“How do you think I should train my sales force, Mike?”
Great question I received from a CEO at a conference we presented last month. He continued, “There is so much stuff out there, it is hard to cut through all the clutter.”
In a world full of generic “spray and pray” emails and social selling clutter, I thought for this week’s blog, I would attempt to cut through the muck and share how I would train my sales force today. Unfortunately, in 2021 and the first half of 2022, most salespeople were able to get by with low skills due to high demand spawned by the bounce back associated with Covid. Those days are done!
The following is NOT ranked in importance because different sales organizations have different needs, but I did save the best for last. Without #15, I think it is difficult to make any of the others work.
As a company or sales leader, ask yourself: How does my sales onboarding and training rank in these areas?
1. How to Make a First Contact and Schedule a Meeting: According to LinkedIn, 84% of sales start with a referral. While “cold-calling” may be dead, the initial contact is not. How to execute flawlessly on that initial call, voice mail or text is still tops on my list! The fact is, most salespeople struggle in this area and this skill is key to improving results.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
2. How to Differentiate Themselves and Their Company: The best sales conversations present the customer with a compelling story about their business first, teach them something new, and then lead to their differentiators. I would teach them how to captivate, differentiate, and validate.
“In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In sales, it’s differentiation, differentiation, differentiation.”
3. How to Plan a Sales Call: The sad part of it is, most salespeople plan on the off-ramp on their way to their meeting. “Ok, what are you going to say and what am I going to say?" Trust me, the client/prospect can tell. It is truly a missed opportunity whose cost can be measured!
“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
4. How to be in the Customer’s Operating Reality: This is the ability to see problems/opportunities through the customer’s eyes. Customers are looking to suppliers to help them identify new opportunities to cut costs, increase revenue, penetrate new markets, and mitigate risk in ways they themselves have not yet recognized.
“If we solve our customers’ problems, we’ll solve our own.®”
5. How to Master Effective Questioning: Without truly understanding your customer’s critical concerns and objectives, operating reality, and ability to embrace and execute upon change it’s difficult to be a driving force for improvement, and it’s more difficult to construct the best solution.
“Prescription before diagnosis equals malpractice.”
6. Master Active Listening: We were born with two ears and one mouth. We should be doing twice as much listening as speaking. When was the last time you learned something while speaking? The word Listen and Silent use the same letters.
“Seek to understand before asking to be understood.”
7. How to Effectively Qualify an Opportunity: We all get 525,600 minutes in a year--you have to focus on the clients for whom you create the most value. You need qualify and nurture those relationships.
“Time is money.”
8. How to Overcome Objections/Resolve Concerns: Objections are not necessarily a bad thing. They give you insight into what your customer is thinking. To be successful here, you must be in the customer’s operating reality—and ask exploratory questions to check for understanding BEFORE responding to an objection or concern.
“An objection is merely a request for more information.”
9. How to Segment, Target and Replicate Value Creation Strategies: Once your product or service has been successful, how to effectively replicate and focus on other companies and buying personas who may benefit is key to success. Focus, focus, focus.
“You can do anything… you just can’t do everything.”
10. How to Leverage Social Selling: LinkedIn is a serious tool. Yet most reps do not even understand the concept of their Social Selling Index. Prospects have more information on our company and our sales reps that ever before. Want to learn more? Log into LinkedIn and type this into your URL: www.LinkedIn.com/sales/ssi See how you rank.
“Social is not a place for a hard sell – it's a place to build trust and credibility.”
11. How to Think Like an Executive: In selling to senior executives, business acumen and situational knowledge are what allow you to create value. There are only so many levers an executive can pull to improve operating performance. I’d make sure my sales organization could articulate each of those levers and how my products and services impacted them.
“Speed is the currency of today.”
12. Why They Need to Follow Their Process: Most companies, even in this day and age, do not follow a formal process creating tremendous variability in the effectiveness of the sales team. Whether a golf swing, a customer presentation or a sales call, having a structured, repeatable methodology for doing so beats winging it.
“Minimize variation in any process, quality will inherently increase.”
13. How to Build Consensus: Customers put together decision-making team for a reason. Complex sales require consensus. Engaging different people and understanding their critical concerns and objectives makes them part of the solution.
“Shared diagnosis leads to mutual engagement and accountability.”
14. How to Negotiate on Value: Most salespeople fold like a “house of cards” when hit with the “your price is too high,” objection. Teach them how to educate the customer on fully-loaded cost v. price and the impact their solution has on operational excellence.
“The P & L is not revenue minus price = profits, it’s revenue minus COST equals profits.”
15. How to Leverage the Four Cornerstones of Success: Attitude, Personal Accountability, Perseverance and Habit are the foundation on which all great sales organizations are built upon. For without these cornerstones being woven into the fabric of your company, it will be extremely difficult to consistently execute upon the aforementioned skills.
“Win Your Play”
At Butler Street, we believe there is no such thing as a sustainable competitive advantage in terms of a product or service. Our only sustainable competitive advantage is our people… and their ability to learn faster and change faster than the competition. The ability to change requires an ability to learn. You must become a learning organization. Please contact us to learn how we can help your organization become a learning organization.