Three Tips to Deepen Customer Relationships

JeffSeeleyToday’s post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International Inc.

 

 

The single biggest void in professional sales today is the skill needed to cultivate meaningful customer relationships. Ironically, making customer connections has never been easier, thanks to social media, email, and texting. But, because our ability to connect is never more than a few keystrokes away, we have a false sense of our position with customers and prospects.                     

Making Connections via Technology Is Not a Relationship

As I told Selling Power publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner in the video interview below, we often confuse a voicemail, email, or one-way texting with productive progression in a customer relationship. This level of engagement may or may not help us get or stay on our customers’ radar, but it does not create opportunities for problem-solving conversations and needs assessment. Nor do these connections drive purchase decisions, displace competitors, or facilitate influence. For these outcomes, you need a bona fide relationship with a degree of influence with your customer. Such relationships are based on trust, credibility, rapport, and respect; all four are the building blocks to a long-term, productive, and profitable relationship.

How do you move your position from remote engagement to a deeper relationship, such as trusted resource and advisor? Consider these tips.

  1. Create Curiosity.

    Make yourself interesting and valuable to your customers and prospects by giving them information related to them and their interests. This information includes competitive information, industry-specific insights or news, or general business information.

    These materials may have no direct connection to your products or services; they may not always have a direct connection to the customer’s business, but they must provide new insights of interest. Be a strategic resource: you should provide detail and thoughts on why the information impacts their organization and market. Research articles related to industry trends or concerns specific to your customer. Share insights from blogs, articles, or the latest business/leadership books – these can be leveraged across all of your customers and prospects. Customers often miss published coverage about their own company, and are appreciative when it is shared. Even when the subject matter isn’t of direct interest to your customer, you are demonstrating your insight and that you have your finger on the pulse of current events and thinking in business. You are positioning yourself as a credible information resource with insights that can help achieve their business objectives.

  2. Be Curious

    The best sales professionals always have an authentic interest in their customers and the business reality in which their customers live and compete. It is often surprising how little sales professionals know about their customer’s worlds. In our everyday struggle to become more networked, we have to be interested to gain and keep access to the higher levels of an organization. Cultivate your own intellectual curiosity. Understand more than is required to hold your own in discussions with customers. Doing so will not only improve your insights and progress your position with customers, it will make your professional life more interesting and fulfilling.

  3. Create Opportunities to Listen, Not Talk.

    This perspective is often counter-intuitive to sales professionals, but it is the time spent listening, not talking, that deepens our relationship with customers. Think about the most significant relationships in your personal life. These were not cultivated with one-way conversations in which you continually talk about yourself, your assets, and your strengths. They are the culmination of reciprocal contributions and emotional investment.

    Customer relationships are different only in that the investment may not be reciprocal at the outset; initially, you need to do the lion’s share of the work. Invest in the relationship. Stay focused on the customer. Nothing is more disingenuous than listening for advantage to launch into your own agenda. This is a one-way ticket to the exit. Every meeting or conversation in which you learn more about your customer – his/her competitors, concerns, goals, and personal interests – is a meeting in which you have increased the depth of that relationship and improved your position with the customer.

Don’t make the mistake of considering unanswered voicemails, emails, or even text messages as evidence of quality interactions, or assume  that customers are just busy and will get back to you when they have time. Although these  conversations of good intent get shared with sales leadership and added to the CRM as customer contact, no real progress was made in developing the relationship.

Scroll through your “connections” or “friends” lists. For each name, ask yourself what you know about the individual. Do you really know this person at all? The answer will help you understand your own professional gap and provide the starting point for deepening your customer relationships.

 

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Three Scientifically Proven Behaviors That Will Increase Sales Effectiveness

DavidHoffeld

Today’s post is by David Hoffeld, CEO and Chief Sales Trainer at Hoffeld Group, a science-based sales training, coaching, and consulting firm. For more information, visit www.HoffeldGroup.com.

 

 

Over the past 50 years, there have been numerous scientific studies that have classified how the human brain is wired. Through this research, scientists have identified the behaviors that trigger influence.

This science is relevant in selling because it provides insights that guide salespeople in behaving in ways that enhance their ability to sell. Though there are many science-based behaviors that could be shared, the following are three that are easy to execute and will improve sales effectiveness.

