Sales Training Courses

Sales training courses are designed to improve the sales skills of the sales team, from social selling to sales prospecting, cold calling, business development and sales presentation skills to name but a few.

Sales training courses and sales coaching are essential for a salespersons success. The stark reality is that ineffective sales training seriously effects a businesses growth and profitability not to mention employee churn.  Research shows that many CEO’s and people in sales leadership positions believe they obtain little or no return on the sales training they provide. Could this be that in many sales training courses there is a lack of mindset training.

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To build a successful team of salespeople, we should include sales mindset training alongside the list of sales skills training. Because in business, our most valuable asset many not be our product or service, our most valuable could be the mindset of the salespeople.

Sales mindset training extends out to helping individual salespeople to be bolder, to take more calculated chances and to have a more entrepreneurial attitude. On sales training courses, omitting to include “the sales mindset”, will result in the rubber band effect leading to little or no ROI. We know that as we teach the skills and behaviours required to succeed in sales, we stretch the mind of the salespeople. However, if the sales training doesn’t lead to a mindset or values shift, the salesperson just reverts back to type, just the same as a rubber band when you stretch it and release. Sales training courses need to embrace mindset training or accept a limited improvement in sales performance.

So maybe the first lesson on a sales training course is to help salespeople to let go of any biases holding them back. To understand how they contribute to the business world, the value they deliver and why their efforts are important and worthwhile.

Sales Training Courses

So, let’s move onto some other topics to be included on sales training courses.

  1. How to educate a prospect with new perspectives: Coaching a salesperson to open up a prospect’s mind to new, unconsidered and different solutions that solves their challenges.
  2. Collaboration skills: To earn the trust of the modern buyer, salespeople need to take a more collaborative approach to selling. This is about making buying easier, to inform and educate while eliminating the buyer V the seller in the minds of the buyer.
  3. Communicating Value and ROI: The skill to tell stories that clearly communicate the return a customer can expect, and the end result they will achieve.
  4. Active Listening Skills: To put the customer first, to practice actively listen skills so salespeople really learn about the customers business and challenges. Active listening goes hand in hand with great discovery sales questions.
  5. How to identify the prospect’s real needs: If discovery sales questions don’t uncover a buyer’s needs, then a salesperson will have a difficult time positioning the proposed product or service as the solution.
  6. Help prospects buy and overcome obstacles: Understanding the internal workings of the prospects business, creating honest dialog on the process and how to deal with them is important if time wasting is to be avoided.
  7. Create a convincing solution: If you can’t impress a buyer with your proposed solution that communicates how you will help them achieve desired results, you’ll struggle to close.
  8. How to get agreement on the buying process: Training the salesperson to get agreement from the customer on all the steps involved from both sides in the buying process.
  9. Creating a personal value proposition: What does the salesperson represent (linked to sales mindset) and what are the values they hold dear. Creating a personal value proposition and then sharing it builds rapport and trust.
  10. How to differentiate based on USP and the value they will bring: In sales training, too many courses teach salespeople how to differentiate based on product features and benefits. However, prospects are far more interested in the value the product or service will provide including the value of the salesperson themselves to the buying process.

There are many other elements to be shared in the delivery of sales training courses, the sales skills needed to achieve success in a sales career. Developing these skills such as social selling, effective sales techniques and sales prospecting etc take time and will be fine-tuned over time, but the investment in learning and improving oneself is worth it.

Sales Training Ideas

Looking for some sales training ideas to boost salesperson engagement? Here are some sales training ideas to give you some food for thought on what information to impart on a sales training course.

Sales training is mainly separated into two categories, the first is learning about the core aspects of different sales techniques such as – lead generation, sales prospecting, business development, the sales process, sales presentation skills etc. This sales training would be customized for the sales techniques that work best in a specific industry or profile of buyer. The second category is very company focused training such as – training on the company’s products or services, the sales process deployed, the internal sales playbook, and the sales assets, tools and resources the sales team will use.

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Sales Training Course

While successful salespeople have similar characteristics, the truth is no one is born with all the sales skills and knowledge to sell at a high level, these are acquired skills. This is why sales training is a crucial part of helping new and existing salespeople deliver on the potential they displayed during the interview process. Sales training should help the new and existing team of salespeople to develop and practice the skills they will need to succeed. Sales training should also include elements that help increase the confidence levels of the salespeople not just in the sales techniques but in the company’s unique value proposition.

 

Sales Training Ideas for Sales Success

Sales Training Tip 1. Teach salespeople to know what they want.

Research shows that the No.1 question salespeople have is “What do you want me to do”, which is very relevant. So maybe the first sales training session could be to answer this question and then proceed to asking the sales people what do they want to achieve in their career. What goals are they setting in place, what are their expectations, what time will they set aside to invest in their own self development, what do they believe are the traits of a successful salesperson. People perform best when they already know what is wanted out of them plus it’s much easier for them to do what the business is asking of them if during the sales training you tell them exactly what that is.

Sales Training Tip 2. Teach the salespeople the companies value proposition plus get them to craft their own personal value proposition.

It is amazing how many salespeople do not understand or can communicate their companies value proposition. Also, if the new salespeople are involved in prospecting or business development, they will need to have crafted their own personal value proposition. Any salesperson whether new or experienced needs to be able to clearly explain why a customer should choose them over a competitor. It may sound simplistic but if your salespeople can’t convey a value proposition, they will struggle with buyer engagement. In modern selling, every salesperson must be able to create value with a customer by (a) what they sell AND (b) the way they sell.

Sales Training Tip 3. All salespeople should understand the sales process.

