Many sales organizations spend a lot of time and money to determine what their sales teams need training on to generate maximum ROI on training investments. There are a wide variety of complex analytic processes and tools to get these answers. What we find, however, is that after these tools are used and the training is developed and delivered, an unacceptably high percentage of sellers tend to make the same mistakes over and over, week after week, month after month …
- Talking too much throughout the sales cycle
- Not asking effective, relevant questions at the right time in the sales cycle
- Unable to communicate relevant, compelling differentiating factors and competitive advantages
- Ineffective closing approach or strategy
Interestingly, when sellers break these bad habits, their results quickly improve, regardless of what sales process or methodology they’re using. Unfortunately, far too often, training and coaching programs have minimal impact on these influence reducing mistakes. It takes strong foundational selling and influence skills to break these tendencies. Just as an elite athlete needs strength, speed, quickness, agility and endurance, salespeople need a foundation of influence abilities before the more advanced analytic selling skills most sales training programs focus on will have much impact.
A simple test for sellers
This is an extremely simple, very low cost test to identify where training would have maximum impact for most salespeople, including veterans:
- Select a cross section of 5-10 sellers for the test. You can select more, but from experience it won’t be necessary.
- Ask each seller, at the beginning of the test, to identify a high potential decision maker they’ve met and had a sales call with, but either isn’t a customer/client yet or has much more potential to grow. Ideally, the seller knows quite a bit about this decision maker’s needs, wants and concerns. It’s critically important that they pick a specific person they have at least some rapport with.
- Tell the sellers that they will answer the following questions as if speaking directly to that person and to tailor their response the best they can based on what they know about that decision maker.
- Ask the seller, as if in the voice/role of the decision maker they have selected and with genuine positive curiosity in your voice:
- Can you give me 3-5 specific differentiators you feel make your company (product or service) different or better than your competitor? Ideally, give me about 30 seconds on each differentiator so I can fully understand it.
- After that response, ask another question in that same voice as the decision maker:
- What is the main reason that people like me switch to your company and how do they describe the improvement they get from that switch?
- Then, finally, ask the seller:
- What’s the most important trend you think I should be aware of that should have impact on my decision of whether or not to use you and your company going forward?
It’s critically important that the sellers, in the test, respond to your questions as if speaking directly to that decision maker. It’s not a discussion about what they might say. It’s them responding as if speaking to that decision maker in the moment. Expect the salespeople you are testing to resist responding in a realistic way and instead default into a discussion about what they might say. Be persistent and insist they respond to you exactly as they would respond as if speaking directly to that decision maker they know relatively well.
If you would like help in doing this test, a Master SalesGym Coach can help you. Click here to connect with one.
If your sellers perform poorly
If your sellers perform poorly or not up to the level of effectiveness you would like to see, then your sales training and coaching needs to focus on two very specific things:
- Sales Messaging
- Asking relevant, effective open-ended questions
Sales messaging is how sellers use value proposition elements, differentiating factors and competitive advantages throughout the sales conversation in all phases of the sales cycle. It’s how they tailor their messaging to the interests and concerns of the decision maker(s) they’re speaking to.
Most sellers and people in general, are somewhat lazy when it comes to asking interesting and relevant questions with a spirit of genuine interest and curiosity. Sellers need to learn to end everything they say in every sales conversation with an open-ended question. And we mean EVERYTHING.
- When they start the meeting with an agenda, it should end with an open-ended question
- When the decision maker asks the seller a question, they should respond and end their response with an open-ended question.
- When the seller summarizes what they’ve learned, getting ready to pivot to a solution, they should ask an open-ended question at the end of the summary.
- When the seller is presenting their solution, ideally in 2-3 minute segments, each segment should end with an open-ended question.
- When testing for resistance or objections, they should be using open-ended questions.
- When calling to speak to a decision maker for the first time to schedule a new meeting, that initial conversation should be built on engaging open-ended questions.
Most sellers simply cannot do this until they go through intense drills-based training that rewires the way they approach communication. They need to fully embrace the Stephen Covey principle of “seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.”
When sellers become skillful at these core results determining skills, then the concepts taught in most sales training programs on topics like buyer personality analysis, account development strategy, sales cycle and process will have much more impact.
These are literally the speed, strength, quickness and endurance core influence level skills sellers need to work on before they get into the more complex, analytic elements of selling. When you build a sales team that has these core skills, the ROI on all of the rest of your training will go up dramatically. But if they don’t have these core influence skills, ROI will be disappointing regardless of how much money and effort you put into training.
Demonstration driven, drills based coaching and practice
We’ve found it takes a radically different approach to training and coaching to develop the core communication skills that transform the way salespeople communicate their differentiating factors and how they instinctively use engaging questions. The training approach needs to be similar to how an elite sports coach would practice with his/her athletes to prepare for competition. Ideally, the practice is built around short, challenging drills that stretch and strengthen the communication skills that determine results in high pressure selling situations.
Before / After Recordings
This before and after video will show the impact of a single short practice drill on how a Financial Advisor responds to the most fundamental question any investor would have before opening a new account with her. This kind of improvement is only possible when the seller is put through a practice drill that incorporates repetition with high quality demonstrations of what good-great sounds like.
Join the SalesGym and learn the drills
If you would like to learn how to run the drills that produce rapid improvements in sellers’ foundational selling and influence skills, take advantage of this no cost 30-day SalesGym Membership where you’ll work one-on-one with a Master SalesGym Coach to learn and practice this radically different coaching approach you can use in all the training and coaching situations you have.