Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with Ivy Ng, Director of Sales Effectiveness with Clarivate Analytics and listen to her thinking on what makes top performing salespeople different, what gives them their competitive edge and what sales leaders can do to train and support them. She shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- Three Keys to Top Performer Success
- How Practice Impacts Performance
- The Challenge of Consensus Selling
- Ivy’s Coaching Pointers
Early in the interview, Ivy said something that really framed the rest of our conversation, “Salespeople should talk less about the product and more about the customer. If the customer is not convinced that you care about them, they are not going to listen to you talk about your product. Many times, salespeople have an extensive knowledge about a product, but they don’t do the research in advance to get to know the customer. Without enough preparation or understanding of the client, they will not know which product they will actually need.’
Three Keys to Top Performer Success
Something we hear from more and more Sales Leaders has to do with the shift salespeople need to make to succeed in today’s highly competitive world. Buyers are looking for more from a salesperson than a sales pitch … even a good sales pitch. Decision makers want a relationship that brings them information, intel and insights they can’t get from other salespeople. It’s not just about “why my product is better than my competitor”, it’s more about … “Hey, I understand your business and because I’m meeting with a lot of other very sophisticated decision makers in other great companies, I can bring you ideas you can’t get anywhere else.”
Ivy explains this critical element from her perspective, “Three things that can help a salesperson succeed are changing their mindset, positioning themselves as an advisor, and understanding the industries of their customers. Doing those three things will help them to excel in a sales career. Positioning is extremely important in sales. When you enter a meeting, you want to position yourself to be seen as a trusted advisor and not as a vendor selling a product.”
To make this happen, salespeople need to bring curiosity, insight and passion to the job. Natural enthusiasm is contagious and most of us like being around people that have positive energy. It’s this situation appropriate enthusiasm that breaks through the resistance that will lead to more way positive selling interactions. Ivy explains, “Top performers in sales have a passion for their job and an earnest curiosity to understand the customer’s world better.”
How Practice Impacts Performance
We test and score a lot of salespeople at SalesGym … thousands of them. We focus on the 7 most important interactive selling skills that have the most impact on selling results. Asking great questions in a patient way with great listening, starting all calls with focus and knowing how to steer and close sales calls for clear outcomes are core skills that take a lot of work and practice to develop. The days of selling “ice to eskimos” because of a natural sales personality are long gone. Even salespeople that come into the business with a strong natural aptitude need to work hard to get better, as Ivy explains, “Practice contributes a huge role in developing sales skills. The more you practice, the better you will become. The top salespeople are very interested in building a relationship with their customers. It takes a lot of time investment to build a relationship with a customer. A salesperson should focus on building relationships with more than one stakeholder because there are more people behind the decisions of company than just one executive.”
For most salespeople, their practice should focus on three key areas:
- Getting better at asking questions, using insights to position those questions, and becoming more patient and disciplined at not over reacting to the first opportunity that comes out in the conversation.
- Communicating a powerful value proposition with competitive advantages that are tailored to the decision makers and what matters most to them. It’s the ability to tailor our message that causes it to resonate more to the listener.
- The ability to guide the sales conversation for the first few minutes with an engaging agenda, all the way to the closing and next steps at the end of the call.
The Challenge of Consensus Selling
More and more Sales Leaders tell us that the ability to build consensus with multiple decision makers and influencers is a critical determinant of success. Ivy explains, “In today’s world of consensus selling, salespeople need to cast their nets wider than ever before. There are now more people to convince on every level, so a salesperson needs to have a very customized value proposition for each meeting. Because of consensus oriented decision making, it takes a longer time to close deals. For that reason, persistence is one of the key traits of a successful salesperson.”
It takes a wide range of interpersonal skills to develop all the relationships needed to create a sale when many voices will need to be brought together for a group decision. Dale Carnegie said many years ago that we need to be able to build relationships with a wide variety of people to achieve maximum results. Some of the principles he wrote about included:
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain about others
- Try to see the best in others and communicate that to them
- Listen and try to understand others before we try to influence them
- Take a genuine interest in others
Those principles are timeless and as relevant today as when he wrote his breakthrough books nearly 70 years ago!
Ivy’s Coaching Pointers for Sales Managers:
- One of the most important roles of a Sales Leader is to help the sales team make contact with senior executives of the customer’s company.
- Many times, the best salespeople don’t make the best Sales Leaders. However, that does not mean that Sales Leaders are allowed to be bad at selling. If you are not able to make sales to higher level executives, then you are not going to be able to fully support your team.
- Sales Leaders not only should be involved in the sales conversation, but they should also conduct a coaching session after the sales meeting. You first need to show and then coach. If you want to coach a salesperson to be more effective in selling on a higher level, you need to show them how to do it first. Sales leaders need to be able to lead by example and then coach, and then give the opportunity to the salesperson to perform and achieve on their own.
- Inside the coaching session, after a sales meeting, the Sales Leader should not be the one providing all the answers. They should instead be asking the sales rep what they observed.
Thanks to Ivy for the interview and solid tips on how to generate stronger sales teams! For videos on how to increase sales utilizing the SalesGym’s “Compete Selling” approaches, check out our SalesGym YouTube Channel!
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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