What Is Sales Training?
Sales Training – at its heart – should be about learning to uncover and identify customer needs, thus creating value and providing service. Selling is about helping customers make buying decisions that are in their best interests. Successful sales people know is about doing something for the customer – not to the customer.
The most important variable in the success of any salesperson is themselves. All the product knowledge, core selling skills, time and CRM management capabilities are far less impactful to the ultimate success of a salesperson than their core attitudes, beliefs, values and motivations. It’s a person’s attitudes, beliefs and a genuine desire to create value for customers that separate high-achieving salespeople from the rest.
And this is where sales training should spend the largest proportion of its focus. Yet the reality is salespeople today get only a fraction of the sales training needed for them to be successful. A balance of skill set, mindset and process are needed to help salespeople thrive and succeed to their fullest potential.
Sales training should not be viewed as a check-the-box activity or a once and done. Sales training should be about the sales culture of an organization and helping salespeople to exemplify the brands and products they represent with passion, authenticity and integrity.
Without reinforcement, most people forget nearly all of what they’ve heard and quickly go back to old habits. When participants leave sales training, there must be a structured follow-up process that ensures:
- Accountability for real-world application
- Feedback on progress
- Positive reinforcement and supportive coaching
For sales training and skills to turn into a way of doing business, they have to be hard-wired into the culture. In high-performing sales cultures, managers participate in the training and assume a leadership role in the follow-up process to ensure the behaviors taught in the classroom take hold in the field with customers.
This starts with clear direction and expectation from senior leadership. Why are you doing the training? Why now? What will be different as a result? What does “success” look like? What role will managers play? If you find yourself asking the question, “They know what to do, so why won’t they do it?” look for clues as to why. It’s likely not a skill issue- it’s a will issue. Salespeople who don’t apply selling skills often feel they are being asked to do something that is inconsistent with their values, beliefs and level of confidence. That’s why an essential goal of sales training should be to bring the five dimensions of sales success into congruence.
Key Elements of Sales Training:
- Building A Sales Training Strategy
- Critical Aspects To Sales Training Success
- How Sales Training Motivates
- What Is Sales Burnout?
- How To Reduce Sales Rep Turnover
- Building Confidence In Sales Teams
- Why Sales Training Programs Fail
- What To Focus On To Ensure Sales Training Is Effective
- The Importance Of Developing Sales Culture
- Integrity Selling® Sales Training
Building A Sales Training Strategy
Sales leaders don’t always see eye-to-eye on all aspects of sales training strategy, but there’s one area where they are very much in agreement. It’s an aspect of salesperson development that both groups say, if given dedicated focus, would result in a significant lift in performance. That area is called “achievement drive” (i.e., attitudes, self-belief, motivation, etc.), and it is what gives top-performing salespeople their edge.
The Sales Coaching Factor
There are three conversations that unlock sales success: the conversations salespeople have with (1) their customers, (2) themselves and (3) their coach. Of those three, the customer conversation is the one that’s often front and center in sales training. It covers things like sales/service methodology, conversation skills, asking questions, delivering insights, account strategy, and articulating a product’s benefits and outcomes. What it doesn’t cover: those factors that influence a person’s inner drive to achieve.
The most important conversation an organization needs to develop is the third, the conversation salespeople have with their coach, followed closely by #2, the conversation they have with themselves. These are the conversations where “limiting beliefs” are often revealed, those invisible barriers people set—whether for themselves or for their employees—that influence and often restrict what is ultimately achieved. Without these critical conversations, we won’t be able to uncover and break through those mental roadblocks to success.
The Action Plan For Building A Sales Training Strategy
With the establishment of what it takes to be a consistently top-performing salesperson, there’s no reason you can’t start shifting your sales training strategy to focus on building and supporting a strong achievement drive—and higher quota achievement—across the sales organization.
Here are a few steps to get you started:
Skillset – Conversations with Their Customers: This is a foundational element of most sales training, so take a closer look at how yours addresses this conversation, particularly when it comes to investigating customer problems and needs.
