Sales organizations face steep hurdles in today’s increasingly competitive market, where mobile technologies and ultra-informed buyers have forever changed the selling environment. Sales professionals — from new hires to veteran sellers — need the knowledge and skills to navigate in a digital world while still making personal connections with clients.
At Richardson, we know that learning to compete in new ways requires a new approach to training. While foundational sales skills are as relevant today as they ever were, the technology to engage, motivate, deliver, and reinforce learning has leapfrogged ahead. Combining technology with elements of gameplay is called gamification, and it is proving an effective way to keep learners engaged in content.
More rigorous than the name suggests, gamification applies game-design elements and principles in learning situations to create fun and engaging experiences. Games bring out natural tendencies to achieve, compete, and gain status or recognition. The serious business of making learning enjoyable leads to lessons that are sticky, meaning they are more easily and better retained. Online contests and leaderboards add friendly, competitive pressures within sales teams, which intensify engagement.
Multitasking. Mobile meetings. Doing more with less. Slimmer windows of opportunity. Today’s sales environment is faster, more demanding, and infinitely more challenging than ever before. Sellers need 21st-century skills, but time is too precious a commodity to spend much of it in training classrooms. When sales organizations do invest in their people, they demand results and ways to measure progress.
At Richardson, we constructed our new blended-learning, cloud-based platform, Accelerate™, with numerous measurement benchmarks. These both track and motivate each learner’s performance while giving leaders desired insights into individual and team progress.
Sales organizations have long used the Richardson SkillGauge™ diagnostic tool to assess and validate skills. Now, we are taking a similar approach in Accelerate in the form of Baseline Check, which occurs at the launch of the training program, and a Final Check several months after the program’s conclusion.
The Baseline Check is an assessment that benchmarks each seller’s starting point and prepares them to learn. The Final Check validates learning progress and shows exactly how far each learner has come.
Between these two points in time, as learners work through activities and exercises, Accelerate delivers formative quizzes that check progress and redirect effort. Through confidence scoring on each activity, learners self-identify where they feel strong and where things are a bit shaky. They can then go back and review concepts needing more attention.
The ability of Accelerate technology » Continue Reading.
The archetypal salesperson is a dinosaur. Whether the picture we have in our minds is Alec Baldwin’s character in “Glengarry Glen Ross” from 1992, Vin Diesel or Giovanni Ribisi in the 2000 movie “Boiler Room,” or just about any other film or TV show with salespeople. The easy stereotype to reinforce is that of an unethical con artist focused on making the sale no matter what it takes.
Unfortunately, there can be a kernel of truth to the stereotype, as headlines revealing scandals and unethical selling practices attest to. The mistrust of those in the selling profession has always been a challenge for salespeople, but now it is more elevated than ever. Simply put:
Buyers don’t want to buy from salespeople. They want to work with executives and consultants who understand their businesses. They don’t want a short-term fix; they want long-term solutions.
Today’s ultra-informed buyer is doing more research and due diligence ahead of time before ever contacting a salesperson. Sometimes, their research is not great research, but right or wrong, they’ve done their homework and think they know what’s what. Their preparation requires salespeople to come in as consultants if they want to be part of the decision-making process. Showing up with slick sales pitches won’t work anymore.
The cumulative impact of all these factors means that if a salesperson takes a shortcut, if there is even the appearance of impropriety, it impacts more than a single deal. » Continue Reading.
As my colleague, Henri, shared in the previous blog, building trust with customers is critical in today’s selling environment. Building and maintaining trust across the full lifespan of a customer relationship takes attention and focus in the following areas:
1. Prepare with the customer in mind.
If, when you prepare, you find yourself spending more time preparing your solution or positioning points than you spend thinking about your customer and their issues and challenges, then you need to rethink your preparation strategy. You should begin and end with your customer in mind. If you prepare for your meeting by thinking about what they might want to get out of your time together, then not only will you build trust, you will also create more value in the meeting.
2. Ask great questions, not bad ones.
There is no such thing as a bad question, right? Wrong. We’ve seen bad questions asked time and time again. A bad question is one you should already know the answer to if you have done just a little bit of homework. Not doing your homework and asking questions about something you should already know not only destroys your credibility, but it also signals to the customer that they aren’t worth your effort in being well prepared to meet with them. If, as your potential customer, I am not worth your preparation, then why would I trust you to act » Continue Reading.
