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?

social-networks

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.

sales-process

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.

social-media-infographic

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.

b2b-sales

 

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

b2b-buyers journey

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.

buyer-stages

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.

sales-process

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.

sales-process-methodology

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 Funnel Improvement Tips

How many people in sales really understand the sales funnel, the sales pipeline and the objections that can clog up the process? Success for many companies and start-ups depends on if they can shorten the sales cycle and speed up the sales process. It may come as a surprise to many sales managers that it is not product knowledge or productivity that separates out the good from the average in the race to revenue. The biggest key to unlocking revenue in sales is to understand the buyer’s perception of time.

sales-funnel-graph

The ability to move customers (cost of customer acquisition) through the sales funnel fast enough to bring in revenue can be the difference between success and failure no matter how good a business believes its product to be.

Even the sales and marketing gurus at HubSpot stated “buyer’s lack of urgency is the number one objection we face in the sales process.” So for sales teams to be successful, especially start-ups, they have to create a sense of urgency to move prospects faster through the pipeline.

The reality is that in today’s fast paced business environment, time is a scarce commodity. The seller’s time is scarce (need revenue) and the buyer’s time is scarce (need value now). Unlocking this time scarcity and getting the buyer to focus in on it is the key to a repeatable sales process and the means to a healthy sales pipeline.

The advent of inbound marketing and buyers own journey of discovery has seen seller time scarcity work well as a tactic. This tactic works well as the inbound customer is likely to be in the “consideration” or “Intent to buy” phases of the sales funnel, and moving closer to making a purchase. This is where seller scarcity nudges the buyer down the funnel. There are many types of seller scarcity from the instant discount for decision now; daily offer only, limited number of units available at the price, free express shipping or the free trials offering etc.

Buyer urgency presents a greater challenge. How many times have you heard the phrase “Can you get back to me in a month” While sometimes genuine (if qualified), most won’t remember your name by the time you call back a month later

The key to triggering a sense of urgency during an outbound sales call is to get some information about a business goal that needs attention. A sales person time is scare, if a business goal cannot be identified then move on. A question such as when is the latest you need to solve/resolve/have in place X?, is designed to probe as to find an urgent need within the business that justifies the prospect spending time engaging with a sales person.

From experience and monitoring sales processes, I believe a sense of urgency is best addressed after the goal priority phase of the discovery conversation. Once a goal that the seller offering can fulfil has been identified, then explore why it is prudent for the prospect to address the pain now. All sales people should be versed in communicating the negative consequences of inaction and the positive implications of addressing things now. A 3 step approach is to

Probe for negative consequences

Probe into the negative consequences at overall company level

Probe for positive implications

The sales skill and ability to bring a prospect through this dialogue is really important. The skill is for both the seller and buyer to understand the buyer’s priorities and how the sales person can help now.

Without a sense of urgency in sales, buyer desire loses its value

If I was selling data, I would probe how urgently the buyer needs to increase leads in the sales funnel or how urgently the data team needs to provide information to product managers, sales, marketing and finance. Another tactic is to sell risk reduction (use us as a backup vendor) to protect a business against the current supplier not delivering or if they are stretched. Computer and technology companies (we used this at Dell as a beachhead strategy) to invoke urgency as a way to sell products even if only small amount initially.

As part of sales training or as part of the sales interview all sales people should be able to ask and understand these same three questions:

  1. Why does the prospect need to take action today?
  2. What are the negative implications if they don’t?
  3. What are the positive implications if they do?

Ask any venture capitalist or business leader and they will tell you that faster sales cycles are a competitive advantage. Because faster sales cycles enable companies not just to acquire customer faster but to refine their sales techniques quicker, measure sales people faster, improve sales training and test marketing and lead sources instantly.

But much more important, moving sales faster through the sales funnel means speedier growth, which impacts any fundraising requirements and scaling headcount. For SaaS based start up companies, we know that product-to-market fit is vital, and developing urgency to prospects in the sales processes is equally vital.

