At SalesGym, we interview dozens of top sales executives every year to find out new thinking and trends on top performers, coaching and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with Alex Loza, Entertainment Director with Valassis Communications, Inc. he shared some powerful insights into top performing salespeople and how they approach selling in a more creative way.
Alex has found salespeople in today’s world need to be more engaging storytellers, better listeners and need sales managers that help them think and communicate in new, better ways.
Creativity and the ability to see the big picture, is essential in a top performer. -Alex Loza, Entertainment Director with Valassis Communications, Inc. Click To Tweet
“Creativity and the ability to see the big picture, is essential in a top performer. Being able to get creative and think outside the box is critical nowadays in sales because of the intense competition, and the ever-changing industries and technologies. Having the ability to see the big picture to push the right products and how it fits the overall objective or idea the client is trying to address is crucial.”
Bringing out this creativity and creating a culture where sales teams learn to sell more creatively can be a key to building stronger sales teams.
It all starts with better listening
The insights-led selling selling approaches that are so popular today have changed the way managers think about the skills their sales teams need. What we’ve found, at SalesGym, is that the best salespeople, whether they’re more consultative or more assertive with the insights-led approach, tend to be better listeners and ask better, more relevant questions. Alex adds,
“Skills needed in sales to truly succeed is listening and understanding. By having these two skills, we can understand not to jump the gun on something but rather listen, so you know how to respond to a client.”
|Walked into appointments with extreme curiousity||Do more research before meeting buyers|
|Didn't have as much access to information about buyers||Position questions with decision influencing insights|
|Asked a lot more upfront rapport building questions||Much more attention to the consensus driven buying process|
|Looked for solutions to problems they believed customers understood||Lead prospects to learn problems they aren't even aware of|
|Relationship building through understanding of needs drove the process||Can tell stories of how other customers make better buying decisions|
|Operated in an environment where customer loyalty was higher||Uncover costs savings and hidden risks in far more creative ways|
It’s important to remember that listening is a two-way street. The best salespeople, not only listen better themselves, but cause their prospects and customers to listen in a more engaging and receptive way. Thousands of pages are written about why salespeople need to listen, but they also need to communicate in such a way that causes better listening on the other side of the desk.
More and more buyers tell us how annoying it is to meet with salespeople that aren’t doing the basic research on their company that could easily be done on the internet. Depending on the product and the buyer, more research is needed before we start asking questions. So, it’s often the combination of research, summarizing and asking great springboard questions off of that research that gives the best salespeople a real advantage. Buyers want new ideas and intel on what their competitors are doing to solve similar problems.
Alex adds the element of storytelling to the equation…
“Before any meeting starts, you should do all the research and know everything that you need to know. There needs to be a story behind the product, and you need to tailor it based on what you’ve learned about them and their business. If they can tell the story clients tend to listen more and see the unique qualities you possess to be creative for their company.”
From selling solutions to storytelling
Alex has observed…
“We still go in assuming. We have to position ourselves as not necessarily ‘I know the answer but let me help you uncover the answer with what I know.’ A lot of times we fail because we pigeonhole ourselves into corners that are really difficult to get out of because we make too strong of assumptions. We need to position ourselves as the expert in a category and focus on the story not the pen.”
We’ve found, from many sales team training projects, that most salespeople need practice on sales messaging and sales process in order to become better communicators and storytellers. Yes, they need to understand the sales process, all the decision influencers and how the buying cycle works. They need to be able to control and move the sales process forward and there are endless training options in these areas. Sales messaging, however, is just as important and is often the better place to start if you want to build a more confident and effective sales team.
The best communicators use stories to get their message across and this is especially true in sales. Stories are more engaging and memorable and are the perfect vehicle to bring often dull products and services to life. Attention is the gateway to influence and stories can capture attention better than dry product explanations. Alex reminds us…You need to be solving something for someone. Be storytellers not solution sellers. -Alex Loza, Entertainment Director with Valassis Communications, Inc. Click To Tweet
Start with mastering the basics…competitive advantages
“If you were to ask most salespeople a simple question like what makes your company different and better than your competitors, I would say 80% of them would fail to give you a very simple and relatable answer. It’s amazing, with as simple as that question maybe, the the long-winded responses and even the approach that people take with that.”
The building blocks of great sales messaging are competitive advantages, differentiating factors and durable, reusable buying criteria insights that many buyers just aren’t considering. If salespeople cannot confidently and concisely communicate these basics, they are going to lack the confidence and credibility they need to compete.
“To better enable our salespeople to answer simple questions like, ‘what makes your company different and better than your competitors’, as Leaders and as organizations, from upper management down to frontline management we need to get away from cookie cutter responses. We can’t teach elevator pitches. We need to teach key points and bullet points and teach various scenarios for those differentiators, because people memorize stuff and sound so robotic that it’s not even relatable. It’s amazing how many people just tank and freeze and can’t even communicate a one sentence phrase of why we’re different. Teaching bullet points and not providing verbatim pitches will allow salespeople to get creative on how they position themselves and their company’s differentiators.”
A skills building exercise to try...
- Pick a prospect or a customer
- Answer the question, as if talking to that person, what makes you better or different than your competitor
- Record it and assign the task of making it 25% more relevant and specific to the prospect’s situation in round two
- Assign a round three and compare the improvement from the first version
- Repeat the exercise with other prospects in mind on a weekly basis
Most sales organizations would do themselves a big favor if they would simply create a one page document with 5-7 standout competitive advantages the entire sales team could use. Ideally, each competitive advantage would have a short 5-10 word headline followed by a brief explanation with engaging customer oriented phrasing. Without that, salespeople figure it out on their own and, in many cases, it leads to poor results.
Thoughts for Sales Managers
Alex shared five key ideas with us that can help sales managers generate better team results:
- "In sales. you get a lot of 'No's' ... so if I had 30 minutes a week to train my team I would focus on building their confidence and helping them learn from those failures and strengthening those sales skills they already have to build resiliency that goes along with so many 'No's' they receive in our industry."
- "The best sales managers are listening, coaching, and evolving each member on a person-by-person basis. Everybody is different, and there is not a one size fits all approach. The best truly understands who their salespeople are, how they function, and reward them with what matters to them."
- "Some leaders start to fail because they start trying to lead the sale, rather than bettering the sale, and enhancing the skills of their sales reps."
- "When they are stuck in a situation where there's not an immediate answer, they default to selling themselves and take over the conversation because the rep is not doing it right. When this happens, some resentment can build because they think they are not valued, and the leader does not trust them."
- "People don't leave their jobs because they don't like their jobs, people leave because they don't like their leader." "People don't leave their jobs because they don't like their jobs, people leave because they don't like their leader.">
The 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.