The new salespeople should be taught that the sales process is a set of predictable, repeatable steps that they take with a customer/prospect to progress them through the sales funnel to becoming a paying customer.

This is an example of a straight forward sales process used by many companies.

Step 1. Sales Prospecting: Salesperson (using Ideal Customer Profiles), researches and identifies list of potential customers with 2 or 3 contacts per company.

Step 2. Sales Touch Points: The salesperson plans out a series of sales touch points (email, social selling, phone call) to engage the prospect.

Step 3. Closing the Conversion Gap: Now the salesperson will use sales tools and sales assets along with seeking to understand the prospects needs and challenges in order to close the conversion gap and get the prospect to enter a buying process.

Step 4. Presenting and Selling: This is the top of the iceberg in selling terms, the salesperson will outline to the customer (and buying committee) how the product/service can solve their needs plus why buying from them will make their lives easier.

Step 5. Customer Verification: Every good sales process should have a series of customer verification points along the way, this high-level customer verification is constructed to qualify the prospect. Customer verification at this point in the sales process can include free trials, proof of concept, budget confirmation, timescales, free consultancy etc.

Step 6. Closing the Sale: This is negotiating and contract phase around final pricing, roll-out, implementation or delivery.

 

Sales Training Tip 4. Teach salespeople the sales habit loop.

This is about teaching salespeople in sales effectiveness. Helping them to cue up sales activity, to have sales routines, time management, how to reward themselves for tasks completed. The output is for salespeople to take ownership for their roles and success.

Sales Training Tip 5. Show them how to use a multi-channel approach.

Today, for a salesperson to increase their sales funnel and drive up the close rates, they need to be skilled in using a multi-channel approach in engaging customers. They need to understand the impact of social media and content on the buyer’s journey, learn social selling, how to use digital assets, how to do social listening, how to craft well written emails and how to use content (whitepapers, research) in the sales process.

Sales Training Tip 6. Make the sales training digestible.

The days of a 5-day sales training courses are gone, research shows that training works best in consolidated chunks of information. Keep each sales training module short. Use concentrated (ten to twenty minutes) learning sessions that contain focused material that immediately hits the point with the salesperson on that particular topic. Give them access to online sales training and point them to freely available learning material for their own commitment to improving their skills.

Sales Training Tip 7. Show them where to find and access sales assets.

From using LinkedIn, researching profiles and in accessing sales assets, to boost a new salespersons productivity you need to make information easy to access, searchable and fast.  Where to access sales tools and sales assets such as content should be part of their daily sales habit loop. If using CRM, them make such all information integrated.

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Sales Training Tip 8. Introduce Gamification.

Create sales games using real customer case studies, then introduce interactive activities. Set challenges for the salespeople across all steps in the sales process. Then have them provide answers and plans. Gamification in sales training is fun and can rapidly improve retention.

Sales Training Tip 9. Start with easy steps.

Depending on your business model or product, start the new salespeople on the easier (nothing easy in sales!!) steps in the sales process. That could be identify 100 prospects for a new product launch, to phone back lost business for research purposes or helping out on the products that are easier to sell. Nothing builds confidence more than successfully completing a sales task with the managers approval.Sales Training

Tip 10. Use E-Learning to Educate.

We live in the digital age where technology has replaced the need for traveling and lost sales time. The use of online sales training, video and E-learning allows salespeople to continually refresh their sales skills outside of working hours or while on the go. Using online training videos and modules, it drives ownership back to the salesperson for knowledge acquisition.

Sales Training Tip 11. Don’t overload them with information.

In line with sales tip 8, be careful not to overload a new hire with every aspect of the sales (and even if you do teach this information right away, it likely won’t be retained).

Break down each step in the sales process and learning the next step in the sales process should be a reward for mastering the previous one.

So, there you have some sales training ideas to use on a sales training course. The buyer supplier relationship along with how buyers engage with vendors is changing rapidly. So, sales training will have to become more dynamic and digitally driven, just like our buyers.

Note: This article was has been republished courtesy of The Digital Sales Institute from their article – Sales Training Tips and Ideas

Cold Calling Tips

Cold Calling Tips

Cold calling as a sales tactic still has its part to play in the sales process, but only if it is planned and executed properly. These cold calling tips will help your sales prospecting efforts so you can engage more people, more often.

If there is one aspect in selling that can cause sales reluctance, then it has to be cold calling. But it is part and parcel of reaching out to connect, engage and acquire new customers. Off course we all would prefer qualified inbound leads to sell to, however the reality is for a business to grow it needs a multi-effort approach to finding new customers.

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Cold calling tips

 

  1. Understand Your Prospect.

Create an Ideal Customer Profile to understand what your prospects likely challenges and pain points. Also, you need to see the bigger picture in their industry and what trends could be shaping their buying decisions as it relates to what you are selling.

Today, cold calling really only works if it is part of a wider prospect engagement strategy, a dial and smile approach just will not work.  Researching your prospect list against a profile is vital if you are to see success. Do not value your sales pitch above the investment you will need to make in the prospect at the end of phone. Understanding your prospects, their industry, news, market trends and your own product fit is a necessary activity before you begin cold calling. The better you do this, the higher the likelihood that the prospect will be more responsive to call. Ask yourself, what key pieces of information or insights will you share with them, to get them to listen to you?