Selling is a people-oriented business. Sales are made in the dialogue, person-to-person. The interaction may be face-to-face or over the phone, but the very essence of a successful outcome is based on trust between seller and buyer.
This means salespeople must be at their very best, bringing value to the table and to their customers. If, instead, they just push products, they sacrifice goodwill and trust. Their sales success is likely to be short-lived, not the basis of a long and mutually productive relationship.
Many articles have been written about the parade of scandals in the financial industry: overly aggressive sales goals leading to the unauthorized opening of accounts; funneling billions of wealthy customer accounts offshore; manipulating global interest rates; the whole subprime mortgage crisis. And such bad behavior extends beyond banking into other industries and the political environment, where instability and uncertainty are causing greater distrust among customers, who are increasingly wary of salespeople and selling tactics.
I recently read an article that called for a new business model, and while the writer was referring to the financial industry specifically, the advice applies more broadly. Companies need to focus more on advocating for their customers rather than exploiting customers to move more product. They need to make sure whoever is touching their customer — whether it’s someone in sales, service, or support — provides a uniform and positive customer experience. And while this should be needless to say, I’m » Continue Reading.
Social media is ubiquitous. Look at all the bowed heads and tapping fingers as people commune with their smartphones. It doesn’t matter if they’re walking down the street, in a business meeting, or sharing a meal with others, phones are always on and socially connecting. The Twitterverse has become part of the regular news cycle as politicians, and yes, the President, make it their go-to public communication channel.
But what does this mean for sales professionals in the business world? In my guest post on InsideSales.com, When and Why Sales Professionals Should Text Clients, I suggest that there is a time and place for texting within sales relationships, just as there are times when it is appropriate to communicate with clients by sending an email, making a phone call, or scheduling an in-person meeting.
In this post, I will address the broader topic of social media — not just whether to use it for business purposes, but how one’s personal postings can make a strong impression, good and bad, on their professional persona.
True or False: Social media is all about being authentic, expressing your personal views, and sharing imagery that exposes others to what is happening in your world. Salespeople should be able to freely post and tweet what they want.
Of course, salespeople can post what they want, where they want. That’s a right of free speech. The challenge, however, is understanding that social media opens up » Continue Reading.
What makes a great sales trainer?
This was the subject of my previous post, found here. In it, I discussed a number of traits that I consider table stakes for great sales trainers.
So, now the question becomes: How can sales training facilitators up their game?
To go above and beyond the basic requirements — to really stand out as an exceptional facilitator — it’s important to stay tuned to what is happening in your fields of play (sales and learning and development) and integrate that knowledge appropriately to remain credible and relevant. From a skills perspective, it is important to continue your professional growth with a focus on mastering your content so you are modeling it effectively. Listening skills and effective coaching skills are critical to a trainer’s ability to create and illuminate lightbulbs, or “aha” moments. Executing in-the-moment coaching to provide specific, accurate feedback that will equip and inspire learners to apply classroom learning in the real world is a nuanced, next-level, and important skill set.
Here are a few suggestions:
Let’s start with table stakes.
It is truly an honor to work so closely with Richardson’s facilitators, who in my humble opinion are the very best sales training professionals in our industry. When I think about our team and what it is that makes them “the very best,” a few things come to mind. They are masters of the fundamentals, or “table stakes,” of training, and they are skilled subject matter experts in Richardson’s content and in selling. Here is how I describe our team:
They are passionate about their craft, and it shows in their work. They connect quickly and easily with their learners. They create a risk-free environment for learning, and they earn the right to push participants to stretch beyond their comfort zones. They are subject matter experts, and they are skilled coaches who understand the real challenges salespeople face in the field. They model the skills that they teach while also drawing out best practices from the participants in the room. Most importantly, they tailor each classroom experience to meet learners where they are, which ensures the learning is real. Relevance is a critical success factor in the application of learning.
When a facilitator brings those characteristics together in a Richardson workshop, the result is a challenging, relevant learning experience that prepares and inspires sales reps to engage in genuine, customer-focused conversations that result in high-value, needs-based solutions. When that happens, we » Continue Reading.