Building a World Class Sales On-Boarding & Certification Program – Part 5

So far in this series we’ve outlined some very important aspects of building a world class sales on-boarding and certification program.  In this article we’re going to really get into the analysis phase by taking a look at the sales professional’s job.  What is it that they do?  How are they measured?  How are they compensated?  Figuring out how to connect the dots with respect to those things can be really intuitive and make total sense, or not.  But it’s worth taking the time to do the analysis and understand how those things interact so that the training program is designed to have the desired impact.  For instance, focusing equally on products and company processes might ignore the fact that new hires are specifically expected to make a lot of appointments early on.  We’ll discuss how the results of our analysis impacts program design a little later.  For now we’ll focus on the main things you’ll want to investigate in your analysis, which for now focuses on the sales process.  After all, sales professional are paid to move opportunities through the sales process.

Sales Process

  • Is it defined? I’ve worked with companies where they did not have a defined sales process.  I mean literally, no one sat down to write out how sales people were supposed to sell.  The result was that there was confusion about what should be done in some cases.  But mostly there was confusion about how to get it done.  Managers spent time making up their own processes rather than managing the sales people and their opportunities.  So if there isn’t a sales process defined, your first step may be to meet with enough subject matter experts and sales leaders to define it for them.
  • Has it been adopted? It’s one thing to have the sales process defined and quite another to have it adopted throughout the sales organization.  If you have a relatively small sales team or a strong sales leader, this may not be an issue. But without sales process adoption you may end up teaching people things in the on-boarding program that are not reinforced or even used on the job.  You must understand the adoption rate for key sales processes before designing the program.  You may even need to do some additional work before the launch of your program to get the rest of the sales organization “on the bus”.
  • Is it measured? Are sales managers measuring there sales people on elements of the sales process?  Do they measure cold calls, appointments or presentations?  Do they measure referrals, total pipeline value, pipeline velocity, new versus renewal sales dollars, or only bottom line new revenue?  Are the measurements consistent across all of your sales teams and sales managers?  Yikes, there’s a lot to find out here.
  • How is it supported? What tools, processes, people and information support the sales process?  What is the adoption rate of each one? This is one of those things that can be very straightforward or depressingly complex.  Does sales leadership see value in all of the tools and processes or do they tell their sales people to ignore them?  There may be well meaning people in the organization churning out lots of stuff to help the sales team that really doesn’t help them, or even worse, confuses them.  Going through this entire process to identify, review and analyze all of this has a tendency to uncover a lot of good information and a lot of stuff that really doesn’t add value.  You’ll need to do a lot of validating with your sales teams as you uncover and document what you find.
  • How does the compensation plan link to it? Does all of the information you found out from the above topics align with the compensation plan?  Or does it pay for different behavior?  Again, this may be an area where the person responsible for sales training uncovers a misalignment within the organization.  In some companies the sales compensation plans are readily available and in some they’re kept within HR and the sales management.  It’s important that you know what’s in the plans because you can be sure that the newly hired sales people do.

Well, there you go. 

Sales Training and Prospecting Tips to Increase Sales With Actions I Learned From My Window Fitter

Sales training and prospecting tips from the unbelievable sites I witnessed while watching window fitters working on my house. I recently had new windows fitted and while watching what happened I saw some fantastic sales prospecting techniques that just naturally happened because of how prospects think and act. Forget classroom sales prospecting skills you learn on courses, I saw a steady flow of sales prospects that would fill any sales person’s diary and make their target for the month. I’m now adapting these techniques with my working sales teams and you can fill your diary or grow your small business sales by doing the same.

The front of my house is on a busy lane that leads to the local shops and throughout the day many people passed by and saw the two guys installing my new windows. I saw people slowing down and stopping to look towards the house and the work being done. Some took the contact details from the side of the window fitter’s truck, and many others stopped to ask the guys questions about windows and for prices for repairs or renewals. I have to admit I cringed as I listened to the window guys responding to these passing sales prospects. They were excellent window fitters but not salesmen.

What I learned was the marketing power this situation created. This was far more effective than expensive T.V. or newspaper advertising. It triggered a reaction from anyone passing that had the slightest need for the guy’s services. This was a sales person’s dream, prospects queuing up to talk to someone. It got to the point where it was stopping the guys from working and they didn’t have the time to deal with all these people. What a waste of sales opportunities, I bet there are home improvement direct sales people that work all month to get that many prospects, more on that later.

There are several reasons why these prospects stopped and talked to the working window fitters, and within these reasons we can find valuable sales training and prospecting ideas.

The main reason people felt comfortable was that someone else has taken the first action and decided these professionals were the ones to contact and employ. So the prospects follow some one else’s first action.

Another reason is that these were working tradesmen not salesmen. When a windows salesman knocks on your door they are doing it for their benefit. When you stop a working guy in the street you are doing it for your benefit. Imagine what a sales person could have done with all those leads.

Buyers will always take the easiest actions. Which is easiest, searching through adverts, directories, and the internet and having to make a decision on which company to contact. Then speaking to someone on a sales line and waiting to be ambushed into agreeing to a sales appointment or even a sale. Or, stopping for a casual chat with a working guy that you can see actually knows what he’s talking about? If you wanted information and advice about having new windows fitted who would you talk to. A guy in overalls that fits windows everyday or a smart suited salesperson that knows more about the credit agreement than the windows? So what sales training lessons can we learn from the actions of the passing sales prospects and my window fitters? Without knowing your line of business it’s difficult to give precise sales tips. But consider the following ideas and think how you could adapt them for your sales role.