1. Labeling

Labeling is when one person assigns a label to another person and then requests behavior that is consistent with the label. There have been many research studies verifying that labeling increases compliance with persuasive requests.

In one such study, behavioral scientists asked citizens about their previous voting behaviors. The researchers randomly told some of the participants that they were above-average citizens who are extremely likely to vote. The rest of the participants were told that there was only an average probability that they would vote in future elections. When the behavioral scientists analyzed whether the participants voted in an upcoming election, they found that those who had been told they were extremely likely to vote actually voted at a much higher rate.

When salespeople label prospects, they are priming those prospects to behave in ways that are consistent with the label. For instance, if a prospect is reluctantly answering a salesperson’s questions and that salesperson says, “You really know a lot about this issue. I appreciate your insights and willingness to answer my questions,” the prospect will become more responsive.

2. Reactance 

Why do prospects feel pressured when salespeople attempt to create urgency?

The answer is found in a powerful scientific principle called reactance. Reactance refers to the feelings that occur when people perceive that their ability to freely choose is being restricted. When this occurs, they will instinctively desire to rebel against what is being imposed upon them.This is why signs that say, “No littering” or “Don’t litter” have been shown to actually increase littering. 

Salespeople who want to increase sales effectiveness must understand reactance because, when attempting to advance the sale, reactance will often be activated. This is detrimental – when prospects feel reactance, they will reject both the salesperson and the salesperson’s message.

The key to minimizing reactance is to reduce the prospect’s perception that you are pressuring him or her. One example of this is found in a fascinating research study identifying that – when asking for funds – compliance rose by 400 percent when the request concluded with the statement, “Of course, it’s up to you.”

3. Tag Questions

How do you guide your prospects in thinking through and affirming the central value propositions upon which the sale is built?

Numerous scientific studies have validated that one way to promote the contemplation of a statement of value is through using tag questions. Tag questions are value building statements that are converted into questions. These questions have been proven to amplify the persuasiveness of sales messages because they guide prospects in mentally digesting and verbally appraising an assertion of value. 

To construct a tag question, simply add a concise questioning phrase to your value proposition. For instance, the statement, “This software would reduce your operational costs annually by $300,000” evolves into the tag question, “This software would reduce your operational costs annually by $300,000, wouldn’t it?” 

In summary, science has identified the causal factors that create and enable influence. When salespeople align how they sell with this science, their sales effectiveness will skyrocket. This is why merging science with the sales process is a concept that is just too important to ignore.

To learn more about merging science with the sales process, watch my video below.

 

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Four Tips to Get More from Your Inbound and Outbound Leads

SPlogoToday’s post is by Selling Power editors and reflects insight from a recent webinar, “Turning Leads into Opportunities.” The webinar featured hosts Kristina McMillan, director of sales development at Five9, and Erich Bohren, vice president of business development at Conversica. For more information, listen to the webinar recording at http://ow.ly/OcjyI. 

Outbound prospecting has developed a lot in the past several years. In part, we can thank smarter sales and marketing tools for that. 

  • Marketing automation helps us better prioritize our marketing efforts.
  • LinkedIn helps us find and reach prospects we couldn’t otherwise.
  • Sales email technologies help us hyper-customize messages at scale and give us information about which messages are most impactful.
  • Dialer technologies (for example, Five9) help us make our calling efforts more efficient.

Inbound prospecting has also developed by leaps and bounds.

  • Adwords and SEO (search engine optimization) make it far easier for many companies to generate inbound leads.
  • Content marketing assets (white papers, video, blog posts, etc.) are often highly effective ways to create brand awareness, and capture and nurture leads.

These advances have introduced great advantages – while also creating some challenges. 

One of the biggest issues is that prospects are now overloaded with information. Kristina McMillan, director of sales development at Five9, heads up an eight-person team of sales-development reps. In a recent Selling Power webinar, “Turning Leads into Opportunities,” she noted: “Emails to prospects are increasingly viewed as SPAM and immediately deleted. I don’t answer my phone anymore and sometimes that’s even when it’s a vendor [of mine] calling. In 2007 it took four calls to reach a prospect and now that’s jumped to 11. It’s hard to stand out from the noise.” 

This can make it more difficult for marketing and sales to break through and engage. Consider the following statistics and research.