  1. The Preparation.

The amount of preparation and planning for your cold calling activity will probably determine your level of success. Can you detail out the sales assets you will use? What other touch points or interactions with the prospect have you had prior to the call?  What is your value proposition to this list of prospects? In the critical opening minutes, you need to be able to communicate your value proposition to the prospect clearly and confidently. Very few 100% cold calls result in any form of success. In your preparation you should plan out which other sales touch points (emails, social selling, LinkedIn etc) you will use as to increase your chances of having a real-time conversation.

  1. Know your Goals.

Remember that cold calling is more than just rattling off some prepared sales script. The purpose of any cold call has to be focused on getting the prospect to listen by sharing some useful information and then move on to a discussion about their challenges. One goal could be to identify a person’s role in the purchasing decision for the product you selling.  Take the time to be clear about your goals and what outcomes you desire before you make those calls.

Cold Calling Tip: Connect and engage with users, gatekeepers and influencers at every company you target. It is rare today for 1 single person to make a purchasing decision.

  1. Put the prospects interests before your own.

If any salesperson approaches prospects with a blatantly obvious sales pitch, then they should expect a blatantly obvious response. The key to unlocking cold calling success begins and ends with the prospects best interests at heart. Adapt the mindset of a trusted adviser who will be a useful and valuable resource to the prospect, one who shares quality insights, is credible and knowledgeable. The priority is not about the product or service you sell but rather on the prospects needs, because if your mindset is on prioritising a prospect needs, you are now there to bring improvement to their roles and problems.

If you believe in what you sell and your personal value proposition to the prospect is genuine, then nothing will stop you.

  1. Your value proposition must be on target.

Does your value proposition bring clarity from the noise that surrounds your prospects working day? Are you clear on the value of your solution and how it will appeal to the prospects situation? What pain points or challenges are you addressing – will it save money, save time, improve productivity, reduce risk, speed up progress.  Is your value proposition compelling enough for them to stay on the phone to learn more? Do you have statistics, case studies and industry knowledge to back your value proposition so you are seen as an expert or adviser? The reason you are calling them is that your research, planning and preparation have indicated that you have something to share which is worth their while listening. You are not there to waste their time or share useless information. Successful cold calling is based on that you know why you are calling and why they should listen.

Cold Calling Tip: Include social media listening for trigger events as part of your research and preparation.

  1. Look for trigger events.

The activity of selling in itself does not cause someone to buy. Many buying decisions are as a result of a trigger event which requires a challenge or pain point to be resolved.  You can tap into these signals also known as trigger events by engaging in social media listening. As part of your daily sales habits, you should try to look for signals or triggers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Alerts or News sites to keep tabs on recent happenings relating to your prospect list.

A list of trigger events to start a buyer’s journey include:

New senior hires. A new member of a company’s leadership team will invariable want to prove their value and make changes, so they are more open to new solutions. I’m not suggesting you go after this person but rather focus on your target prospect who could be a hero to the new boss by introducing new vendors.

Winning a large deal or customer wins. Could this open the door to an opportunity for your offerings. At the very least, reach out to the prospect to congratulate and see what impact this will have on their roles or business.

Company expansion. New hires, moving office, opening a new location or a geographical change is a trigger event that qualifies as an introduction opportunity.

Regulation or Industry Shift. Use social listening to keep abreast of any pending regulation changes or any industry trends that could shift a prospect from his or her status quo position. Educate yourself on these shifts to present yourself as an expert and trusted source of information.

Company Acquisitions or Mergers. If you already supply into a similar company or have a relationship with either party, this trigger event can be a great opportunity to get engage a prospect.

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  1. Build Credibility.

Your credibility comes to the fore when a prospect asks themselves “why should I listen to this person?” Did your value proposition deliver for you? One of the main ways to achieve credibility in the eyes of a prospect is to use some social proof in your value proposition. The use of social proof has become important in any sales prospecting activity from social selling to exploratory emails because it shows your prospects how your product has helped other people with similar pain points. It has to be genuine, so share a success story or case study of a company you helped who had challenges similar to the ones you believe your prospect may have.

So, Yes. Cold Calling can work!!

However, there is an investment required in order to make cold calling and sales prospecting successful. It starts with making it part of your daily sales habit loop and like every positive habit, you must want to do it and also have reason to do it. The success of cold calling will emerge from the investment you make in researching, planning, preparing and then your willingness to call and call again is what differentiates success from failure.

Selling Skills That Every Salesperson Needs

There is a whole range of selling skills that every salesperson needs to be successful in the modern sales 3.0 era. Thanks to the digital influenced world we live in, how salespeople sell has changed. The role of a salesperson is constantly evolving and a more consultative selling skill set is now required in most sales roles.

However, regardless of any sales methodology, one fact remains true: Successful salespeople will always be looking at ways to enhance their selling skills to achieve higher levels of performance. Whether it is getting better at social networking (social selling), developing their personal brand, improving how to do sales prospecting or account management, the reality is salespeople need support from sales management plus access to continuous sales coaching.

Both at the company and individual salesperson level, everyone has to invest more time learning and understanding the art and science of selling in today’s fast paced buying environment.

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Selling Skills Every Good Salesperson Needs

  • To have empathy and take the time to really understand a prospect’s needs
  • Ability to engage with a prospect at their level and on their terms
  • Is seen to add value to the prospect or customer at every stage of the process
  • An active listener along with skilled at asking questions to uncover challenges or objections
  • Can create a vision for the value that their product will bring for the buyer’s business

Let’s deep a little deeper as these selling skills.

Confidence and a can-do attitude.

Average salespeople do what is required, great salespeople do whatever it takes. A career in sales can be a bumpy road, salespeople suffer all manner of rejections by prospective customers along the way, and they need to be resilient, confident plus maintain a positive can-do attitude from the get go.

