Sales tips, leadership communication skills insight and more from Steve Giglio, sales training professional for more than 25 years.

This Thanksgiving…Be Grateful, Then Insightful

This is a wonderful time of year! It’s a time for family, fun, cuisine, and insightfulness…if you allow it.

Each year at this time, I like to take stock of what is important to me. I look at three different areas and note what stands out:

What I enjoyed
Seeing clients shine during their annual investor/stakeholder meetings by being articulate, conversational, and approachable

What I created
Specific, tailored recommendations that addressed behavioral hindrances and then seeing clients’ succeed based on the work we did

What I am grateful for
My clients’ followership and the enjoyment we share on our development journey together

Looking back is a fine and worthy endeavor. But now is also the time for insightfulness as you consider the upcoming year. When working with clients, I ask them, “What do you want to be known for next year?” and “How do you want to manifest that so that it happens?”

Here’s an example:

This year, I had a client whose direct report was not sufficiently participating in the team’s success. She respected him and valued him on the team. However, she wanted him to realize on his own that he needed to up his game. She was frustrated that he did not seem inclined to have that self-awareness.

We wanted to allow him time to address what she saw as essential commercial challenges that he was not addressing. We created a series of questions that had the potential to have him understand that his participation was unacceptable. His responses illustrated his resignation to the marketplace and jadedness to it. After the second round of questions and insufficient responses, he asked her if she had lost faith in him. She said yes. Interestingly, he admitted he had lost faith in himself. As a result, she recommended a lesser role in which she believed he could succeed in 2024. He willingly agreed and everyone was satisfied that he was setup for success in the coming year.

My purpose in relating this situation is that now is the time to impart YOUR insightfulness to your team, acknowledge them for this year’s contributions, and establish a future with each person to create a fast start in 2024 that you both own.

And as you do that, take some time for introspection. What did you enjoy this year? What did you create? And for what are you grateful? Write your answers down and look at them from time to time as you plan for the coming year.

As always, I wish you much success. In addition, may your family, friends, co-workers, and you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

They Just Aren’t That Into You

There are only two months left in 2023. I know…I can’t believe that either! Many of you will be developing and delivering year-end presentations to clients/customers. STOP! Read this right now and you’ll save a lot of time:

They aren’t as interested as you think they are.

Too often, I see people delivering presentations that assume their audience is as knowledgeable and interested in their topic as they are. But think about it…I bet it won’t take long for you to recall a time when YOU were the audience and the speaker just simply lost you. They spoke with far too much detail about areas of the business that didn’t directly concern you. Remember that time? Good!

As you prepare for your client presentations, you must focus on what’s dear to them, what keeps them up at night, and what you’ve done (and are going to do) to make their lives easier.

They Care…Just Not That Much

Clients hired you for a reason and it’s that reason they care about. But do you know what it is? With my private equity clients, I often find that they’ve forgotten. As a result, their presentations try to cover every aspect of their business to prove how in touch and busy they are. However, if they focused on one simple question in the mind of their client, “Is my money safe?” they would deliver far more powerful messaging.

I had PE client say to me once, “Steve, I don’t need to hear the top executive expound upon every piece of knowledge he has…trying to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room. I only care about if they are doing a good job with my investments.”

Seems simple, right? But so many get it wrong.

Another executive said to me, “They fly me down to some island, put me up in a luxury hotel, put on an elaborate dog-and-pony show, and for what? All I wanted to know is what they could have told me in about 20 minutes in a meeting room.”

Your clients DO care about what you’re doing. But they are specific in what they care about. So, make sure you tell them what they want and need to hear.

They Don’t Live and Breath This Stuff

You are hyper-focused on your industry, your tasks, and your outcomes. However, your clients are not. They have their own enterprise issues that concern them 24/7. The way I see it, most clients have about 20 percent of the knowledge that their agencies/representatives do. Again, using some of my private equity clients as an example…they error by making assumptions about knowledge that their clients don’t actually have.