  • Only 27 percent of leads receive a timely call or information from a rep (Conversica research).
  • Reps may spend 80 percent of their time prospecting and only 20 percent closing (AA-ISP Mind Capture Group research).
  • Only 2 percent of cold calls lead to an appointment (Leap Job research).

If you want to cut through the noise and get more from your prospecting efforts, follow these four expert tips.  

Tip #1: Define your ideal customer profile.

If you want reps to be successful, help them “get into the head” of the person they’re trying to target, says Kim. Once reps know the ideal customer they’re trying to target, they can better understand how to solve that customer’s problems and provide value. 

Tip #2: Define your target accounts. 

The goal here is to teach your reps how to identify the best accounts (aka, the ones that will fit best with your value proposition). Note that you don’t need a comprehensive laundry list of all the accounts you’re trying to target. This is just to give you a starting point, and you should expect the list to evolve over time. 

Once your reps know which accounts to target, you can help them navigate conversations successfully. Use scripts wisely; a dogmatic attachment to a scripted conversation can actually do more harm than good. But proper education for reps will help them map out a conversation that will help them discover – on their own – whether a specific account is worth pursuing. 

Tip #3: Define clear rules of engagement around qualification.

A qualified lead definition is a must. Marketing, sales, and any other relevant team must have consensus on what constitutes a qualified lead. If you don’t have that groundwork laid, your reps won’t understand where their role ends and where the sales reps’ role should start. 

Tip #4: Explore technology that can help you nurture inbound leads in a cost-effective way.

Inbound marketing efforts tend to generate lots of leads; however, many of those leads will never be real buyers. Conversica is a good example of a solution that helps you nurture those leads in an automated fashion. The company’s artificial intelligence “assistant” is able to conduct a natural-sounding, two-way email conversation with a real-life buyer. When the prospect agrees to a phone call, the artificial intelligence assistant then hands over a qualified lead to sales.

In the webinar, Erich Bohren, vice president of business development at Conversica, explained:“Our automated virtual assistant does the grunt work of what you would normally expect from an inbound sales development rep – all via email. The result is that more opportunities are created and more reps are able to hit their quotas.” For its B2B clients, Conversica gets a 35 percent to 50 percent response rate. Compare that to mass-market email programs, which tend to generate 3 percent to 5 percent response rates.  

In today’s world of information overload, it’s imperative for sales and marketing teams to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Invest in best practices and technology tools that can streamline your processes, save your reps time, and help them focus on the right opportunities.

For more information, listen to the full recording of the webinar at http://ow.ly/OcjyI.

 

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Is Your Sales Methodology a Bust? Don’t Be So Sure.

JasonJordan_200Today's guest post is by Jason Jordan, partner of Vantage Point Performance and coauthor of Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance.

 

Excerpt: Why is your sales methodology failing? It could be because of your front-line sales managers. Here’s how to fix the situation, fast.

Here’s the situation. Several years ago, your sales force deployed a particular sales methodology. Since then, though, sales results have not improved the way you expected. You decide to conduct refresher training for the sales reps. One year has gone by … still no results. What do you do now to improve your sales performance? Refresh the training again?

At this point, many companies decide to invest in a new methodology. Makes sense, right? Maybe – but maybe not.

As it happens, we recently talked with a company that wanted us to develop a new sales methodology for them. The conversation went something like this:  

Vantage Point Performance (VPP): “What’s wrong with your existing methodology?”  
Company: “Nothing, really. Except we’re not getting the results we want.”
VPP: “Do the sales reps like the methodology?”  
Company: “Sure, they like it well enough. And it provides us with a common language.”
VPP: “Then why do you want to replace it?” 
Company: “Because we’re not getting the results we need.”  
VPP: “Did you have a methodology before this one?”
Company: “Of course. We’ve had several.”
VPP: “So why do you think another methodology is going to be any better?”
Company: “Well, this one’s not working, so what else can we do?”

Why Is Your Sales Methodology Failing You?

An existing sales methodology is rarely to blame for poor sales performance. Any sales methodology that is carefully selected and makes sense for the sales force should be capable of boosting sales.  

Failure occurs when sales managers are not equipped to manage this change after the training event. Perhaps they’ve been trained along with the sales reps (though not always). And perhaps they’ve been trained on how to coach to the methodology (though not always). Our observation is that sales managers are typically – by an order of magnitude – underprepared to manage substantial change. If the front-line sales managers aren’t equipped to make change happen, then it will never happen. Ever. Period.

