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.