For example, I once had someone say about their PE representative, “I was so glad that he explained derivatives because I had never really understood how they worked.” I can only imagine how shocked the person delivering the presentation was to learn that his client wasn’t living and breathing derivatives all day!

Understand that your audience is there for a basic understanding of the work you do that is backed by the results you get. How you got those results is of far less interest than the fact that you got them.

Keep It Simple

When developing any presentation, but especially one at year’s end, it’s important you start by knowing what your audience wants to hear and then delivering easy-to-digest messaging that addresses those desires. I recommend my clients start by asking a few questions that will help them pare down their presentations to the few basic, but important, points they want to make:

  • Is this essential information that will inspire confidence from my audience?
  • Am I inspired to deliver this information?
  • Is it clear to me?
  • Have I preempted their logical questions?
  • How do I want them to feel after the presentation?
  • Is my audience smarter and more confident in my firm once I’m done?

Ask yourself these questions before you start your annual presentation development. As you do, you’ll start to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. I bet you will realize that much of what you might have said is not relevant and could risk turning off your client. Pretty much the opposite of what you want to inspire, right?

Take a lesson from the actor Joe Pesci. After winning an Oscar for “Goodfellas” in 1991, he diverted from usual acceptance speeches in which winners thank people whom most of the general public don’t know and he simply said:

“It’s my privilege. Thank you.”

It is widely considered one of the best acceptance speeches of all time!

Watch the video for this post:

 

The Joy of Coaching

That’s right. I said it. There is joy in coaching your employees!

I find it in coaching my clients. There is something magically rewarding to see someone break through a barrier and realize more of their potential. I truly hope you know what I mean. If you don’t, this post is aimed at helping you.

Three Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself

In my experience, I’ve found that I need to ask myself three questions before I start coaching someone:

Do I believe in them?

You can’t fake coaching. It has to come from a real belief that you think this person has the potential to be a star in your organization. It is at the very core of why you hired them in the first place. If you don’t believe in them, your coaching will likely come across as insincere or rote.

Do I see bankable potential?

It’s one thing to believe someone is a good person, a solid worker, and a positive influence in the office. But will they make it rain? All the personality in the world doesn’t matter if they don’t close the deal. So when you look at your direct report, do you see revenue-making potential? It’s fine if they are struggling with a few things right now…that can be coached. But if you don’t see them ever really getting to A-level status on your team, it may be time to assess if/where they will fit in the long term.

How would I feel if they improved?

If the person you are about to coach realized modest-to-amazing progress after your coaching, how would you feel? If your answer is anything but “good,” then you have another issue with this person. You’ll need to figure that out before you can coach them. Because if not for improving their skills and increasing their bankable potential, then why coach them?

Show Employees How to Improve

It’s one thing to tell an employee that he/she needs to improve. Guess what? They probably knew that already. It’s far more important to let them know you are going to help them learn to improve. That’s the level of caring for which they will move mountains! The three questions above have let YOU know that you believe in them, see bankable potential, and will get satisfaction if they improve. Imparting that to your employees will have them take you coaching to heart. They will know that you are in their corner and the coaching is for their benefit as a professional.

And the joy you will get from seeing them improve!

An example…recently, I completed an assignment with a lawyer who wanted to know how to procure more business. At the completion of our work, I asked her how she felt about our process. What she said, made my day, “You made it possible and easy for me.” Did that make me feel good and that our time had been well spent? You bet it did!

Each time I complete a coaching session, I’m on cloud nine! It’s fulfilling and heartening, and it makes a difference. So if you have been putting off coaching your team for any reason, know that you are delaying some joyful satisfaction that you can get from the process. Believing that everyone on your team is able and powerful is essential. You must maintain this belief to foster their ownership of their development. Essentially you are helping people discover how to be better. And you get sustained performance from it!

