In this 3-part series, we’re looking at some bedrock fundamentals of sales coaching … the kind of sales coaching that generates results. In Part One, we talked about the importance of having a practice system that Sales Managers can use to practice with their teams. Imagine an elite sports coach without a practice system and a practice facility? It’s ridiculous, really, to imagine such a thing. Interestingly, more often than not, when you ask Sales Managers to describe the practice system and practice tools they have and are using with their salespeople, they can’t do it… because they don’t have one. So that’s job #1, commit to building a good practice system.
This video will help you understand the 5 distinct roles of the Sales Coach and how practice coaching fits in:
Sales Messaging Is Critical to Sales Coaching
The Founders and Coaches at SalesGym have worked with thousands and thousands of salespeople from many of the best sales organizations in the world. One of the things we’ve learned is that the best sales teams figure out their sales messaging and organize it in a way that is easy for the sales teams to learn, practice and master, in terms of communicating it to prospects and customers.
What exactly do we mean by “Sales Messaging”?
Sales messaging is literally the DNA of great selling… it’s the vocabulary salespeople need to master before they’ll ever get good at tailoring their sales message to the interests and needs of individual decision-makers. Think of sales messaging as the most basic tools a salesperson needs to work on a sale. Just as a painter needs paint, canvass and brushes, and a carpenter needs dependable tools to build a new table, a salesperson needs concise, persuasive sales messaging to move the sales process toward commitments that stick.
Great selling is a combination of creating rapport and chemistry, asking relevant engaging questions and turning what we learn into compelling solutions that resonate with the decision-maker(s). It doesn’t matter what you sell or what your sales process or sales cycle is, these three elements and how skillfully your salespeople execute them, are key determinants of results. Sales messaging is involved in all three steps. We use sales messaging in how we introduce ourselves, how we answer the most basic questions about our company and products, and how we position engaging questions.
We have tested thousands of salespeople from big, medium and small companies… from companies that have great training and companies that have minimal training… and one thing is consistent in virtually all the testing we’ve done … about 70% of all salespeople are ineffective at communicating even the most basic sales messaging on sales calls.
The Two Sales Messaging Areas To Start With
OK, we’re writing this article so you can do something about this pandemic level problem on sales teams. Sales messaging is a big topic, but the place to start is with these two areas. Think of these as the blocking and tackling level foundational sales messaging you need to organize and then engineer into a practice system your front line sales managers and trainers will use to create a high level of sales fluency.
- Competitive Advantages and Differentiating Factors
- Durable Insights to Position Challenger Level Questions
Competitive advantages and differentiating factors is where most sales teams should start in terms of organizing the information salespeople need in order to improve. This is an area where sales leaders can really help their sales teams to improve. What we’ve learned about getting sales messaging into a form where salespeople can learn, practice and master it, boils down to a few steps:
- Identify 5-10 short headlines (10-20 words max) that identify distinct generic differentiating factors your company brings to the table and get them written down.
- Identify a typical decision-maker and write down a 30-45 second, highly tailored example of how to communicate that headline to that specific decision-maker. Do this for each headline.
- Ideally, use peer-to-peer phrasing, meaning uses the words your customers would use to describe your differentiating factors. Eliminate jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords from the explanation. Use the customer’s voice, not the salesperson’s voice. This is a good video on how to do this.
- If possible, record audio examples of each competitive advantage, tailored to specific decision-makers.
- Share this information with the sales team and then practice in sales meetings by asking them to TAILOR their message by focusing on individual differentiating factors, one at a time, focused on specific decision-makers.
- Practice, practice, practice. To develop the skill to be concise, tailored and impactful, it takes practice, and we mean every single week kind of practice.
Once you’ve got those competitive advantages organized, then you need to get some insight-driven positioning statements for engaging open-ended questions organized. One of the reasons salespeople talk too much on sales calls and use so many conversation killing closed-ended questions is they don’t know how to ask a series of questions in a way that is natural, conversational, and doesn’t feel like an interrogation. Too often, salespeople leave sales training thinking they need to ask 4-5 hard-hitting questions in a row but they don’t know how to set up the questions so they’re conversational and not overly aggressive. As a result, they settle into the common bad habit of talking too much and asking a lot of closed-ended questions that lead nowhere.
A positioning insight is a great way to tee up conversation opening questions. For example, here’s how we might do this in a conversation with a Sales Executive when selling SalesGym:
- Julie, one of the things we hear from nearly every sales executive we interview, is that at least half of their salespeople are very likely to talk too much on sales calls and are unable to start a selling interaction with a well-focused agenda that leads to action steps at the end that moves the sales process forward … (here’s the question) … So, I’m curious, what have you observed with your sales team in terms of these two bad habits so many salespeople get into?
- Here’s an example a digital marketing seller might use … Jim, in working with 100’s of restaurant owners like yourself around the country, one of the things we hear is they’re intensely focused on driving more impulse traffic into their restaurants on the days that their business is slowest … for instance, into happy hours, brunches or slow days during the week … (here’s the question) … it might be helpful to share with me what you have done to address this in your six restaurants and where specifically you’d like to improve in terms of driving more traffic on specific days?
Here’s the thing … most salespeople are not that good at coming up with these question positioning insights on the fly. As a result, they end up talking too much. So here are some steps to organize this critically important information:
- Identify the 5-10 most important open-ended questions that salespeople should be asking on most of their sales calls.
- Identify an observation about their peers in terms of a problem they’ve experienced that the prospect or customer is very likely to have as well. Develop 1-3 of these observations for each open-ended question. Write these examples down and ideally, have someone with a great voice record examples that can be shared with the sales team.
- Conduct a drill where the salesperson picks a prospect they know well and then will identify three questions they’d like to ask that prospect but must put together an insightful observation to set up the question. Have them write it out first, then practice it until it sounds natural and conversational.
- If you need help, contact us and we can help you organize your sales messaging.
Finally, remember what Michael Jordan said about practice …
Our most recent book, “Compete Selling”, is loaded with practical ideas to learn how to sell the way top performers do. It’s short, easy to read, and blends the best, most effective ways to use both consultative and challenger-style sales approaches on sales calls.
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