Any sales strategy that unlocks time scarcity and motivates the buyer to act now forms the basis of a great sales unit that can stand the test of time.

Sales Training Tips

Sales training today focuses allot around the use of sales tools, CRM and how to use the social networks to sell. The sales training tips in this article might help the sales team sell better and faster without the hype or jargon that often surrounds sales training.

Sales Training Bad News

When sales people lack training or not briefed properly on how to use the various sales tools effectively, then companies can spend a lot of time, energy and training resources with zero impact on sales results.

Sales Training Good News

A well structured, social network geared sales training program supported by a culture of learning will cultivate sales team that are willing, eager and ready to use new sales tools and understand the product (s) to market fit.

sales-training-tips

Supporting the Sales Strategy

Most sales management and sales leaders have been to the annual sales strategy meeting where the VP of sales or CEO outlines improving sales performance as a core strategic initiative for the next year, and all departments from marketing to finance are directed to help sales achieve the goals set.

A sudden surge of energy and activity happens to meet the goals and sales objectives. The product team has plans for new and better margin products; marketing has plans to create new content marketing tactics, product positioning, white papers, collateral and lead generation activities that will drive higher volumes of leads to the sales team. Sales management starts to put initiatives in place to optimize sales coverage by region or segment. In fact the entire company is doing their part in supporting the new re-energized sales effort.

Believe it or not but this type of top down directed activity can easily result in costly and wasteful effort that only confuses the sales people and even customers.

It is the gift of any CEO to set strategic goals for sales. Whether they are realistic or stretched it is the role of sales management to ensure sales training and the sales training process reflects the reality of the markets and the buyer’s journey. Even with the new surge in activity around the company, remaining locked –on to sales training that moves the dial on sales behaviour.  This is what will help the sales team meet the needs of customers or buyers in today’s digital influenced world.

The goal of any sales training is to help the sales team to sell more and sell more often. To drive up sales values and drive down the sales cycle the sales behaviours must change, which does require work and constant re-evaluation. However when the sales team is successful in increasing the top line revenue or margin then the rewards are worth the effort.

Most Sales Training Does Not Work.

According to sales research from Forrester:

65% of buyers “almost always” or “most of the time” choose suppliers who work with them to extract value from a vision.

80% of buyers will spend more money with companies who understand their business.

So what does this mean?

85% of buyers now find meetings with sales people from new suppliers ineffective!

56% of buyers say that companies, who understand their business and are focused on helping solve identified problems, are more strategic.

How can your sales organization change behaviour to improve a team’s productivity and help clients see a clear path to value?

Excellent sales training coupled with sales enablement tools (customer insights, social selling tools, big data) can be the cornerstone for companies to hit and exceed the sales targets and fulfilling the buyer’s needs.

social-media-strategy sales training

SALES TRAINING TIP 1

Too often the vast majority of sales training centres on a one time event. This could be new sales hire on boarding or else maybe at the annual sales kickoff. Then the sales people are back in their sales roles and focused on generating revenue, meeting or exceeding sales targets.

The results for this type of sales training programs speak for themselves; sales teams who participate in ongoing sales training are more effective than those sales teams who receive occasional training. Why? Research shows 84% of sales training content is forgotten within thirty days, so ongoing training ensures the sales teams are buyer ready as they engage with customer conversations.

Sales people receive an average of 31.5 hours of training a year, and 63% of sales people say it is not enough and in employee surveys state that the biggest need for investment within their company is ongoing coaching. Source: Association for Talent Development

Also the employee surveys also point out the need for updated training materials. 62% of training sales professionals say their companies sales training materials should be updated every 3-6 months in keep pace with developments, but 42% of sales trainers say that their sales training content gets updated only once a year.

As the buyers journey is changing rapidly and impacting the purchasing cycle, leaving the sales training program the same for a year or more creates a vicious cycle: outdated sales messaging can cause confusion to the sales team causing sales to be out of the loop when trying to engage buyers for the products and services being sold.

