Internal champions – remember you are Not there most of the time

Internal Champion

Internal Champion

Many things are important to be successful in B2B sales.  Some topics seem to be talked about a lot; others receive less attention.  One that doesn’t get a lot of attention is internal champions.

Travel back 10 years or so and you might argue that having an internal champion was a good idea to keep in mind but it was hardly a critical success factor.  Today it is much harder to be that cavalier.

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Sales is more challenging today.  With the rise of more committees, there are more people involved in making buying decisions, sellers are engaged later in the buying cycle, and, increasingly a lot of the selling is going on when you not there.  As a matter of fact in today’s market, you are not there most of the time.

So at this point developing an internal champion has moved from a nice-to-do to a must-do.

7 tips for developing the right internal champions

  1. Distinguish between account friends and internal champions – An account friend likes and supports everyone, an internal champion is an advocate for you.  An internal champion helps you plan and execute your strategy to win the business.
  2. Consider multiple people – Don’t just focus on the first person you run into – meet multiple people before “settling in” on whom to develop as an internal champion.
  3. Check access – Make sure they have access to key players.  One of the greatest traps is selecting someone; spending the time to develop them and then finding out they are “willing” but not “able” to help.
  4. Rehearse – Recognize that time must be spent rehearsing the internal champion to tell your story.  Although the internal champion knows their company, they don’t know your competitive advantages as well as you do.  Rehearsing is all about leveraging both bodies of knowledge so the internal champion can position you effectively.
  5. Check the interest in your product – Find someone who is interested in your product or service. It is difficult to have someone support you over time if they do not really believe in the message.  You can help people to tell a story; it’s harder to help them to believe a story.
  6. Consider having more than one – There are numerous reasons for having more than one internal champion in an account such as: different types of expertise or different levels of access.  The longer and more complex the buying cycle, the more important this notion becomes.
  7. Recognize the relationship must be a two-way street – There must be something in it for the internal champion.  Well within the limit of business ethics, there are numerous things you can do to help the internal champion as an individual and as a contributor to their company.

Because internal champions are a must-have, how you go about developing one should be a part of the account strategy for every salesperson in every major account.  In order to make that happen, front-line sales managers need to establish developing and managing internal champions as a sales coaching priority.  Developing internal champions is a sales skill like any other sales skill.  So sales coaching is as an important piece of the puzzle for getting it right.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

 

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New hire sales training – an investment worth making

New hire sales training

New hire sales training

A short quiz for sales leaders – How much has the buying process changed in your market in the last five years?  Question two – Have you taken a serious look at updating your new hire sales training to keep up with the changes?  Here we are talking about sales skills training not product or welcome-to-the-company training.

If you are like the sales leaders in most companies, the answer to the first question sounds something like: “It has been breathtaking.”

However, there is usually more variability in the responses to the second question.  They range from “We have taken a pretty serious look at new hire sales training because it’s a big deal” to “We have been busy with other priorities plus the budgets have been cut so we have postponed the new hire training initiative.”

If your response to the change question is like most, but your answer to the second question is essentially “not much,” then it is worthwhile to pause.   Great new hire sales training can make a difference on some of those bottom-line issues like retention, early wins, and motivation.  The larger the number of new hires on boarded, the greater the impact.

The good news – in the last several years there have been a number of good things happening in new hire sales training.  In the past new hire sales training has often just been a shorter or simplified version of the sales skill training for the existing sales force.

Emerging work suggests sales training for new hires should be specifically designed for new hires. Although the same sales process should be introduced, “what is taught” and “how it is taught” needs to be designed for the unique challenges facing new hires.

Five designs have proven to be particularly effective for new hire sales training

Expert Video Messaging.  Top performers in the existing sales force possess a wealth of experience and insight of value to new hires.  Therefore, for various topics throughout the program, pre-recorded video snippets of different members of the sales force can be used to deliver suggestions and best practices to the class.

