Sales training is critical to your sales team’s success. Yet specific training is typically forgotten in less than a month and less than 20% is ever utilized. Why is that? Aren’t these skills critical for your team’s success?
Sales training is like learning a foreign language. You can take French online through a company like Babble, but if you don’t live in France or visit France for the long-term, how will you practice enough so that it goes into your long-term memory. Like changing any habit, practice needs to happen on a consistent basis. The more you do something, the more natural it becomes.
There are many sales training programs delivered by an abundant of companies that have live training, online training, asynchronous and synchronous or two-way training for practice. But you can’t just learn a sales skill from a book without the practice. Vince Lombardi once said, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”
Today I’d like to share some ideas for you to add to your sales training plan.
First let’s consider which topics should be a priority for your team. From my experience coaching sales teams over the years, here are the four I have found to have the most value.
- Prospecting for successful appointments – most salespeople face an anemic funnel
- How to begin the sales conversation – understand customer needs first
- Questioning skills – ask strategic and thought-provoking questions
- Value-based selling – facilitate genuine conversations
Prospecting for successful appointments
Prospecting is a balance of art and science, and without it there is no sales funnel. There’s only one goal of prospecting – get an appointment! Even with LinkedIn, email, text, etc. a phone call is still the best approach, even though the other channels should play a supporting role. So why is a phone call key? So that you can have a conversation in hopes of generating interest in your offerings. But wait! Before you start talking about what you sell, you must first learn about what the customer needs! Below is a simple format that you can follow when making prospecting calls:
- Introduce who you are and your company
- Share 1-2 quick examples of similar companies you’ve helped, including
- Problems you helped them solve
- Outcomes they experienced
- Again, be brief – it’s too soon to sell!
- Then ask for a time to explore whether your solutions are a good match for their needs.
Remember to use your friend Google to learn about them personally, their company, and any other news you can gather. Have they recently announced a new product launch? Do they have a new leader? You must be prepared with this type of fundamental information before you walk into the meeting – they will resent you for asking them to do your research work.
Starting a Conversation
The second topic for training is how to start a conversation. Asking the right questions is always important as discussed below, but first you must start a natural conversation. Most salespeople are anxious about getting the qualifying information, so they start too soon probing for their needs. But if you haven’t first built trust, there is a good chance you won’t uncover their real concerns. You want to show them that you are truly interested in them and not just selling your products and services. Then, they’re more receptive to your offerings.
The best ways to start a conversation will depend on their Personality Style. If they are high-Blue or Orange, chances are that they’ll enjoy some time to chat and get acquainted. However, if your meeting is with someone who has a high-Green or Gold personality they will more likely want to get quickly to the business you’re there to discuss.
The key is to meet them where they are. If you aren’t familiar with the characteristics of each style, reach out to me for a great ‘cheat sheet’, or rely on your research to help you guess. Maybe they have lots of pictures in their office or in their social media? Probably a Blue! Do they have trophies or awards? Maybe an Orange. A Gold might immediately ask for an agenda, while a Green will have a very neat and organized office.
Once you feel that you have connected, it’s time to move on to the questions you’ve prepared to ask.
Third, to see if you are a good fit with the prospect, you need to ask questions. The old saying is, “if you want better answers, ask better questions.” Your questions need to be intentional and focused because it’s how you will uncover their issues. Let your research help inform the exact questions you ask. The answers you receive from your prepared and spontaneous questions will help you later when you begin to position your products and services, and the related benefits that lead to value.
To explore their needs, use these questions to inspire your own list of questions.
- What is the root cause of the problem you’re hoping they have that is related to what you offer? They may not know the answer, so help them explore the possibilities with follow-up questions.
- Where are they today in their journey to a good solution?
- Where do they want to be?
- What options are they considering on how to achieve their goals? Hopefully your solution makes that list!
- How will they make the decision for the best solution?
- What are the outcomes (benefits and value) they are expecting?
When you understand the customer’s issues, you can make a much more effective presentation or demonstration of your solution that will hit home and drive value. When the customer sees value, you avoid a price war that always seems to go lower and lower.
The fourth training topic is value-based selling. This is where your earlier conversation will really pay off. Of course, you’ve listened carefully as they talked, making notes where needed. This enables you to position your offerings because you know what they value, and that translates into benefits.
Facts tell, benefits sell.
We all buy on intrinsic motivation, meaning that we buy what’s in our best interest, not that of the seller. Your job is to help them clearly see their best options. Because you took the time to build trust, they will hear your advice more openly and may even be happy to hear your recommendation.
There are, of course, dozens of training topics that you will want to share with your team. These are just four that I have found are the most important, again and again.
- Beginning the Sales Conversation!
- Strategic Questions!
- Values-based Selling!
Even though you may have covered them before, repetition and practice will deliver the kind of success that you and your team members expect.
Good luck with your relationship selling!
©2020 Stu Schlackman