A winning mindset in sales “is not a question of do you know it, but rather of one ‘Do you want to do it?”. Because “If you want to do it, you will acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.”  In a sales career, a salespersons most valuable asset is not their value proposition, nor their sales scripts, nor their contact lists. Their most valuable asset is their mindset.

A confidence mindset allows salespeople to transfer belief in themselves and what they are selling to the customer.

An active listener and skilled at understanding the customers’ needs

Research has shown that successful selling is 54% listening and 46% talking. Whether prospecting or business development, active listening to really understand a customer’s needs (they may not even be aware of a need you have flagged as a result of listening to them) is a critical sales skill. Active listening isn’t passive as it involves asking clarifying questions. Salespeople need to understand it is more than just hearing what is being said. It means being constantly attentive to what the customer is saying and truly understand the sentiment or position of the other person.

We know that sales conversations are the key to successful selling in the complex, consultative, or solution type sale. So, effective sales conversations are the result of the salesperson taking responsibility for both their speaking and their audience’s listening.

Rapport building and selling their personality

Another critical sales skill to the ability to establish rapport and relatedness that opens trust with the buyer. So, selling their personality (and personal brand) is incredibly valuable. Being genuinely interested, authentic and engaging is the major plank in gaining buyers trust. Let’s take one step back, because great rapport building can be linked to the research a salesperson does prior to engaging a customer. Sharing insights and asking unique questions related directly to the customers business lets them know that the salesperson is not there just to run through the typical sales conversation.

Even in this digital world, people buy people. It’s about convincing the customer to listen in the first instance and then work towards gaining their trust that the salesperson is the best person to sell the product to them. A salesperson needs to sell their talents (product or market knowledge, problem solver etc) but, even more importantly, they have to sell their personality.

Business acumen and a drive for continuous self-improvement

Top salespeople possess a genuine interest in how business works. They have business acumen, an entrepreneurial drive and ability to self-evaluate their own performance. They can use this to engage customers and then create opportunities where they may not seem to exist. Successful salespeople also display a characteristic of business curiosity. They research and plan out the right questions to ask plus they seek out the right people to ask those questions to, along with finding the answers.

The forward thing sales professional will always see a sale through from execution to delivery as they value customers opinions and referral potential.

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Sales habit loop for sales consistency.

Salespeople have to acquire the skill via sales training that sales negotiation is a process not an event. This means having a well-planned out sales habit loop that consistently addresses all parts of the sales process. They pay attention to the 3Ps of selling – Prepare, Probe, and Propose.

So, there you have some of the selling skills that every salesperson needs. These critical sales skills that can make a difference in how salespeople sell – listening, rapport building, empathy, storytelling, and thinking on their feet, are things that most people in sales can probably do, yet ask ourselves – How much opportunity do they get to practice them? Sales leaders need to create a time and place to allow salespeople practice the more human side of selling to be successful in the sales 3.0 world.

Sales Prospecting

Sales prospecting is not an easy sales activity. It is a sales technique that requires training and constant attention to the latest developments in prospect engagement or lead generation tactics. Sales prospecting is a critical aspect of the sales process as the biggest challenge in sales is getting an opportunity started in the first place.

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Sales Prospecting Should Match the Buyers Journey

Nearly all buyers go through a number of stages on their buyer’s journey. Along the way they will make decisions on the importance level of solving the pain point, they will evaluate the available solutions plus assess vendors who they feel can suitable. In the early to middles stages of the buyer’s journey, sales prospecting is about bringing clarity and communicating a value proposition to the prospect. A potential customer will also need to be convinced of how familiar they believe a salesperson is with their business needs. The outcome of a prospects decision or considerations can be linked back to how well a salesperson has built trust and confidence through the various sales prospecting interactions.

Successful sales prospecting ensures that all interactions and sales communication are geared towards creating specific outcomes, not for the salesperson but for the potential customer. A focus that outlines how the company can make the prospects life easier, their jobs more rewarding and outcomes that simplifies their buyers journey.

Sales Prospecting Tips

 

  1. Selecting target prospects to engage.

Use ideal customer profiles to map the buyers journey. Before a salesperson reaches out via social selling, cold email or phone call they need to be able to answer “why are they on the list of prospects”. What information, signals or insights would make them a potential customer?

Sales prospecting where salespeople have to find or create opportunities is not easy. It involves quite a bit of effort to establish credibility and to get the prospect to listen to what the salesperson has to offer. Sales prospecting has to be a planned, organized activity as random prospecting is mainly a waste of time. Core to every good salesperson sales prospecting activities, is the importance of understanding the company’s needs, as well as the prospects desired outcome they will get by using the proposed product or solution. Using LinkedIn, Google search, Forums and Business directories are the most effective and efficient way to find quality prospects that match a company’s ideal customer profiles.

 

  1. Create a Strong Value Proposition.

Sales Prospecting Tips from The Digital Sales Institute on Vimeo.

Never forget that a prospect only cares about their problems, their challenges and their pain points. They are not looking for a nine-inch drill, they are looking for a nine-inch hole. They want to listen to salespeople who make sense, who create value, who are credible and who will make their lives easier, this includes helping them through the stages on the buyer’s journey. Prospects don’t want to listen to product pitches. A prospect wants to hear solutions to their pains and problems, evidence that others have experienced this and got a resolution. They don’t need more vanilla flavoured sales messages. They want a value proposition that will make it worthwhile their time listening to a salesperson. They want insights, they want to see the end result (without the sales pitch) from the earliest step in the buying process.