Sales like sport works on “practice makes perfect” and ongoing training bridges the knowledge gap between yearly sales kick-offs and daily job performance. Due to the impact of the social networks on the buying process, data shows that many sales teams are coming into the buyer’s journey too late and with unsuitable solutions. For a sales person being knowledgeable about a company is just one part of sales training, the other part is communicating the sales messages and having the skills to get the sale by getting in front of the buyer early. This is where new sales tools, like social media lead generation, data insights and social selling are helping sales teams get buyer ready. Growth focused companies are blending ongoing sales training with the latest sales tools.

Any and all sales managers should step up the effort for ongoing and updated sales training. As few as 32% of companies describe their sales training programs as “effective” and 48% of sales trainers state their companies sales training content is not engaging. In fact 25% of sales trainers say the training content does not match the sales teams need for multi-channel selling. The sales training tip is to improve ongoing training, improve content and improve knowledge.

SALES TRAINING TIP 2

Do not substitute sales training time by just providing more sales enablement tools. Sales enablement is all about arming the sales team with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue. Sales enablement tools and content sharing tools are now valuable resources that help sales move the selling process along. Sales enablement tools are now an essential part of the selling kit but just equipping people with tools is not enough.

Sales enablement tools are designed to give sales people the ability to engage buyers in valuable and relevant conversations based on data gathered. But true sales success is more than a great set of tools. When the sales teams are not properly trained and not skilled in using the sales tools appropriately, companies can invest a lot of time, resources and money to accomplish little return.

So think “cart and horse” or “car and fuel”, it takes one to move the other. Ongoing and regular sales training builds the knowledge and skills that when combined with sales enablement tools will build an effective sales team.

It is the responsibility of the whole company to enable the sales team. So without the resources to an ongoing sales training program, any strategic sales initiative is likely to end up another top down directed activity with limited sales metric improvement.

Sales Call Structure – Sell Successfully

In the digital sales world, the art of making a sales call has been overlooked, so today lots of sales people do not understand the nuances involved in making successful sales calls. Whether the sales call is cold, as a result of a web lead or inbound enquiry always approach the sales call with the same degree of attention to detail. I have put together a few tips to help remind sales people on how to master a sales conversation and turn those conversations into sales.

“Plan your work and work your plan”

Always Be Prepared to Succeed

sales-process

Before ever picking up the phone, go to the various social media sites and Google to get the insight on the company you are going to call, the same applies to the contact with whom you intend to speak with. Think about why are calling them, what is it in for them, what is your unique selling point for this prospect and what you want to achieve out of the conversation. Plan your opening statement and personalise your value proposition into a few sentences (why should they continue to listen to you!). It is also a good idea to craft a few different value propositions to appeal to people in different industries or situations.

Time the Run

The contact has answered the phone (make sure to use their name and your name and company on the intro). Try NOT to ask them whether now is a good time to talk as your sales call might be heading to the exit door marked “call back” and in the process, you may be forced to end the call, missing the opportunity to talk with the contact but most of all missing the chance to get them to listen about a solution that could help them. (If you don’t believe your solution can solve an identified problem then don’t bother calling)

Why not try a simple opening such as “How are you today?” This can provide the type of feedback you might only discover through body language. Now listen to the contact’s tone of voice to determine whether they are in an engaging mood or sound distracted. The key is to quickly determine whether to reschedule the call, adjust the sales pitch (length) or proceed as initially planned.

Master the Delivery

It is what you say and HOW you say it. As the contact cannot see you, your voice and the quality of the information you impart is what is going to keep this call going. Always have a friendly tone, speak clearly and use voice inflection to get attention. Talk at a measured pace, be concise , let your words flow naturally and use some facts with a raised pitch showing confidence so you can move to the next step with the contacts approval (this doesn’t mean asking them, you presume and move seamlessly to next step). Have you brand or company sales pitch down pat, always be ready to answer “What do you offer different from my current supplier?

