Our latest column from Training Magazine, Boosting Sales gives advice on how to keep your salespeople motivated. The article touches upon ideas introduced in some of our customized workshops, including our Having Challenging Conversations workshops and our Negotiation workshops. We invite you to contact us directly to learn more about how we can help you effectively address workplace mistakes and manage your global workforce.
To be successful these days, salespeople have to be creative problem solvers – advice and expertise win business nowadays, rather than simply the product or service the salesperson represents.
Q. I support our organization’s Sales function, and am looking to address a persistent challenge. While prospective customers consistently express interest in our company’s solutions, they are less willing to buy. This, combined with rumors of departmental layoffs, has taken its toll on morale among the sales team. I want to help, but don’t know where to start.
A: Selling in today’s economy can be very challenging and, therefore, discouraging. At the same time, when things aren’t running smoothly, it can be a great wake up call for identifying better practices and building on one’s skill set.
Now more than ever, a salesperson’s role is less about providing product information and more about creating value for the customer. In fact, customers’ chief complaint about salespeople is that they spend too much time and energy describing their product – research shows today’s customer would rather consult the Internet for product information. Thus, to be successful, salespeople have to be creative problem solvers – advice and expertise win business nowadays, rather than simply the product or service the salesperson represents.
Start by shifting the team’s mindset from live brochure to trouble-shooter. In a much stronger economy, they might have resisted this shift because their product and services were selling despite their lack of skill, and, as such, your company was reluctant to let them go. In today’s business environment, however, they might be more open to your advice.
Once you have their attention, hone their negotiation skills, as well as their ability to tackle challenging conversations.
To get customers to move from expressing interest to buying, sales professionals must uncover their client’s (undisclosed) real and perceived barriers, handle push-back, pursue your organization’s interests (resist capitulation), and persuade clients to buy. It culminates with a signed contract.
Adopt an Effective Negotiation Approach
An effective negotiation framework will complement your organization’s sales methodology. Whereas most sales approaches focus on surfacing the customer’s needs, often they lack guidance on how to pursue your organization’s interests, especially when they seem to conflict with those of the customer. Negotiation skills will help your salesforce advocate for your company while being mindful of the client objectives and while protecting client relationships.
Navigate Challenging Conversations
Negotiation skills are not enough. There will be instances in which your team has to decline a customer request or deliver bad news. Handled improperly, this could result in the loss of (potential) business. For your team to be most effective, they must know how to engage and navigate challenging conversations. This essential skill set can help them win business, as well as protect customer relationships that already are in place. Honing their “active-listening” skills is also essential.
Both of these competencies will be useful for internal matters, too. Sometimes a salesperson’s biggest challenge is the negotiation they must have with another department within their own organization – the salesperson is more than willing to tailor a product or go the extra mile to close a sale, but they may encounter naysayers from other functional areas that stand in their way. These skills can help your team navigate the labyrinth of business relationships.
By empowering your colleagues with a skill set that matches today’s landscape, they should feel more confident about their future with a higher level of engagement. At the very least, you will have given them the tools needed to discuss and influence the situation in a constructive way.