Recently, we had an opportunity to connect with John Redinger, CMO with DialAmerica. and listen to his 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. He shared a number of unique ideas focused around:
- The Responsibility Salespeople Need to Accept
- Top Performers Listen
- Review the Film
- John’s Advice to Sales Coaches
Early in the interview, John said something salespeople need to understand that really framed the rest of our conversation,
“Everybody in the organization is counting on you to do your job, which is to ask great questions to move the meeting in the right direction. Salespeople need to be the conductor of who speaks when and who has to do what. You have to practice and study that, so it becomes natural to you.”
Selling is about influence and it’s equal parts process and art. Salespeople essentially participate in and run meetings that hopefully build credibility, persuade and ultimately convince. It takes a lot of work and practice to master the process and art involved in making that happen with a wide variety of decision-makers, all with different personalities, biases, and quirks.
Top Performers Listen
We’ve interviewed and worked with a lot of top-performing salespeople. More often than not, it’s their questioning and listening skills that are the foundation of their success. A lot of top performers are somewhat low key in how they communicate, but they do a great job of uncovering needs, problems, and concerns with the right questions at the right time. John explains,
“Top sellers have a great ability to listen to their customers, but they also have the ability and courage to ask great questions. Top sellers get their customers or prospects to open up and really share where their pain is or what their needs are.”
Dr. Steven Covey said over and over that the most valuable interpersonal skill of all is the ability to ask, listen and understand the other person before we attempt to help or influence them. Great listening is about putting our full attention on the other person, as John points out,
“Some salespeople expect it’s about me, me, me, me, me, me … but it’s not.”
Three Tips to Better Listening
- Write out 3-5 short, open-ended questions as part of your pre-call preparation. Think through the questions you want to ask and write them down on your notepad so you can see them during your sales call.
- Use a quick summary when you think you fully understand the decision maker’s situation. If you get into the habit of taking notes and giving summaries, your listening skills will improve
- Before you start responding and selling, ask the decision maker(s) what else is important for you to know before you share some ideas on how you could help them.
Review the Film …
Sports coaches, after each practice and game, review the film of how their athletes performed so they can assess what they can reinforce and where to focus practice and rehearsal. Sales Managers, as John points out, need to do the same thing,
“As soon as that prospect is out the door, while it’s fresh in everybody’s mind, look at where we went wrong. What went really well? Where do we think we didn’t hit the mark and why? You have to break that down and understand it well so that you can improve for the next time.”
It’s really important to do that debrief quickly after the call happened, while the details are fresh. This kind of review leads to the right kind of change. John explains how this can happen with a practice rehearsal session,
“We’ll have somebody deliver that presentation to the team and tape it. Then they go back and listen to it and want to throw up and then they do it again. But you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to make your mistakes and learn from them to improve. If you keep doing the same stuff, you’re not going to change your results. You’ll get lucky but you’re not going to consistently have all those people on your sales team produce.”
As important as debriefing and identifying what went right and wrong on sales calls is, what we’ve found in working with thousands of salespeople in the SalesGym, is that call rehearsing BEFORE the call is just as important, if not more so. A good rehearsal actually allows everyone involved in the sales call to practice as if speaking directly to the decision-makers. Some elements of the sales call to practice are:
- Introduction of all the team members, their role and what they specialize in
- The agenda for the meeting
- Summary of the current situation to get everyone in the room on the same page
- Key insights to frame discussion generating questions
- The solution itself … practice keeping it short, to the point and focused on what matters most to the decision maker(s)
- Closing options. Figure out and practice several choices you can offer the decision maker(s)
John’s Advice to Sales Coaches
Before each game, virtually all sports coaches prepare a game plan and a playbook and that same principle applies to sales managers, as John explains,
“Everybody’s got to be on the same page. You have to have a playbook, a methodology, and a process that everybody understands and follows. Everybody needs to be in lockstep on that.”
What we’ve found, after working with many different sales teams from companies all over the world, is that a key part of that playbook is to get the sales messaging around the value proposition, differentiating factors, competitive advantages, and game-changing insights figured out so the sales team can practice them. This is the DNA of great selling and needs to be a key part of the playbook. Get it written down, in a concise way and then record examples of it and get it into the salespeople’s hands and ears. Listening to how top performers phrase good questions and value proposition points is an effective way to improve the performance of the entire team.
Thanks to John 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” approach, 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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