These videos can be used to address standard topics like: How to open a call, closing, objection handling, and asking questions.  They can also be used to focus on topics uniquely important for new hires: How do you get started in your territory, how do you establish credibility, or if I was starting again, what is one thing I would do differently?

Excellence Modeling.  When it comes to new hires, it is important to demonstrate excellence, rather than just talk about it.  Therefore for new hire training, “scripts” can be developed for selected skill sets that illustrate what excellence looks and sounds like.

For example, scripts can be effective for getting across the trap of jumping in too soon and doing a “Product Dump” vs. employing active listening and questioning skills to uncover and explore the customer problem and then presenting your solution.  “Ineffective” and “Effective” scripts can be reviewed and discussed to enable the participants to view the interaction from the customer’s perspective and to clearly see the difference between effective and ineffective behavior.

Scenario Analysis.  In new hire programs, pervasive use should be made of real-world scenario exercises. Take the topic Establishing Credibility: real-world scenarios related to challenges for establishing credibility can be presented and the participants asked to develop approaches for addressing the challenges.

The idea is to be more prescriptive – so, one series of exercises might be: play a pre-recorded video snippet providing some best practices about establishing credibility, discuss the best practices, and then immediately get the participants to apply those ideas to customized real-world scenarios about establishing credibility.

Leverage the Power of Online Sales Training.  There is a knowledge component to every sales skill set.  The knowledge piece can be learned via self-instructed online training.  There are several advantages to using online training:

  • Ease of use.  The training can take place anytime – anyplace.
  • Self paced.  In most new hire cohorts there are some people that are new to selling and some that are experienced but new to the company.  With online training each person can navigate the course at his or her own speed.
  • Consistency of message.  With online training you are guaranteeing that the same message can be delivered in the same way to all the new hires.

 Use of Sales Simulations.  Sales simulations are often used as a component in programs for the existing sales team for advanced training. Sales simulation can also be an effective component to incorporate into a new sales hire program.  The caveat is the template to design the simulation needs to be different.  It needs to be simpler: less detailed product knowledge, different customer contacts, and easier sales challenges.  Plus, more time needs to be allotted for planning and feedback. One template that works well is a “week-in-the-life” construct.  A series of typical situations are presented that a new hire is likely to encounter during a week in their new life; they are then asked to plan and execute sales calls that handle these situations.

Providing new hire salespeople a great kick-start can go a long way in providing initial confidence and even some early wins.  All too often new hire sales training is an area that receives less than the appropriate priority.  But the results of great new hire sales training can show up in revenue figures, in turnover numbers, and in some cases – in ways not imagined.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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Ask more questions – meet expectations, win more sales

Successful sales calls ask more questions

Successful sales calls – ask more questions

What customers expect from salespeople today is different than yesterday.  Simply being good at developing relationships and having a commanding knowledge of your product are necessary but not sufficient.

As matter of fact, when it comes to being a purveyor of product knowledge it is well to remember that currently customers have a substantial understanding of your products and your competitors before they even engage you in the buying process.

Today what differentiates you from your competitors is your ability to bring a consultative mindset to the engagement.  Customers expect you to help them go where they need to go by providing fresh ideas and new insights. 

So, if you thought asking questions was a key skill set five years ago, just double the importance quotation you assigned to the requirement.  Becoming skillful at asking questions is more important than ever for achieving sales success and it is not as easy to become skillful.