Example: Are your salespeople learning how to ask questions that help their customers gain greater clarity around their problems? Do the questions expose the consequences of inaction and the benefits of change? Do they give customers line of sight to an optimum decision-making process? If not, consider what steps you need to take to upgrade your sales training to be more effective, especially in light of today’s complex, competitive selling environment.
Mindset – Conversations with Themselves: Review this research data during your next sales or management program, and have participants discuss the implications of the data with their teams.
Introduce the concept of “limiting beliefs,” those mental barriers to success, and emphasize that the conversations salespeople have with themselves is just as important as conversations they have with customers—and often even more influential when it comes to their success. Solicit examples of these inner dialogues, exploring how they can be supportive and how they can be destructive.
Note: This discussion will be a new one for most salespeople, but rest assured, they will internally agree with—and may even articulate—how critical the conversations with themselves are.
Support – Conversations with Their Coach: If “coaching” is even occurring, there’s a good chance that your managers are focusing primarily on numbers and opportunities. Help them see that, while this is important, it’s not actually coaching. Coaching goes beyond deal reviews and ride-alongs.
Managers can be equipped to coach achievement drive in their people, and this leads to those people having more productive conversations with themselves. Here’s a quick coaching exercise your managers can conduct the next time they meet with a sales rep:
- Ask about a professional or personal goal the rep wants to achieve.
- Then, ask what skills/capabilities the rep needs to enhance in order to achieve that goal.
- Next, ask what the rep can do to build belief that this goal can be achieved, and work together to outline a simple plan with specific actions the rep can take.
- Finally, set a time for reconnecting to check in on progress.
Managers must allow time for this conversation; it can’t be done in a 15-minute check-in. It’s also wise for the manager to give the rep fair warning about the purpose of this conversation and explain why it’s important.
Many sales managers won’t be prepared to have this conversation, and many will feel uncomfortable with it initially. They’ll mask this lack of confidence with deflection, saying things like, “my job is to ensure we meet our numbers, not to play psychologist,” or “our reps won’t see value in that type of meeting.” This is where they’ll need your help with training and coaching, because make no mistake: Most reps will appreciate their manager taking the time to understand what really motivates them and supporting them in establishing goals that go beyond just hitting their quota.
Achievement drive is not only critical to your salespeople’s and your organization’s success, it’s something that can be developed.
Critical Aspects To Training Success For Selling
What separates successful salespeople from all the rest? Sales Training programs.
This is the million-dollar question on the minds of leaders across industries today – particularly as new competitors enter and disrupt existing markets and the selling environment grows increasingly complex.
We set out to answer that question in a survey of more than 200 sales organizations, and here’s what we found: According to our respondents, a salesperson’s “achievement drive” (defined as attitude, motivation drive, and belief in their own ability) is the key determinant of success, contributing as much or more to the person’s performance than sales skills or product knowledge.
Yet, despite the fact that 84 percent of them rated achievement drive as key, only 26 percent of our survey respondents said they effectively focus on achievement drive in their sales training programs.
In fact, one thing we learned from the study – and in discussions since we released the findings – is that many question whether achievement drive is something that actually can be developed. The perception seems to be you’re either born with it or you’re not. So the expectation is that people will come to the job with it or just have to struggle along without it.
But the truth is we’re all born with an achievement drive. You just have to know how to release and expand it – whether in yourself or in those you lead, develop, and coach.
Releasing Achievement Drive
A sales manager once told me a story about one of her salespeople – a top performer who was consistently knocking it out of the park. All of a sudden, his results had begun to slide. The manager couldn’t figure out what was going on. The market hadn’t changed. Neither had the products or clients. Other top performers didn’t seem to be having any problems.
So she sat down with him for a coaching conversation and, during that discussion, he revealed that he’d recently paid off his student loans. It was a milestone in his life – something that had been driving him to keep going for more at work. But now that he’d accomplished it, he just didn’t feel motivated anymore. He didn’t have that clear target to hit, to keep pushing for.