If you were a sales person for the company my window fitters worked for how about getting your hands dirty and spending some time with the guys fitting the windows. Put on some overalls and talk to all the passing prospects that want information. From what I saw outside my home I guarantee you will fill your sales diary.

Small business sales can be boosted by making all your front line people sales motivated. Put a reward scheme in place and supply every one of your staff with sales and information literature. Give them a prospect pad to take details of any potential sales opportunities, and reward them for every sale that they generate.

Sales people are perceived as doing their job and contacting people for their own benefit. Working people in non sales roles are viewed as being able to offer information that will benefit the buyer. If you’re a sales person how do your prospects perceive you? What can you do to be seen as someone that can benefit the buyer, and how will you get a queue of prospects wanting to talk to you.

Sales is Not a Game

In the face of this new economy, one shift has been quite notable-people are not looking to be pitched. With diminished portfolios, declining revenues, market instability, and a lack of discretionary spending in both businesses and individuals, no one is really looking to spend money. Unfortunately, our traditional sales training has taught the sales profession that advocating and manipulating are two of the surest tactics to close the sale. Not in this environment. In reality, these were never really the most effective tactics, they simply seem to be the only one too many salespeople have relied on. However, most people simply do not have the time or interest in playing the sales game of being pitched, pushed, chased, or manipulated. The time to learn a new approach is now before more organizations suffer continued declines in their revenues.

Sales is not a game. Believe it or not, customers resent when they feel like salespeople are putting the sales moves on them. Most customers are aware of all the sales ploys and tricks and they have seen these more than anyone else. These moves reflect what typical salespeople do to try to get people to buy something. In today’s economy this is not what people are looking for. They are looking for professionals committed to helping them solve problems or provide valuable information and ideas. Transitioning to becoming a professional resource that solves problems requires focusing on the challenges and issues customers face and helping discovering ways to help them find what they want and they need. There is no time for games here. Customers have real, very real issues and they are looking for professionals willing to help.

Sales is not salesperson centric. Traditional salespeople want to figure out how to get their prospects to buy from them. What the salesperson wants is not important. Learning or memorizing tactics and approaches is sales centric focused on how to get people to do what they want them to. Great sales skills emanate from within someone, whether it be the heart, or spirit, or soul, if one wants to go that deep. Being genuinely interested in being a valued resource is not a behavior or attitude that can be memorized or programmed. It is a core value that exists with the sales professional. When hiring or developing a sales team, egocentric or me-oriented personalities will not work in today’s sales environment.

Sales is not about wearing people down. Effective sales results in today’s environment is not about chasing deals, fearlessly pitching products, making all the right moves, or relentlessly overcoming objections. In fact, a relationship based, solutions oriented sales process eliminates the need for those tactics. A person who is “such a great salesperson that they could sell ice to Eskimos,” is not a role model in today’s selling arena. That behavior reflects selling something to someone they don’t need. That is not problem solving, that is manipulation. There is no value in manipulative selling today.

Sales is not getting people to buy something. Great sales helps people discover and obtain what they need and want. Effective selling behaviors today are about helping people get what they need in a way that is most beneficial to their business. At the end of the day in a relationship based, solutions oriented sales model, there is no buyer’s remorse or trust issues. There are no endless objections to overcome as the process focuses on helping people find what they want or need. The sales professional working the effective side of the street is seen as a credible and trusted resource for helping customers solve their problems.

Sales is not based in the old stereotypes. Nothing is more obvious or more telling than in the interview process when someone sits down and starts making all the old sales moves taught in traditional sales class. Moves and tricks are not today’s sales. There is no sincerity, integrity, honesty, or demonstration of character in those charades. Worse, they demonstrate and reinforce the stereotype of the typical sales guy that everyone resents. The new landscape of sales is relationship based, solutions oriented. Anything else that reflects the playing of a game, is counter productive in today’s sales arena. End the perpetual cycle of hiring the same old stereotyped sales “guy” by not hiring the person that behaves with the sales personalities we all dislike.

Sales is not deaf, unaware or ignorant. The three words that best define the great sales model of today are: listen, know, and understand. Salespeople must understand that all information of value is provided by the customer. Effective salespeople have to spend time listening and learning about what their clients need and discover how to help them. The real value is not in the product and service offered. The real value comes from understanding the challenges, the issues, and the frustrations associated with their business or situation and how to be a resource to them. It is the effective application of what was shared and learned in providing a solution that meets those needs that make effective sales behaviors work today.

In today’s economy, businesses are not looking to spend money. They have no desire to be relentlessly pitched and sold. However, every business recognizes that they may have to spend money for innovation and solutions that may be critical to their ongoing success. Many are potentially willing to invest in products, services and programs that make their business better. It is the obligation of the sales professional to uncover what these businesses need, what they are trying to accomplish, what the obstacles are, and how they can find the products and services that will help eliminate those problems. Salespeople must behave and engage their clients as highly reliable, professional resources. Accomplishing this requires knowing what people need, knowing why it’s important to them, and how their needs and issues can be best dealt with. Learn to connect, learn to listen, and learn to solve. It is the most productive approach to effective sales and does not require playing any games.