Becoming a Trusted Advisor Can Earn You a Seat at the Table
“The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to.”
That is the first sentence of “The End of Solution Sales,” an article about the changing environment in business-to-business (B2B) sales that appeared in the July 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review.
At the heart of the matter lies the fact that buyer behavior has been radically altered by the Web, even in just the last few years. We have all seen the now magical statistic many times that buyers are 60% of the way through the buying process before they consult with a salesperson.
Moreover, the buying process itself now typically has more decision makers, often involving a committee that must reach consensus, instead of a single contact. This adds delays to the selling process, resulting in slower pipeline velocity, more stalled deals, and even the dreaded “no decision” status. Only those who are transactional sellers in a transactional business or those who become trusted advisors have the ear of the right buyers and can move deals through the pipeline effectively.
The problem is, “trusted advisor” status can’t be claimed. It has to be earned — and the only opinion that matters is the buyer’s.
So, what can sales reps do to differentiate themselves and elevate their status with buyers to become trusted advisors? Here are five tips » Continue Reading.
What Do You Really Expect from Your Front-line Sales Managers? Do They Know It?
Anyone who has climbed the ranks of a sales organization can appreciate the complexity of the front-line sales manager’s job. It is usually the most critical position in any sales organization and can make the difference in determining success or failure. So, reach out to your sales managers today, and ask them this: “Name the two most important things we pay you to do.” If their answers don’t align with your expectations, then it’s time for some course correction.
Great sales managers are not always top-ranked salespeople. Clearly, the job requires an above-average level of selling skills, but it also requires a unique blend of multiple skills. It can be like wearing the hats of coach, parent, counselor, advisor, sounding board, and psychiatrist, all at once. The job gets more complicated because of its location in the corporate food chain. A sales manager is caught between the front line, client-facing salespeople, and upper management. Many times, the view of reality on the front line varies greatly from that in the ivory tower. Successful navigation within this food chain can be challenging, even for the most successful sales managers.
So, what are sales managers’ primary points of focus? There are many things to expect from sales managers, but none are more important than these two:
To drive results To develop people
Which » Continue Reading.
8 Attributes of a Highly Successful Salesperson
You may recall that oh-so-70’s TV series called The Six Million Dollar Man, in which a secret government agency rebuilds former astronaut Steve Austin after an accident into a spy with bionic speed, strength, and vision that make him unstoppable.
Leaders and sales managers, when faced with a steep goal or taking on a new business, will naturally look at their sales team and think, “How am I going to hit this new goal with the same team?” First, you come to terms with the goal and that, reluctantly, surgery and bionic implants are out — budget, OSHA, HR issues, etc. So, you turn your attention to less extreme methods, such as strategy, recruiting, sales training, and coaching. And then, you begin to focus on the question what are the “8 attributes of a highly successful salesperson?”
Consider the following sets of personality qualities:
A B Social Insightful Vocal Soft-spoken Aggressive Patient Gregarious Empathetic Quick on their feet Thoughtful Funny Serious
Question #1: From which column of qualities would you choose if you were:
Throwing a party? Hiring people most like you? Seeking people to do a lot of outbound calling, meetings, and presentations?
Question #2: What if we turn around the question to instead ask: If you were a buyer, responsible for making a significant and complex purchase for your organization, under great pressure and visibility, which column of qualities » Continue Reading.
Get Post-Sales Training Visibility with Learning Analytics
Your salespeople are effusive in their praise of the new sales training. Sales Managers are feeling confident that the new sales training will help their teams achieve (or exceed!) their numbers. The Senior Vice President (SVP) of Sales, the sales training initiative’s executive sponsor, is publically calling the program a “game changer” for the sales organization. Your learning and development staff is feeling great — all of their hard work has paid off with an amazing three-day event.
As a seasoned Learning and Development Leader, you are glad that the training was so well received within the sales organization. However, you know that the initiative has now entered its riskiest phase. One question haunts you: What will salespeople actually do differently in their day-to-day interactions with customers as a result of the training? The sales organization’s whole investment in behavior change will be made or broken in the next three to six months — either behavior change takes off, or it does not. In nine months, when your CFO begins to ask the SVP of Sales, “What did we get as a result of all that sales training?” you need to ensure that you and your executive sponsor have a fantastic story of success to tell. That story began as soon as the salespeople left the new sales training.
