The shorter the cycle and more transactional the sale is, the more the tendency is to use pressure to close the sale. Obviously, there are ways to make pressure work and generate sales, but the cost in terms of the customer experience is often too high. Work on ways to make the buying experience better. Look at how Apple has transformed the customer buying experience with advertising, their Apple Stores and even packaging. Ask your Sales People how customers feel a week after the sale is made and even ask the customers themselves. Focus hard on this aspect of the sales process to make sure the buying experience becomes your competitive advantage.
The Sales Process vs. the Customer's Buying Experience
This seem so obvious but amazingly, most sales training have few, if any, Top Performers come in and give examples and demonstrations of how to execute the sales process. This is a huge wasted opportunity. Top Performers are nearly always more credible, persuasive and convincing than Sales Trainers and it can be a huge burst of positive energy to incorporate them into Sales Training. It can be done efficiently by having them come in for an hour after lunch as opposed to spending the entire day there. Expose new hires to Top Performers early with recordings and live interactions and their performance will accelerate.
"We took your advice and made a bunch of recordings of our Top Performing Sales People using the sales process. We made recordings of the elevator speech, value proposition, how to overcome frequent objections, how they summarize a discovery interview, how they tailor solutions, pretty much every step. We now use those recordings constantly in training and, more importantly, Sales Coaches use them in their interactions with their teams. They are used in sales meetings, on our e-learning platform and even played in executive board meetings.
I am convinced that these recordings are the key that got more of our Sales Coaches actually practicing with their people because with them, even if the Sales Coach can't do great demonstrations, they can fall back on the recordings for support.
There are so many ways to use Top Performer recordings I can't believe we didn't do it before. It's interesting how Sales People now want to be recorded to be part of the influence team.
Christina R. - VP Sales
Luxury Travel Sales
More research and work has been done on documenbting the sales process, buying cycles, account development process and buying personalities in the last 15 years than the previous 2,000 years combined. A lot of this research is done by people that have never been on a real sales call with skeptical prospects and by people who have never had to deal with the pressure of a quota and variable income. That doesn't mean the research is wrong, it just means that there's a tendency to over complicate the sales and sales training process to a degree that benefits consulting companies and authors a lot more than actual sales people. I've seen sales processes that are so involved, complex and steps intensive that virtually no one could follow it.
The fundamental Consultative Sales Process is actually very simple. It starts with rapport, then discovery, then a summary to insure clear understanding, then a tailored solution and the closing process to address buying concerns. Simple doesn't mean easy. Each of those steps requires a lot of skill and fluency and if it isn't done well, it can be painful for the customer. A funny term I heard recently was "discovery fatigue" which describes the frustration prospects have when they're asked too many obvious questions like "what keeps you up at night."
How the Customer Feels at the end of the Process is extremely important and is often an afterthought of these complex multi-step long cycle sales methods. The consultative process, which was originally designed to reduce sales pressure can easily be over done which results in customer frustration because of all the interaction and time needed on their end to give you what you need to make a presentation.
Chapter Overview and Selected Quotes likely to be used
Often, my clients ask me to sit through and evaluate a new Sales Training Program they're thinking of using. I'll never forget one program that taught Sales People how to categorize buyers into 16 different buying personality types with a different strategy for each one. Although the program was interesting, there is absolutely no way even above average Sales People can do that. Even with 4 buying personality types, it's a challenge, but 16? You've got to be kidding. Some of the Sales ideas that come out sell books and make great keynotes, but it just isn't practical for a Sales Person to use. Keep it simple and use practice with the basics to generate better results.
"Every year for the past 7 years, we have tried to bring in some new sales training ideas to keep our training fresh for the Sales Team. What we found was that we were simply giving them too many different ideas that were very hard to execute. This last year, we put an extreme emphasis on just practicing the basics. Asking good questions and giving a good transition summary. Really communicating relevant benefits and competitive advantages tied to what we learned in discovery. On getting the whole Sales Team more consistent at communicating our value proposition and saying effective things in the first 60-seconds of a first telephone contact. Much more practice and much less new content. Our results have been much better."
Alan H. - Sales Executive - Financial Services
"Once a month now, we have a Top Performer Dinner that we host and bring in 2-3 Executives from other parts of the company like finance, operations and manufacturing. We put together a good agenda that gives the Sales People and Sales Managers a chance to diplomatically express some ideas on what could be done to help the Sales People generate more deals. It is a real eye-opener for the Executives that don't interact with Sales People much. They hear the good, bad and ugly and it makes a real difference. It helps tear down barriers and walls too. It's amazing how often we now see guys in Finance picking up the phone and asking for advice from our Sales People because they met them at these dinners and are now friends. It's a really good technique to help the whole company become more customer-focused.
Jerry L. - SVP Sales
"I remember vividly the first time we brought a couple of our Top Performing Sales People into new hire training to give a demonstration of the sales process and do a 60-minute Q & A session. We were really nervous about what they would say because it was impossible to filter their responses.
At the end of the program, nearly all the new hires told us the most valuable element of the entire training was seeing the examples the Top Performers gave and getting a chance to hear directly from them what it takes to succeed.
We have since really expanded their role in all of our Sales Training and it has had a huge impact. We bring in the Top Performing Sales Managers too. It brings in a lot of great energy and has helped our Training Team build a better and more cooperative relationships with the field. Can't recommend this strategy enough.
Tom P. - VP Training
Networking Hardware Sales
More Quotes Added Every Week
Top Executives need to interact with the Top Performers (Sales People and Managers) much more frequently than they usually do. When Senior Executives get most of their information from other Senior Managers, it is typically filtered and sanitized to reduce over reaction. Top Performers have a way of communicating what is going on in the trenches that is NEEDED higher in the executive ranks. This raw, unfiltered view of what customers are saying is like a vitamin booster shot for Senior Executives. Sure, Top Performers can be rough around the edges, but the benefits of pushing field level customer information into the minds of the top decision makers is a huge benefit that many organizations simply ignore.
Outline of Key Points in this chapter:
Most of the answers to how to create more Top Performers at a faster pace can be found by simply observing how Top Performing Sales Managers interact with their Sales Teams and how Top Performing Sales People interact with their customers and prospects. This cannot be emphasized enough. Way too many Sales Executives have absolutely no idea what their Top Producers are actually doing that generates their results. Sure, they're aware of their numbers and productivity stats, but that doesn't inform them of HOW THEY DO IT.
When Top Executives really understand what Top Performers are doing, they can make better decisions to allocate resources to enable more Sales People to do what they're doing. It sounds simple because it is. The side benefit is that all this extra attention helps recognize and appreciate the Top Performers which generates better morale and team energy.
Top Performers are the most valuable resource of a Sales Organization and they need to be treated that way in ways that go far beyond compensation and rewards.