At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for sales executives that have interesting and timeless insights into top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with SL Hall, National Director of Sales, Real Estate Industry she shared some great insights into how to make practice more effective to accelerate the pace of improvement in the sales team.
- The Importance of Mastering Your Sales Process
- Becoming More Comfortable with Silence
- Practice …
- The Right Way to Practice
- Creating a Culture that Supports Effective Practice
Early in the interview, Stephanie said something that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“What separates my top producers is they have a sales process they use with every single customer, which sounds crazy because I’m saying basically that some don’t have a process. The top producers are also constantly practicing and looking at ways to improve. With every customer that walks through the door, it is about that customer, but it’s still their sales process because they know what they need to lead them. The big thing that my top producers do is ask the right questions and questions that start a dialogue where the buyer is answering, and the salesperson is not presenting.”
Stephanie noticed something we’ve found is true with a high percentage of top performers we’ve worked with from all industries. Once they find a process that works for them, they perfect that process and use it … every time. When you’ve got the personality factors and a proven process, you’re going to get superior results.
Becoming more comfortable with silence
Over the last two years, we’ve interviewed over 200 sales executives and over 90% of them told us the number one mistake salespeople make on sales calls/meetings is talking too much and not asking the right questions. Stephanie offers some clear insight into this problem …
“I consistently see from the middle of the pack and below, they’re talking way more than the customer and they’re not asking those questions that open up the conversation so they can truly uncover what the buyers needs are.”
Stephanie also brought up one of the likely drivers of all that unnecessary talking is an inability to use silence and pauses in the conversation to their advantage as she explains,
“Some salespeople aren’t comfortable with any kind of silence, which in sales you have to be comfortable with. An issue that prevents success is that their presentation isn’t strong enough that they can ask questions and open the dialogue up because they’re not comfortable in anything that might come up as an obstacle or objection. They are not confident they will know how to deal with the issue, so instead, they fall back on the word vomit.”
Effective selling is about encouraging and bringing forward the resistance factors and likely objections so they can be discussed and dealt with. Ineffective salespeople think, somehow, that their brilliant presentation and constant talking about their company and products will just vaporize the resistance and this rarely happens, as Staphanie explains,
“It comes down to that confidence of feeling comfortable in your knowledge, knowing it’s okay for the buyer to bring something up that’s going to be an objection because that’s how you truly uncover needs and move towards a sale. When a salesperson realizes and acknowledges that, then the big breakthroughs occur.”
Practice Is the key to success in sales
Stephanie shared with us a lot of clear insight about the importance of practice and how it impacts sales performance:
Stephanie’s 6 Insights about Practice
- Practice is the key to success. Like professional athletes, they practice over and over and over and over and over, which is what you have to do to get that muscle memory. Just like first responders, the response is so ingrained because they've practiced it and done it so they know in that moment that they're going to be at their best! From a sales standpoint, it's the same thing. Salespeople have to practice because the more they practice the easier it becomes no matter the situation. Practice allows salespeople to be able to ebb and flow with the buyer, no matter what the buyer throws at them. If they have that muscle memory from that practice and that accountability from a sales leader that watches them and makes sure that they are doing it and is able to help them, just like a coach would, then in every situation they will have the confidence to go with all the many things that are thrown at them on a daily basis. At the end of the day, they're still going to have their core procedures and processes in place that will help every single time because they have practiced it.
- When it comes to why salespeople do not practice, the biggest thing that I hear is that it feels unnatural and they feel judged. Of course, if you only practice once every 6 months it's going to feel unnatural because it's not something you're used to. Sales has to become muscle memory, through practice, so that it does feel natural.
- The benefit to the salesperson in doing practice is they are going to learn something about the process and what they are doing really well and the things where we have opportunities to make them better.
- To help practice feel more real, I will call my salespeople before I visit them and give them a customer scenario so that when I get there, as soon as I walk through the door we are already in character. We don't have that awkward moment trying to get into the scenario. This has been the biggest breakthrough because it's a little more natural and more real world because this is what happens every day in their sales lives.
- You have to show people how to do something, then watch them do it and then have them practice again. Sometimes people have to see it and their manager needs to see them do it.
- Sales reps like to upward manage! They are savvy, they know that if their manager only has 45 minutes with them if they can get the manager to focus 35 minutes on the administrative reports and paperwork, they're good to go and get out of practice.
The right way to practice
What we’ve found, in working with sales teams to help them learn how to practice more effectively, is that most sales managers really don’t know how to practice with their sales teams. They know how to talk about metrics, pipelines, potential deals and activity levels, but practicing is not something they typically understand or are all that comfortable with, so they often avoid it.
Stephanie offers some insight and advice into how to practice,
“Sales leaders have to break it down because if you try to practice it all at once you’re never going to get anywhere. They have to identify, what is the one training piece that we’re going to practice.”
“If our team is focusing on closing, the sales team will record themselves, with their sales partner, going through the last 5 minutes of their presentation and how they close a customer. Then they will send that recording to their sales manager so that they can hear it and give feedback. A lot of times the sales leaders will have a contest which is really important because it’s getting them just used to doing, sharing and celebrating the practice. That’s what they do every day with customers and they should get used to doing it with the organization.”
Creating a culture that supports effective practice
More and more sales leaders we speak to are telling us they’re understanding how important it is to create a culture, from the top down, that values and recognizes practice as a core element of the performance improvement process. It’s not enough to simply say repeatedly that sales coaching is important because that just doesn’t move the needle. Stephanie explains how she has helped generate the right culture where practice can happen in a more effective way,
“The biggest thing for us in implementing practice was to create a culture of safety and ensuring our salespeople that it was to nurture their careers. The more that we could show that it was to their benefit the easier it became. There will still always be the people that are like, ‘I hate the way I sound!’ but they still do it and it just gives them the ability to think, ‘That one was better than yesterday’s and I’m truly growing in my skills.’
“As an organization, we want to continue that nourishment towards their skills. It really becomes crucial to have the ability to decide what the practice pace should be and then maintain that pace. You have to be realistic about it or your team will burn out.”
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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