Watch the video for this blog:

Building a Sales Team: Part 3 – Managing “C” Players

In the first post of this series, I stressed the importance of assessing and analyzing your sales team. Through that process, you should emerge knowing who your A, B, and C-level players are. Completing the ABC ranking exercise is often quite enlightening. You see what it takes to become an A Player and the inconsistencies you can coach in your B Players.

The further value of this exercise is realizing who your C Players are and what needs to occur for the growth of your entire team. C Players, if left unchecked and unchanged, will erode your team’s ability to reach the goals you’ve worked so hard to distill, operationalize, and achieve.

Therefore, it’s your responsibility to call them out professionally, objectively, and relationally. Doing this respects your entire team’s efforts while staying true to your overall mission.

Alert Them to the Issues

The first step is to let them know that issues exist. Begin this conversation by stating you’ve observed behaviors preventing them from succeeding in their role. Then, cite the inappropriate behaviors with specific examples along with the impact these behaviors have had on them, the business, and their colleagues.

Observe their reaction. Notice how your direct report listens and processes your development direction. Give them time to present their side of things. Some may agree that the issues are present and will show a willingness to improve, even if they are unsure how to proceed. That’s ok…agreeing that there are issues is a good starting point. However, often you’ll hear their resignation to their sub-par behavior or, in contrast, they will get defensive, providing excuses and laying blame. This is a red flag and is when you should consider moving to the jettison stage (see below).

Plan for Change and Success

Once there is agreement on the issues and their causes, create a plan that gets them back on track. Map out a 90-day development plan that addresses these unacceptable behaviors. This should be very specific with measurable goals, a feedback mechanism from peers, and regular check-ins/coaching by you. They should understand that this 90 days is not just to correct issues but for them to demonstrate their willingness to “do whatever it takes” to remain on the team. With your attention, coaching, and support, you are setting them up for success. Ultimately, though, it is up to them whether they take advantage of it or not.

Jettisoning C-level Players

At some point, it is important you ask these C-level players if they are happy in their current role. If they say yes, then reinforce what you require from them to maintain their position and successfully complete their 90-day plan. But if they say they are not happy, you should mutually and relationally move to an exit plan. It’s been my experience that this step is the one managers are most reluctant to activate. So often I see C-level players who are kept on the team even when it’s clear they are not making positive contributions. Worse, they have a virus-like tendency to try to bring others along with them. While it’s your job to mentor your team members, it’s also your job to have the best team you can assemble and sometimes that means jettisoning C-level players for the good of the team.

I understand this is a hard step and you may be filled with anxiety and trepidation. So, what I tell my clients is this:

Most C Players are not losing sleep over their actions, only you are.

Lastly, C-level players can command a lot of your attention, making it harder to focus on your other team members. Don’t let this happen. Make sure you are acknowledging the accomplishments your more successful direct reports are achieving. As a manager, it’s important you maintain this balance and keep driving all your team members towards their goals.

Building a Sales Team: Part 2 – Be Positive About Feedback

When you hear “feedback,” do you automatically think of it as a negative? Do your employees?

It’s time for a change of attitude. You can and should enjoy delivering feedback. The secret to it is how you hold it.

Be Positive About Feedback

It’s natural to hold feedback as a critical act. It’s not! It’s a contribution to someone’s life and their future. Therefore, you need to change your frame of reference to it. Coaching contributes to someone who can’t develop without you or your wisdom.

Do you think employees don’t want feedback? That’s where you’re wrong. According to a recent PwC study, 60 percent of respondents said they want feedback daily or weekly. That number jumps to more than 70 percent for people under 30. And yet, the same study found that less than 30 percent say they get regular feedback. As you can see, there is an opportunity here for you as a leader.

But just knowing that your team wants feedback is just part of taking a positive attitude toward it. You also have to know why you’re giving it, how to deliver it, and perhaps most importantly, who you are giving it to.

