- Being an effective salesperson is not an elusive art shrouded in mystery, it is something that can be taught and practised with discipline, writes James Hickman, Sales Director of Digital Transformation at Altron.
I have previously spoken about how to transform appetite for risk into sales savvy. This article has been incredibly well-received in sales circles because it speaks to three fundamentals that every salesperson or sales team must have in place: an understanding of the numbers, an understanding of the customer base, and an appreciation of sales velocity.
In many ways, this is the “what”. When you plan to build a new house, there needs to be solid, and approved, plans in place. With these plans, which are scientific in their detail, the builder can then proceed to build your dream house. The “how” requires a degree of skill that the layman most probably can’t replicate: this is how you mix concrete, this is how you lay bricks, and floorboards and install the electrical system. In other words, the why and the how must work in concert to build the house.
However, you may be wondering about the “why”. Why are you building a house in the first place? Allow me to meander back to the original article about the three non-negotiable sales fundamentals. Shortly after publishing, a former colleague and industry acquaintance, Lameez Subaya, Enterprise Transformation Consultant at CoachHub, made contact to talk about the importance of these fundamentals – the “what” of selling.
In our discussions we unpacked how selling has evolved and how important it is to follow up foundational thinking with practical steps – in other words, build onto the “what” with the “how”. And, the timing for this is right. There was once a time when it was said that some people were born with the gift of selling. While some people may well be strong in some of the classic selling traits, the general saying is no longer true or even relevant in 2023. It’s not just industry sectors and businesses that have changed since the pandemic – selling has changed too, and this is the “why” of this article, much like the question: why should I build this house?
People have spent years mystified by what makes for successful sales and there are a number of different techniques that have come into and out of vogue. Indeed, it was often pondered: Is sales a science or an art? Wonder no more, because the truth is that it is both. I have provided a basic blueprint for the science of selling and Lameez is about to share a blueprint for the art of post-Covid sales.
Lameez Subaya, Enterprise Transformation Consultant at CoachHub
I felt compelled to contribute to part two of this series with my good friend James because selling has gone through an evolution. Frankly put, salespeople need to evolve with the changing landscape to remain relevant. Organisations need to differentiate themselves by competing with their people. On an individual level, sellers need to develop further skills to support their careers. They need to differentiate themselves.
Let’s consider the post-pandemic landscape. We all know that industries have changed – we must appreciate that selling has changed too. Perhaps the biggest shift is that it is likely an organisation has done its own research and investigated solutions before contacting the seller. There are various statistics supporting this, but the safe assumption is that the majority of buyers research before contacting you.
If this is the case, how then do you differentiate yourself when you are then contacted? This differentiation is achieved by being seen as a trusted advisor. That’s the differentiator: the concept of value selling. It brings a whole new dynamic where I, the seller, am now the trusted advisor, and I am here to help you solve critical business issues.
Being proficient at value selling requires meticulous planning and a good deal of time to be spent on honing interpersonal skills. Let’s unpack these three fundamental pillars of the “how” of selling in 2023 and beyond.
Here, the seller focuses on the business problem. Doing this allows the seller to thoroughly investigate and go deep to uncover the root business problem. In addition to becoming an advisor, it allows the seller to potentially identify more opportunities.
Value selling enables salespeople to build stronger relationships with their customers, increases customer loyalty and differentiates a company from its competitors. I would rather have my financial advisor spend time asking me about my personal circumstances, needs and aspirations than come in trying to sell me a product everyone else is trying to sell too.
Here are a few steps to achieve value-selling:
- Understand the business issue
- What is preventing the business from succeeding?
- What solutions have they already considered?
- What happens if they do not fix this situation?
- Who does this impact?
- How do they measure impact?
Building the habit of using every call and meeting as a discovery opportunity, to support the above points, is extremely valuable. When deals are approached from a value lens the person spends less time negotiating on price.
Benefits to value selling:
- Builder stronger relationships
- Increase customer loyalty
- Higher margins
- Increased revenue
- Longer contracts – sustainable business
Never underestimate the value of planning. This tactic is a first-cousin to James’ point about understanding that sales is a numbers game. Many salespeople do not “like this part of the job”, but the most successful sellers do this part of the job, and they do it well and consistently. The advice is to find a way to make planning enjoyable as you’ll enjoy the rewards.
Managers need to be clear from the outset about goals and objectives and they need to get their sellers to buy into and accept these from day one. This builds the foundation of regular feedback sessions to evaluate progress in achieving goals and objectives.
Planning is also about prioritising high-value clients. As a salesperson, time is precious and you can’t be everywhere at the same time and not all prospects are equal. Use a business plan to map out your strategy to achieve your numbers. Develop a CEO mindset to hold yourself accountable.
Benefits of planning:
- Clarity and focus
- Improved decision making
- Resource optimisation
Build Interpersonal skills
This is fundamental to success. Only salespeople equipped with the interpersonal skills to cope with high-pressure environments that are constantly changing, and are still able to find and pursue opportunities, will succeed. These skills can be seen as the tools of the trade – you can’t lay bricks with a screwdriver.
Key among these skills is the ability to communicate and build relationships. Understand when and how to listen, when to respond, and then how to respond. This is a sales game-changer. The ability to deal with conflict – both internally and with customers – allows salespeople to manage stress and anxiety so that they can still execute their goals and objectives.
Salespeople may lose their jobs if they don’t make their numbers. To deal with this, salespeople don’t need to be told what to do. On the other hand, what they do need is:
- Support during stressful situations to help them deal with situations differently
- Help with improving confidence when struggling
- Assistance to build resilience to bounce back from disappointment
- Help with improving emotional intelligence so that they don’t take everything personally, while also having empathy for others
- Assistance with clarity and focus to support decision making
Benefits of building interpersonal skills:
- Improved sales performance
- Increased motivation
- Better communication and collaboration
- Career development
- Personal development
- Improved employee retention
- Competitive advantage