When a new methodology is deployed, it should be accompanied by a full-on change-management effort, including:

  • New processes
  • Supporting tools
  • Continued coaching
  • Extensive measurement
  • Constant course correction

A new methodology must be exercised and practiced and worked at until it becomes a muscle reflex. While this improvement can’t be accomplished in a few days, it certainly shouldn’t take years. With methodical reinforcement, you can hope to see altered behaviors and improved performance in a matter of a few months.

In the case of our client company, they liked their sales methodology and it was embedded in their culture. It just wasn’t getting results. We advised leaving the methodology in place and examining how sales managers can more effectively manage and reinforce it.

The results? Managers are now maximizing the potential of their existing methodology, and the company has been spared the expense and disruption of switching to a new one.

Why Sales Managers Are So Important to ROI

The lesson in this true story is that sales managers are often overlooked as the key change agent in every sales force. Consequently, they are usually unprepared to manage the change they are expected to enact. Salespeople have been trained and retrained for more than a century, but sales managers (by and large) have not been taught how to manage. We can give you example after example where we helped our clients improve their sales performance without ever training a single salesperson. It all comes down to the manager.

So, if you are struggling to improve sales performance, we would encourage you to not re-think your sales methodology until you truly examine it. A far less expensive and disruptive path may lead you to the promised land. 

 

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Four Key Takeaways About Your Data from #INmarket15 Speakers

AlisonMurdockToday’s post is by Alison Murdock, vice president of marketing at 6sense. Join 6sense at the INmarket conference in San Francisco on July 8 to learn more about innovations for B2B sales and marketing teams. Register here and use code BLOG for a special 25 percent discount.

 

Data is at the center of everything we do as B2B sellers and marketers. From buyer profiles, to lead scoring, to sales pipelines and forecasts, we rely on data to drive our decisions and strategies.

Even so, many sales and marketing leaders still don’t understand how to fully optimize their own data. This is one of the reasons 6sense is assembling data experts and industry leaders for the INmarket conference in San Francisco on July 8. Attendees will learn how companies are using data and predictive tools to streamline their sales and marketing efforts and bring in more revenue.

Recently, 6sense spoke with several experts who will be speaking at INmarket. Here are four of their top takeaways about how data is shaping the future of sales and marketing. 

Takeaway #1 from Paul Teshima: Teeing up opportunities for sales will soon become paramount over generating qualified leads. Marketing is becoming more accountable for the growth of the business, and, because of that, it can hold sales more accountable to do their part as well. However, as the customer (buyer) becomes accustomed to the hyper-personalized marketing experience, I feel they will gravitate toward engaging with trusted salespeople earlier. Early research from Sirius Decisions suggests this, and marketing may need to focus more on “teeing up” opportunities for sales discussions versus only generating qualified leads. 

See more at: https://6sense.com/2015/06/inside-inmarket-data-is-the-new-black/#sthash.PD3j4FMP.dpuf

Takeaway #2 from Matt Heinz: Invest in only the technology tools that suit your particular needs. Start with your process, your strategy, your gaps – THEN identify the technology and tools that can help you the most. Too many companies let the tail wag the dog – they choose technology that’s cool and current and hip but that doesn’t solve their most pressing problem(s). Get the fundamentals in place first. In my opinion, that’s CRM, marketing automation, predictive intelligence, and multi-campaign weighted attribution. From there, fill the gaps. Prioritize your biggest problems, your biggest roadblocks.

See more at: https://6sense.com/2015/06/moving-at-the-speed-of-data-matt-heinz-on-why-you-need-a-data-strategy-now/

Takeaway #3 from Nick Panayi: Data requires human intelligence.Technology can only do so much. Technology by itself – without smart, intuitive people – is just a science experiment. Smart human operators guiding how the data flows and how it gets optimized is where you unlock the real value. 

You need very smart data scientists to help guide your approach. It’s not a plug-and-play situation. You need to hire or engage some pretty smart people. You need “smart creatives” (a term Eric Schmidt of Google came up with, which I think is brilliant) who are people with both sides of the brain working. They are data scientists who also have strong business acumen and full appreciation of the softer side of the marketing profession. To squeeze the value out of the technology, you need people who get both the art and science of marketing.