Meet the asking questions challenge – 4 best practices

  • Take accountability for excellence Most salespeople have the opportunity to attend company-sponsored sales training every couple of years.  More then likely asking questions is a topic on the agenda.  However, today formal learning cannot be an episodic.  Continuous learning is required.  So if you want to develop the required level of excellence you need to take personal responsibility for continuous learning via all the sources that are available like – online learning courses, blogs, and skilled colleagues.
  • Up the preparation game.  Asking questions is not a content-free exercise.  It is about more than knowing the difference between open and closed questions.  Time needs to be spent developing an understanding of the customer industry and a high level of knowledge regarding the company’s specific challenges and opportunities.
  • Get serious about pre-call planningUsing questions skillfully in a consultative-level business conversation is something that is hard to do for the first time in real-time.  It makes sense in your pre-call planning to write down the three or four key questions you want to integrate into your conversation.  Think about what you want to ask and how you are going to ask it.
  • Solicit feedback.  Practice does not make perfect – it’s about practice and feedback.  Search out opportunities to get feedback on your questioning skills – from your manager on coaching calls and from your team members on joint calls.  Optimize your opportunities for getting better.           

Regardless of how good you are at asking questions in sales calls – our best suggestion is put time and effort into getting better.  And, in doing so remember asking questions is about more than finding out information; it is a powerful way to help the person on the other side table to think and act creatively.

Do you want to take a deeper dive into asking questions and other sales skills? Click here.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales fundamentals – remember fundamental and simple are not synonymous

Sales fundamentalsThere are sales fundamentals required for winning in today’s highly competitive market, ranging from basic lessons like: “Do what you say you are going to do” and “If you don’t know, don’t pretend” to core performance skills like asking questions and active listening.

Given the extensive nature of the Book of Knowledge for a salesperson to be competitive in today’s market, why the big fuss about the fundamentals?  After all, there are a lot of advanced sales skills and bodies of knowledge requiring attention.

Four reasons stand out:

  • Fundamental and simple are not synonymous.  It’s true in sports; it’s true in leadership and it’s true in selling.  There is nothing simple about the fundamentals.  Becoming excellent, which is the standard, requires time, effort, and a bit of humility.
  • Frequency matters.  It takes a long time and a lot of effort to master any skill.  So, it makes great sense to commit to making an investment when the skill in question can be leveraged in all kinds of ways.  One of the characteristics of the sales fundamentals is the high frequency of use.  Take skills like asking questions or active listening.  Regardless of the purpose of the sales call or the person on the other side of the table, these two sales skill sets are a part of the formula for sales success.
  • Fundamentals enable advanced skill development.  Let’s take another difficult discipline – mathematics.  Like sales, the skill sets in mathematics are hierarchical – leaning more advanced skills can only be accomplished after the fundamentals are in place.  For example, you can’t learn calculus without trigonometry.  In sales, getting good at an advanced skill like negotiation requires being very good at asking questions and the ability to build and maintain customer relationships requires a number of the fundamentals including objection handling.
  • Transformational shifts are occurring.  In many markets, like healthcare, transformational shifts are occurring in the buying environment.  The buying processes involve more group decisions, senior-level involvement, keener competition, and more price pressures making this sale more challenging than ever.  To succeed even the most successful salespeople have to adjust and adapt what they do to the new reality.  The list of fundamentals doesn’t change but how they are applied do.

We are making a big deal about sales fundamentals because they are more important than ever; they must be applied in more challenging situations and they are pervasive.  You need them on every sales call regardless of where you are in the sales process.

Want to take a deeper dive into sales fundamentals? Click here.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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5 tips to start listening before a sales call begins

Active listeningA week in the field with sales reps and you’ll see too many sales calls where the sales reps just talk too much. Inquire why and you’ll hear comments like these: “a great product will sell itself if I just talk about …” or “my customers tell me they want to know everything about our new …” or “ if I am talking I know the customer will forget about that objection.” And of course, we’ve all heard that“nature abhors a vacuum.”

Regardless of the “why”, the end result is clear. By talking, the sales rep isn’t listening.

We’ve written a lot about active listening - its importance and how to’s. One point we haven’t raised is when active listening starts. Contrary to popular thinking, active listening in sales calls starts before the sales call begins.

5 tips for preparing for sales calls before your sales call begins

1. Clear your mind of distractions so you can focus 100% on the customer – make notes or tasks lists that you can pick up later.