A training tip if you do not feel comfortable with the delivery is to practice and record some trial calls or ask a buddy or ask a sales trainer to score you. When you listen back to the phone recording, pay attention that your voice sounded confidence and the words flowed like a natural conversation.

sales-steps

Discover the Opportunity

Now that you have got the attention of the contact with your opening delivery statement, the next step is to start the discovery process to find out if any opportunity exists, and if so, what it is or what does it look like?. All sales opportunities should tick these three boxes. Budget. Need. Authority.

Your friend here is the WWWWWW – who, why, what, where, when, who. These are the classic open-ended questions that encourage open discussion and help you to clarify the competitive landscape. Do not leave these questions to chance, prepare in advance. Some sample questions to use could include:

  • Where are your major challenges (in role or product stack)?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • When do you conduct reviews (relating to vendors/solutions)?
  • What problems are you facing in (personalise to your product)?
  • Have you tried to solve these issues?  If so, how?
  • What solutions would you consider?
  • How soon do you want to find a solution?
  • What is the decision making process for us to progress?
  • What is the budget to address the situation?

The idea is to have a number of questions from which the answers should give a good indication whether there is a business opportunity or not. The questions should try to get to the prospects pain points; this is the start of an agreement staircase and helps you move on to the next step in the sales process. However don’t move the sales process on just for the sake of a sales pipeline report, if no opportunity exists or can’t be clarified then value your time and move on.

Stir into Action

Less than 2% of sales are made on the first contact, in fact over 80% of sales are concluded between the fifth and twelfth sales contact. So you are probably not going to go right for the sale on the 1st call but still need to advance the opportunity. So, what did you plan to achieve from this sales call? If the door is open to proceed now it is time to get agreement with your prospect on the next action. For example, if you are selling a SaaS solution, you might ask them to sign up for a free trial. Always clarify the action, agree, and repeat the value proposition then set a time to follow up to gain his or her feedback.

In all likelihood there will be several steps in the sales cycle to move from the initial discovery phase through to closing a sale. Therefore, think about your sales training, then map out your sales process and steps from initial awareness to consideration (plot the buyers journey) so you stay in control and on course to closing the deal.

The more you practise your sales calls, the better your results.

Selling Techniques

In sales, for selling techniques to work effectively there needs to be clarity in both the actual sales role and in the process of selling. Successful selling is about always having a clear objective based on where we are in the sales process.

Challenge the buyer’s journey

Sales people can too often view the sales process as a linear process with a WIN/LOSS outcome at the end where the prospect either chooses you or the competition. There is a third option which studies show that effects up to sixty percent of deals getting marked lost, this is the “No Decision” scenario where the prospect parks the deal due to the fear of change or just don’t see the value. One selling technique is to challenge the status quo of the win/loss scenario and focus on getting buyers to see that change (choosing your solution) can make them a hero, will make life easier and has value far beyond the price being paid.

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Find the USP

In the sales process there will always be some overlap between what you provide and what the competition can provide to a prospective customer. Stark reality is that the overlap could be as high as sixty or seventy percent. Do not fall into the sales trap of over focusing on “parity areas” against competitors in the sales process. Rather sales people should focus on what they can do for the customer that is absolutely different from what the competition can do; this is your “Unique Selling Point.” Your USP has to be unique to your solution, identified as being important to the customer, and can be defended when push comes to shove.

Share social stories with real meaning

Sales and marketing messaging is about telling a company’s story in such a way that it attracts prospects to the business and eventually turns them into customers. The challenge for every company and sales person is to share stories (social selling) that differentiate from the competitors. Sharing stories with real meaning can help create a powerful perception of value in a customer’s mind. So we need to tell the “before” story and the “after” story, real verifiable stories, meaningful stories, stories with emotion. Share real stories about the people who were affected by the challenges in the business area they were working in. Then share how their situation became easier, more productive, or less stressful after using your solution to the problem.