See more at: https://6sense.com/2015/05/inside-inmarket-interview-with-nick-panayi-csc/#sthash.o8VyQqIX.dpuf

Takeaway #4 from Michael Ballard: Understand the ROI of predictive tools.Communicate the concept of predictive intelligence with your stakeholders and sales. Make sure they understand the full value and potential because it’s not a cheap or easy proposition. Then start small. Start with a pilot and prove its value to your stakeholders. That can make the budgeting process much easier with real-world ROI. Plus, this approach allows you to focus and optimize the foundation before you start to expand to additional channels, programs, and models.

See more at: https://6sense.com/2015/06/inside-inmarket-lenovo-on-why-to-embrace-data/#sthash.F9DGcK1n.dpuf 

Join 6sense and Selling Power at the INmarket conference in San Francisco on July 8 to learn more about innovations for B2B sales and marketing teams. Register here and use code BLOG for a special 25 percent discount.

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Three Reasons Deals Get Stuck (And How to Unstick Them)

TomSearcyToday’s post is by Tom Searcy, CEO and founder of Hunt Big Sales, a sales strategy company that helps CEOs double the size of their company. For more information, visit www.thedeathofselling.com

 

 

Stuck deals are often why it’s called “selling” rather than “order taking” – and longer business-to-business (B2B) sales cycles mean there are even more opportunities for sales deals to get stuck (or die) in the process. In fact, SiriusDecisions reports a recent 24 percent increase in length of the average sales cycle – from 6.4 months in 2012 to 8 months in 2014.

Navigating through the issues and strategies of a stuck deal can show you when it’s time to change your approach and when it’s time to just walk away from a deal. 

Below are three reasons sales deals often get stuck, as well as insight into how to unstick them.

1. False Pretense

Sometimes companies engage with sales teams without having any intention of actually making a change. Why? 

  • They want to learn about the market.
  • They’re establishing budgetary parameters.
  • They’re reviewing vendors to make certain their vendor is still price relevant in the marketplace, as well as ensure they have negotiating leverage in an upcoming contract review. 

Organizations used to stay up to date on the marketplace by attending trade shows or getting some MBA class at a local university to do a market scan. Now, however, instead of doing their own homework, companies gather industry intelligence by sending detailed RFPs to the top providers in the marketplace – and letting sales teams do the heavy lifting of research.

So how do you keep these deals from getting stuck in the “research” phase? The best place to start is getting a clear idea on the stakeholders’ threshold for making a change before getting too deep into a proposal. Maybe the prospect really isn’t interested in making a change immediately – or ever. Examine the RFP’s language to see if it defines the problem the prospect is trying to fix, including problems created by the current provider. If the RFP shows no identifiable problem, the company has no motivation for change – and you will end up residing in Stuckville.

2. Wrong Problem

A deal can get stuck when a sales team is trying to address the wrong problem.

For instance, the problem you are addressing may not be big enough to maintain the attention of the prospect company. On the flip side, the problem may be so big that the prospect doesn’t feel the company has the time or resources to make a dent in it.

Ownership of the problem might also shift over time. A prospect may decide the problem as currently defined is really the priority of another department, person, or division. Or you may find that the problem is being viewed as a “not now” problem by your prospect. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

What can you do to improve this situation? Consider adding people to the buyer’s table. This has a few potential benefits.

  • By adding people to the buyer’s table, you’re able to create a greater sense of appropriate scale and definition of the problem. If enough people see the problem as relevant to them, of value to them, and of the right scale and level of necessity to them, they’ll want to participate in the process.
  • By increasing the size of the buyer’s table, you can also broaden and reframe a problem that may have shifted ownership to include those who see the problem as relevant.
  • An additional champion coming into the conversation may add the necessary political muscle and motivation to move the organization along.

3. Bad Chemistry

Bad chemistry happens when personalities don’t match – not unusual in either business and personal settings. However, when there’s bad chemistry between individual players, departments, or areas of the business, you will not win the business even if your solution is perfect, your cost justification is exactly right, and your understanding of the overall problem to be solved is accurate.

When there is a personality mismatch, there is usually – inherent in that mismatch – a mismatch of trust. Try to uncover the root cause of the mistrust and address it directly. If all else fails, rather than risk losing the deal, it might be better to change out some folks to see if you can revive trust with one or more of the key decision makers.