As his story shows, without a clear goal that’s personally motivating, it’s hard to expand our innate achievement drive. Too many other things can and will get in the way. It’s human nature. We intellectually know what needs to be done (“I think” statements) but, when our emotions are in conflict with intellect, emotions (“I feel” statements) win every time. You know you should eat the salad when you’re trying to lose weight, but you really feel like having that cheeseburger.
Changing Internal Self Talk
But there’s another, even more powerful dimension at work here, too, and that’s what you say to yourself about yourself (“I believe” statements). This self-talk fuels what you believe you can and can’t do – and can hold back your achievement drive even further.
These are what we call resistance or avoidance behaviors. We know what we should do – and we know that doing those things will make us happy and deliver the results we want – but all these internal forces keep pulling us in the other direction. We know we should go to the gym or run in the morning to hit our goal, but – when the alarm goes off – the “resistance” voice gives us a hundred reasons why we can’t go today.
It’s the same with selling. New business drives goals, but we’ll experience less rejection if we go see an existing client or fill out an expense report. So, even though the salesperson knows he should call his prospects – that’s how he’ll land more business, which is what he really wants – it’s a lot easier and a lot more comfortable to just update the CRM or check in with some of his favorite clients.
We’re constantly encountering resistance. But goal clarity, along with a plan to get there, can override those resistance behaviors.
Luckily for this salesperson, his manager was a good coach. She worked with him on goal setting and, with his achievement drive reinvigorated, he was soon back at the top of the pack.
Elements Of The Best Training Programs For Selling
If you’re coaching someone who needs greater goal clarity to release their achievement drive, the essential thing to remember is that the goal can’t be your goal; it must be something the salesperson comes up with and owns. Support them, have them write it down, and hold them accountable to the plan; but, for the goals to be personally motivating, ownership has to start with the salesperson.
And what about your salespeople who have plenty of achievement drive but still aren’t getting the results?
Take a look at your sales training programs. Is it focusing primarily on intellectual issues, like product knowledge and sales techniques? When the more influential emotional and self-belief behaviors aren’t addressed, it can hold back those who are exhibiting low achievement drive. But overemphasizing the intellectual dimension can also create problems for your high achievers. They’re going to go full speed ahead with what they’ve been taught and – if it’s mostly product information – that means they’re likely delivering “product dump” sales presentations.
For them, the first order of business might just be to unlearn some of what they’ve learned.
Sales Management Can Motivate With Training
Why are some salespeople uniquely successful? Do they have some special sales skills that others don’t? If your sales force is somewhat normal, just 20% are high performers. Imagine what a difference it would make if your sales training could truly motivate sales teams and increase their ability to sell more and develop stronger customer relationships.
As companies stare down some nerve-wracking business trends — widening revenue gaps, economic uncertainty, supply chain challenges and inflation, heightened competition for talent, changes in buying patterns combined with the dynamics of remote work — the sales organizations are feeling the pressure. Is your sales training taking your salespeople, with their current level of performance and skills, adequately preparing your sales teams for this increasingly challenging marketplace?
If you’re like most, you’re not just feeling anxiety about it. You’re also feeling frustration. After all, you have all these loyal, honest, conscientious, good people on your sales team. They’ve got the product specs and details down pat. They know your CRM processes cold. They watch all the videos on the latest sales techniques. They participate in the sales process training and seemingly listen diligently in weekly sales meetings. There’s just one nagging problem:
They’re not selling much!
If only they’d do what you teach them to do, they’d be successful. But they don’t do it. Right? And continuing to take the same approach with them isn’t going to change things. To help all of your salespeople sell more, especially when the environment is looking like it’s stacked against them, you have to understand what actually causes their success.
Sales Skills Are Not The Whole Story
Just teaching sales skills, product information and sales processes won’t cause someone to be successful. Reading books, attending workshops and listening to experts who share their selling secrets also isn’t going to make them successful. Simply knowing how to sell, even though it’s important, isn’t enough, and here’s why:
Sales people just don’t always do what they know they should do!