At Richardson, we see the scenario described above play out over and over » Continue Reading.
The Best Sales Leaders Understand Their Dual Roles
It’s fair to say that most sales leaders got promoted to their jobs because they were good salespeople. And, as we all know, being a good salesperson isn’t the same as being the best sales leader. In fact, sometimes the best salespeople don’t make good sales managers; and sometimes, the best sales leaders were not good salespeople.
The trick is to recognize the difference between being a super salesperson and being a leader of salespeople.
To understand your role as a sales leader, you also have to understand your role as leader because they’re intertwined.
A leader is someone who shows the way. A sales leader shows the way and helps his/her salespeople to get there on their own.
The problem with this dual role is the tendency for sales leaders –– who were super salespeople –– to take over. They want to step in and solve their sales reps’ problems by doing it for them rather than coaching them in the skills needed to do it on their own. The sales managers feel that salespeople will learn how to succeed through observation.
In the sales leader role, there’s quite a lot to grasp about what it really means to achieve results through others. If you want the accelerated impact of sales success from ten people vs. just yourself, you have to start by thinking about what you did that made you successful. Also consider » Continue Reading.
Sales Leaders Have a Role in The Retention of Sales Training
“Only 32% of respondents rate their organization effective at sustaining the impact of their sales training program.”
That sobering statistic comes from a recent research report by Richardson and Training Industry, Inc.
As a sales leader, you can have an impact on the retention of sales training, and it’s not as hard as it sounds. All you have to do is ask.
If you send a group of salespeople to sales training, and you want them to retain and use that training, you need to ask them what worked for them and how they’re using it. And, you have to do this repeatedly. People will give you what you ask for.
You might ask, “What is your plan is to use this particular piece of the training this month?” Then, the following month, you ask how it went — and what things are they going to work on next month.
The thing about salespeople is, if you give them a target, they’ll nearly kill themselves to achieve it.
The same is true about retention of training. If you ask them to apply it, and then ask them to share with you how it has worked — and then to give you additional examples of how it worked — that lesson will become embedded in the day-to-day workflow. Then, you move to the next skill » Continue Reading.
Consultative Selling Process: Resolving Objections about the Economy
A Sales Professional who recently completed a Richardson Consultative Selling course wrote in an e-mail:
“Dear Richardson Team: I have been enjoying success in applying the Consultative Selling Process in my work with clients, and I definitely think my skills have improved since I completed the training! I especially learned a lot from the model for resolving objections. But, I am running into one big challenge that I can’t seem to address: my clients are STILL objecting that the economy is down, which is why they can’t move ahead on opportunities. With all the economic indicators pointing to an improving economy, I just don’t know how to resolve this objection. I can’t very well tell them they are wrong about the economy, but what else can I position in response? Please help.”
With the volatility that the financial markets have shown over the past 15 years, it is no wonder that decision makers across a broad spectrum of industries would continue to show concern about the economy and take a conservative approach to spending. Even as the economy continues to improve, companies still may remain cautious about choosing investments and expenses wisely for fear of another economic downturn. There is good news, however, because the key to addressing this situation is already right in your hands: the Consultative Selling Process.
New Richardson Research Study Identifies Biggest Sales Challenges for 2015
Philadelphia, PA — March 25, 2015 — Richardson, a leading global sales training and sales effectiveness company, announced today the launch of a new research study, 2015 Selling Challenges.
This study, written by Michael Dalis, a Senior Consultant at Richardson, and SVP Marketing, Jim Brodo, highlights results from a survey that Richardson conducted at the end of the 2014 with field sales representatives, senior sales professionals, and sales leaders to gauge what they felt would be their biggest selling challenges during 2015. The survey received more than 370 responses globally, mainly from B2B industries.