So, create a strong value proposition and ask “Will it get a prospect to listen?”

 

  1. Social Media is a Key Activity in Sales Prospecting.

Social media is playing an increasingly bigger part in purchasing decisions and B2B buyers are being influenced more and more by social media. Within the next decade, the majority of B2B buyers will be digital native. Social media will be their go to channel to research, connect, reference and to educate. Social media not only gives salespeople access to buyer profiles, but rich data such as background history, connections, similarities, likes, interests and deep insights into the company. Social listening can throw up signals about the prospects needs, trends in their market or challenges within their industry. All this data can be used in prospecting research and in the creation of a value proposition for a specific market.

Also, social selling along with the growth of inbound lead generation have surpassed the older, more traditional forms of sales prospecting. Whatever other sales prospecting tactics a salesperson uses, the use of social media and social selling has to be on their list.

 

  1. Learn to use Sales Tools and share Content.

Potential customers value content that helps educate and fill in some blanks for them. As more and more selling will be conducted via the digital channels, sales teams need to up-skill on the use of sales tools and content (articles, whitepapers, research etc) to engage a prospect. Content that supports sales prospecting activity must be based on fulfilling the customers’ needs and requirements. The goal is that they build a trusted connection with the salesperson via their interactions. Buyers are drawn to thought leaders and surveys show they prefer interaction with salespeople whom they consider to be a trusted adviser.

Many companies are now prioritising the education of their target audience through the creation of deep and insightful content assets that makes buying easier, and they are doing this with a customer first approach.

Sales tools such as video, ROI calculators, AI, scenario planning, live webinars, messaging channels and virtual tours will continue to grow.

Sales prospecting prioritises building longer term relationships

Always take into account that at any time, just 3% of your target market are actively seeking to purchase with approx. another 6 to 7 percent in the consideration stage. This leaves a whopping 90% of an addressable market that is in “the status quo position”. The fact is that while a prospect may have pain points, no salesperson has made them critical enough that a buyer wants to prioritize a solution.

Salespeople can get lucky with sales prospecting and find the 3 to 10% of the market seeking or considering to purchase now. However, to be truly successful a salesperson will need sales training to nurture more relationships. Nurturing and engaging a focused group of ideal customer profiles should be an essential part of every sales prospecting strategy. This takes time and skill but sales prospecting is now about getting in early, building credibility, cultivating a relationship and getting the prospects trust that when the time is right, they will move with the salesperson who has influenced them the most.

Regards

Brian

The Bitter Business

Matching Sales Training to the Buyer’s Journey

Matching sales training to the buyer’s journey is essential when designing not just your sales training courses but also as part of your digital selling strategy. Developing a deep understanding of your customer profiles and their buying journey is critical in getting a sales force to engage a company’s target audience. When done correctly, matching sales training to the buyer’s journey will improve the effectiveness of your sales strategy and dramatically increase sales growth.

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Sales Training Class

We know that social media and the digital channels provide buyers with self-education which leads to greater autonomy when making buying decisions. Which poses the question, “If most of the information they would need to make an informed decision when considering a purchase is available online, what is the role of the modern salesperson?

Sales leaders need to ask where does sales prospecting and customer acquisition tactics fit into engaging buyers in the digitally influenced sales process.

 Defining the buyer’s journey 

Defining the buyers journey is not so much about “what is it” but “HOW is it” enacted. A simple definition could be – The process a buyer goes through to become aware of, consider, evaluate, and then decide on purchasing a product or service.

In the buyer’s journey, the biggest change is in the “awareness’ and “consideration” stages. In these stages, social media now plays a bigger part than the traditional sales engagement. Is this a failure by business to address this in sales training (by providing better sales prospecting tactics) or have we just ceded a vital part of customer acquisition to the internet?

Matching sales training to the buyer’s journey

This will ensure a sales team that is skilled in using a multi-channel approach to nurturing a target set of customers throughout the buying process.  This is now essential for any business to attract buyers towards purchasing your product or service. Salespeople need to have a clear understanding of what the customer expects at each stage of the buying process. It is the responsibility of sales leadership to provide the training, coaching and guidance to help them interact with potential customers with relevant content and messaging at every stage.

There is no mystery in the digitally influenced buyers journey, the key to successfully engaging customers on their buyer’s journey is constant engagement. Digital sales transformation is being rolled out in sales training to teach salespeople how to skilfully engage with prospects throughout each stage of their journey. The goal is not just selling but to build trust and rapport between the business and the prospect. Research shows that the biggest differentiator in selling success may just be getting the prospect trust. So, if you can build credibility, usefulness and trust above your competitors in the chase to win business, it will give you the advantage when converting a prospect into a customer.

Stages in the Buyers Journey

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B2B Buyers journey

The buyers journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realises they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.

Awareness.

In the Awareness stage, a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So, does your sales training cover off:

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritised?

Consideration 

Next is the Consideration stage, here the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self-educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Again, sales training needs to address:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Decision.

The third stage is Decision. The buyer has arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions the sales training material should cover:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When the buyers comes to researching you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

Some sales training tips 

It is important to break down each step in your sales process and then match your sales training to the buyer’s journey. Each sales training session should focus on a step in the sales process including what sales assets, content and information to use. For a salesperson, learning the next step in the sales process should be a reward for mastering the previous one.

The buyer to supplier relationship along with how buyers engage with salespeople is changing rapidly. Your sales strategy , sales process and  sales training will have to become more dynamic, multi-channel and digitally driven, just like our customers.