They usually do what they feel like doing and what they think is possible for them to do. Salespeople are largely driven by emotion — on average 85% feelings, attitudes and emotions and 15% logic, knowledge and discipline. Even if most of them know how to gain knowledge, they struggle with identifying and handling their emotions. That’s why their ability to sell isn’t just about picking up new sales skills.
To create more high performers and motivate sales teams, you have to drill deeper, to those emotional factors that control around 85% of a salesperson’s ability to sell. For the ‘how’ of selling to take hold, the ‘why’ has to be readily apparent. But most sales training stays at the surface, focusing on things like closing skills, probing techniques, negotiation strategies, challenge phrases, closing techniques and manipulative devices. In other words, it teaches them how to get people to say “yes.” It teaches them to sell and have a sales mindset. Sure, that sounds like it makes a lot of sense, but let’s go back to what’s really driving a salesperson’s behavior: their feelings, attitudes and emotions. If salespeople don’t feel positive about what they’re doing — and manipulating someone into buying something, whether they need it or not, doesn’t tend to feel good — they’re going to shut down. When salespeople are asked to do selling activities that conflict with their values, perceived skills or their sense of right and wrong, it triggers an internal conflict and can actually decrease their ability to sell.
Inner Values Motivate Sales Teams
Our inner values define who we really are. And any time anyone tries to sell something without any concern about whether it’s right for the customer or not will experience an inner conflict — because this very act conflicts with healthy values. Likewise, sales training that teaches techniques and strategies that are designed to pit the salesperson against the customer in a battle to see who can win will also conflict with most people’s inner values. But these are still common ways that many people are taught to sell, and this explains a lot of their sales performance failures or low sales. In fact, we can clearly see 4 reasons why most sales training fails.
OK, so what does work then? Here’s what we’ve found, and it’s something that has been confirmed time and again, through good economic times and bad, regardless of industry, market or business model: When salespeople focus on identifying and filling needs customers have and creating the most value for them, they earn their customers’ respect, and their own self-respect is enhanced in the process. As a result, they have strong, positive values about selling, and their drive to achieve goes up. They’re fueled by an internal passion to do right by their customers and create more value for them.
To be most successful, your salespeople must answer this question: “Is the way I sell consistent with my inner values?” Regardless of how sharp their sales skills are or how well they understand your sales process and product features, if their conscious or unconscious answer is “no,” they’ll either perform on a low level or quit and do something else.
But, if their answer is “Yes, the way I’m asked to sell is consistent with my inner values,” they’ll be free to perform on higher levels. They’ll be happier, more fulfilled and will serve you and your customers better.
Removing Barriers To Sales Success
Values are just one of the pivotal internal factors that affect your salespeople’s ability to sell and will ultimately have much more influence on their performance than just the sales skills taught in a typical training program. Their sales success will be largely due to an alignment of the following key dimensions:
- View of Selling
- View of Abilities
- Commitment to Activities
- Belief in Product
As these dimensions come into congruence, salespeople want to do result-producing activities. They develop an internal zest, confidence and a deep feeling that what they’re doing is right and good. That means that even when the business environment is rocky and they’re under pressure to close the revenue gap, they’ll have the energy and internal motivation to sell on higher levels.
Rather than teaching people to sell, this is an approach that removes the fear of rejection, call reluctance and many of the common emotional barriers that prevent salespeople from selling up to their real capabilities.
What Is Sales Burnout?
In sales, where rejection is a part of the job even in the best of times and today’s selling environment has grown more stressful, competitive and demanding, signs of burnout are becoming more common across the profession.
As salespeople grapple with new technology, complex deals, sprawling buying committees and increasing commoditization, many are wondering whether it’s even possible to build a successful sales career anymore. They’re beginning to question what value they can bring in a multichannel world where customers can find any information they need from an internet search and a cognitive agent. And while demand for good salespeople has never been higher, many recruiters struggle to even convince people to go into a career in sales. All of this can be pretty draining and demoralizing.