Why Give Feedback

The answer to that, as noted above, is easy…because they want it! But there are underlying motivations for you to provide feedback. First, you are showing you care. Does that matter to employees? Well, ask yourself, does it matter to you whether your supervisor cares? Of course it does. Secondly, you are getting as much as you are giving. Listen to what your employees say. Ask probing questions. Be open to their feedback as much as you want them to be open to yours. Learning what your employees need to succeed is critically important and you can gain that information with feedback sessions. And lastly, you can nip things in the bud if they start going off the rails. People make mistakes. They misinterpret directions. They have a bad day/week. Whatever the reason, when you are regularly delivering (and getting) feedback, you’ll be able to address issues as they arise and not find out about them at the end of the quarter/year.

And speaking of giving feedback regularly…

How to Give Feedback Effectively

There are a LOT of resources you can find that will help improve your feedback skills. But what I’ve found to be most important is that you give it regularly. It is not enough to simply give quarterly reviews where you go over sales goals, tactics, and results. That’s reporting, not feedback.

Start with weekly check-ins. These short one-on-one meetings/calls are an opportunity to learn more about your team members, the challenges they are facing, and what you can do to help. These sessions should very much be a back-and-forth conversation. It’s during these times you will really demonstrate a level of caring that they will appreciate. That appreciation should lead to a degree of loyalty you may not have experienced previously. Stick to these weekly meetings…don’t let them lapse! And if you have to miss one, reschedule it. Don’t just put it off to next week. Again, this shows how important your direct report is to you.

You should still do quarterly meetings with your team. However, there shouldn’t be any surprises since you’ve met weekly. Now you can really dive into their annual goals, their professional desires, and your insight into how they can achieve both. Take these seriously and prepare for them like you would a client meeting. They are that important!

Again, the point is that you are meeting with them on a regular basis as a priority. That will go far toward improving your team’s overall performance and job satisfaction.

Who Is Getting the Feedback

In sales, knowing your audience is critical when delivering your recommendations. The same is true for delivering feedback to your team. My surgeon father always said, “never treat one patient the same as the next. Every person has their own DNA and their own unique protocol to cure.” Apply this to your behavior.

You are dealing with a human life here. A person whose lifeline to growth is in your hands. Get to know your employees so that you can relate to them wherever they are in their lives. Outside pressures can have a big impact on how they conduct themselves at work. Find out what’s going on and how they are handling it.

Direct reports, especially Gen X through Z, want to understand how they can get better. Knowing how each of them “ticks” and what type of feedback will resonate best with them is important. You will determine that over time via the weekly check-ins. Some will want a direct approach…just tell them where they are excelling and where they can improve. Others may want a softer touch. And so many other varieties in between. Keep in mind…it is your job to deliver the feedback so that they receive and respond to it. Be as specific as you can so that the feedback is relatable. Stories/specific examples teach people what their developmental behavior is. From this acknowledgment, you can mutually create a new scorecard of development you and your direct can use constructively going forward.

Can you be positive about feedback? Yes…and so can your team, eventually. As you continue moving your team towards transformational salespeople, transform your attitude about feedback and see what happens!

Building a Sales Team: Part 1 – Assess and Analyze

Have patience with all things but first of all, with yourself

-Francis De Sales

In this new series, we will focus on building an effective sales team over time as we look towards 2024. And there is the key word: time. Like most things in life, you must exhibit patience to see results. To transform your team as their leader, you will need to fully understand the skill, experience, and ability to learn each member has. And that’s a good starting point for this three-part blog series.

Assess Your Sales Team

Take stock of your current team. I recommend starting with two essential measurements as you rank each of your sales team members: revenue generation and attributes/behavior. And the ranking system is as simple as ABC! Group your associates into A, B, and C players based on the two aforementioned measurements. Here is some help to determine rankings:

A Players: consistently exceed their revenue goals and are highly mature, motivated, and commercially grounded. You generally don’t need to give them much feedback but when you do, they eagerly accept it as a way to grow professionally.

B Players: have had some success but are generally inconsistent, requiring more of your guidance. However, they are eager to learn and have potential to become A Players.

C Players: often are entitled, inconsistent earners, and resist feedback. They are your lowest performers and can also be toxic to building a strong sales team.

