5 Important Lessons to Teach Your Sales Staff
Posted by Guest Author on July 8, 2014 in Sales 2.0 [ 0 Comments ]
One challenge for sales managers is making the transition from being an individual sales contributor to being responsible for the performance of other sales people. If the sales people on your team are less experienced or less skilled than you, there might be a learning curve. One of the most crucial roles for a sales manager is to lead by example and constantly teach, train and mentor the sales team.
Here are five of the most important sales concepts to relate to your team to help your sales people exceed expectations:
1. Sales is a process
Sales is about building relationships, and that can be a long-term arrangement. Before you can start taking orders or closing any major deals, you need to give your prospects reason to have faith in you and faith in the company that stands behind you. You need to help prospects see that your company can deliver on its promises, that it will stand by its products and services. You also need to demonstrate your firm’s ability to offer ROI. None of this work happens overnight, and it isn’t easy.
For example according to a study of technology sales executives featured in Harvard Business Review, 54% of the sales leaders said that their average sales cycle for outside sales was 90 days or more (Tweet This!). There are often multiple layers and multiple relationships involved in a simple sale. Don’t let your sales people try to rush through the sales process. Help them understand that two of the best tools for selling are patience and resources that will reinforce your word. These will reap far greater results than focusing on closing as many deals as possible as quickly as possible. Play the long game.
2. Pressure can backfire
Sometimes sales people put too much pressure on themselves to sell, sell, sell, which means that they won’t have the patience to build relationships and take prospects through the proper channels. When sales people are feeling pressure (or exerting pressure on the clients to make a decision), sales people tend to rush and miss critical details around the client’s needs. High-pressure sales people tend to become too aggressive and turn their prospects off, or they might just cave altogether under the weight of the expectations. Instead of creating an atmosphere of constant stress and pressure, make sure your team trusts themselves, trusts each other, and trusts you – so that you all can build trust with your prospects.
Remind your sales team that the decision makers that they are wooing are under pressure as well. Their necks are also on the line if your solution doesn’t deliver the expected results, so they need time to contemplate and consider before committing. No amount of sales pressure is going to build their trust more quickly.
3. You can’t create demand.
The simple fact that you have a product to sell on behalf of your company does not automatically create a demand for that product. Make sure your team understands that much of the drive for sales lies with the overall decisions and performance of the firm itself. Has it made careful decisions about what to produce, how much to produce and what to charge? We find this fairly often in the technology world. Five years ago, your software solution might have been the solution of choice for the industry, but management rested on its laurels, and new competition swept in with more advanced features, with an easy implementation, at a lower cost. Look for opportunities to help your sales team collaborate more closely with marketing and the development team to ensure that the product you are selling is competitive in the market.
4. Don’t count just the eggs that have hatched.
Many sales managers make the mistake of focusing only on counting their eggs that have hatched – i.e. looking only at final sales results. But when it’s time to reward your sales team’s top performers, look beyond how many eggs have hatched (deals closed) and look further at how many eggs are in the carton (qualified leads, pending deals) and look at the nest itself (future sales prospects). Hold your sales team accountable for lead management and lead nurturing activities – reward people who not only are good closers, but who know how to build relationships along the way throughout a long-term sales cycle.
Get your team to give you regular updates on who they are prospecting to, and report out on where they feel they are in the relationship curve with each prospect. Ask your sales team to evaluate what each of the prospects needs from your company in order to close, and work together to deliver what you need to make that happen, whether it’s research results or marketing tools. Lead nurturing can be a big competitive advantage for your sales team, because not many other companies are doing it right. According to statistics cited by Hubspot, 65% of B2B marketers have not established any kind of formal lead nurturing program (Tweet This!).
5. Yes, marketing is key to sales.
Too many sales people tend to dismiss or ignore the work of their teammates in the marketing department. According to statistics from the American Marketing Association, 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales, and sales people spend an average of 30 hours per month searching for and creating their own selling materials (Tweet This!). But even though sales people are rightly proud of their work in meeting customers and closing deals, as a sales manager it’s important to teach your team that good marketing still makes a big difference – and that they should work with the marketing department to get better results. Prospects want to see solid branding, an informational website that speaks their language, and collateral that educates and isn’t just glossy propaganda. These are critical tools you will need to offer up, in addition to credible research that supports your claims of ROI, to give your prospects a sense of your reputation and whether or not you’ve earned it. With good marketing materials, your clients can assess the value of your product or service before you walk in to shake their hand and start the relationship.
Work with your sales team to get their input when developing marketing collateral. Make sure the messaging is clear and concise so you are provided with a sales language that is unique to your company and to you. Send the right messages to your prospects and ongoing clients. Good marketing should draw them in; then, all your sales people have to do is reinforce the message, align it with the prospect’s needs and make the close.
It’s good for sales people to be confident and self-reliant, but the best sales managers are able to teach their team that sales is multi-faceted and requires effective collaboration, patience and attention to detail. Show your sales people how to work more effectively with their colleagues in marketing and product development. Make your sales team’s voices heard in meetings with higher-ups within your firm. Reinforce to your team the importance of patience and process orientation – build relationships, build trust, and work through the sales cycle without trying to put undue pressure on the prospect or take shortcuts. Individual contributors matter, but the best sales teams are truly “teams” – with a unified philosophy and a unified process for how to work with prospects over time and get deals done.
Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales at Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies specializing in B2B major account sales lead generation, sales consulting and sales training.
(Image via freedigitalphotos.net)