In 2021, 40% of employees cited burnout as the top reason for leaving. Britt Andreatta, Ph.D., author of “Wired to Resist” and other books, explains that “Burnout is actually a diagnosable state of exhaustion that comes from when we have been dealing with a long-term stressful situation.”
The costs of losing a salesperson are significant. And high turnover can impact your customer’s perception of your brand and their confidence in your ability to meet their needs. Against the backdrop of The Great Resignation, it’s something sales leaders and talent management leaders have to address head on, especially since burnout is now the number one reason people are quitting.
Causes Of Sales Burnout
To address sales burnout, you first have to understand what’s causing it. Each person is unique, and there are any number of reasons they might be feeling burned out, but here are a few of the common culprits:
- Workload Overload
- Lack Of Goal Clarity
- Misaligned Values
- Lack Of Feedback
Preventing Sales Burnout
Just telling your sales reps to unplug when they can, get better at time management or focus on self-care, these things just aren’t enough to address or even prevent the burnout people are experiencing today.
Jonathan Malesic, author of The End of Burnout, notes, “Things like learning to say no or putting your phone down may not be bad ideas, but they’re not going to fix the problem of burnout, because they’re just individual fixes to a problem that is located in the workplace and the culture at large. Burnout is not caused by an individual’s bad habits.”
Fortunately, as a leader there are a number of things you can do to help stem the tide of burnout and make sure your salespeople stay healthy, engaged and successful.
Coaching is one of your most important tools as a leader, and it has applications to nearly every potential cause of burnout highlighted above (and others).
Building Good Habits And Confidence
Don’t just leave people to figure things out on their own. Sales training is a critical component of any strategy to address and avoid burnout. This includes product knowledge and selling skills, but just as importantly, training must encompass the mindset factors as well.
Do A Sales Culture Check
As long as the culture and its leadership project an expectation that salespeople should just take on more and more and get used to overwork and constant change without any support or relief, burnout is going to persist. And the top performers (and those with potential to be) aren’t going to continue to put up with it.
Battling Sales Rep Turnover With Training
Every sales leader can relate to that pit-in-the-stomach feeling when a star sales rep says they’re moving on. There goes the talent, the institutional knowledge, the continuity of relationships, the momentum.
Of course, that’s the case when any employee leaves, but the full cost of sales rep turnover can be particularly high. In most organizations, salespeople are the pivotal drivers of growth. Their work directly impacts the bottom line. What’s more, truly effective salespeople spend time building up a deep understanding of and trusted relationships with their customers. They become the face of the organization and the partner in their customers’ success. When they leave, it’s not just future new business that could be at risk; existing deals and client retention and expansion efforts could also be in jeopardy.
If you’re in a high-growth or competitive industry, you can bet there’s some fierce competition in the market for your salespeople. In any economy, the best are always in high demand and always keeping their eye on the horizon. Various studies have shown that salesperson turnover rates are up to three times as high as rates for the overall labor force. In some industries, average sales rep tenure is just two years.
While it’s a good idea to put some defensive moves in play to reduce the negative consequences of salesperson attrition, it’s also important to understand what it’s really going to cost you when you lose a sales rep — and what steps you can take to minimize your turnover rates.
The Real Cost of Sales Rep Turnover
Conventional wisdom says it will cost a company about 1.5 times the exiting employee’s annual salary to hire a replacement. But when it comes to salespeople, the true cost is usually much higher.
Hiring, training and severance and bonus packages all figure into the hard-dollar costs. U.S. firms spend $15 billion a year training salespeople and another $800 billion on incentives. But there are also plenty of “soft-dollar” costs that can quickly add up. It takes time to onboard and ramp up a new salesperson before they’re closing deals and delivering a return on the investment the company has made in them. This ramp-up time can vary depending on industry and the complexity of the sale, but as an example, at an SaaS company it can take between 12 and 18 months before the company breaks even on the new sales hire. Profitability finally comes around month 21.
In the meantime, the sales manager has to invest time in helping that new hire get ramped up. Other salespeople have to take up the slack with existing clients who’ve lost their sales rep, making sure the transition period is seamless and that no issues or opportunities fall through the cracks. And they have to make sure any deals in the pipeline get the necessary attention and follow-through to close.