Analyze Foundational Behaviors

Once you’ve done a stack ranking, it’s time to look at what behaviors are consistent with your A Players. These are the foundational behaviors you will use as your baseline for developing your team for a fast start in 2024.

Here’s where you will need some patience. Most of your B Players and likely all of your C Players will not exhibit these behaviors. So, you will need to help develop them. This won’t be easy because, well, if they had the inclination or inherent ability to develop these foundational behaviors, they would have already.

Take your time with each sales team member, creating a development plan in which they have some authorship and agree to follow. Pay attention here! Your C Players are the most likely to resist any effort to change how they do things. It may be time to have an honest, frank and direct conversation about their future. If they cannot commit to adapting to how your team is developing, it may be time to have them move on. One thing is certain…the time to address these issues is now, not in December.

Address the Changed World…And Then Move Forward

One last thing as you assess, rank, and develop your team. Remember our changed world. Things have been anything but normal for the last five years. As a leader, you need to acknowledge that but not dwell too long on it. Yes, COVID fallout is real and it impacted how business development has been done. Your team may have struggled. But now is the time to move forward and develop a strong sales team that can learn from those experiences as they improve their foundational behaviors. Wary should you be of those in your care who are still using COVID as a reason for not moving forward.

As mentioned in this post, determining how well your team accepts and reacts to feedback is an important assessment. In Part Two of this series, we’ll focus on communicating and delivering positive feedback to inspire them to develop. It could be that HOW you are delivering feedback is the reason they aren’t reacting well to it!

Sales Training Solutions 2023: Part 5

Actioning Sales Leadership

In the first four posts of this series, we looked at how these times demand that sales leaders help teams develop into transformational salespeople rather than transactional ones. I provided reasons for why this is important now and how to motivate your teams to develop new habits.

And in this final post, it’s time to put our attention towards you, the leader, and what actions you should take so that your team will end 2023 strong and look toward a bright 2024.

Questions for Sales Leaders

Let’s start by asking yourself a few questions. Here are my suggestions:

What is your leadership purpose now?

Things have not just changed for your teams…they’ve changed for you as well. How has that affected your leadership purpose? If you are working to have your team become transformational salespeople, that should mean you are in a coaching/counseling role more and less in a “count the sales” one. Changing habits and mindsets starts with leadership and that should be your main purpose moving forward,

What is your reskilling process?

The above says easy but does hard. Changing YOUR habits isn’t any easier than your team changing theirs. What new skills do you need now? Where will you learn them? What will be your process for keeping skills sharp and always improving? And how will your new skills impact your team?

What are your 2024 sales expectations?

Transformational selling is a tricky thing. On one hand, it’s about developing long-term relationships during which your team members become trusted advisors and excel at “staying in the pain” with clients. On the other hand, your team still needs to produce! How will their new habits affect your quarterly and annual numbers? Have you set expectations with company management? How will you manage the time during which your team is shifting to a different way of doing things but also responsible for results? And what will your 2024 look like?

These questions are fundamental to sales leadership transformation.

Now is the time to build intimate, developmental relationships with each person on your team such that they begin to think like you. Give it three months. Once you see effective changes, that will be objective evidence that you’ve influenced them toward greater success. And heck, isn’t that why you became a sales leader in the first place?

Essential Sales Leadership Actions to Take Now

Now is the time for you to take action. Here are my suggested steps:

  • Observe how your salespeople are spending their time. Contrast this to the ideal commercial activities in which they should be engaging
  • Role model/Mentor best-in-class sales techniques
  • Redefine your ideal customer/client for your teams
  • Express how their habits need to change and how you are going to help develop them
  • Know each salesperson’s ability to manage through a volatile situation and remain commercially grounded
  • Systematize your 2024 go-to-market process
  • Understand who your A, B, and C-level salespeople are so you can create appropriate development plans for each
  • Craft a sales training program that addresses the above actions

And so completes my 5-part series, “Sales Training Solutions for 2023.”  The year is half over already so, it’s time now to implement the strategies and steps I’ve outlined. It’s not too late! And I can help…just drop me a line and let’s get started.