2. Pre-call plan so the sales call is focused and you prevent brain freeze.Call Planning

3. Plan in advance to limit the time you spend talking to 20% to 25% of the conversaetion.

4. Drop the assumption that you already know exactly what the customer needs or will say.

5. Turn off your tablet, computer, phone and other beeping devices.

Do you want to take a deeper dive into active listening, call planning and other sales skills? Click here.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Call planning – keep it simple, yet effective

Salespeople may not do it as often as they should, but most would rally around the notion that call planning is a good idea.

Yet when salespeople are asked why they don’t do a better job of pre-call planning, the answers heard most often are “No time” or “Too much paperwork.”  Sometimes the complaints are partially justified sometimes they are not.  When some salespeople say – “I just do it in my head” – that doesn’t hold water. What are some good ideas for getting it done and getting it right?

But a pre-call plan doesn’t have to be more than one page or take more than 15 minutes.

Call Planning

Here is a Sales Mastery Minute video containing some pre-call planning tips.

… And do you want to take a deeper dive into call planning and other sales skills? Click here.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Business development challenge in professional services – role of team selling

Team Selling

Team Selling

Developing business in professional services firms looks very different today than ten years ago. In the past, business often was developed by individuals – based on their relationships. This model is shifting – and we’re seeing a rise in the role of a team to develop business.

Teams now contribute in several ways – from participating in pre- and post- sales calls to being on a client site and identifying opportunities for growing existing business as well as new opportunities.

Just team selling, however does not guarantee sales success. As a matter of fact, teams are frequently misused and ineffective. On the other hand, some organizations have cracked the code and consistently leverage the power of team selling.

This can be a particularly important competitive advantage in the professional service sale. For many companies, selling as a sales team simply means two people going on a call.  In professional services, there are field-based engineering and technical support staff, or implementation managers that are on-site and have unique perspectives about the customer.

In addition, professional service firms often have project teams in different divisions working with the same company, department or agency. In the past often one person did not voluntarily introduce a colleague from another division to “their client”.

In a professional service firm two reasons drive the push for team selling across divisions.  First, professional services firms are realizing they are “leaving money on the table” if they don’t leverage relationships across divisions in the same company, hospital, or other organization.  Second, while professional services staffers may consider their products as separate silos, many buyers do not. They look at their total spend with a professional services firm and want to leverage the volume.

So, in general how can professional service firms get a little bit better at team selling?  Let’s take a look at some characteristics of successful sales teams:

  • They have a compelling clear vision of the firm’s total capabilities.
  • Everyone believes there is benefit to the firm – and to them personally for working as a team.
  • Because they perceive the potential benefits as significant, they invest their time and effort.
  • Each team member is clear about their role and the expectations.
  • They recognize attitude is critical to success – one team member’s attitude can spread like a wildfire when others are exposed to it.

Underpinning these characteristics is the role sales management plays. While some individual teaming sales activities will occur inside any professional sales organization, for a corporate-wide initiative to succeed, senior management must be at the forefront: introducing the idea, reviewing the financial incentives, modeling behavior, and providing the staff with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.  And right behind them, middle and front-line sales managers must support the idea and help their salespeople succeed as they participate in sales teams.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Business conversations trump product presentations – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Sales conversations are more engaging than sales presentationstalking with is more effective than talking at.

The culprit is inherent in the nature of presentations.  In a presentation information is being presented to us. We sit quietly while someone “shows” us something and “tells” us why we need to do something.  Often the presenter uses phrases like “it’s critical …” or “the research clearly shows” in order that the listener is aware of the importance of what is being presented.

There is a core problem with presentations; it is easy to tune out. We don’t listen to all the information coming at us because we are being talked at.

Why are conversations much more engaging than presentations? Information is revealed, but it’s couched in a conversational narrative that conveys a desire for mutual understanding and comprehension. We are invited to hear what is being shared and take it in on a personal level. It feels authentic and real to us.