As a result, the loss of that one salesperson can have a ripple effect on productivity and morale across the sales organization. And it gets worse: It might even cause more sales reps to leave. One study examining why salespeople quit found that peer turnover (both voluntary and involuntary) greatly increases a salesperson’s turnover probability.
One reason for this is that salespeople who are “left behind” can feel overburdened and unmotivated. Particularly when turnover is the result of downsizing, they may lose trust in management and feel disengaged from the work. Even if they don’t leave, these negative attitudes have a hidden opportunity cost because they’ll drive down productivity and engagement even further.
Reduce Sales Rep Turnover
So now that you know how expensive it is to lose a sales rep, what can you do to mitigate those costs? The best way to reduce the costs is to reduce the rate of turnover. Whether sales rep turn turnover is a result of sales burnout or some other reason, the fact is, it does happen. The good news is that there are some specific things you can do, particularly if you lead a sales team, to lower the attrition rate and retain your good reps longer:
Coach them — effectively and frequently: There’s a misconception among some sales managers that the only reps who really need or want coaching are new hires and those whose performance is struggling. In fact, high achievers want to keep growing and reaching new levels of success. That’s why sales coaching is one of the most important things you can do to build trust with your team and demonstrate your commitment to their continual growth and success.
Because so many sales managers are lagging in this area, coaching, when it’s done frequently and effectively, can become one of your biggest strategic differentiators, helping you attract and retain sales talent. High performers who know their leader is invested in their development are going to be less likely to leave and more likely to keep delivering results for the company. Our research shows the companies that provide sales coaching to high-performing salespeople realize 10% higher sales goal achievement.
Build a learning culture: In a fast-changing, increasingly complex business environment, no one can afford to stop learning. As we saw when the pandemic forced sales teams to move to virtual selling, even some of the most seasoned reps faced a crisis of confidence, questioning whether they had what it takes to succeed in the world of remote sales.
Since sales success is more about inner drive, attitudes and beliefs than it is about a particular technique or methodology, you can’t view training as “one and done.” To reduce salesperson turnover, think of training not just for new hires or when you’re rolling out a new product but as part of a culture of learning — and be sure to focus on the right kind of sales training to keep top performers motivated and engaged.
Instill a sense of purpose: People who believe in what they do and feel that they’re making a difference for their customers and their customers’ customers are more engaged and motivated by their work — and more likely to stick with it, even in challenging times.
Consider whether your salespeople have that connection and alignment with the organization’s mission and purpose. Are leaders walking the talk and reinforcing the right attitudes and behaviors through their own example? Most companies espouse values like integrity, trust and mutual respect, but many don’t live up to them. If your company does, you’ll stand out — and retain more salespeople and customers alike.
Each of these requires some investment, whether of time, money or attention, but that pales in comparison to the high cost of losing good salespeople. The best part is, these steps will pay for themselves many times over by helping you attract talented people, keep them engaged and growing as your market evolves and deliver even more value to your customers.
Building Confidence In Sales Teams
You don’t have to tell your salespeople that selling in the current business environment has become increasingly challenging. They see it every day:
- Greater price pressure
- New competitors disrupting old business models
- The rise of hybrid and remote sales
- Evolving technologies affecting their own organization as well as their clients’
- A broader coalition of stakeholders they have to interact with, each with their own priorities, needs and expectations
Underscoring this complexity is the fact that clients and prospects are expecting more strategic value from the organizations they partner with. They’re sizing up your salespeople and wanting to know: Are they credible? Is talking with them going to be a good use of our time? Do they truly understand our business and the complexities we’re dealing with? Will they be able to work with and create value for a variety of stakeholders?
How would you answer those questions about your own salespeople?
Just like a football team must strengthen its performance to be competitive after moving up to a stronger division, sales teams need to sharpen their capabilities to compete and win in the coming economy.
3 Keys to Success in Complex Sales
Excellent account based selling skills and opportunity planning activities like researching the industry and current account situation are no longer differentiators; they’re the bare minimum.
