At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for sales executives that have interesting and unique perspectives into selling, top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Tracy Tibedo, Director of Commercial Training for Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, he shared some fresh perspectives into how sales teams can generate better results. His insights included:
- Listen More And Talk Less
- Develop Better Sales Messaging
- Move Up The Influence Ladder
- Tracy's Advice On Better Sales Coaching
Listen More and Talk Less
Tracy emphasized throughout the interview that for many salespeople, better results will come if they simply learn to talk less, listen more and take more of an interest in what the customer has to say,
“Salespeople should shut up and listen…more time should be spent listening to the customer and less time talking to the customer. The customer doesn’t want to hear about you unless you have something important to say. So ask appropriate questions that are based on your research on that particular customer’s business or work that particular customer is doing. With the internet, it’s so easy to find out very detailed stuff about individuals and companies that you can ask some pretty good questions right out of the gate, showing your expertise to customers and, at the right point in the conversation when it is time respond, you’re more likely to say something profound that can directly impact the customers thinking.”
90% of the nearly 300 sales leaders we’ve interviewed over the last 3 years agree with Tracy. Better questions, better listening and a desire to truly understand before responding is priority one for a healthy percentage of the sales team if they want to get better results.
Develop Better Sales Messaging
When the time comes to respond to what we’ve learned with better listening and ideally after we’ve confirmed our understanding with a good summary, we need to respond. We also need salespeople who can talk fluently not just about products, features and benefits, but about bigger picture competitive advantages that tie into their value proposition. This is a big key to why challenger style sellers get better results. They focus first on impacting the value perception and underlying thinking of the decision maker(s) before getting to the specifics of products. Tracy has observed the same thing,
“Sales reps spend too much time talking about the product. This is not unique to any one industry but, boy, don’t we love to have that long self-centered discussion about our product/service…causing you to come out of a sales call saying, “That was a great conversation,” but you really haven’t done anything to move the sale forward.”
We asked Tracy what he thought in terms of salespeople’s ability to use competitive advantages and differentiating factors to stand out from the competition,
“In clearly communicating what separates us from our competitors, I would say very few could come up with a real compelling answer. I’m sure the answer would be very technical in nature and they would probably talk about some of the cool or unique technology we have. It hasn’t been a priority of sales trainers to drive that message out to the field. It used to be that everybody had a mission statement and you spent time learning to communicate it because that was used as your overall value proposition to your customers. This seems to have faded off the corporate radar and if not it’s certainly not being driven down to the guy in the field.”
Move Up the Influence Ladder
When I first started in sales in the early 90’s, I was fortunate to have a fantastic boss named Joanne. Something she told me really stuck and had a big impact on my sales results. She said, “the more minutes you spend everyday talking to decision makers that have higher and higher buying authority, the more successful you’ll be. If you forget about all other metrics and just focus on that, your sales number will go higher and higher every month.” That’s one thing that hasn’t changed much over the years. The most successful salespeople on the team, find a way to spend more time speaking with higher capacity buyers and less time on low priority decision makers and administrative tasks that don’t have much impact. Tracy explains,
“I think a lot of salespeople spend too much time on the person who might be using the product or service as opposed to talking a few layers higher in the organization and talking to the people that really care about the overall value proposition of the company.”
It’s the ability to ask simple questions early in the sales process like:
- Who else, besides yourself is critical to the decision making and approval process for this purchase?
- What is the process you and your team use to make a purchasing decision like this and how is the final decision actually made?
- What do you think are the most critical factors that will go into this purchasing decision by other people you work with that have input into the decision?
Questions like this, early in the process will help us figure out how to move up the influence ladder and get in front of more decision makers with more authority.
Spend More Time Coaching
Our conversation turned to coaching and Tracy shared 5 great pieces of advice that nearly all sales managers can use to improve their results:
- “The biggest weakness in sales managers is their inability to or their reluctance to coach sales reps effectively. Some managers are natural coaches, but a lot of sales managers simply are not. A successful coaching conversation in their opinion is, “You’re not doing a good job closing, close better.”
- “Sales coaching is not being driven from the top. The need for more sales coaching may be discussed at the head of the organization, but they're not coaching their sales directors, who in turn don’t coach their sales managers, who then, in turn, reflects that same behavior to their sales reps.”
- “Most salespeople don't do a good job pre-call planning or don’t have a goal for the call to help drive the sale forward. They go in and kind of wing it and end up with this really cool technical conversation...that's very interesting, but it's not helping to drive the sale forward.”
- “Managers that are constantly harping on their salespeople don’t realize that it can become very demoting, because generally, people think, whether it's true or not, that they're working as hard as they possibly can and they can't work any harder. We know that's not always true, but if you're constantly harping on people to work harder or work smarter without giving them good guidance, then it's going to be demotivating pretty quickly.”
- “Looking at all the crazy graphs and charts to determine what is driving business is important but if this is the only thing that is being used to drive the key message for improvement to sales managers, that’s all they will end up doing and that will be your coaching culture. Making metrics your focus will diminish the link of improving sales behavior that will drive the numbers as opposed to driving numbers by constantly talking about the numbers.” “Looking at all the crazy graphs and charts to determine what is driving business is important but if this is the only thing that is being used to drive the key message for improvement to sales managers, that’s all they will end up doing and that will be your coaching culture. Making metrics your focus will diminish the link of improving sales behavior that will drive the numbers as opposed to driving numbers by constantly talking about the numbers.”>
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.