The customer is the Hero

Every story has a hero. The hero who got things sorted. In business, the customer is always the hero, the hero who identified the problem, who foreseen change was needed, that there was a better way. Reality check, it is NOT you, your company or your solution. The customer is the one who needs to save the day, not you. Selling has changed, the sales role is to adopt the position of a mentor, listening, helping, guiding and sharing stories to customers so they can see what needs to be changed and how they can thrive into the future.

Focus on the customer

Successful selling starts by really listening to the customer, the challenges they have and what they want to solve, rather than just trying to find a reason to sell them something. No such thing as a standard sales presentation, each one should be tailored so the way you present your product or service will match each and every customer’s requirements. This solution selling technique is a far more powerful than delivering a template driven, general purpose sales pitch. Now your sales message can pinpoint exactly how your product suits the customer, highlighting the points where you have a competitive advantage (USP). While at the same time, the more information you know about a customer’s position and what your product could potentially do for them, the more likely you can prove its value to them, hence reducing the fear to change barrier.

Focus on the right customers

Customer acquisition and lead nurturing is about focusing on the right customers. Ask the question “Who do I sell to?” No point hunting down prospects if the solution you have is not a right fit. While sales training should include sales tips on getting past the gatekeepers such as secretaries and to create interest, they do not tell you which customers to approach. Take the time to understand where your company can beat the competition, then research customer profiles, draw up a list of prospects, engage with social selling to create awareness to put you in a strong position when it comes to considering you or your solution. Also knowing who your ideal customer profile is will help open up a sales story and why it is worth a customers’ time talking to you. Knowing when to sell and knowing when to walk away is a selling technique not being taught enough.

Clarity in the Sales Process

Think of a sales process as a series of steps to get from A to Z. Does the sales process have or include a free trial, an on-site visit, face-to-face meeting, proof of concept or maybe a product demonstration? What processes have proven most successful in the past? On every customer interaction, ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this and where are we in the sales process? Clarity in the sales process gives you a framework and the time to create a buying vision, the reasons and case why the customer will change (challenge the buyers journey) plus the time to share social stories to show how the prospect’s world can change for the better.

Be Systematic

Success is based on hard work and skill not luck. A systematic approach to selling is critical to sales success. Have a daily, weekly and monthly plan for lead generation, sales calls, social selling, pipeline development and deals secured with specific targets in each area. Much of this sales activity is a question of efficient time management so before you start your week, check your sales process and then plan the number of events you want to progress.

In sales, we are today where our selling techniques have brought us. We will be tomorrow where our selling techniques take us.

Sales Techniques

Every sales professional should have a reference library on effective selling techniques. There are lots of sales trainers who dispel “sales wisdom” which in reality does not help the sales person improve their sales close rates. Gathered from sales interviews and insights from sales leaders here are some really effective selling techniques that have been proven to work. Ten sales technique tips that might help improve sales performance.

