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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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