When All Else Fails, Walk Away

If you are unable to reshape the buying organization’s perception of the problem – regardless of the reason – stop expending resources with this organization. Put the deal on hold. Maybe you can come back in two, three, four, or five months to revisit the discussion and see if the decision makers, urgency, or shape of the problem have changed. If one of those three things has changed, the window of opportunity may reopen and you can revisit with more energy to see if you can land a deal. Always leave yourself the option of walking away from a deal that’s not going anywhere any time soon.

 

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The Most Powerful Story You Will Ever Tell as a Salesperson

JeffSeeleyToday’s post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International Inc.

 

 

 

In sales, storytelling skills are critical to success. Stories help us sell our ideas, communicate a vision, and inspire commitment. Used properly, they make your message more vivid, enjoyable, and memorable.

Why We Love Stories 

Scientific research supports these facts. Consider findings by neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity. Zak has studied the effects stories have on people, and has discovered that the most basic narratives have the potential to trigger powerful chemical responses in the brain. When we hear highly engaging stories, the brain releases cortisol and oxytocin, and we experience stronger feelings of empathy and connection.

Stories are timeless. According to Ryan D. Mathews and Watts Wacker in their book, What’s Your Story: Storytelling to Move Markets, Audiences, People, and Brands, “Long before the first formal business was established … the six most powerful words in any language were, ‘Let me tell you a story.’” That’s why storytelling is a critical skill for salespeople (especially now, when many B2B sales teams are taking the damaging step of increasing their “virtual distance” from customers).

The Most Effective Story You Can Tell

But the most important story any sales professional will ever tell isn’t an anecdote shared to engage his or her audience during a sales presentation; it’s the story the salesperson creates with the customer and for the customer. In fact, it is the customer’s story, and it’s one of problem solving and triumph. The salesperson must tell a story that paints a vision of success and compels the customer to think differently about their business problems. A quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein shows why this is important – “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

To the degree that everyone loves a good story, consider how your prospects and customers might be captivated and influenced by a story about them, their organization, and their dramatic success. The stories you create with your customers – and about your customers – are the ones that change outcomes and cement lasting and productive relationships.

Three Tips to Use Storytelling in Sales

To build meaningful relationships through storytelling, bear the following three tips in mind.

Tip #1: Listen carefully to the customer’s response to your story.

When your story works, it disarms the customer with new insight. In response, they may tell their own story – one that articulates their issues and motivations (goals) about which we were previously unaware. Be prepared to listen to the customer’s story and look for opportunities or ideas you may have missed.

Tip #2: Be aware of the customer’s competitive concerns (who their “villain” is).

When crafting your story, be aware of the customer’s competition. This is their “villain.” Is the competition winning or losing in the market? What’s the competition doing that your customer isn’t?

Consider the case study of Procter & Gamble (P&G), which essentially owned the disposable diaper business from 1961 to 1982. Sales went up, profits went up, and vice versa. Then, from 1983 to 2000, this correlation ended, and they failed to understand why. Finally, they determined that, for 17 years, they had been using a developing-market strategy (i.e., families were still transitioning from cloth to disposable diapers). By 1982, the reality was that the market had been fully developed, and P&G was trading market share with their competitors. That required a different strategy and approach. P&G’s “villain” was Kimberly Clark and the other competitors who were buying market share.

Tip #3: Know your customer’s definition of value so you can craft a “happily ever after” scenario.

What is important to your customer – historically, now, and in the future? The definition of value shifts depending on where, when, and how your customer’s organization is strategically positioning itself in the marketplace. 

The exceptional sales professional will take it a step further and help the customer visualize the future (their “happily ever after”). They’ll communicate how to collaborate with the customer to achieve that vision and deliver the benefits highlighted in the sales presentation. 

When you approach storytelling from the customer’s perspective, your stories automatically become more engaging, motivating, and inspirational because the story has been developed around the customer’s own experiences, objectives, needs, and insight. Stories help you set goals, build commitment, encourage collaboration, build relationships, create passion and excitement, and encourage innovation and creativity.  With this level of engagement and input, the customer’s story is one in which they have a role as author, star, and hero; it is truly their story.

To learn more, watch my video interview below with Selling Power founder and publisher, Gerhard Gschwandtner.