What levers you can press to equip your team to compete and win in a business environment where there is pent-up demand for your products, budgets are being opened up and organizations are looking to invest rather than save money? Here are three critical areas to elevate performance:
Belief In Sales Skills and Abilities
People’s performance tends to be consistent with their inner beliefs.. A salesperson’s beliefs about selling to major accounts, navigating different stakeholders and their ability to sell value to each person in the account will all influence their performance and their success.
Consider the example of a salesperson who typically sells to frontline managers but is now working with an opportunity where the SVP of Manufacturing is a key stakeholder. Or maybe they typically close deals in the $100,000 range but now have a million-plus opportunity in front of them. There may be a lot of things going on inside their head that could get in their way, especially if they don’t see themselves as having the confidence or ability to sell at that level.
Often, the person will unconsciously find all sorts of activities to occupy themselves with so they “don’t have time” to call the SVP or pursue the deal. They may send one email and then give up. They may decide to talk to the assistant director of HR instead, since that’s where they’re most comfortable. Because the salesperson isn’t committed to the activities that will move the opportunity forward, the deal stalls out. That only reinforces their belief that this just isn’t possible for them.
These are just a couple of the myriad mental beliefs at the root of why people and deals get stuck; in most cases, neither the salesperson nor the manager is conscious of them. But until you address what’s going on in their heads, you can give this person all the tools and technology in the world, and the challenges will persist.
What are the conversations they’re having with themselves about themselves, the value of your solutions and their commitment to the activities it will take to be successful? These answers, more than any other factor, will determine how much they sell.
Complex Sales Planning Process
Success begins with preparation, and that’s especially true now that decision teams continue to increase in size. The buying team has turned into a buying army. Stakeholders, known and unknown, can range from the C-Suite to frontline management to individual functions like IT and procurement to external consultants. They’ll all have different roles, requirements and influence in the process.
Knowing the various stakeholders involved in an opportunity is just the first step. Knowing each person’s individual needs and helping them see how your solution addresses those needs is the next. But major B2B buying decisions are not made by individuals; they’re made by buying coalitions. The salesperson has to be able to bring those stakeholders together to form a consensus of understanding around a) what the problem or opportunity is, b) what the solution looks like and c) how they’ll decide between competing alternatives.
Each stakeholder is going to approach the conversation from the perspective of their unique needs and biases, so as part of the planning process, the salesperson should determine:
- How the various stakeholders will come together to make a collective decision
- Each stakeholder’s role in the process
- The kind of information each person needs
- Awareness of competitive activity
It’s also important to understand how each stakeholder sets goals and measures success and what their priorities or key initiatives are. This could encompass anything from improving profitability to increasing market share to attracting top talent. The more you know, the better business partner you’ll be and the more differentiated value you’ll bring to the conversation.
Executing Your Sales Plan
Execution is where beliefs and planning converge. It’s also where the best-laid strategic plans often fall apart. For example, it’s one thing for an account manager to know they need to connect with someone who has the potential to release the funds for an opportunity. But can they get a meeting and, once there, create value for that person? Can they execute their plan under pressure?
Let’s say you’re a salesperson who’s selling enterprise software solutions. You finally get that coveted meeting with the CIO at a Fortune 500 company. You’ve planned well, but as the discussion unfolds, you find that the CIO isn’t responding or giving you the visual cues you’re expecting. You begin to assume the CIO is bored with your questions, and, before you know it, the plan goes out the window.
A great plan isn’t worth much if your salespeople can’t deliver on it. Here are some questions to consider as you evaluate your sales team’s ability to execute:
- Can they get key stakeholders to agree to a conversation?
- Do they have the skills, mindset and self-belief to be credible and persuasive at that level?
- Are they able to create value so that stakeholders see the need, have a sense of urgency and view your solution as valuable?
- Do they have the skills to bring disparate groups together and facilitate a uniting conversation that builds consensus around a decision?
