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. In a recent interview with Justine Liddelow – SVP Sales & Marketing – Helloworld Travel Services USA, she shared some critically important observations about top performers, how they listen, focus on what matters to the customer, and how they’re always learning and growing.
Early in the interview, Justine brought up one of the bad habits she sees salespeople fall into that really hurts results…
Not listening is one of the worst habits in sales. -Justine Liddelow - SVP Sales & Marketing - Helloworld Travel Services USA Click To Tweet
“Not listening is one of the worst habits in sales. Salespeople tend to want to talk a lot and they don’t listen to what the customer’s actually wanting. They ‘show up and throw up’ and just sell the features and benefits and don’t realize that they may be selling something that the customer doesn’t necessarily need.”
Interestingly, over 90% of the sales leaders we speak with agree with Justine, that the #1 results limiting sales bad habit is talking too much about what doesn’t matter to the decision maker and not asking about and listening to what does. It’s a habit that’s easy to talk about and understand, but difficult to break. It’s kind of like eating habits… most of us already know the foods we should be eating more and less of but often have difficulty breaking the bad eating habits that hurt our health, energy and fitness. The too much talking on sales calls habit is similar because it takes a lot of focus, training, coaching and commitment to break.
Deeper insight into the too much talking habit…
Justine points out one of the causes of this pervasive habit…
“Salespeople may talk too much when they don’t know the product that well out of nervousness. They have a script in their head and just try to get it all out. They try to sell on features and benefits alone instead of taking a more consultative approach and don’t realize that’s not benefiting anyone.”
Most of us break bad habits and build new ones with repeated practice. Just as practice with good coaching hitting golf balls will improve your golf game and practice with a competent music teacher will improve your guitar playing, practice on the basics in selling will pay off. Companies need to get into the practice habit to help their sales teams, as Justine points out…
“Salespeople do not practice enough. Companies that grow have constant practice, constant training, and people going out in the field to practice with reps. A lot of companies just don’t do that, so their salespeople don’t practice.”
Justine shared a blinding flash of the obvious most sales managers overlook when she explained how critical it is to train and practice to be concise and clear…(Salespeople) should have a 5-second elevator pitch, a 15-second and a 30-second elevator pitch that is not just features and benefits but it’s persuasive enough to spark interest. -Justine Liddelow - SVP Sales & Marketing - Helloworld USA Click To Tweet
“There is huge room to improve the standard elevator pitch. Salespeople need to really understand their product and their competition and what their company does differently. If you talk to anyone about an elevator pitch, I’m sure half the salespeople don’t even have one or if they do, its way too long. They should have a 5-second elevator pitch, a 15-second and a 30-second elevator pitch that is not just features and benefits but it’s persuasive enough to spark interest.”
Often, salespeople talk too much because they simply don’t practice being concise. One of the things we do at SalesGym when we practice with our clients’ sales teams is time them when they answer simple questions like:
- What makes your company different or better than your competition?
- Every company says they have great service… what does service actually mean to you?
- What can I get from you and your company I’m not already getting from my current supplier? What can I get from you and your company I’m not already getting from my current supplier?>
Interestingly, most salespeople have no perspective on how long they take to answer these most basic questions and often go one for 2 minutes or longer when a nice, crisp, 30-second answer, focused on 1-2 strong competitive advantages with a great open ended question at the end of the reply would generate much better results. If you want your salespeople to be concise and clear, we need to take Justine’s advice and practice it.
Asking for the business more consistently
Many sales leaders tell us they observe too many sales interactions that end without clear action steps or the simple step of asking for the business. It’s remarkable how often we hear this as Justine points out…
“People fall into the habit of not asking for the business. You’ve gone into a meeting with an amazing presentation and then you walk out without asking, ‘we would love to work with you, how can we work with you, do you have something we can work on immediately, can we have your business,’ or something along those lines, it’s just crazy!”
We’ve found that too much talking and not asking the right questions is one of the causes of the not asking for the business habit. Often, salespeople think if they say just the right thing to turn the buying switch on, then some magical transformation will happen in the meeting and the decision maker will announce they are ready to buy. And when this doesn’t happen, they keep talking and testing new differentiators hoping to hit the right note. Success can happen with this approach, once in awhile, but more often than not it leads to meetings that end with the dreaded … “hey, this was really helpful and I learned a lot about you and your company… can you send me something and I’ll get back to you on this after we get a chance to think about it.”
Keys to more consistent closing
- Ask better questions, get the decision maker talking and listen
- Focus your presentation points only on what matters most to the decision maker
- Ask questions that get the decision maker talking about how your product or service could help them
- Use success stories to position a question asking for the business
Finally, ask for more referrals…
Justine has noticed a bad habit many salespeople get into when it comes to generating new leads. The absolute best leads tend to be good referrals but sometimes, we get in the habit of not asking for them enough.
Asking for referrals is something people get quite shy about. It’s the biggest compliment anyone can give. -Justine Liddelow - SVP Sales & Marketing - Helloworld Travel Services USA Click To Tweet
“Asking for referrals is something people get quite shy about. It’s the biggest compliment anyone can give. People love to refer a service that they enjoy and appreciate but sometimes they just don’t think of it. A salesperson needs to prompt them, and or reward them for referrals.”
We’ve found, in practicing with salespeople in the SalesGym, that it really helps if they learn to describe the ideal referral and use that description to help the customer think of people they could refer. For instance, a Financial Advisor might say… “The kinds of people that tend to be a really good fit for the way I run my Financial Practice is young couples that are saving for their future, retirement and their kids education and business owners that want the best possible retirement plans for their people and need good advice on how to prepare their business for maximum value when they sell it… I’m always looking to meet people like this. Does anyone come to mind that you know that falls into either of these two categories?”
What’s interesting, is that narrowing the focus helps customers zero in on people they could refer and will tend to prompt more referrals.
So, in summary…
- The too much talking habit will hurt results and it needs to be broken with practice
- Teaching salespeople their value proposition in 5, 15, and 30 second segments will help them be more concise
- Talking too much is a leading cause of poor closing technique and using more good questions and success stories will make it easier to ask for the order
- Asking for more referrals will generate the best leads of all and it’s helpful to describe the kind of people you’d like your customers to refer to you
And, some final advice from Justine to people entering sales…
“If you were looking to enter sales as a career, be hungry, be genuine, learn to listen and when selling, know your stuff, always use personal experiences … people like to hear about other customers, situations, experiences, it gains credibility. And most of all follow up and do what you say you are going to do.”
Then ASK FOR THE BUSINESS!
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.