Sales Training Solutions: Part 4

Developing Transformational Sales Skills

A lot has changed in the last few years. However, there is one thing that has remained constant: people still buy people first, products/services second. If you’re unfamiliar with that saying, a customer must trust you before they can be convinced to accept what you’re recommending.

However, that doesn’t mean the same skills used to drive sales before will work today. So, the essential question is, what are the sales skills your teams require now?

My answer? They develop transformative rather than transactional sales skills.

In the new normal of 2023, sales teams (and their leaders) must be strategic, analytical, and desirous of understanding clients’ goals and challenges. Further, it is critical they comprehend the commercial impact those challenges have on their client’s business. And as noted in the second blog in this series, they must move away from being order takers to become authories.

And what does it take to develop those transformational sales skills? Here are my three recommendations:

Dream with Clients

It’s likely your team’s clients have an ideal vision of where they want the company to be right now and where they’d like it to be years down the road. Do your team members know what that vision is? Are they dreaming with their clients? When they share in that dream, they can start creating recommendations with the vision as the target. Doing so will illustrate your organization’s nimbleness, commercial prescience, and committed partnership.

Great salespeople sell into a future state their client requires. Without altogether understanding this ideal state, a robust recommendation cannot be purchased. How a salesperson creates this makes or breaks their success.

Create Solution Centers…and Use Them!

I like to think of salespeople as the scouts of the operation. They are out on the front lines, meeting with clients, probing to find opportunities, and learning what challenges clients face. However, many times they are left alone to come up with recommendations without the benefit of multi-departmental support. As their leader, you must help correct that and bring in others who can provide expertise when needed.

I recommend that you create Solution Centers, multiple professionals huddled in a think-tank environment that can build bespoke solutions your competitive set would not consider or for which they wouldn’t appropriate resources. Giving your team access to a Solution Center is extremely valuable as a sales tool. Imagine a conversation during which your representative says, “Since our last meeting, I’ve spoken with our engineering, development, and communications departments. Our recommendation for your challenges are…”

Having a Solution Center does several things for your salespeople. First, it gives them a sounding board for their recommendations that can be enhanced with expert input. Second, it solidifies their confidence in the recommendations. They have been vetted, improved and are now ready to be presented. Third, it demonstrates how important the client’s business is to your company. Having convened resources from multiple departments shows how committed your organization is to their success.

Stress the Urgency of the Solution

For your sales teams, sometimes the urgency of getting the sale obfuscates the urgency of the solution. I have found that salespeople often forget that their solution is solving a problem and that the problem is an urgent one for their client. Or even worse….they never learned how urgent the problem was in the first place.

Make sure your team is drilling down so that they understand all the challenges a client is facing. At first, a customer might say, “We are not the only show in town anymore. Others are starting to do what we do.” To that, I always suggest a salesperson respond with one of the most powerful questions they can ask: “Really?” A client will then reveal deeper challenges. “Yes, and I’ve been burned in front of our board twice because competitors have crept into our space. I have to have a better presentation next time.” Now your team member understands the personal challenge their client is facing, not just the business one. The more you can get your team to drill down to the core issues, the more information they can bring back to the Solution Center for robust recommendations. And then they can stress the client’s urgency right back to them, “You said you needed a better solution for the increased competition your board is seeing in the market. I have some solutions from our team….” This is a huge step towards establishing trust (and not being an order taker!).

Remember…people buy people first! You can help build your team into authorities by following these three recommendations.

In the next blog in this series, I will provide some demonstrable actions that YOU can take now as a sales team leader.

Sales Training Solutions 2023: Part 3

Changing Behaviors

My last blog addressed systematic changes you can make to start transforming sales order takers into consultative authorities. In this post, I focus on behaviors that need to change and some that should be developed to move your team toward becoming trusted advisors for your clients.