The survey focuses on prospecting, retaining and growing client relationships, and pricing/closing. The results from the study allow the reader to gain insight into the potential challenges that his/her sales organization may face in 2015 and plan how to overcome these obstacles. Some of the critical challenges that respondents felt they would face include:
18.59% of respondents said gaining appointments is the biggest prospecting challenge in 2015. 30.11% of respondents said providing insights and challenging clients is the most difficult challenge in expanding relationships in 2015. 30.61% of respondents said competing against a low-cost provider is the biggest challenge to closing a deal in 2015.
“The results of the survey support what we see in the market, working with thousands of sales reps and managers each year. It validates sales leader concerns » Continue Reading.
Five Misperceptions about Consultative Selling
In a world of dramatically changed B2B buying behavior, Consultative Selling remains one of the best ways — if not the best way — to focus on the client’s business issues and needs (not products for sale) to ensure that the proposed solution drives the needed business outcomes for the client to achieve his/her goals.
But, because it’s not the shiniest, newest sales approach on the market, there are some misperceptions about its relevance today. Following are five common misperceptions.
Consultative Selling is not assertive enough. Consultative Selling dialogue skills are used to create an environment of openness and mutual respect — ingredients that are necessary to stimulate thinking and gain a deep understanding of the client’s unique situation, diagnose root cause, and recommend the best solution. The seller may need to challenge the client’s thinking in the dialogue but certainly must do so without challenging the person. The only way to do this is to create an environment of openness and mutual respect, which is only created through the use of Consultative Selling skills. Consultative Selling leads sellers to go native. It’s unusual, but not impossible, for sellers to focus on their clients at the expense of their own company. However, the objective with Consultative Selling is to win profitable business. If an individual is not behaving as necessary, it becomes a coaching opportunity for sales leaders. » Continue Reading.
Why Consultative Selling Fosters Trust
In my last blog post, I focused on why Consultative Selling is still relevant. Today, I am going to look at why using a consultative selling approach can foster trust.
A Consultative Selling approach comes to life in the dialogue between the seller and the client with use of the Six Critical Skills: Presence, Relating, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking.
These skills give sellers the ability to navigate the dialogue in the moment by connecting with clients and gaining and keeping their openness and willingness to engage in productive dialogue.
Being consultative helps sellers accomplish two important things:
They gain needed information to deeply understand client needs, identify the right solution, and tailor what they say about products to ensure relevance and impact, and By maintaining their focus on and connection with the client, they create a positive buying experience for the client that fosters an ongoing relationship and trust.
By using the Six Critical Skills in a consultative dialogue, sellers can make sure the client feels heard, respected, understood, helped, and genuinely cared for. Just as important is what the client does not experience: a true consultative approach means the client never feels manipulated. Thus, trust has a place to sow its seeds and grow. So, the outcome of a truly consultative approach is a closer relationship and trust.
Consultative selling remains relevant » Continue Reading.
Why Consultative Selling Is Still Relevant
There will always be someone proclaiming that their New! Improved! sales model tops all others in getting through to today’s ultra-informed B2B buyer and in winning deals. Maybe it’s the pressure and stress of an increasingly competitive business environment that creates a kind of desperation around the search for new answers.
In looking for the next silver bullet for successful sales, we must be cautious not to get distracted from proven fundamentals.
Sellers do not need a radically new way of selling that contradicts or retires the principles of consultative selling. The goal of consultative selling is to focus on client needs vs. your product to ensure that your solution is relevant. If being relevant to clients still matters, then consultative selling, by definition, is still relevant.
We must remember that the philosophy, underlying psychology, and skills of consultative selling are timeless. They enable the seller to deeply understand the client’s unique situation and to tailor a solution that is in the client’s best interest by approaching the buying situation through the client’s eyes — and in doing so, the seller earns the client’s trust and business.
What is different today, in light of changes in the selling environment, is the need for sellers to have a higher-order level of skill in consultative selling to effectively leverage their knowledge, experience, and expertise to engage clients in insightful dialogue.
These higher-order » Continue Reading.
Sales Coaching without Secrets or a Hidden Agenda
One of the challenges that sales leaders face is recognizing that their job isn’t just to make their own targets, but also to support five, ten, or twenty people –– their entire sales teams –– in achieving their targets.
