Sales Training – ABC – A – Always, B – Be and C- Closing!‘
“More sales are made today because the client must have what they want, rather than the sales person selling them something better.” Anon
If there is one group of professional people in this world who are more misunderstood than any other, it has to be the sales person. With a history steeped in bad practice, ripping people off and hard sales tactics, the sales person is pissing into the wind before they have even started.
Traditionally we do not trust sales people, they call us at odd hours, they try and win us with their easy smiles and false charm all in the name of getting our money, and I love them. I love everything about them, I had a career in sales, retail and media, and now I sell my own training, through my own company to people needing…sales training. So if you are looking for someone to blame for all this billy bullshit, I am your man!
Sales people are amazing, let me start there. I have trained sales people in the UK, USA and Australia and their energy and enthusiasm never ceases to impress and amaze me. They work bloody hard too; persistent, immune to abuse and relentless, sales people are out there to make themselves money, but something that often gets forgotten is that they also help their customers make money, reach their business or personal goals and help to solve their problems. Fact. How you might ask? well often the products and services they sell to us enhance our lives. The person who sells cosmetics in department stores does so on the promise of making us look better, younger, sexier, and we buy it, why? because we are worth it! (sorry about that one) The person selling us upgrades on our satellite box is doing so on the promise of keeping us entertained and enthralled by the one eyed god in the corner of almost every sitting room in the world, and we buy it, why? because we believe in better (done it again so sorry) and the person selling advertising space is doing it because advertising works (you did just read my last two sentences there didn’t you?) and it makes companies millions and millions of pounds in revenue from the sales it generates from their customers, your customers, my customers all because of sales people.
There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel; and after working in retail, hospitality, direct sales, and being Head of Training working for a large media company for 16 years, I can honestly say that sales training hasn’t evolved much, only the products on offer, such as digital advertising evolving from print. Yes, there are different tools and techniques, but the overall message is the same. Selling is about ‘finding out’ and ‘showing how’.
Also there are so many books out there on different techniques, from asking correct questions, to presenting and pitching, closing the sale, creating positive tension and writing hypnotically. I read a huge amount of sales training books, and a lot of it is recycled, but there is a message, and the message about good sales training is that having a process is paramount to success. You see, if you think about a sales person for a second, if they wake up feeling great or wake up feeling awful a good process will not discriminate, it is there for them, unconcerned with their emotions only interested in guiding them through the sale with the client.
In media sales there are lots of these processes, PCMC, AIDA, SPIN, DIPIDA to name a few, companies even create their own, Approach, Probe, Proof, Lead and Engage, hmm who could use that one I just made up? Some of them focus on the sales person, or the product on offer. I prefer those that focus on the client and are short and to the point, so that the sales person does not forget where they are on the process, whilst at the same time not reading a script. These processes also occur in retail and also in the restaurant trade. They are effective and they work.
In sales there a lots of other processes that a sales person can step in and out of depending on how the client reacts to them. If the client offers and objection or a reason not to buy, then there is an objection handling structure, if conversely, the client does decide to buy, then the negotiation process is used and so on. It is all about process.
When I train sales people, a couple of elements must be present. It is important to reassure them with choices, not scripts, and that during the sale, they can step off of the process at any time, as long as they step back onto it, either to end the call or to return to the conversation in a subsequent call. It is a bit like going on a car journey. You might be heading from Bath to Glasgow; (yes I know it would be easier to fly, but go with me) if you want to get to Glasgow you would follow the main motorway network to your destination. If you wanted to stop off on the way to take in the Lake District that is fine, but to get to Glasgow you would need to get back onto the motorway again. It is the same with sales process.
The second element is about understand the buyer. Too many sales people focus on the product or features of their ‘offering’. This means little unless you can understand the buyer from their own perspective. Things like what is it like to run their business? What problems are they facing? Who are their customers and how do they offer value to them and make them come back? These are the ‘button pushers’. If you can also use any form of psychological wizardry to understand communication style, body language that all helps, but underneath it all, people will buy from people they trust, like and believe in and will help them solve their problems, reach their goals and make them money.
Whilst I was the Head of Training, I was contacted by so many companies selling sales training I frankly lost count. Often the people that contacted me were the trainers who were going to be delivering the training, or sales people they employed to represent them…but guess what, they couldn’t sell. Often they would proclaim that they were different, but more often than not they weren’t different, they were dross. When I asked them what made them different they came up with some line about tailoring to the client blah blah blah I mean frankly who doesn’t tailor? They rarely asked me about making money, what they could do differently for me, or how sales people should be thinking more like their buyers. I should add, that I have been very fortunate to have met a number of really good sales trainers too. Not many, but those who are good, are quite excellent and a rare commodity. I have recommended some of them on my website.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Good sales training starts with the buyer, the buyer is everything and understanding this person makes the sales journey so much easier. It requires work and effort and not thinking about yourself but it pays massive rewards. Understanding the client and clients of the client is also key, it gives you an understanding as to what motivates them and how they can make money. This gets overlooked by many sales trainers.