Learn Social Selling Online

Learn social selling online. If you are stuck for time or prefer to learn at your own pace, then The Digital Sales Institute will help train you to become an expert in social selling.  No doubting that a digital element touches some part of the sales process and sales is constantly trying to keep up with this changing buyer interaction.  We all need more prospects to engage with, and research shows we can spend up to 40% of our time trying to find them. The old reliable – cold calling has limited or even zero success. Inbound leads will only get so far in delivering a steady stream of prospects. The result is a large portion of time searching on the social networks to find leads to fill your pipeline. It could be that you are frustrated with the results of your social activity or maybe your efforts are not getting results you had expected or you are paying too much for a sales lead using Google Adwords etc.

In the digitally connected era, The buyers journey has changed. Even B2B BUYERS have adopted consumer-like behaviour. They now conduct their own product research online, they self discover, seek out information via the social channels, and often make purchasing decisions without any or limited sales persons involvement. Those customers who engage with sales people are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. The reality is that the influence of social media on buyers has fundamentally changed the way sales people engage with customers. The way we sell has changed dramatically and will continue to change as digital natives become the major buying force.

 

The use of social media to generate sales is no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. It’s not about pushing out generic sales messages. It’s about engaging in social conversations. It’s about looking for signals and triggers, connecting and engaging with people.
With over 2.4 billion social media users covering business and consumer, you need to be where the fish are swimming. Did you know that 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors. While a Harvard study showed that 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold calling.

Social selling could be the closest you can get to being a fly on the office wall of your prospects. Learn to find out Where they hang out digitally. What language do they use. How socially active are your prospects. What external content do they share or engage with. There is a glittering treasure trove of social data ready to be used if you know how to tap into it. Let the Digital Sales Institute show you the skills to successfully social sell. Now is the time to transform your sales skills for the digital age.

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Social selling is now the fastest growing sales tactic in the sales process, used successfully by thousands of sales people globally. Our course clients for “Social Selling Training” are seeing increased sales performance, and increased buyer engagement.  Working at your own pace, The Digital Sales Institute will guide you to becoming a social selling expert with deep insights into the key aspects of social and digital selling. From social profiles and social purpose, to buyer engagement, through to digital sales expertise, you will acquire the skills to become a social selling expert.

A Social Selling Guide for Sales Leaders

A social selling strategy starts at the top. If sales management and senior executives are suspicious about social media – if they only see risk, their people wasting time clicking “Like” buttons and employees posting funny pictures, then they would be right to draw down the shutters and, in the process, cut off the opportunity social media presents.

If, on the other hand, they want to become a social business and prepared to invest in training to optimise its potential and reduce risk, to reconfigure operations so that departments work together digitally, not in silos. Then social selling could be the key to unlocking the data insights into customers and prospects. Where do they engage, digitally? What language do they use? How active are they? What external content do they share? There is a mountain of social data out there if a business knows how to mine it.

Some 62 per cent of Irish companies said they used social media platforms as their primary method for connecting with customers, up from 58 per cent and 46 per cent in 2014 and 2013 respectively.   (Compiled by CSO December 2015)

So how many of our companies have formal social selling programs, policies and KPI’s in place?

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The social networks allow us to interact with other human beings in meaningful ways online. Social Selling is an evolutionary step forward making the sales process more productive and meaningful. It is not about using social media to shout at, stalk, or spam people digitally. It is not about employing the social channels to replace cold calling/sales outreach or replacing the telephone with Twitter and LinkedIn.

The reality is that integrating social media into your team’s selling process is a must if you expect your salespeople to break through the competitive clutter and reach buyers who are better informed and more digitally connected than ever before.

A well planned social selling program will see sellers will use the online channels at the front end of the sales cycle to be useful, to network, build their online brand, and be found, demonstrate credibility, generate leads and conduct presales customer engagement. Social channels can and should also be used to nurture existing customer relationships and as part of account based management

To turn your sales organisation into a social selling machine, you need to do these things:

Accept that buyer behaviour and the buyers journey has changed. Sales management must shift their mindsets. The selling world is different than it was five or ten years ago. Some if not most of the sales tactics that worked when a business was building its customer base, are not working for sales teams today. Saturated with sales approaches, buyers ignore phone calls and emails from people they have never heard off. It takes so much more effort to break through the noise these days. Sales people must alter their sales approach.  The role of sales leadership is to help them learn how to do it.

Develop a social selling strategy. Engage both the marketing and sales teams as part of the planning process.  Be careful not to head straight for social selling training without having thought through items like culture, change, KPI’s, content and making social selling a consistent activity. Heading straight to tactics without executive sponsorship and a well developed plan is a recipe for failure.

Establish social etiquette and social media guidelines. Sales people need to know what is expected of them from their actions online. Sales people present themselves PLUS the company brand. Remember what is posted online stays there is forever, while mistakes are bound to happen a business can reduce any risk by ensuring that all the sales teams understand the art of communicating online. As important is to teach them what is and is not appropriate to say and do on behalf of your company when they are using social networks as part of their selling activities. Less than 26% of sales people know how to use social media correctly as part of their sales activities.

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Include social selling training into the bigger sales training plan. The digitally connected buyer means that sales behaviours have to change and sales people need to understand how to strategically use the social networks in the right way. If a company or sales people just view social channels as a vehicle to spam prospects with vanilla sales pitches, a huge opportunity will be wasted, and the company brand is put at serious risk. Social training should be ongoing and not just a one-time event at the end of induction training.