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  1. Find the real problem or pain point the prospect is communicating. Do not fall into the trap of assuming that the prospect is communicating the true problem that needs solving, the so called “red herring”. It is important to dive deeper into every customer scenario. Like a doctor, a sales professional must ask “is this the prospects real pain point or is it just a niggle?” Then prior to diagnosing and offering a solution on how to address their challenges, more questions needs to be asked in order to get at the root of the customers problem or pain, and then it is the job of the sales person to demonstrate value to the prospect by aligning the product to the customers real goal.
  2. Telling is not Selling. In the agreement staircase a sales professional should always be helping the potential customer discover the best reasons to buy from their company and never ever telling them why they should. The potential customer should have decided they will be buying from you before the final proposal or presentation.
  3. Two ears and one mouth. The gift of the gab does not hold true. Sales people should seek first to understand then be understood. The first priority is about listening and asking questions. In a digital world, if a prospect wants the lowdown on a company’s products or services, all they have to do is visit the website. Selling is a series of conversations, and building trust via honest exchange of information.
  4. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Buyers go through a process of self-discovery and education before reaching a decision on which product or service is the right solution. Customers do not like being railroaded and to be told what to buy. To avoid the “selling by telling” scenario, it is critical to ask key questions or relate the “feel, felt, found” third party stories which guides the customer to discover the benefits and advantages of your product or services. When a sales person asks open-ended questions that leads to a discovery, the customer themselves owns the discovery and buyer resistance reduces. Customers do not tend to argue with their own logic.
  5. Ask, Sell, Educate. The first goal in selling is to find prospects and then ask why, and under what circumstances, the prospect will buy from you. Asking questions and listening comes first, the sharing of materials, data and specifics comes next. Ask, Sell, Educate in that order.
  6. A Sales person’s time is valuable too. As the sales conversation progress, a sales person must make the decision whether or not to continue investing time in the relationship building with the prospect. If a sales person is a poor decision maker in order to keep the prospect on their pipeline, the lack of clarity and decisive action will be mirrored in the prospect’s actions. A golden rule of sales is the shorter the selling cycle, the more leads that will close.
  7. Never Assume. A good sales professional always gets the facts from the prospect about what they need and why. When a prospect is vague with detail, ask for clarity. Never fall into the trap of being a mind reader. When sales people jump to conclusions, assumptions are made that lead to a waste of valuable time and opportunities being squandered.  As the saying goes, Assume is to make an ass out of you and me.
  8. Never work for Free. When and if a prospect asks for free work, proof of concept or consultancy before they will make a buying decision, play the “What If” sales game. Paint a what if picture to the prospect where the additional groundwork or consultancy is completed which is then a solution that fits everything the prospect needs, what happens next?, will they give you the purchase order? If the prospect flinches at sealing the deal even after the additional free work is completed, or if they introduce another step in the sales process, it may be time to walk away or focus on the new step in the sales process.  When you want to know where you stand, focus on the present.
  9. Be tough on yourself. It can be too easy to cast blame on the prospect for stalling the process or wasting your time. Instead, look towards yourself. It is the role of every sales person to guide, assure and inform the prospect plus address any detours along the way. The most effective way to improve sales success is to continue to refine your own sales approach and technique while valuing your time.
  10. Never perfume the pig. Never ignore any product limitations or cover over any issues the prospect identifies during the sales process. Always try to be open and transparent on product advantages, parity and disadvantages during the selling cycle. The prospect will respect a sales person that is mature enough to never to try and blanket over anything, instead turn the focus on how together you can problem solve, creating a win/win team approach to the prospects solution.

So there you have the ten sales techniques, it is not an exhaustive list or even suggesting it is all encompassing, but even if you find one suggestion that will work for you in your sales career then maybe the ten minutes spent reading this article was worth it. Happy selling and for more sales tips articles visit the Bitter Business.

Get the Sales Team Selling

To win more customers and grow, every business needs to focus on getting the sales team selling, they need to get sold on sales actions and sales time not just the company’s sales process. One question any salesperson needs clarification on is “what do you want me to do”. Seems like a easy question for a sales leader to answer,”Go sell”. So what does selling actually mean in your business?, is it revenue, margin, revenue by product line, number of new deals?. Once upon a time selling was easily quantified. In the day of the door to door sales, all a sales person needed was the product to demo and enough streets with enough door bells to ring. Simple numbers game, keep knocking until someone opens, give the sales pitch and close.

Today in the digital era, sales has moved inside, online, blended, push,pull, hunter,miner, gatherer and the systems supporting the sales process have gotten more complicated. First we had contact management with software programs like Goldmine, then came CRM and now Sales Force Automation.Which makes me wonder, has actual selling time got second billing to the sales process?, are sales people more engaged in the sales process and systems than the actual selling itself?. Maybe its time to spend longer fighting for more sales!

selling-time

Sales models for many companies have become more complex and less efficient in the quest for data, putting pressure on the rate they can acquire customers, productivity and even shifting the focus point from selling time to process time.

The guiding principle of all sales and marketing teams is to maximise selling time, lead generation and relationship building. That may sound obvious to any sales leader, but it is important to remember that the drive for data and sales insights can collide with the forces of rising complexity in the sales process. In fact, sales teams can over time slip comfortable into being sales processors against being sales winners. Companies must understand and clarify the scope of their sales teams while promoting efficiency throughout the sales process.

