18 Mar 2020

What are the building blocks to sales success?

If you took a clipboard into your local high street and asked 100 passers-by for words that describe salespeople, what do you think they would say…. aggressive, manipulative, over familiar, pushy, poor listeners, egotistical, applied pressure

Why is that?

Do salespeople deserve these comments?

It doesn’t matter what sector you are in or what you sell, you could argue the biggest challenge we face as salespeople is PERCEPTION.

The prospect/customers perception of the salespersons role, the industry sector in which you work, the brand you represent, specific products/solution/services sold…..even YOU.

Where are these ’perceptions’ shaped? I’m sure we have all heard the phrase ‘born salesperson’ in reality there is no such thing. Visit any modern maternity ward and you may see new-born’s with tags on their wrists saying ‘Girl’ or ‘Boy’ but none will say ‘Salesperson’

The art of selling is not an innate ability but a series of recognised skills that can be learnt and shaped into a process. Yet the perception of salespeople being pushy still exists.

Perhaps the foundation of these ‘perceptions’ are historical and can be found in antiquated sales approaches or training techniques? 

My first sales role was in the late 80’s, an era of navy double breasted suits, crisp white shirts with ‘double-cuffs’ and red paisley or striped ties. As a sales consultant I was as green as the grass and jumped on any sales technique presented with even the smallest amount of passion.

The mantra drilled into us several times a day was ‘Remember your ABC’s’, not some remnant of early school years teaching but a simple reminder to ‘Always Be Closing’. We pounced on potential buying signals and pushed towards a close. And the result, I was probably the worse salesman in the office and certainly confirmed customers’ perceptions of salespeople.

Poor sales results led me on a quest of self-development. Reading books and listening to cassette tapes in the car (ask your Dad/Mum). I was introduced to classics by Napoleon Hill, Anthony Robbins, Jim Rohn and my all-time favourite ‘Psycho-Cybernetics’ by Maxwell Maltz. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Psycho-Cybernetics-Maltz/dp/0671700758

Is the consultative sales approach still beneficial today?

You could argue that in simple sales cycles, building relationships with potential prospects is a key part of the sales process, however for more complex sales “The Challenger Sale” (Matthew Dixon/Brent Adamson) highlighted that salespeople that took control and educated prospects how to solve their problems were more successful. Research by Gartner found that more people are now involved in the prospects buying decision making process, they are more knowledgeable and have preconceived ideas around solutions and price (perception again?). https://www.amazon.co.uk/Challenger-Sale-Control-Customer-Conversation-ebook/dp/B009AG6YLY

The Challenger sales model is built around a process of educating prospects, tailoring and taking control of the sales experience. ‘Challengers’ give insights to reframe how buyers think about their business, tailor their pitch to specific stakeholders and offer insights that move the sale forward.

How will sales approach develop?

Sales approach will continue to adapt and develop. At a recent sales workshop we discussed Simon Sinek’s Leadership book ‘Start with Why’ and how this approach applied to sales could create a more emotional buying experience with prospects. 

There is a 5-minute video of his on You Tube entitled ‘The Golden Circle’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeg3lIK8lro

It puts the WHY (the purpose/objective) before the HOW (the process) or the WHAT (the product). The discussion that followed resonated with all participants, identifying/understanding the ‘why’ behind a purchase decision allows for a customised approach to presenting ‘the What’. Participants developed a number of positive outputs and sales approaches that could be immediately applied on their return to work.

But we all know how to use ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ questions….don’t we? 

You’ll be surprised, a role-play I use during workshops tests questioning approach, with even the most experienced salespeople in the room getting caught out by asking mainly closed questions. You could argue that asking questions is the foundation of good sales practice, I’d add asking the right question at the right time is. 

To summarise:

I used to think if I had the magic question, I would be top salesperson. The longer I work in sales I realise that developing listening skills is more important. If you listen to the words a prospect/customer uses and the tone of delivery you should never run out of questions.

So does the ‘ABC mantra’ learnt all those years ago still hold water? I say yes, as long as one word is replaced. Change ‘Always Be Closing’ to ‘Always Be Curious’ and watch your sales figures grow. https://train4results.com/services/sales-training/

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