If you could only teach one component of the sales process, what would it be?
I am writing a book on my own proprietary sales process. I would like to get some supporting insights from top sales people from around the world. Best answers may be used as supporting quotations in my book (with permission of course!).
How to read someone.
While some would suggest listening is the most important skill, it's only a tool to help us read someone. Clients always give visual hints on buying decisions, affordability, personal achievement benefits, and the like. By watching the person closely (and listening intently) you can know the exact steps needed to close a deal.
I even recommend having an extra person during negotiations that does nothing but watch the clients actions and reactions to everything said. This gives the team a clear understanding of what it takes to create a win/win for all involved.
I agree with Lauren, below, who speaks of authentic listening. I would also add, authentic asking. With all of the social media, and search options available today, most customers have done a lot of research about the market and products before they even talk to you. The added value you bring to them is understanding their business, objectives (by asking / listening), and then providing your expert advice on how your product can best help them meet their goal/solve their problem.
Prospecting. Several answers ran through my head after reading this question. I chose prospecting because you can be the most talented salesman in the world and you are dead before you get started if you don't put effort into prospecting. Working hard on prospecting has helped me to beat out much more talented reps.
Hi Dave, I personally believe that prospecting is always overlooked in sales training. Most people think that Star Sales people should know how to prospect and don't put that much attention to it. However my research has found that many businesses (owners, entrepreneurs and managers/ sales reps) don't spend enough time on prospecting activity. As a society we always think of prospecting in terms of cold calling. Prospecting is so much more than that. It's the activity you do before you start generating leads. In fact, it's the only activity you really need to put your focus on as a business.
Let me give you an example: Take 2 sales people, one is the worst sales person in the company and the other one is the best with the highest closing rate. Both working the same market and have the same product to sell.
The first (or worst) sales person does one thing very well, he prospects a lot. His conversion rate is only 1 out of 10. The best sales person doesn't prospect a lot but his conversion rate is 5 out of 10.
Lets say Sales Person 1 talks to 100 customers per week and Sales Person 2 only talks to 10 customers per week. SP1 will sell to 10 customers whereas SP2 will only sell to 5. I realize that this is very simplified but this is what happens in a lot of companies nowadays. Prospecting is completely neglected and although their sales reps may be great in generating revenue and closing, if they don't prospect enough the business will suffer eventually. Fears we have (from overcoming objections, asking for the sale, asking for referrals, not pushing enough for the sale are all part of the reason why we do not prospect enough. Take away the fear, you automatically take away the lack of prospecting and a business will flourish. Everything else can be taught in due course such as pitching, asking the right closing questions, asking for budget etc.
So, in my own humble opinion, prospecting is the key to successfully drive business forward and sales trainings/ sales workshops should focus more on this.
Think about it, everything else in the sales process is product and needs based. The activity you do before you generate a lead is the one thing that is based on your own emotions, how you handle yourself getting meetings or selling over the phone etc. If you don't do that, you will no longer have a viable business. Self-promotion is the key. Just my 5 cent. (and of course just an opinion based on my own experiences).
CLOSING! It is a lost art form in today's society of "be my friend" mentality. The fact is that people today are not the hard sellers that once drove the economic boom.
Its not hard to smile at a client, it is not even particularly hard to find common ground to build report. Its not difficult to recite a presentation. It IS difficult to overcome objections and get a client to sign on the dotted line.
As a salesperson with significant senior management experience and now working as a sales training consultant, I'd focus on the following skills that sit across all stages of the sales process.
Listening skills coupled with "Speed of Thought" (mental agility). If they listen but can't pick out the nuggets of gold then they'll always have problems and miss the big one.
If I'm allowed two - then number two would be to develop "conversational selling" skills. i.e. the ability to communicate effectively, ask big questions, pick out key nuggets and ultimately pitch, without sounding like a pre-prepared script reader or interrogator.
If I can have three, it would be to learn about business finance - understand how your product/service can help your client on his P&L / Balance Sheet / Cashflow etc. It moves you beyond product and talks about value.
If it is merely one part of the sales process that you're after then ongoing prospecting and pipeline management is the key area that salespeople neglect.
Hope this helps - look forward to reading the book ! Good luck.
The importance of a needs assessment. As sales people we tend to have tunnel vision and have already established in our minds with our prospect "needs". We need to keep asking why why why why why until the prospect doesn't have anything else to say. You teach your sales people to ask questions based on what the prospect is saying on not how the sales person wants to direct the call and they will become invaluable assets.
All these hints are good but if I was after a sales job, I would find a product in high demand one that rewards with good commissions & go far that. Many people have decided 90% of their purchase before they meet the sales person.
using good basic sales skills & body language should be enough.
Validate the person you're talking with by actually listening to them - "seeing" them, not as a dollar sign or potential client, but as a person with their own fears, needs, desires. Connect with them and form a relationship and that will build a trust. If they feel you "get" them, they'll trust you, and they will trust what you're selling. Don't ever think - "it's just business, it's not personal". All relationships are personal and the integrity and presence should be inherent in any whether in business or personal life.