To Begin…Stop!

I recommend you start with a Stop List. On this list, you will note the behaviors your employees need to stop doing so that new behaviors can take their place. Here are a few examples:

STOP rote conversations. Yes, your team needs to be trained on the company’s value proposition, the solutions offered, and the benefits of each solution. However, clients know if you are reciting that information rather than tailoring it to their needs. You’ve said it all before…they’ve heard it all before. Is that the energy you want your team to create? Train your teams to customize presentations, conduct engaging conversations, and ask smart probing questions. Those are behaviors that will develop authority.

STOP prioritizing price. Is your service a commodity? Can anyone do it? It is easy to replicate? If so, then price may be your team’s best foundation for starting a conversation. However, most companies have developed a value proposition that is based on knowledge, expertise, experience, and proficiency. Salesperson and author Zig Zigler said, “If people like you, they will listen to you. But if they trust you, they will buy from you.” Leading with price does little to establish that trust. Stop your teams from focusing on how much a client will pay and pivot them toward why they should pay.

STOP bundling recommendations. Just because you’ve had success bundling certain solutions doesn’t mean you should automatically package them for each client. Your team must realize that what worked for Client A may not work for Client B even if they are in the same industry. Train your team to selectively menu your products/services based on each client’s needs while giving the client flexibility so that you can collaboratively create a comprehensive solution.

Start Developing Authorities

Once these behaviors have been eliminated, you can have your team START developing new approaches that will build their acumen as authorities. Here are a few examples:

START listening empathetically. As salespeople, we are conditioned to listen for sales opportunities. That’s fine as long as it’s not all your team is doing. Until they establish trust, your team will likely only be told the surface-level issues affecting their clients. They need to dig deeper. And they do that by listening with empathy to demonstrate caring. Someone who cares acknowledges the issues and the commercial impacts they have. Someone who cares asks about the toll these issues have had. Someone who cares gets a client to open up and reveal more about the situation. And someone who cares will present solutions based on this more meaningful understanding.

START redefining value. Priorities change. Challenges change. Competitive landscapes change. This is true for your company and your clients. Your team must start each engagement by refining your value proposition so that it addresses new environments in which your clients operate. For each client, do they understand what problems they are truly solving today? Do they know how the competitive set can address them?  Have they tailored solutions that are unique and can only be delivered by your company? Starting with these questions will help bring value to their recommendations and further from the commoditization of price.

START visioning. Your teams need to look to the future with clients. But not the future they see given current circumstances, challenges, and personnel. Rather, they should look at a client’s ideal future. It’s important your team learns what your clients really want. A great probing question would be, “Let’s take time and money out of the equation. Where do you want your team to be in December?” Have your teams talk with clients about the future they want and together they can create a scenario in which that future is realized.

Believe it or not, we are already halfway through 2023. It’s important you create these STOP and START lists with your teams now so that you can change behaviors, increase client engagement, and build a stronger foundation for the end of the year. The good news for you and your teams is that you have help available. In my next post in this 5-part series, I will recommend creating Solution Centers and define why they are critical for building team confidence and client trust. Stay tuned!

Sales Training Solutions 2023: Part 2

Transform Order-takers Into Authorities

Sales teams are challenged with producing results but also building relationships. The former is much tougher without the latter. However, in today’s post-Covid era, I’ve found that we are creating many more “order takers” than consultative authorities. Let’s take a look at why that is and what you can do about it with your teams.

What is a Sales Order Taker?

We all know the difference between someone who takes your fast food order versus someone who cares for you at a full-service restaurant, right? Fast-food order takers rely on you knowing what you want and asking for it. The interaction is very transactional. With a full-service waitperson, they will take time to ask what you want, present options and opinions, and ensure that you fully enjoy your experience. That interaction is relational.