And, if these sales reps aren’t making their numbers, it’s up to the sales leader to help them figure out why and identify ways to improve performance.
There are two major pieces of information needed to make this happen:
What does it take to achieve the target? This involves the organization’s sales process and the skills and behaviors that salespeople need to use on the job. How can you, as the sales leader, help your team use this process and these skills and behaviors in the most effective way? The answer: coaching.
The secret of the sales coaching process at Richardson is that it shouldn’t be a secret. As a leader, you should tell your sales reps that you’re using a coaching process so that it’s not a secret. This shows there is no hidden agenda. And, even share what the process is with them so that you can use it together.
Sales coaching is not about you looking like the world’s most successful manager and leader; it’s about you sharing and transferring your knowledge and experience to people who don’t have it, collaborating with them in a nonjudgmental way –– in » Continue Reading.
Sales 101: Five Techniques for Positioning a Price Increase
Karl is a Sales Professional with McGinniss and Company, a leading supplier of raw materials to manufacturers. For 15 years, Karl has been using Sales 101 techniques to build strong relationships with clients, despite a volatile economy that has driven prices down and materials costs up.
Fortunately, the economy is improving, and McGinniss is seeing the benefits through increases in sales as high as 10% in seven of the last eight quarters. As a result, McGinniss is now in a position to implement price increases for the first time in seven years.
Karl doesn’t know what to do.
Like many Sales Professionals in the volatile economic conditions of the 21st century, Karl has never had to communicate price increases to his clients. Lacking experience in positioning a price increase, he is afraid of weakening the strong relationships that he has developed, or worse, losing clients by delivering this difficult message. However, for Karl, as for many Sales Professionals, economic growth is making price increases inevitable.
Fortunately, it is possible to maintain strong client relationships in this situation by following five techniques borrowed from Sales 101 for leading a consultative conversation about price increases:
1) Know the reason for the price increase. There are a number of reasons for increasing prices. For example:
Your costs (materials, labor, facilities, etc.) have increased. The original » Continue Reading.
What’s your Questioning Strategy?
Asking to be a strategic advisor to your client usually never happens. But, having the right questioning strategy can build the credibility required to become one.
The questions that you ask and the way that you ask them can define how you operate and how you are perceived by clients.
Do you ask the questions that get you paid? These questions are your bread and butter; they’re part of your comfort zone. These questions allow you to position your solution and the need for your product or service. These are what we call “current situation questions” — questions that probe how the client is currently operating, his/her level of satisfaction with the operations, and facts about how he/she does business.
All good questions, but they’re the wrong places to start.
The best first questions are strategic ones that explore the client’s main objectives. What is he/she trying to accomplish? What are his/her key priorities and objectives? Why did he/she decide to change from X strategy to Y?
Why should we ask these questions first? Because we don’t want to focus on our agenda; we want to focus on the client’s. At this point, we want the client to talk about what is most important to him/her. We want the client to take the conversation — and us — where he/she wants it to go, not where we want it to go.
Some people think that asking too many » Continue Reading.
Philadelphia, PA — March 3, 2015 — Richardson, a leading global sales training and performance improvement company, has been named to TrainingIndustry.com’s 2015 Top 20 Sales Training Companies list for the seventh consecutive year. The Top 20 list recognizes the top providers for sales training services and technologies, and Richardson is one of seven companies included in the list each year.
Richardson develops customized sales training programs that change behaviors and provide measurable results. From assessing talent and developing sales teams through verifiable outcomes, coaching, and reinforcement, Richardson employs effective learning methodologies that draw on the best of interpersonal interactions to help build individual and organizational capabilities. Richardson has spent 30 years examining every type of sales conversation — deconstructing them, rebuilding them, and making them learnable and repeatable for each stage of the sales cycle which Richardson has covered in their eBook, The Sales Conversation Pendulum.