While most successful salespeople are relatively good at interacting with single individuals as soon as they have a meeting with multiple people the train often jumps the track.  ”Talking to” goes way up … and “talking with” goes way down. But need it?  And more importantly should it?  Short answer in both cases is: No.

Just because the meeting is with multiple people does not mean you have to launch into presentation mode and start talking more. In reality, when talking with a group, each person in the audience is listening as an individual so remembering that point will automatically result in a better connection with your audience.

Now are there times in sales when you have to do a traditional formal type presentation – with PowerPoints and all the rest.  Yes, of course.  But too often we jump into that mode when it is not necessary.  In most multi-people meetings and even in some formal presentations, the better way is to remember: business conversations trump product presentations.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Boost sales by understanding healthcare economics

Selling medical devices

MedTech sales

ORTHOKNOW asked Dick to prepare an article for its August issue on sales and understanding healthcare economics. In the article he discusses skills salespeople need to be successful including understanding changing customers, buying process, business environment and decision criteria.

Regardless of the MedTech products you are selling, the points in this article certainly apply. Take a read …

Download your copy of Dick’s article here: OK081

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Coaching sales strategy – 4 tips for sales managers

Coaching sales strategy

Coaching sales strategy

Ask sales managers and salespeople what makes them successful. The answer we hear most often is: The best salespeople sell strategically and the best coaches help them learn how to do it.  Sales managers can’t help salespeople become more talented, but they can help them become more skilled.

However like a lot of good ideas, coaching sales strategy is easy to say but no so easy to do.  Let’s explore some ideas for getting it right.

4 tips for coaching sales strategy

Select the Right Account. A classic trap for sales managers is spreading their coaching efforts too thinly. If you want to improve your strategy coaching begin by selecting the right account on which to focus your efforts. Several selection criteria may be considered, but one stands out as particularly important – high revenue potential.

Rarely does a salesperson have an account base in which all the accounts have equal potential for revenue growth. In conjunction with the salesperson, the sales manager should target for strategic coaching those accounts that have the greatest potential for revenue growth. How many accounts? With the “too-thin trap” in mind, it’s probably best to limit your coaching efforts to two or three key accounts. The best advice for maximizing your strategy coaching time is: do a really good job coaching a few, high-payoff accounts.

Establish the Expectations. There is no such thing as a generic winning strategy when selling in a complex market. Capturing the business is not about selecting a strategy; it’s about formulating a strategy. And formulating strategy is all about having more and better information than the competition.

For an effective and efficient strategy coaching session, sales managers should establish the expectation that the account executive will come to the session with the right information in hand. At a minimum, the salesperson should have information about the business situation in the account, the account’s business objectives, and details about the buying process and players – plus some initial thoughts about the solution.

Focus On Strategy and Skills. When formulating a strategy for a complex account, it’s a mistake to coach strategy independent of skills. Even the best strategy will fail unless what goes on in front of the customer is executed skillfully. This means the last step in any strategy coaching session should be to plan the first call in the execution of that strategy. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the sales manager to go on the call to help the salesperson sell. Or, the call could serve as a coaching opportunity to further develop the skills required to carry out the strategy.

Download free white paper – Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts

Leverage Time. The greatest barrier to coaching is lack of time. By selecting the right accounts and establishing expectations about preparation, you can improve the efficiency of the coaching effort. Another way to leverage time is to consider alternatives to one-on-one coaching sessions. While coaching sales skills is usually done individually because of the observation and feedback requirements, strategy coaching can often be done in small groups.

Frequently, the types of accounts and the dilemmas faced will be common to many members of the sales team. In such cases, its feasible – even advantageous – to involve two or three members of the team in a strategy session because everyone will benefit from discussions of all the targeted accounts.

There is little doubt that the best salespeople sell strategically. And, the best coaches are really good at helping them learn how to do it.  The greatest problem is simply not doing it and unfortunately that happens way too often. The second problem is failing to recognize that effective strategy coaching is hard to do.

What to learn more about sales strategy? Download our white paper - Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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