The B2B buying process has changed considerably in recent years, thanks to digital and social technologies. But, the one constant that can open doors or shut them forever is how well the sales professional performs in the moment of human interaction with the buyer.
Because the sale is truly made in those moments in front of the prospect and in the execution of compelling customer dialogues, there is still a great need for improvement in this area among salespeople:
- Only one in ten executives say that they get value from meetings with salespeople. (Forrester Research)
- The #1 reason salespeople miss quota is an inability to articulate value. (Sirius Decisions)
- Only 17% of salespeople get a second meeting with an executive. (Forrester Research)
These numbers could be significantly improved if sales leaders coached their teams to the desired behaviors necessary for engagement.
The impact of sales coaching has proven its value time and again. According to Forrester Research, in 2014, 63.2% of organizations with a formal sales coaching methodology achieved quota vs. 54.6% of organizations without coaching. Additionally, only 27% of organizations reported having a formal coaching methodology in place.
From the salesperson’s perspective, the Amabile Study (Harvard University, 2010) found that salespeople are more motivated when they make progress and grow. This speaks to the outcome of coaching, which supports the personal and professional development of those being coached.
Additionally, in 2009, the Gallup Organization reported that top sales coaches achieved overall:
- Fifty-six percent higher customer loyalty
- Thirty-eight percent higher productivity
- Fifty percent lower employee turnover
As you can see, it’s easy to make a case for sales coaching, and what adds the most impact is coaching to those behaviors that are necessary to winning in the moment that matters most — in front of the prospect, executing a compelling dialogue.
It starts with coaching to develop key selling practices:
- Thoroughly preparing for client interactions, from setting an objective and questioning strategy to preparing to handle possible objections that might be encountered
- Learning to ask questions in order to better understand client needs, objectives, and challenges vs. conducting a monologue or pitching products
- Practicing a natural, conversational tone and actively listening to responses instead of following a script and focusing more on the points that you want to make
- Positioning solutions that are tailored to the client’s situation and needs, rather than pitching the same idea to every client in a generic manner
- Asking for the business or next steps in order to maintain momentum on sales opportunities
- Keeping lines of communication open by providing useful insights over time, from market trends and the latest research to new perspectives and the views of peers and competitors
In order to achieve that moment of truth with clients, it is crucial to engage sales professionals in their development processes. Get them to talk about their experiences and where they see their own strengths and weaknesses. Then, ask for their suggestions about a potential course of action that will hone their craft. Provide guidance and suggestions to sales professionals, but keep a light touch. The aim is for them to take responsibility and accountability for their own development and, of course, to prepare them for the human dynamic of face-to-face selling.