Richardson has been recognized for providing outstanding service and a proven track record for delivering superior training and improving the impact of sales organizations. Inclusion to this year’s Top 20 Sales Training Companies list was based on the following criteria:
Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry Innovation in the sales training market Company size and growth potential Breadth of service offering Strength of clients served Geographic reach
“Being named to Training Industry’s list for the seventh consecutive year is a great accomplishment and » Continue Reading.
Let’s Make a Deal. New Research Reports that Best-In-Class Sales Coaching Can Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Richardson recently partnered with the Aberdeen Group to provide their newest research study that looks at how adding real-deal sales coaching elements to training activities achieves better business results in today’s competing market place. The research report analyzed the specific competencies around the more in-depth sales coaching tools that help shrink the sales cycle window for the most successful sales operations teams.
The study reveals several key findings, including:
Best-in-class organizations are 26% more likely than all others to move beyond the basic, generic training on products, pricing, and messaging, to a formal one-on-one coaching methodology that is specific to individual needs in the pipeline or key accounts. Best-in-class organizations are 61% more often turning to external consultants and trainers for assistance Best-in-class organizations lead all others by a 16% margin in promoting a culture of continuous improvement by formally engaging in win/loss activities to understand why they win or lose deals
To download Aberdeen’s full report, click here on the image below:
Why Sales Objections Can be Opportunities
As sales professionals, we are quite familiar with sales objections. We hear them on a daily basis, and sometimes, several times a day. We can hear them at any part of the sales process: when we open, when we discuss our solution, or when we close the deal.
The ability to resolve these sales objections is crucial for a number of reasons:
It enables you to maintain and strengthen your client relationships. It helps you move your sales cycle forward in a non-confrontational way. It helps ensure that conversations remain positive, focused, and consultative. It gives you confidence to address tough conversations. When dealing with price objections, it ensures that you don’t discount too early or leave money on the table.
Sales objections are most often thought of as roadblocks in the sales process, carrying negative connotations. In reality, sales objections represent an opportunity — the client is willing to share objections, which gives you the chance to address them and move the sale forward.
It’s important that you don’t make assumptions about the objection and instead ask the client to elaborate. This demonstrates your interest in learning more, while giving you extra time to think. It also confirms that you’re dealing with the right objection, as most times, the objection you first hear can be a smokescreen. I call this the Matryoshka effect, like the Russian nesting dolls: inside » Continue Reading.
Three Missteps in Sales Coaching
A sales manager’s most important job is coaching. An effective sales coach can accelerate learning, change behavior, and boost the performance of both individuals and the entire sales team.
The sales coaching process we use at Richardson is both simple and effective. When followed, the results are clear. The problem is, sales coaching only works if managers do it properly.
These are three common missteps we see in sales coaching:
Telling vs. asking
The key to effective sales coaching can be captured in three words: they talk first.
Our coaching model is all about asking specific, neutral, open-ended questions — and then, drilling down further with more questions.
Coaching by asking allows coaches to learn about their sales teams and the situations that they face. It builds commitment and buy-in and helps sales professionals take responsibility for their own learning.
There are times when coaching by telling is appropriate, such as an urgent situation in which there is no time to do anything but quickly tell and when moving toward disciplinary action. But, this is always the exception, never the rule.
Directing vs. collaborating
If coaches remember to ask instead of tell, they often do not ask enough questions. They might start with, “What are your thoughts?” or, “How do you feel the call went?” but tend to slowly put on their manager hats and start formulating solutions and giving their opinions. In » Continue Reading.
Overcoming Obstacles to Prospecting
In a recent post regarding making referrals part of your prospecting, we highlighted the importance of overcoming obstacles. The point was that, while seeking referrals is one of the best ways to secure warm leads, too many sales reps fail to pursue them due to real or perceived obstacles in their way. Overcoming those obstacles will undoubtedly lead to greater success, so let’s take a deeper look at prospecting obstacles and ways to manage or avoid them.
The Ultimate Checklist for Mission Critical Group Sales Presentations
“Mission critical” is a term that you see in many different activities, up to and including military operations. When mission critical aspects do not go well, barring an extraordinary piece of luck, the mission fails. If your group sales presentation does not go well, barring an extraordinary piece of luck, your sales effort will fail and you will not get the contract.