Your answers to just two questions can help to identify a solid path to top-line growth this year.
Consider these two “either-or” questions about sales growth. Your answers can help you and your team make the most of 2022. Which question points you to the most opportunity?
Question #1 Find more opportunities to quote (more first meetings) or improve the success rate on opportunities you’re already working on?
Question #2 Create more value for your prospects and customers or improve the ability of your sales people to communicate the value you already provide?
The New Year is not only here—it’s well on its way. Those questions (and answers) can be applied not only to teams but also to individuals. Your answers will spark productive thinking about how you can help your team and yourself have a record-breaking year.
How do these questions help focus your efforts?
Question #1 is about two things: getting in the door and then getting the sale once you’re there. Are your reps able to gain access to the right decision-makers? If so, are they closing at least their fair share of the business they ought to be getting? Could they be doing even better?
If they can’t get in the door, think about whether you’re targeting the right people with the right product. If the target market is right and access to decision-makers isn’t a problem, then what’s holding your reps back? We’ll talk about that shortly.
Question #2 first addresses the quality of your products or their usefulness to your target markets. Assuming your products are competitive, prospects probably don’t fully appreciate how your offerings are different—and better—than those of your competitors. Top-producing sales reps—that is, the 20 percent who consistently bring in 80 percent of the business—know how to communicate that value clearly. They help prospects themselves discover and understand that your products are the only logical choice for their needs.
Once you’ve identified the issues, the question becomes, “How do you resolve them?” In other words, how can you help your salespeople clear the hurdles they’re facing?
Two proven tools exist to answer that question. One is training in consultative selling skills and the development of a customized sales process. The other is assessing individual salespeople, both at the point of hire and over time as they perform their jobs.
The most immediate ways to position your current salespeople to hit or even surpass their goals is through consultative sales training and the development of a custom sales process. And they also produce the most immediate impact. Longer term, as you hire, you can use assessments to improve the odds of getting the best people. Assessments can be a terrific tool to ensure that the people on your team are in fact wired for sales, are in the correct type of sales position, and have been given the proper training and tools.
How important is preparing your people with the right sales training, process, and assessment?
A study of more than 1,000 sales reps and managersconducted by Steve W. Martin, who teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California, discovered that individual sales success is “not dependent upon the growth rate of the company the salesperson works for.” The percentage of high performers to that of underperformers was consistent, the study found, regardless of whether the corporate growth rate was high (more than 20 percent), slow (5 to 20 percent), zero (flat), or even decreasing. Taken together with the study’s other findings, Martin suggests, sales performance is probably more dependent on the capabilities of individual sales people and the internal sales environment than broader, company-related factors.
These findings are borne out by our own experience. Businesses that don’t invest effectively in training and assessment find themselves facing poor productivity and high turnover.
Other research on how the best business-to-business salespeople sell and how they present themselves has challenged stereotypes about what leads to success. While important, traditional “success factors” such as education, gender, age, and experience are only a small part of the puzzle. Recently, psychometric profiling tools—that is, ways to measure an individual’s psychological orientation—have been identifying more pieces of the puzzle, some of which may be surprising.
For example, a common perception is that most top salespeople are pushy and egotistical. In fact, the vast majority of top salespeople score at least mid-range with respect to being modest (even humble)—and a good number score much higher. On the other side of the coin, research is finding that salespeople who are ostentatious and full of bravado often alienate customers, resulting in less success. This finding was no surprise to us. We have taught for years that pushiness works only in small, transactional sales. In typical of business-to-business selling, the hard closer is rarely a top producer.
We train people in a couple of industries where there are alarmingly high levels of turnover. If hiring managers are making decisions based on what they think top salespeople look like versus using available research, they are taking great risks and costing their companies money.
Curiosity is an important success factor. People have often asked me what explains the fact that 20 percent of business developers account for 70 to 80 percent of sales. Usually, I answer the question this way:
Many of the top producers have been given consultative selling skills training and their company has invested in the development of a strong sales process. For those who have not been trained, the “naturals,” the answer I have always given was a high level of curiosity.
In our FOCIS® Consultative Selling training we teach people how to ask the right questions during discovery and how to use the information and insights from the answers to make stronger presentations and proposals. Training clearly helps individuals experiencing “sales call reluctance” to be more productive, in part because it improves their confidence by laying out a path to follow. (We’ve found this process-oriented approach works especially well with professionals such as lawyers and engineers who don’t consider themselves to be salespeople but who are, nonetheless, expected to bring in business.) But we’ve also found that even top producers can improve with consultative sales training and customized process development.
Finally, please call us with sales challenges you’re facing. We can help you to:
- Get more meetings
- Improve your consultative selling skills
- Identify and communicate your key differentiators to communicate your true value
- Use the right assessment tools to boost individual and group productivity.
Learn even more by just calling at 847-446-0008 or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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