At SalesGym, we interview dozens of leading sales executives every year to find out new thinking and trends on top performers, coaching and building better sales teams. A question we always ask is: what are the 2-3 bad habits salespeople get into that significantly reduce their results? Over 90% of the time, talking too much about product and not asking the right questions to get to pain points and big solution opportunities is the first answer. In a recent interview with André Dubé – Vice President – Key Accounts, Wajax, he shared some powerful insights into why this happens and, more, importantly, what sales leaders can do about it.
“Once a salesperson becomes a product pusher other bad habits develop. They don’t listen because they’re thinking about pushing product or services and selling their customer. They’re thinking about the new widget that engineering just invented or fabricated or the vendor just came up with a new technology and not focusing on the customer which makes it very difficult for them to articulate a value proposition. Customer’s are not looking for this anymore.”Once a salesperson becomes a product pusher other bad habits develop. -André Dubé - Vice President - Key Accounts, Wajax Click To Tweet
In working with sales teams for nearly 30 years, the Founders of SalesGym have learned the hard way, that listening is an extremely difficult skill to teach and learn. There are many factors that impact a person’s ability to listen including:
Poor listening is nearly always a training issue…
Nearly all salespeople will become better listeners if they get repeated training and coaching on these 4 areas:
- How to start every sales call with a discovery-focused, listening-oriented agenda the right way, so it’s relevant and compelling to the prospect or customer
- How to communicate concise, high impact competitive advantages and differentiating factors that ALWAYS lead to a relevant, open-ended question
- How to use a natural, conversational questioning process that breaks the habit of using too many closed-ended questions that lead to too much talking
- How to take notes the right way in a sales interaction and use quick summaries to keep the conversation on track and position relevant and assertive insight driven questions
Interestingly though, when we interview salespeople, they tell us they rarely get training or practice in these areas. André emphasizes how important this kind of coaching is… “We need to train salespeople to be strategic and coach them on how to deliver our value proposition so they clearly understand our uniqueness and our key differentiators. We need to make sure that we coach and train our people building their potential so that they can focus on expanding that potential versus focusing on the next month’s P&L. If they maximize their potential, trust me, they will meet and beat the next month’s P&L.”We need to make sure that we coach and train our people building their potential so that they can focus on expanding that potential versus focusing on the next month's P&L. -André Dubé - Vice President - Key Accounts, Wajax Click To Tweet
CRM and the sales process are helpful tools…
Nearly all sales leaders we speak to tell us they’ve made enormous progress with their CRM tools, pipeline and territory analysis and most companies have a sales process they teach in new-hire sales training. Without ongoing practice and coaching, however, salespeople often fall back on their old habits and familiar approaches that will minimize the impact of these investments. Andre explains… “If salespeople don’t know how to sell their value proposition and what that value proposition is, then they’re still going to use the sales tools but will go back to their old ways. They’re just going to keep pushing product and services through the market, but they’re going to do it now through these sales tools now.”
If, through effective ongoing coaching, we help salespeople to build the skills and confidence that support the overall strategy, then we can move the needle faster. “The CRM tools and the sales process are just to give salespeople a guide on how to go about executing the tactical part of their job. However, if they don’t know what they’re executing on, you’re going to end up with minimal results. Salespeople have to first understand what they need to execute on, what is the strategy, what makes their organization different and unique and how do I sell it? Then when they get into true selling mode, Then they can access all these tools to help work through the process.”
Front-Line Sales Managers are the keyA lot of organizations forget the sales leaders. They have them go through the same training sessions as the sales rep, but they don't have the same mandate. -André Dubé - Vice President - Key Accounts, Wajax Click To Tweet
“Everybody talks about training the salespeople, the salespeople, the salespeople, okay, but what about the sales leaders?” André reminds us. It’s important to remember that many sales managers get promoted because they were good salespeople and often, their results were driven by personality, motivational and selling style differentiators unique to them. We often find, when starting a project and introducing an upgraded sales process to the sales team, that different sales managers have widely varying beliefs on how to sell and succeed. These beliefs can cause them to be somewhat defensive and territorial about how they want their people to sell and this can be a real barrier when it comes to teaching the entire sales team to use a better sales process. André told us how important it is to train sales managers on the same processes the sales team is expected to execute… “A lot of organizations forget the sales leaders. They have them go through the same training sessions as the sales rep, but they don’t have the same mandate.”
How to build better sales managers
Top performers win games…
It’s difficult to find an elite sports team that wins consistently that doesn’t have standout, marquee players that come through and perform consistently, under pressure, game after game. These top performers often set the standard for effort, practice, discipline and commitment to winning. Sales teams need top performers to do the same thing. The best sales managers really focus on helping those top performers set the example, adopt the better sales approaches and lead the team, by example to better results. André adds, “You have to build on high performers. They are the people that will get it fast, that will embark on the journey right away, that will succeed right away and they will become very quickly your ambassadors. They might represent ten or twenty percent of your sales force, but that doesn’t matter. For example, let’s say you get 50 of your high performers that get it, and that engagement translates into an additional 500k of sales each in that year. Well, they’ve just generated between themselves 25 million of organic growth. Now, you have that base for the next year. The high performers will create Synergies with the rest. They will resonate with their peers. They will resonate with your new recruits that are coming into business and all that is how you’re going to build the momentum you need to get to greatness. There will be a point in time when the majority of your salesforce is now thinking and behaving like your high performers. Not on day one. Not in year one, and maybe not even in year two. It doesn’t happen like that. This takes time and consistency.”(High performers) are the people that will get it fast, that will embark on the journey right away, that will succeed right away and they will become very quickly your ambassadors. -André Dubé - Vice President - Key Accounts, Wajax Click To Tweet
In summary, sales leaders need to:
- Break the “too much talking” habit with assertive training and coaching strategies
- Mastery of concise sales messaging including competitive advantages, differentiating factors and relevant open-ended questions is the key to less talking and better listening
- Getting buy–in to a consistent sales process from front-line sales managers is an important and often overlooked step that is critical to building a better sales team
- Top performer input and buy-in is critical to influencing the sales team
- Train and coach the coaches!
“I don’t tell salespeople to go sell the customer. I tell them to go and build credibility, go and build trust, be solution-oriented, go and make sure that today you’re going to help someone in their business. If you achieve that, you’ve done your job because through that will come sales.” — André Dubé
The SalesGym is a research, consulting, and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.
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