Judgment – The Superpower of Selling Skills

Judgment - the Superpower of Selling Skills

It sometimes surprises people to learn what separates the top 4% of sales producers from the rest.  Judgment is one of those surprising skills.  In fact, it’s such a differentiator, that I consider judgment to be the superpower of selling skills.

Part of the 22nd Century Selling Skills

In my presentation  on 22nd Century Selling Skills at ASTD’s (now ATD‘s) 2014 conference and the blog post I wrote for them on the same topic, I reported on the skills that separate the top 4% of sales producers.  Judgment is one of those skills.

I also reported on Analysis (research skills, problem identification, problem solving, critical thinking), and I’ve learned from experience that the difference gets fuzzy for some people.  The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines judgment (in this context) as “the ability to make good decisions about what should be done.”

That’s what I’m referring to, as well.  When I talk about judgment relative to top sales producers, think…

  • Less about “analyzing,” and…
  • More “what to do next.”

As a sales superpower, judgment is more about how to…

  • Interpret
  • Decide
  • Respond…

… very often “in the moment,” but in today’s selling environment, it does also apply to “what to do next” through email, voice mail, and social media.

Every superhero has their bag of tricks or special skills, right?  Their superpower. For sales pros, these are housed in their…

The Sales Utility Belt

I’ve written here about Situation Assessment and Interaction Judgment before, in a post on adaptive buying and selling alignment, and about my concept of the Sales Utility Belt (inspired by Batman’s Utility Belt, but similar to any good carpenter’s tool belt).

The idea is simple… based on what’s happening around you and what you think should happen next, you reach into your utility belt and grab the right tool for the job.   For Batman it might be his grappling hook, on a construction site it might be a tape measure, and for a top sales pro it could be the best methodology or model, and some possible responses to select from, to address a prospect’s concern.

Doing this well involves several things:

  • Being present – including another 22nd Century Selling Skill (22ndCSS), Listening (a subset of Communication)
  • Interpretation – meaning to understand, and to construe meaning based on context
  • Decision-making – determining what to do next, based on your interpretation and what’s in your belt
  • Purposeful competence – doing the above consciously, and then executing your decision confidently and competently

There’s a piece missing above, however, which ties into another 22ndCSS, Learning (amazing how these all tie together, isn’t it?) .  The above is a sound model but is not self-contained.  It assumes that one has the knowledge and skills tucked away in the Sales Utility Belt.  In my experience, that’s a dangerous assumption, which is why I’m calling it out.

Load the Belt with Learning – Pull Out Skills with Judgment

I dislike “tips and tricks,” as you may know if you read my work.  Dave Stein articulates this better than anyone.  I prefer that reps focus on the training, best practices, processes, systems, and tools that their company provides, rather than insert external tips that may be completely out of context for their world.

At the same time, I don’t live in fantasy-land, either.  I realistically recognize that many companies simply don’t have their act together in terms of top-producer analysis, best practice capture, effective learning systems, customer experience, aligning buying and selling processes, and providing effective systems and tools.

With that said, I have to admit that reps may need to look beyond their company for learning.  And, of course, even if the company does provide everything, once they absorb what is offered, reps should continue to read, absorb and learn as much as possible, with an ever-vigilant, critical eye toward weaning out what is not relevant for their circumstances (not everything that is published is relevant everywhere, as much as authors might want you to believe it is).

As the header for this section says, you load the Sales Utility Belt with Learning and you pull out the right skills, at the right time, based on Judgment.  Then you use the knowledge and skill (sales methodology) consciously in the right way, for the situation.

This is where training can play a major role in preparing reps to improve sales performance.

Sales Utility Belt Meets Training 1

Think of it this way, as in the chart above.  In a perfect world, the Sales Utility Belt is loaded with what to do, why to do it, how to do it, when to do it and where to do it.  Then, a rep is placed in a situation, where they need to interpret, decide and respond.  They have choices.

Sales Utility Belt Meets Training 2

By using their judgment skills, they make the best choice, and execute with confidence and competence.


Replicate to Move the Middle

Sales Utility Belt Meets Training 3

There are key elements in this process, however, which are sometimes (often?) left out of corporate sales training.  I want to highlight these as critical to your top-producer research and training (especially effective learning systems), to help you teach and develop top-producer-like judgment in your sales reps.

Much training focuses heavily on what to do, and how to do it, for obvious reasons.  In many cases, the why, when, and where (as applicable) are missing or incomplete.  If you want to develop better judgment, you must include these elements and provide enough practice (think role plays and even more highly-realistic simulations) with feedback loops and sales coaching (during and after training) to develop the top-notch judgment skills you seek.

I’ll write more on this training approach in the future, but for now, will stop here, offer some resources, and look forward to your comments and thoughts on the Sales Superpower of Judgment and other ideas offered in this post.

Resources for Further Reading:

Communication: Listening


Judgment: Sales Utility Belt



As always, thanks for reading, be safe out there, and by all means, let’s continue to elevate our sales profession.


Mike Kunkle
Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>

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Mike Kunkle

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