Monthly Archives: October 2015
In Part I of this series, I talked about the changing sales environment and how more buyers are buying than being sold. As a result, salespeople need to dig deep into buying motives to establish credibility and provide new ideas and insights to buyers.
One of the techniques that I used in my 30-year career in sales, including 15 years as a senior vice president of sales in the IT services industry, was to conduct a targeted dialogue with buyers. I would start by asking them to tell me about their top ten customers:
What are the common themes among their largest customers? Why do their customers continue to buy from them? Is it because of long-standing relationships, customer service, speed to market, or any other specific advantage? On the negative side, what about the top ten customers that left to go with a competitor? Are there any common themes among those who are gone?
Even though most buyers could not give good answers about their customers, I was able to gain credibility and position myself as a business partner who could provide value.
For me, it’s all about research and sales preparation before meeting with buyers. First, you have to know where they’re coming from, what’s going on with their company, who their competitors are, what markets they’re actively going after, and what the common problems are associated with these markets. You have to learn so much about » Continue Reading.
In every sales training class that I facilitate, I start by telling participants that they may consider my background either lucky or unfortunate for them. That’s because I’m not a “professional” trainer. What I am is a professional salesperson, with 30 years of experience under my belt. The last 15 of those years were spent as a senior vice president of sales in the IT services industry.
With this background, I have witnessed just about every sales scenario imaginable. And because I was responsible for premier accounts — those that billed in the top 40 — I developed an expert ability to deal with large, complex sales with long buying cycles.
During my career, I have also witnessed dramatic changes in B2B selling, as the availability of information has created more sophisticated and informed buyers. In my sales days, customers relied on me to provide them with information. Now, customers want salespeople to validate information that they’ve discovered on their own.
The way I describe today’s selling environment is that “more buyers are buying than being sold.” We have all seen these numbers previously, but they are worth communicating again. According to SiriusDecisions, buyers now digitally complete 67% of their decision processes before ever contacting a salesperson. Forrester Research goes even further, citing that 60% to 90% of the buyer’s journey occurs before he/she ever engages a potential provider.
Another important change is the number of people involved » Continue Reading.
When we work with clients to create a common language and sales process, that’s just the start. A process by itself is just a process. It needs to be absorbed and put into practice. It needs to become part of day-to-day behaviors. It needs to be second nature.
Depending on the organization, this can be straightforward or complex, depending on how well sales professionals understand what they’re doing as they go from one step to the next.
That’s where Richardson sales training, reinforcement, and coaching come in. By linking the sales process and sales training, participants can see what they are currently doing, how it fits within the desired behaviors, and where adjustments are needed. A process that may have seemed overwhelming to start becomes a welcome roadmap that breaks down each step, and they can see how the things that they currently do fit within the overall scope.
At the end of training sessions, I’ve had participants tell me the structure of the sales process is “awesome” because now they have something to guide what they’re doing. They know that they can always refer back to the steps of the sales process and make adjustments, as necessary, for their specific situation.
It certainly is possible to train sales people without linking content to a sales process. The training would incorporate information from interviews with sales professionals and managers of the activities in the process of » Continue Reading.
Just a quick reminder that our research survey on Teamwork in Selling will be closing on Friday, October 23rd at 4:00 est.
We are very interested in your feedback on this topic so please click here to complete this short survey. After completing the survey, you will have a chance to enter your contact information to receive a copy of the report, and to become eligible to win a Nike Fuelband.
How Can a Common Vocabulary Create Shorter Sales Cycles?
At Richardson, we place great stock in creating a common language and a customized sales process for consistency across a client organization. The reason is simple: results. We continually see benefits in terms of creating sales success and shorter sales cycles.
Why does language — vocabulary — matter so much? What is the big deal if one person talks about pursuing a lead, while another talks about prospects, and a third an opportunity. They all mean the same thing, don’t they?
Similarly, some sales teams talk about a close, others about gaining agreement or signing contracts. Again, are they the same thing? Maybe or maybe not.
Whenever members of the same team use different words to describe what may be similar activities, they can confuse clients and coworkers, particularly those who work in global organizations.
Consider the case of a large US company that has grown by acquisition, with local offices in Europe and Asia. Say the company then contracts with a global supplier that also has a US headquarters and branches around the world. The expectation at the headquarters level is for consistency across all locations in terms of service, the relationship, and the overall value provided. But, if the local offices in Japan or India hear different vocabulary than what was used in the US, it can make the supplier look unorganized and create confusion with the client. » Continue Reading.
The Best Sales Process Comes from Successful Sellers
One thing we know about successful sales organizations is that they take guesswork out of the equation for sales professionals. They establish a consistent sales process and language, and this means that sales professionals don’t have to recreate the wheel or figure things out as they go along. Instead, they are able to follow a process that has been tested, prove its value, and provide a roadmap to next steps.
A critical challenge for sales organizations in onboarding new hires is the length of time before they become productive. They have to learn the product that they’re selling, the company’s culture, the clients, and the prospects. Any steps to shorten that coming-up-to-speed period contribute to the productivity of sales professional and the organization.
At Richardson, we believe a common language and sales process helps bring sales professionals up-to-speed faster and serves them better throughout their career. By telling them, “This is how we do it, step by step,” sales professionals get better and quicker at turning a sales lead into a successful deal.
The way that Richardson works with clients to create and validate an effective sales process — one that clearly identifies leading indicators of success — begins with what we call an affirmative inquiry. We interview senior leaders and then ask them to nominate sales professionals who consistently perform at top levels. The goal is to determine what » Continue Reading.
At Richardson, we have a wealth of senior-level experts who facilitate training sessions around the world. All of them have line-management experience in complex sales environments, and they draw on their real-world understanding to engage sales managers and executives in improving performance and changing behaviors.
In our first Sales Expert Series, we ask them to share what they see when working with clients and offer tips based on what leads to the best results. Here is our first insight.
What suggestions would you offer to sales leaders to move their team members from vendor status to true strategic partner?
The first step is to ask these questions: What does a true strategic partner look and sound like? What does this really mean from the customer’s perspective? What do you do daily to achieve this status? As a sales leader, the way to move team members toward becoming strategic thinkers is not by telling them what to do but by asking them what they think.
With the answers to these questions, select just one aspect of being a true partner, then make it the focus of your weekly team meeting with the ground rule being that everyone has to contribute. The topics could be anything from how to get to know a customer’s business as well as they do to becoming more global in thought processes, or something as specific as adding more polish in verbal communication. After all, a primary » Continue Reading.
Only 17 percent of salespeople get a second sales meeting
Here’s the bad news: only 17 percent of salespeople get a second meeting with an executive, according to Forrester Research.
The good news is that you can improve your chances of getting a second meeting through preparation and demonstrating your credibility in the first meeting. If you are lucky enough to get into the executive suite, you have to balance your strategy of question-led and insight-led dialogue to create “aha!” moments for the client, proving that you do indeed have a deep understanding of their business.
The first step is to determine, in advance of the meeting, what you’d like to happen at its conclusion. It’s not always going to be a sale; it might be to have another meeting. The way that you build that expectation up front for yourself and communicate it early in the meeting can be an important move.
Be aware that executives will often spend the first few minutes of a sales meeting trying to determine whether you have earned your right to be a part of the conversation regarding whatever initiative is on the table. So, if you begin by being too product-focused or talking only about yourself and your company, most executives will consider that a deal-breaker. You have to demonstrate from the start that you know enough about their business and their industry to be credible, insightful, and a valuable partner, » Continue Reading.