Developing Your Sales Team’s Confidence to Boost Their Selling Game
As you look ahead to the next 24 months, take a moment to assess your sales team’s capabilities and readiness. As the sales environment grows more complex, one of the most important things sales leaders can do is coach their teams to adopt a new mindset about what’s possible and equip them to create more value as a true business partner to your clients.
Your salespeople need the tools needed to confidently and skillfully manage strategic accounts in which multiple and diverse personalities are involved in the decision making process. Better account mapping, understanding the decision making process and having a simple process to effectively strategize and prioritize accounts are just some of the ways we can help arm your sales team to succeed
Why Sales Training Programs Fail > White paper download
Although organizations worldwide are investing billions of dollars in training, a significant portion of that expenditure goes to waste. To ensure that your sales training initiatives yield long-term outcomes, there are specific measures you can take. Identifying the four common reasons for sales training failures and asking five critical questions will help guarantee that your sales training investments generate the maximum possible benefit.
Download the whitepaper: 4 Reasons Sales Training Commonly Fails
Ensure Sales Training Is Effective By Focusing On What Matters
Many organizations and sales managers believe that sales training effectiveness is based on product or industry knowledge, and that, in general, all salespeople need in order to succeed are memorized scripts or sales tracks and some core selling techniques.
This drives the way sales training is designed and implemented. And it also explains why sales training effectiveness and ROI can be so poor. Generally, in a one-, two- or three-day event, salespeople are taught a sales process, with no follow up or reinforcement. No behavior change takes place and no positive results are realized. More often than not, the participants won’t even remember how to put into practice what they’ve been taught.
In fact, deep programming within a person’s unconscious “I am” dimension, including what that person believes is possible, largely drives sales success, resulting in self confidence, will to sell, achievement drive, self motivation and the expectation of high success.
Yet the sales training programs being offered aren’t doing anything to help them understand the deep dimensions within themselves that actually fuel their success. This isn’t just a waste of time and money, it’s an injustice to the people who are being developed.
Factors That Impact Sales Training Success:
- View Of Selling – Whether the person perceives selling as something you do to people or for people
- View Of Abilities – An internal belief about who you are, how capable you are, what levels of success you deserve and what’s possible for you to achieve
- Values – The rules or internal guidelines for how you live your life, defining what you will and won’t do
- Commitment To Necessary Activities – These include activities like pre-contact, contact, presentation and follow-up
- Belief In The Product – Believe that what you’re selling gives customers value that exceeds the cost
Resolve to focus on what matters most. You’ll find that the more you help people grow on the inside, the more their skills, behaviors and sales will grow on the outside.
Developing Sales Culture > Podcast
Customers aren’t going to buy unless they trust who they’re working with, and the same goes for your team members. That’s where the importance of the sales culture that’s being created comes in.
Sales managers are pivotal for any sales team to reach and exceed their goals, but true sales leadership is about more than managing numbers and pipelines. It’s about creating a people-first sales culture where they feel secure, supported, and clear about the goals they need to achieve.
Listen To Mental Selling Episode 51: Creating a People-First Sales Culture
Integrity Selling®: Proven Sales Training Program
At Integrity Solutions, we believe that sales training is a continuous process and should be integrated into the core of your organization’s culture and identity. Instead of focusing on selling products, your sales representatives should aim to become trusted advisors to buyers by actively listening, solving their business challenges, and sharing valuable insights.
In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s crucial for your team to establish trust and build rapport with buyers while gaining a deep understanding of their goals and challenges. As more products are perceived as commodities, describing how you’re different from your competitors may only reinforce this perception. The key to differentiation lies in your team’s ability to deliver value and establish trust throughout the entire buying journey and customer experience, not simply by reciting the features of your products.
Begin building meaningful relationships with your customers. Integrity Selling® is a proven sales training program that will help to transform your approach to sales and achieve long-term success. With our proven methodology, you’ll learn how to truly understand your customers’ needs and deliver solutions that meet their unique challenges.
Don’t settle for mediocrity in your sales force. Take action and contact us to learn how Integrity Selling® is the sales training program for your sales team.
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