Implement and focus on the metrics. Social activity is not about doing more – make more connections, send more invitations, or do more demos. Without the right metrics and KPI’s, sales teams can waste a lot of time hitting like buttons. Without clear goals and objective sales people do not link their social behaviour to social etiquette, policies or structure. They commit “random acts of social” where at times self-promotion takes precedent over company promotion. The quality of sales activities as a result of social selling is what counts. Using the social networks to attain measurable sales results is more important than checking off the box that says sales person A sent 50 connection requests.

Be realistic in your expectations. Using the social channels is not a quick fix to increasing sales pipeline and revenue. No one who implemented a social selling plan saw results overnight. No surprise here as this is no different from any other sales tactics a business may have invested in for the sales teams. When it comes to the social channels learning how to do things differently does take time. This is why the planning that goes into providing the sales training and coaching that sales people need is vital so these new approaches bear fruit overtime.

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Social selling is an additive process. This is not a replacement for phone calls and prospecting emails. It is an additive approach, a prescriptive process like another arrow in the quiver that you should think about, “How do I apply social to every prospect, every deal, every account, every single day for no more than 30 to 60 minutes a day.

Forward thinking sales leaders know that social selling is not some snake oil, nor is it a gimmicky approach to selling. These leaders know social selling is another set of sales tools and an evolution in how we reach buyers in the digital era. Social selling is a complement to traditional sales methods—not a revolutionary approach that replaces them. Social selling, due to its ability to enhance the customer journey, is an incredibly powerful sales tool. But, like any tool, its value and utility are ultimately tied to the skills of the individual employing it.

B2B Sales Techniques for a Digital World

The buyer’s journey is changing sales models and how B2B sales teams sell. Sales 2.0 as a sales technique has been around nearly ten years now but still many companies struggle to embrace it. If you are in B2B sales then Forester projects that over the next four years, 1 million B2B sales people will be replaced by self-service e-commerce. Those that want to have a long term career in sales will have to up-skill and move away from transactional selling while companies will have to embrace a sales model along with sales processes that adds value to the buyer’s journey.

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One Million US B2B Salespeople Will Lose Their Jobs to Self-Service e-commerce by 2020

The reality is (and numerous research proves it) that increasingly B2B buyers prefer to research solutions online plus then conclude the cycle by buying the products and services via the web. How many companies still insist buyers to engage with their sales teams as part of the buying process? Maybe it’s time for sales leaders to transform the historical sales models, one which facilitates a highly social, seamless buying environment where maybe the website and not the sales teams are at the heart of how companies procure and sell.

So are B2B sales dying? Absolutely not but it does mean we have to recalibrate our view of the sales process and what it means to be a sales professional. The sales funnel is no longer being calibrated and decided by sales as the buyers decides where they are in the process. The good news is that a company’s potential customer base is bigger than ever, thanks to social media, the web and accessibility of communication paths to buyers.

Sales needs to rethink where and how to add value in the buying process, when and with what should sales people engage with the buyer so it improves the buyers journey are critical questions coming down the line. The old sales methodologies of marketing bringing in leads for the sales funnel where sales would then commence the process to qualify prospects based on some internal criteria to narrow down the focus to the most likely to convert to customers is disappearing.

It just does not work like that any more. Buyers are not travelling a journey prescribed in some sales manual or CRM system; they are taking their own journey and leaving sales models in the rear view mirror. But the key message for sales here is NOT about catching up (more sales training anyone) with the buyer’s journey but where along the road can we add value. It is about the buyer needing information, resources, guidance, advice and help depending where they are on the journey,

Below are some suggestions on what it will take to be successful in sales for the road ahead and to add value to the buyer in their journey

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CONTENT TIMING IS VITAL AS BUYERS MOVE ALONG THE ROAD.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements

A recent report from Forrester showed that over 33% of B2B marketers acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to deliver relevant content to specific buyers when the time is right. I recently wrote about “How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way” which may be worth reading.

IF OVER 66% OF THE BUYER’S JOURNEY IS DIGITAL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE WELL ROAD SIGNED.

If you read up on new sales methodologies or social selling, you have probably read that 67% of the buyer’s journey happens before sales ever get involved. Well this does not have to come true. Yes buyers are doing research online before contacting sales, so smart sales teams should position themselves as helpful signs or stopping of points along the way. Social selling, credible social presence, inviting and quality (even personalised) content will help flag you to buyer’s as they travel in search of solutions.

BUYERS TRUST OTHER TRAVELLERS ALONG THE JOURNEY, SO SALES CANNOT BE STRANGERS HITCHING A LIFT AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.

Research shows that only approx. nine percent of B2B buyers trust vendor content especially when it comes to data and claims. So they look for independent signs and also they trust information that comes from people they trust: valued social influencers, social network connections, ex-colleagues and friends. Sales has to work hard to get trust by offering valued contributions, staying in touch with existing buyers and sharing information that helps even when it’s not your own. Avoid the big neon signs about special offers, free coffee for everyone and buy today. Seek first to understand (where is the buyer on the journey) and then let the buyer be understood (what do they expect). A socially engaged sales mentality is a must.

INVITING THE BUYER IN WITH GENUINE HOSPITALITY WILL BE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE.

This is not an outbound V inbound argument, outbound sales will always have a place, it’s just about deciding where to place it! Day was when only cold calling and mass broadcasting was the only way for companies to talk to buyers. Sales 2.0 along with social media have flipped this on its head. In an Aberdeen Group report, they found that on average, the most successful sales firms got sixty percent of marketing leads from outbound marketing, while forty percent came through inbound efforts. However the inbound leads converted at a higher rate. The lesson here is these firms used content and not sales pitches to invite the buyer in regardless of whether outbound or inbound. Be a trusted, helpful resource to the buyer along the journey and not interrupting them is the way to get the attention of buyers.

