After observing many sales calls, one thing has always struck us – sales reps very often don’t leverage what they know from one client to the next.
Jill Konrath recently provided a discussion of this issue in salesforcexp.com. No longer can sales reps just ask a lot of questions up-front. Rather, customers expect them to bring expertise and net it out. Sales reps need to make initial assumptions about their prospects’ issues, needs and concerns based upon what they know about similar companies in the same industry. In other words, “you have to prove that you’re a viable player before customers open up to you. Demonstrate your expertise up-front. That’s how you earn the right to be consultative and have candid conversations.”
We agree – sales reps need to do a better job leveraging knowledge and insights across companies within an industry. But, at the industry level generalizing doesn’t end. It is also possible to generalize at the position level. While there are differences between clients, many of the issues concerning the CIO in Client A are similar to those concerning the CIO in Client B – like rapid changes in technology, shortage of staff with the requisite technical skills, and budget issues. And, of course, this holds true for most positions, whether you are talking about Materials Managers, Marketing Directors, CFOs, or Medical Directors, for example.
This fine-tuning of how sales people might look at consultative selling is important – and illustrates that business acumen is becoming increasingly essential skill set in the sales rep’s bag. In fact, it aligns with one of the trends mentioned in the 2011 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Study – companies reported they were adding training for understanding the customer’s marketplace and buying process, along with a focus on the justification of the cost of their products and services. Let’s hear it for business acumen!
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