Over the last 30 years, our team has done a lot of consulting and training projects with sales teams— many from the largest, most well-known companies in the world. Every project begins with the same first step: we diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the sales team. This starts by asking sales managers and executives to clearly articulate the company’s value proposition, differentiating factors, and competitive advantages in a way that will truly resonate with prospects and customers.
As we discussed in the previous blog, they often can’t do this effectively.
Then, we ask for the strongest performers on the sales team to help us with it. In most cases, we find they are better than managers and executives, but the way they communicate this critical information is nearly always from the perspective of what’s important to their company and not what’s most important to prospects and customers.
After that, we test a cross section of the sales team to see how skillful they are at basic sales process stuff—like consultative and challenger selling.
More often than not, they make four common mistakes, which are:
- Not having a clear agenda with a specific goal in mind to move the sale forward
- Questions that are too generic, unimaginative, and often, not very relevant to the customer
- A sales solution presentation that is generic, unfocused, and lacks tailoring to what’s most important to the customer
- They don’t know how to suggest recommendations and next steps that are easy for the prospect to say yes to that move the sale toward a successful conclusion
So, let’s go over three things you can do as a sales manager or executive, on your own, to address these issues that hold back sales teams from generating better results. These three steps are:
Clearly document your value proposition, differentiating factors and competitive advantages
- Set a goal of verbal fluency with a deadline
- Test each team member for sales process proficiency
- Document Your Value Proposition
Absolutely NOTHING will do more to help your sales team improve their results than a shared understanding of these three critically important elements of sales messaging. These are the building blocks of great sales interactions. Someone has to figure this out and get it in writing so the sales team can study it and learn it.
Unfortunately, what happens for many (most) sales teams is this vitally important information isn’t documented and shared, so salespeople have to figure it out on their own. When this happens, consistency will be low and there will be no way to identify top performer best practices and share them.
Assign a team if you have to of the best communicators in the company to put together some concise, clear messaging around these three critical areas and distribute it to everyone on the sales team.
Having a Verbal Fluency Goal
After you’ve got your value proposition, differentiating factors, and competitive advantages documented in a potent and concise way, set a deadline for everyone on the team to get GOOD at communicating them—without notes—at a moment’s notice. Practice in sales meetings, record the best ones and share them. Then, set a strict deadline for everyone to be able to meet a high standard of verbal fluency with these essential sales messaging elements, and test them to ensure they clear the bar.
Test for Sales Process Proficiency
After you’ve got your sales team up to a higher skill level with core sales messaging, it’s time to test them on their ability to use a sales process. The best way we’ve found to do this is to set up a simple simulation and run them through it. Define a prospect with a relatively simple need that lines up well with one of your core products or services.
The simulation should begin with a call to schedule an appointment/meeting. Assume this prospect came to the salesperson as a referral so they have to make the first contact as if it was a referral. Then, have someone play the prospect and allow each team member to demonstrate how they would sell this person from start to finish. Make the prospect relatively cooperative so it’s fairly easy to use the sales process without being thrown off too much.
Watch how they do. See how effective they are at the core sales process skills like:
- Setting an effective agenda
- Introducing themselves, and the company, quickly and effectively
- Asking good, relevant questions that lower resistance and generate useful answers
- Summarizing the discovery step in an accurate and thorough way
- Presenting a tailored solution that taps into your value proposition and competitive advantages
- Responding to questions and concerns that come up
- Making a closing recommendation and identifying potential objections
- Gaining commitment
Again, make the exercise simple. Test to see if everyone can do a simple sales call the right way without a lot of curve balls. If they can’t do it in an easy simulation, then they certainly can’t do it under pressure on a live call.
The SellingGym is a fantastic place to strengthen your Team’s ability to communicate your sales message the way top performers do and dramatically improve their ability to use both consultative and challenger selling methods the same way top performers do. The SellingGym is based on the understanding that most salespeople get very little practice when it comes to the basics in selling so they learn their own style, which, more often than not, is not as effective as what top performers do.
We study top performers, and figure out what they do differently. We teach salespeople to sell the same way top performers do.
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