There are thousands of ways to kill a sale but only a few ways to win them. Some ways to kill a sale are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing a realtionship, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers… the list goes on. These can be easy to identify and with some training and practice can be overcome.

Then there are the sales killers that hide beneath the surface that many companies and sales managers do not even know exist. These are the sales weaknesses in the sales process (over reporting anyone?) which when combined with a salesperson’s own make-up can act like weights pulling down the sales efforts and results.

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Aligning your selling efforts with sales process takes work. Sometimes companies can be cautious about meddling with the sales force—directors and even owners need to overcome the common fear that disrupting it will hamper revenue or market intelligence. Then, other stake holders from not only sales, marketing and sales support but also other functions, such as finance, must work together to identify and prioritise the expected outputs from the sales engine. Next, successful sales teams transformations require support from the very top: someone has to take the lead, get the senior people from across the company to sit down, share data, and be willing to talk about what’s not working. This leader must override internal concerns, see the big picture, and focus on the best solutions to boost the time spent selling regardless of past practices.
Changing the sales focus and sales teams activities may mean changing the sales talent as successful sales teams refocusing may change how people carry out their roles and the ways other stakeholders interact, from customers to marketing and back offices.

Finally, winning back and protecting selling time for sales people to sell requires vigilance. The growth of multi channels marketing and sales channels in the  B2B and B2C markets can demand non-selling activities into the sales teams day. In addition, old habits chip away at selling time: a salespersons ingrained response when a customer needs a quick answer to something is to drop everything and dive in, even when a well mapped out sales support or customer support mechanism is in place to handle any issue faster and better. The new mantra has to be “A sales teams time is better used to sell.”

An example of refocusing the sales team selling time, was an Internet company who set aggressive targets for sales metrics such as the number of new customer interactions per week. Giving the sales people goals they could not meet without changing their behavior forced them to adopt to the change in sales focus. Success became self-reinforcing: the more they stayed in the business of selling the better they performed.

 In larger companies, viewing sales operations across departments may not be easy, nor is implementing changes that affect the entire sales process. Yet the more sales operations can be streamlined and admin reduced, the more likely customer satisfaction will improve as deals close quickly and sales pipeline grows faster. At these companies, the result can often be millions of Euros in higher revenues and lower sales costs.

Get the right sales people and channel in front of the customer at the right time.

It may not be enough to transform the sales teams by hiring people with the skills and capabilities to sell solutions to target sectors. Companies might have to restructure their sales coverage model, which means defining the sales roles differently. The questions to ask, include how much hunting versus gathering capacity to employ; what the role of sales specialists should be; whether to use one or multiple sales people to serve a segment or customers across different geographies.

When to hunt for new customers and when to mine deeper within current customers is one of the answers that needs to be made explicit to any sales team. Too many sales people often get comfortable serving their current customers, so an obvious initial step is to charge them with becoming more aggressive about mining the largest customers to their full potential. At the same time, however, the life blood of any business is acquiring new customers.

That’s why an effective coverage model needs to be deliberate about who should be hunting and where. Sales managers should meet regularly with hunting sales people to understand and actively refine their target prospects and beach-head plans. Given the degree of sales difficulty and the strategic value of acquiring new customers, sellers should receive a compensation recognition for breaking into new accounts.

Whether hunting,farming or mining, it’s critical to get the mix and sequence of sales skills, sales training and specialists right. Do not ignore a sales stream because there’s no sales expert in-house to cover the area with the skills the target customers considers crucial.

Sales people need to learn and be taught how to orchestrate effective teaming. Like musicians who seamlessly improvise back and forth after they have played together several times, salespeople who get to know and trust one another tend to sell together more effectively.

Sales people need to get sold on selling again,

They need to understand that new customer conversations are a priority, building and expanding relationships is more important that a spreadsheet and get the answer to “what do you want me to do?.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.