The 4 Most Important Skills for Your Sales Team
As a Sales Manager, it’s likely that your interactions with your sales team revolve around targets, achievements and shortfalls. You also brief them about new products from the company, or new sales strategies. During your regular sales meetings, you review their performances, and most likely, let them know (quite forcefully) how important it is to achieve future targets.
Taking these cues from you, some of your team members will go out, run really fast, and actually reach where you want them to. Some others will go out in a flurry of activity, but instead of running, appear to flounder and stumble. While others will not show signs of any activity at all, hiding instead behind a never-ending list of excuses.
You depend on these sales people to achieve your targets and demonstrate results to your management, and most often, you need to make the most of the team you have. You cannot simply replace all the ineffective salespeople, and if you do decide to replace them, the risky part is that the recruitment process often does not tell you whether the next candidate is going to be effective in selling or not.
So you decide that you need to have regular training sessions for your team. This is quite often outsourced to experts, and also conducted a few times each year. However, as a manager, you may be disconcerted to find that the training leads to a few days of high motivation and feel-good, and then people slip back into old habits.
This means that you need to train your sales team yourself, after all, there is no one better than you who knows what the issues are. Also, you cannot do this for just a few days each year, rather it’s an ongoing process that practically seeps into every interaction with them. You know that by focusing on this, round the clock and round the year, you will be able to bring real change in to the team.
Once you do decide to take this task up yourself, it can be difficult to know exactly how to go about it. You have always focused on customers, deals and growth in sales, so you don’t think you are the expert in defining training needs or programs.
We believe that this is not an impossible task and there are just four things that you need to help team members to understand and master, and these can make a substantial difference to their performance. Not knowing these is usually what prevents a sales person from being effective, so let’s get on with tackling these aspects.
- Understanding the buying process: A lot of the instructions that sales people receive are related to the ‘sales cycle’ – how many people have you met, how many proposals have you sent, how many have moved onto price related discussions? This makes salespeople view the entire customer acquisition process as steps of the selling cycle. Actually, this viewpoint is probably not helping them much.
You can help by discussing the same cycle from the buyer’s point of view. Help your salesperson to see – how did the need arise? Who within the prospect’s organization first started looking for a vendor? What are their overriding concerns and priorities? Who all would need to approve before the sale can be finalized?
If you get your salespersons to start thinking along these lines, they would be better able to manage their sales efforts properly synchronized with the purchase cycle at the prospect, which will greatly increase their chances of success.
- Planning sales calls: Show your team how to plan at least a week in advance – who do they plan to meet in the coming week? Train them to research the prospect, the organization, and even the person, if possible. Based on this research, show them how to create a strategy to approach each deal.
Many salespersons tend to be doers, not planners. They want to simply kickstart their bikes, or rev their cars, and bring back sales with all the flourish of a dragon-slayer. You can use your experience to temper their enthusiasm with the right degree of preparation.
- Interpersonal Skills: Once the salesperson has properly planned his meeting and researched the prospect, everything depends on how he carries out the actual meetings, demos and interactions with the client.
Make your team members aware of the importance of asking the right questions. Show them how to be assertive but not abrasive. Train them to ask those questions that will lead the prospect to express her decision to purchase. Help them to fine-tune their presentation skills and deliver their pitch with finesse. Most importantly, don’t let them forget the importance of building long-term, win-win relationships with customers.
- Writing good proposals: Sales is not just about making great impressions at meetings, actually getting an order depends on creating the right proposal. Your sales persons have to know what goes into making a proposal that will help the buyer to take a purchase decision. All the relevant information, along with commercial terms need to be clearly presented. Also, the proposal should be properly organized and formatted, so that it puts the receiver in a positive frame of mind. Your presentation of your product or service needs to be backed up by credentials and references.
Once you break it into these four items, training your sales team suddenly seems easy and achievable. Focus on these, and help your team to fly high!