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SALES AND MARKETING ALIGNMENT

Finally, one last thought. On the buyer’s journey, sales, marketing and customer service are seen as a single entity. The term “Smarketing” has been thrown into the mix as a means to convey that sales, marketing and customer service have to collaborate more closely. All departments working as one will create a deeper understanding of the journey a customer takes to engage with your company.

In the socially connected, social media business world, everything moves at a faster pace and this is driven by the buyer. Any business that hopes to get the attention of the traffic on buyers road then they must understand where the potential buyers are coming from, what they demand along the way, and be wherever they need you to be with the right service.

The Sales Process

The sales process is a repeatable model that a business deploys for the sales teams to follow when moving a buyer from being a prospect, to a qualified lead and on to a paying customer.  This is an introduction to defining what is process could look like for your company.

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A sales process could be split into segments such as Knowledge, Research and Sales.

Knowledge

Product features and benefits  – Competition

Research

Define target market – Ideal Customer Profile – Sales intelligence on prospects

Sales

Prospecting/Social Selling/Lead Generation
Connecting
Presenting
Closing
Continuation

While the “Sales” element is the implementation aspect of a sales process, incorporating Knowledge and Research ensures a more holistic approach to customer acquisition. The below is a condensed version of how a sales process  template might look.

TYPICAL STEPS IN THE SALES PROCESS

Prospecting

This is the 1st step and involves finding new leads or “lead generation”. Prospecting is based on the research you have completed into potential buyers. Now using this information the sales teams use social selling, content sharing, social networking and any data to tee up the prospect prior to connecting.  Prospecting is not a smash and grab event, it may take weeks or months to build up enough influence with a buyer before a connection is made.

Connecting

This step entails initiating a contact with the set of prospects the sales person has teed up as to understand their business, uncover needs, gather more information, see if a product to prospect fit exists and gauge their potential to move up down the sales pipeline. This step may be played out over several conversations and may include site visits, free trials, free samples, product demonstrations and proof of concepts prior to moving down the pipeline to the presenting step.

Presenting

This step is about formally presenting your proposal or solution. It can include some sort of buyer urgency lever in certain situations. In value based or consultative selling this step can be time consuming, so it should positioned deep into the sales process for well qualified prospects. This step also covers off any objections, hurdles or customer policy adherence. Again, this step may take time and repeated interactions to conclude.

Closing

This step is involves buyer realisation of opting for your offering, concluding any final negotiations or pricing and buy-in of all decision makers.  It most companies it concludes with a Purchase order, signed order or contract.

Sales Process is Different from Sales Methodology

Now that we have covered off the “sales process”, I want to introduce the phrase “sales methodology”. Sales process is different from methodology and here is why.

The sales process (what to do) refers to mapping out specific steps, criteria and list of actions that a sales person must follow including updating the sales pipeline, in acquiring a paying customer.

The sales methodology (how to do it) is the approach or framework given to the sales team via training on how each step in the sales process is expected to be carried out.

Nearly every company needs both, a strong sales process and a sales team trained on the sales methodology which has been proven to deliver success.

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Examples of Sales Methodologies

Solution Selling

Solution selling has been around for over 30 years, this method involves needs discovery which then focuses on the customer’s pain points ahead of promoting the company’s products. Products are instead framed as solutions, and emphasis is placed on achieving agreement on what a resolution of the customers’ pain would look like.

Consultative Selling

This method grew out of solution selling, it differs in that consultative selling is centred on the sales person positioning themselves as a “trusted advisor” to the buyer, the premise being that they will gain authority and trust as time goes by in the buyers journey towards a purchase.

The Challenger Sale method

The Challenger Sale method is taken from a book of the same name.  The book outlines some five types of sales peoples profiles, the hard worker, the relationship builder, the problem solver, the lone wolf, and the challenger. The challenger profile was the one matched to high performance in sales. The challenger is characterised by a willingness to invest in learning about a buyers business, then to challenge the customer on their preconceptions (technology adaption, product match, ideal solution) during the sales process.

Social Selling

Social selling can be seen both as a sales model and methodology. It continues to rise in popularity alongside the rapid evolvement of the buyers journey from “being educated” to “self educated”. While not strictly selling, this method is weighted to driving up prospect engagement (with content, white papers, social conversations) by first creating great awareness and then getting buyers to consider the company. This acts as a prelude to direct customer connection.

Sales is a Process, Not an Event

Implementing a sales process with clear steps should result in:

Improved Outcomes. When carried out via a series of set actions, outcomes will improve leading to sales and higher margins.

Repeatable Activity. All sales activities should be repeated and repeatable to obtain the same desired outcome by any sales person time and time again.

Measurable Results. All outcomes that can be measured and compared

Relevant to All. A well mapped out sales process can be duplicated for other units or divisions.

Just having a documented sales process in place will not guarantee anything. Just like looking at someone’s LinkedIn doesn’t lead to a hot lead. Proper and repeated use is what makes the difference.

Regardless of the sales process steps or even the sales methodology you deploy as a company, success in sales hangs on two key locks, the ability to establishing real credibility and the ability to build trust with the buyers. Once your sales model is set up to achieve these two things then revenue will get generated. As buyers are now social in nature (and become digital natives) it is important to understand their journey. It is now all about the buyer as they are in control; they know what they want and when they want it. The key for sales leaders is to make sure that the sales organisations and sales training processes are in line with the buyers signals and expectations.

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.