 

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5 Sales Training Tactics that Really Work

MattTusonToday's post is by Matt Tuson, EVP of Sales at NewVoiceMedia

 

 

 

Do your sales training efforts change the behavior of your sales reps and make your business more money? In many cases, sales training amounts to a booklet of old-fashioned ideas that have little to no impact on your business culture. 

However, proper sales training is essential – not only as a way to ensure you’re getting the best out of your team, but also to make sure processes are uniform across the company. And training isn’t just about new recruits. Every member of your team needs training from time to time.

Here are five tactics for effectively training your sales team – from beginners to experienced sellers.

1. Role play is still effective!

Most people learn best if they’re actually doing something, as opposed to just listening. Role play can give your team practical, hands-on training that forces them to think on their feet. Here are some good situations to role play:

  • how your team works in CRM
  • how they overcome objections
  • elevator pitches
  • cold calls
  • negotiation tactics

This is also a great opportunity to look for common selling mistakes, such as talking too much, over-educating, or failing to ask questions.

To make the most of role plays, record them. For example, ContactWorld for Sales allows you to record calls for training and legal compliance; this means you can analyze real calls with your team to see how they’re performing and whether they’re putting their training into action. Sometimes it’s only by evaluating what you do on a day-to-day basis that you can truly learn and improve.

2. Set up a peer mentor system

Peer mentoring is obviously essential during ramp-up for new hires, as there’s so much about the company itself to learn before you can begin selling effectively. But having input from a senior sales professional can also be useful later on in a sales person’s career.

3. Ensure your training covers why people buy

Too often, sales training covers the ‘logical side’ of sales – in other words, the features, functions and business benefits of the product or service and how to best communicate these to the prospect. While this is still important, sales training should also cover the emotional, political and subconscious forces that have an impact on the decision.

4. Build confidence with easy sells

Confidence is an essential skill for any salesperson. But, if you’re new in a job or you’re struggling to start out, your confidence – and, consequently, your ability to sell effectively – can take a knock.

For the first few months, focus new hires on products or prospects that you know to be an easy sell. Let your new sales team make sale after sale, and watch their confidence grow. When they come to tackle the riskier prospects later on, they’ll be filled with self-confidence, which will swing the sale their way.

5. Ensure training is consistent

Training needs to be consistent. This is because the only way you can get every member of your team to use a CRM the same way is if they all get the same information at the start. Experienced sales reps may be great at what they do, but, if the way they log progress on the CRM is different to everyone else (or lacking detail), they’ll be harder to manage and some information could get lost.

Without the right information, you’ll be missing valuable insights and will be unable to forecast accurately, which could have a direct impact on the business’ goals.

How do you train your sales team? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

 

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The Business Case for Sales Coaching

Norman BeharToday’s post is by Norman Behar, CEO and managing director at Sales Readiness Group, an industry-leading sales training company that helps industry-leading companies develop and deliver customized sales and sales-management training programs. Follow Norman on Twitter @NormanBehar.

 


Sales coaching empowers sales reps to improve selling skills and close more business. Industry research backs this up. For example, CSO Insights has uncovered the relationship between companies that have coaching programs that exceed expectations and the percentage of sales reps achieving quota.

Reps-Achieving-Quota-Chart

Despite the compelling research, most managers spend the bulk of their time on other activities (e.g., selling, preparing forecasts, attending meetings) and neglect to develop the one skill that can have the biggest impact on sales.

At Sales Readiness Group, we’ve typically found that managers have four responses when we ask why they’re not investing more time in sales coaching: 

  1. They don’t understand the benefits of sales coaching.
  2. They don’t feel they have enough time.
  3. They’re concerned about hurting a sales rep’s confidence.
  4. They’re not sure how to coach.

These are all legitimate concerns.

Response #1: “I Don’t Understand the Benefits of Sales Coaching”

Industry data is compelling, but it’s clearly not enough to prove the impact of sales coaching. Sales managers need to understand why coaching has such a high return on investment. Let’s start by defining sales coaching: Sales coaching focuses on helping reps develop the skills, knowledge, and use of strategies that improve sales results.

Based on this definition, the reasons why reps benefit from sales coaching are straightforward. Those who are well coached have better selling skills and strong industry and product knowledge. They also know how to think strategically about sales opportunities to generate higher, more profitable sales.

Response #2: “I Don’t Feel I Have Enough Time”

Sales managers work extremely long hours, especially when you take into account traveling, preparing forecasts, and attending internal meetings.

