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 Linda Manning, Global Human Resource Manager for a leading global company in manufacturing and sales, she shared some interesting perspectives on salespeople and what the best sales managers and coaches are doing to improve performance.
The insight-led selling trend of the last decade…
A powerful trend that has had a dramatic impact on the thinking of sales managers and executives around the world is the challenger mentality often called insight-led selling. Research in the last decade has indicated that relationship-oriented, often called consultative selling, simply isn’t generating the best results. The top performers are bringing more than just product solutions to buyers, they’re bringing new perspectives and new ways of thinking that literally change buying criteria. Linda has noticed…
The best sales reps are the ones who think strategically and proactively plan for their sales calls. -Linda Manning, Global Human Resource Manager for a leading global company in manufacturing and sales Click To Tweet
“The best sales reps are the ones who think strategically and proactively plan for their sales calls. They combine available sales data, current trends, their personal/company’s business goals, the goals of buyer and the buyer’s personality. Using all of that data, they spend time thinking, ‘what can I bring to the table that would help my buyer do better in their business while supporting my goals?’ The best reps find creative solutions that meet everyone’s goals and present them in a way that’s a match for the buyer’s style.”
Research has shown that buyers, when asked what they need, are often limited in their thinking and are looking to salespeople to help them understand the more innovative approaches to problem solving they’re not even aware of.
Google is a classic example of a company that created an extremely disruptive advertising approach that was sold by changing the thinking of marketing executives all over the world to understand that digital advertising is a better, more efficient way to target customers than old-school radio, print and TV. It wasn’t enough to just present digital advertising as an alternative to traditional approaches, they had to create completely new advertising models, case studies and examples of how to use digital advertising to get marketing executives to understand the power of highly targeted ads.
Once that connection was made, many marketing executives began to question the logic in expensive TV, print and radio ads aimed at a wide audience, 90% of which have no interest or need for their product. That’s the kind of buying criteria changing insight that built the revenue generating miracle that Google became.
Blending Consultative & Insight Led Selling
- Identify your company’s most important differentiating factors
- Teach the sales team, with practice, to communicate these differentiating factors in a powerful and concise way with open ended questions
- Identify game changing insights your salespeople can bring to customers based on recent successes in bringing in new customers
- Practice using these insights along with assertive open ended questions to help prospects break their current limiting thinking
- Practice, practice practice … there is not way to get good at this more assertive approach to selling without practice
Google had to teach their salespeople to not just ask questions and find out what marketing directors needed, but to TEACH these decision makers a completely new approach with game changing ideas and insights. Salespeople that can blend the powerful questioning model of consultative selling with the more assertive insight led approach are going to generate better results.
Sales Managers need to lead the change
This shift to skillful blending of consultative and insight led selling requires real focus and effort from sales managers to help their salespeople make this shift. Linda points out an important connections sales coaches need to make…
Improve skills and behaviors and results will follow. -Linda Manning, Global Human Resource Manager for a leading global company in manufacturing and sales Click To Tweet
“The best coaches focus on behaviors yet that’s exactly what most coaches forget. Improve skills and behaviors and results will follow.”
When we start a new training project with our SalesGym clients we typically start by identifying and interviewing the top performing front line sales managers. More often than not, the best of the best spend less time analyzing data and reports and more time coaching and teaching their salespeople how to get better results on sales calls. Linda has noticed the same thing,
“Too often managers are trained to focus just on numbers and the pipeline instead of on behaviors and what is actually being said. Of course if these are the questions their managers are asking them, then those will be the same questions they focus on with their team instead of focusing more time and attention on how their salespeople are actually selling and interacting with buyers.”
Keep in mind, you can’t teach something you don’t understand yourself. Often, sales managers need to learn new selling approaches in order to coach to those new behaviors. Sales training that doesn’t place a serious emphasis on upgrading the sales managers’ selling and coaching skills is limited from the get-go. Many sales managers develop beliefs about selling based on what worked for them but often, those skills are not easily transferred to others because they are more personality-based and less process-oriented. Sales managers need to learn what are the skills and behaviors they can teach that are transferable and then learn to coach effectively. Linda reminds us…
“The best managers focus on two things: 1) identify what behaviors they want to develop for each person on their team and 2) how to adjust their approach to best coach each person.”
Coachable, Transferable Insight Led Selling Skills
- An effective and simple pre-call planning routine
- How to start a sales call with an agenda that generates more useful interaction
- How to summarize previous conversations to start a sales call
- Positioning more assertive questions with compelling insights
- Bringing in big ideas and success stories that change decision making criteria
- How to use summaries of customer responses to set up game changing ideas
- Using success stories to recommend bold new decisions
Practice is the fuel that drives change
Just as elite athletes need constant practice to reach the highest levels of competition, salespeople need constant practice to break bad communication habits and build confidence in more assertive, better results producing approaches. Linda points out…
“Practicing what you are going to say out loud is so important. It’s easy to know exactly what you want to say when it’s just in your head and so much harder to do when you actually have to say it out loud. The best way to learn a skill is to practice it.”
More time spent showing sales managers how to practice and how to break down the resistance to practice many salespeople have is an excellent investment. We’ve found, through countless projects, that there’s an awkwardness to practice when sales managers first start really working with their salespeople that needs to be broken through. Once the practice routine is established and fresh new practice exercises and simulations are brought in to keep it interesting, sales teams will actually enjoy and look forward to it.
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.