simply taking the time to question clients about their expectations, goals, and how they define ultimate success in regards to a particular purchase provides you with valuable insight into that customer. 

The point of asking your clients to detail their best scenario outcome is in the short-term, to meet or wherever possible, exceed their expectations. In the long-term, it is to engender the trust that is the foundation of building customer loyalty.

How to build your confidence in your gut intuition

Other people on your sales team are probably going to question the validity of your gut intuition on how to interpret sales data. It stands to reason that to get others to accept your approach, you must firmly believe in the reliability of your gut hunches yourself.

Building confidence in your gut intuition, just like becoming good at sales, requires practice and taking the time to consciously take note of the times your gut intuition has led you to make the correct decision—not only in your professional career but also in your personal life.

Noting that people have a tendency to remember their failures more than their positive outcomes, Christine recommends tracking the times you made a decision based on intuition and it proved to be the correct one.

Once you make the conscious decision to identify and acknowledge the times your intuition led you to choose the right course of action, your confidence will build.

Using gut intuition in phone sales

Although your initial thought might be that it isn’t possible to use intuition in phone sales, Christine reminds us that intuition is formed based on personal interactions. So, if you are doing phone sales, ask questions of the customer just as you would in an in-person meeting. Engaging in conversation can provide insightful information into that customer and their interaction with the product or service you offer.

Personality in sales

Acknowledging that personality is a big factor in sales, Christine warns that you shouldn’t attempt to project the personality you believe others expect of a sales professional. People can easily spot a fake, which is why authenticity is recognized as a top sales skill.

Noting that trust “is the foundation of selling” Christine notes that while extroverts have an advantage in being able to naturally put themselves out there for potential customers, introverts also have an advantage because they tend to listen more and pick up on non-verbal cues. In the end, no matter what your personality type, if you accept who you are and play to your strengths, it will engender trust.

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