In most cases, however, a significant amount of their time is spent in their role as chief problem solver, as opposed to “sales enabler.” They often find themselves responding to sales reps’ requests for assistance to resolve client issues and opportunities. While this may have great short-term benefit in terms of closing more business, it undermines what should be their longer-term objective, which is to help sales reps learn to solve many of these problems on their own.

For example, a sales manager may be able to tell a sales rep what he or she should do to advance a stuck opportunity. In doing so, however, that manager has lost the opportunity to allow the sales rep to explain what he or she thinks are the best options, consider other options, and discuss how to best proceed given the alternatives.

While coaching will require more of the sales manager’s time in the short term, it ultimately leads to a more productive, empowered, and motivated sales team. In turn, that frees up the sales manager’s time.

Response #3: “I’m Concerned about Hurting the Sales Rep’s Confidence”

This concern is warranted if the company lacks a coaching culture and uses coaching as a way to critique bottom performers.

First and foremost, coaching needs to be genuinely helpful and focused on rep development. Second, coaching is rarely successful with reps who have a history of poor performance. Sales coaching is best when focused on middle and even higher-performing reps who have the capacity and desire to improve. The following chart illustrates where sales coaching can have the greatest impact and where other management actions are required.

Sales-coaching-diamond

Coaching is about moving the middle and, ultimately, improving sales rep performance and increasing confidence levels as reps develop even better selling skills.

Response #4: “I’m Not Sure How to Coach”

While some sales managers may have natural coaching instincts (i.e., a desire to teach and help others succeed), there is no reason to expect that a manager will know how to coach without coaching skills and a coaching process. Fortunately, there are a number of great sales-coaching programs that sales managers can take advantage of, including SRG’s High Impact Sales Coaching program.

Becoming a great sales coach requires time and dedication. It is, however, not only worthwhile in terms of business impact, but also in the satisfaction the sales coaches feel as they see their reps’ selling skills and confidence grow.

If you’re looking for more insight on sales coaching, I encourage you to get this free guide on High Impact Sales Coaching. Download it now to access expert advice on essential sales-coaching skills.

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The State of the Sales Profession: My Insights from the Sales 2.0 Conference

RichBlakeman

Today’s post is by Rich Blakeman of AchieveGlobal, An MHI Global Company

 

 

In April I spoke at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Here are two of the key thoughts that stuck in my mind after the event.

#1: Put Customers at the Center of Your Sales Efforts

We’ve emphasized this at MHI Global for many years. But, listening to conversations and presentations take place at the event, it struck me that this is the first year that nearly everyone spoke about the importance of helping customers achieve their goals. We've been talking about putting customers at the core of your sales efforts for a long time. In other words, I heard a ringing endorsement for the need to have a sales culture that’s oriented around the customer.

This is a major shift – and I’m in a position to know, because I've attended six or seven Sales 2.0 Conferences since their inception nine years ago. And I’ve been a speaker at three of these events.

As I recall, many of the conversations at those events were focused on us. We talked about:

  • Sales techniques and selling skills,
  • how we could close more sales, and
  • which latest and greatest tech tools we should be using. 

We were very “me” focused in those years. And it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to attend a sales conference and discover these topics still dominating the discussion. Yet, at this event, the customer was getting all the attention. I couldn’t be happier about this shift, and I think we should consider calling this movement Sales 2.5 (at least!).

#2: Your Intention Matters

What’s the other interesting thing I learned? I heard from some of the attendees that they felt there was a clear separation between speakers who were there simply to speak, and speakers who were there as fellow members of the sales profession.

In other words, a speaker who shows up to an event to get some stage time and jet off to the next engagement is not truly a member of the community – and people can sense that. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless their intention is to make an authentic connection with attendees at a peer level.

Personally, I feel that I am a member of the sales profession, and, as such, I truly wanted to be at the event to listen, learn, and connect. That meant taking time to sit and listen to presentations and chat with fellow attendees in addition to my stage time.

It was a great feeling to hear that validation from attendees. And I should not be so surprised, because I always try to live by the edict of one of our founders, Bob Miller. He used to say that it’s incumbent on us to “be the best examples of what we represent.” I am committed to promoting, enhancing, and developing the profession of sales so we can all live up to our fullest potential.

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