In sales, we have the same dynamic. Some salespeople will simply wait for the phone to ring or email to come in. And when it does, the onus is on the customer to know what they want and request it. This salesperson sees their job as taking the order and making sure it is fulfilled with little or no follow-up nor presentation of other solutions for consideration. Transactional.

In the training I do, we are creating consultative authorities. These salespeople take time to learn about their customers’ needs, tailor solutions that meet those needs, and look for opportunities to further help with additional solutions. Relational!

But the problem I see these days is that there are far more order-takers than authorities. Why is that?

Covid-era Created More Sales Order Takers

When people were sent home for months during the Covid-era, they were left to their own devices as salespeople. They had little or no daily supervision, limited or no training, no personal connection to customers, and distant leadership. That created an atmosphere of selling-and-reporting rather than relationship-building. There was not enough “caring and feeding” of associates by team leaders so salespeople were left scorecarding their activities:
“How many customers/prospects did you contact?
“What was the result?”
“How much income did you produce?”
“What are your goals for next week?”

Covid shifted the paradigm back to a reactive one that was focused simply on putting wins on the board. People relied heavily on technology…texting, video calls, communication services like Slack, Teams, etc. And what was lost was the interpersonal communication between management and their direct reports, associates and their customers.

Why You Need Sales Authorities Now

The Covid era is over. There are no limitations on how your employees can interact with customers except those they put on themselves. Are they taking the easy route…firing off a text or email rather than calling? Are they passively avoiding in-person meetings by not even asking for them? As their leader, you need to set them on a different path because clients are demanding it.

Now that things are back to normal, clients are once again requiring that you earn their business. It’s not enough that you have the business already. You can lose it at any time (and I’ve been approached by many companies that have). So your team needs to build strong relationships that demonstrate a knowledge of your customers’ industry, business needs, and challenges.

And here’s what I recommend as a good start (future posts will have more tactics to employ):

Start with In-Person Meetings

This new generation of salespeople is so dialed in with technology that they are eschewing one of the most important and relationship-building tools…a face-to-face meeting. As their leader, you need to encourage…even require…that they meet with customers in person regularly. This is a major step in earning and/or keeping a client’s business. Here’s why:

  1. It Demonstrates Caring: In taking the time to meet one-on-one with a client, you are saying that the client is very important and you are putting aside all other work you could be doing to focus on their needs.
  2. You Can’t See Body Language on a Phone Call: This is a simple yet critical point. Being able to assess how a customer reacts to your recommendations needs to include their body language. So much can be said without words, right?
  3. You BOTH Aren’t Distracted: An in-person meeting eliminates a lot of distractions…text message alerts, emails, phone calls, people coming in while you’re on a Zoom call, etc. These distractions are reduced for your client, too. It means you can both focus and get to the real issues/challenges that you are there to solve.

Resolving Pushback from Your Employees

Let’s face it…when it comes to in-person meetings, your employees have had it easy for a few years. They couldn’t do them! But that era is over. However, when you ask them to include face-to-face meetings in their activities, you may get pushback. Pay attention to it! There are a few things to learn here.

First, who is pushing back? As I’ve noted in past posts, you have A, B, and C players on a sales team. Those who embrace the idea of scheduling in-person meetings and get right to it…they are are your A players. Those who hesitate only because they feel they aren’t equipped to conduct a full meeting are your B players (and I’ll say more about them below). And then there are those who begin a barrage of excuses as to why they can’t do in-person meetings. “My clients don’t like to meet.” “Our schedules never work for that.” “I’m more effective on the phone.” “There’s so much wasted time getting to and from them…I can use that time more productively.”  You’ll hear it all…and it will come from your C players. Be wary!

Second…they want help. Back to your B players…what they are saying is they need leadership and training to conduct a productive meeting. Give it to them…or get it for them. This will show you care about their development and success. And it will ensure that you can confidently send them to a client meeting knowing that they have the skills to lead it effectively.

We don’t need more order takers! Use the tips above as you develop consultative authorities that will create meaningful (and profitable!) client relationships. In my next three posts in this series, I will provide more ways you can do that.