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How You Sell Is More Important Than What You Sell

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How You Sell Is More Important Than What You Sell

A guest article from a speaker at the Whizard Summit. I was so impressed with his presentation that I asked him to share it.

By Mark Allen Roberts of OTB Sales Solutions 

I recently presented at the popular Whizard Summit in Boulder, Colorado. I took that opportunity to tell the attendees how selling has evolved in the past two years.

In my opening remarks, I told them about a recent keynote I delivered for an association of C-suite leaders. The audience was made up of 160 CEOs, CFOs and other senior leaders looking for ways to strategically adapt to the post-pandemic new normal.

When I speak at events, I make the presentations interactive to create engagement while improving retention. So, I opened the session with a question:

“How many leaders in attendance feel with 100% certainty that their sales teams have the right sales structure, process, systems, beliefs and skills to deliver this year’s sales plan?”

Not one arm was raised. I changed the question:

“How many leaders feel with 75% certainty their sales teams have the sales effectiveness to deliver this year’s sales plan?”

This time about ten arms were raised.

“How many leaders feel with 50% certainty their sales teams have the effectiveness to deliver this year’s sales plan?”

Now about half the room had their arms raised.

That might seem low, but it could have been worse. When CSO Insights surveyed sales leaders, they found that only 16% of them felt their teams had the right skills to effectively deliver their sales plans.

I see a similar phenomenon working with clients, particularly with building and supply leaders driving to increase sales more than 10% year over year.

This isn’t surprising, given that less than 50% of sales teams receive any formal sales skills training. This results in a sales skills gap that we frequently observe when assessing sales teams.

The Sales Skills Gap

Some of the common skills gaps we see in building and supply sales teams include:

  • Discovery and qualifying
  • Prospecting
  • Consultative selling
  • Value selling
  • Closing
  • Negotiating

When we conduct “voice of the customer” research for our clients, we also uncover the following missing sales skills:

  • Listening skills
  • Talking too much
  • Pitching too early
  • Negotiations feel win-lose
  • Poor or no business acumen

One of the CEOs in attendance asked a question I hear all too often these days:

“Why is it so hard for my salespeople to book meetings with customers?”

I could tell from the expressions in the audience my response surprised them:

“Because too many salespeople are untrained and behave badly!”

The Skills Your Salespeople Need

What do your buyers want and need today?

They want business consultants masquerading as salespeople.

Buyers want salespeople who have industry insights and share things they can’t easily find on the company website. They need sales reps to evolve into trusted advisors.

What skills do top performing trusted advisors have in common?

  • The will to sell
  • High figure-it-out factor
  • Resilience
  • Comfort when talking about money
  • A greater need to be respected than liked
  • Business acumen
  • The ability to speak the customer’s language

The New Roles for Salespeople

I closed the keynote by discussing the way sales roles are evolving. Where we used to be able to divide salespeople into hunters and farmers, we now need four categories:

Hunters

These salespeople are constantly searching for new customers and closing their business.

Farmers

This highly skilled role is singularly focused on gaining a greater share of wallet with key accounts.

Fishermen

This new sales role emerged in response to digital marketing and social selling. Their focus is reeling in the customers who engage with content marketing or reach out for assistance. They need to be skilled at having the kinds of conversations that lead to revenue. They also need strong qualifying skills to know when to cut bait.

Babysitters

This role arose during the pandemic. If any of your salespeople fall in this category, it’s a cause for concern. Babysitters don’t sell products or services. They are focused on “keeping the customer happy at all costs” – to the point where you’ll wonder if they work for you or for your customers. Our assessment tool indicated that 60% of face-to-face salespeople struggled to adapt to a virtual hybrid sales model and many of them have become babysitters as a result.

Do You Really Need More Salespeople?

Do you have the right people in the right roles? Do they have the skills they need to sell successfully today?

Or are you paying for babysitters who aren’t delivering the returns you expect from your investment in them?

In a recent sales effectiveness assessment, we discovered that 26% of the company’s sales team were babysitters and should not be in a sales quota carrying role.

Many leaders are struggling to find more salespeople.

But many of them don’t actually need more salespeople.

Ask yourself if you really need more salespeople? Or do you need to improve the effectiveness of your current sales team instead?

Over 60% of CEOs surveyed report that they have adjusted post-pandemic.

When we assess a team’s sales skills, beliefs, motivations, systems and processes we can determine if they need training and coaching.

If you would like to be able to raise your hand high when asked if your sales team will deliver the sales plan you promised your shareholders, I recommend doing the following:

1. Assess sales skills by role

2. Capture the voice of your customers

3. Invest in sales skills training and coaching to close skills gaps

If you would like to learn more about sales effectiveness, please reach out. I would be happy to help you.

What is the biggest challenge to your sales growth?

Contact me to discuss how I can help you grow your sales.

About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.