Bad sales training is based in product knowledge only. It is not enough to have product knowledge, you have to know how to seek too otherwise you only have half the story. When I worked in retail we were always given masses of detail about the product, but never how to actually understand the client from their perspective and how to have a sales conversation. Is it any wonder we live in a retail society where still to this very day people start a conversation with “can I help you?” is it any surprise we have the in built defence response at the ready “no, just looking.” Honestly, these poor sales people do not stand a chance.
Ugly sales training informs sales people that they must only ask open questions and not closed questions. It says you must ask leading questions. So here we go, a conversation that runs like this, “Who are you customers? Where do you get your business from? What are your plans? Why did you do that? How will you be promoting those?” and the gem of all shitty sales statements “So if I can show you a way to do XXX you will buy YYY.” oh fuck off! this type of sales tactic went out with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always be Closing” and “coffee is for closers only”
These open questions only serve to create an antagonistic line of questioning that puts the client on the defensive. In fact it creates an interrogation not a conversation. Far better to have questions that are implicit based, story based, explicit based.
In media sales for example “Tell me about your customers” “Describe your product to me, how does it work?” “Why would I want what you sell?” “When are your busiest times of year and how to you attract business when it is quiet?” What do you do to encourage repeat business?”
Or for a Personal Trainer “Describe to me in depth the reasons why you want to use a PT?” “What are your concerns when it comes to your physical appearance or health?” “How would you like a PT like me to help motivate you?” “How will you keep yourself on track when you are not with me?”
Or in Retail “What brings you into the store today?” “Are you looking to buy for yourself or someone else?” “Where else have you been looking today?” “What sort of budget are you looking to spend?” “Allow me to show you XXX”
These questions will illicit great information that can be used to match the product to the clients need. But herein lies a trap. Some customers do not know they have a need, and therefore need to be informed, educated or in it’s most base format told or given an opinion. An example of this would be for people working in the legal sector. They are sales people too, yet what they offer is often perceived as a ‘necessary evil’ be it conveyancing, probate, divorce etc. Clients need to offered what the service will do for them quickly, ruling out the need to shop around. They already know it is going to have a high price tag, and are resigned to it, so budget is not really a consideration. Once the client is in the ‘shop’ they need to be closed with solutions that will make them happy, in some cases such as divorce, speed and empathy is of the essence as well as facilitating the need to hold onto that which is of most value, such as the home or the kids, you cannot put a cost on that. Good sales process, used in a controlled and empathetic way can steer the client.
A Solution for Small Businesses
Many small businesses are run by the people who are not traditionally sales people. They have an idea or concept that they believe in and can wax lyrical about for hours on end. However that is not, as some of these people think, selling. There is a saying that if you throw enough shit at a wall, then in time something will stick. Well, just talking endlessly about your product might do that and you might net a sale. If you put a really good process behind it though, then you could end up with a better conversion rate and some extra business you didn’t expect.
Another area of weakness I often observe, is that small business owners are ill at ease asking for money. It is hard for them as they feel it creates barriers however it is an essential part of selling and is actually, in my humble opinion the easiest part. So long as you have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the client, their business and how your product or services helps them.
To this end I have set up a ‘Sales School’ in Bath for small businesses to attend over a period of six weeks. These mini sessions help to focus them in the direction of sales and getting used to asking for the business. Details of these sessions can be found here http://wp.me/P3PjU7-5R
A Solution for Larger Companies and Media Sales
SerialTrainer7 offers sales training in the form of a ‘journey’. Sales people require specific ‘skills-uplift’ at certain times during their careers and my process and ‘journey’ approach allows them to pick and choose what is most important for them and more importantly their clients. With continued support and contact post training, sales people feel more in control with their clients and sales conversations, allowing for better relationships, greater levels of trust and an improvement on sales activity and efficiency.
These skills include:
- Sales planning and buyer understanding
- Sales questioning techniques above and beyond open and closed
- Sales communication & sales anticipation
- Sales value and the delivery of value in line with client expectations
- Sales delivery, asking for the business
- Sales influence with the written word
- Sales presentation in magical format
- Sales negotiation pathway and pitfall
- Sales efficiency and self measurement
- Sales barriers and objections
- Sales confidence and assertiveness
- Sales coaching and internal sales coach development
- Sales management technique
More details can be found here http://wp.me/P3PjU7-1N
Many companies do not embrace training and development for their sales teams, focussing instead on ‘on the job’ learning. Whilst I do not advocate zero training, I do embrace ‘on the job’ as it creates a coaching environment where people are free to make mistakes and learn from those around them who could have made the same mistakes or have more experience.
This can, in turn lead to a coaching culture, reducing the need for classroom training, which fits nicely into the 70/20/10 model of development.
To any business out there considering training for their sales teams then consider this; sales training works, it delivers revenue, it is motivating, it brings people together to share experiences and it can deliver easy management tools and KPi mechanisms to keep your teams happy and motivated. Oh and that keeps your HR department happy too! Most importantly it improves the health of the relationships between your clients and your people, who in turn benefit from your great products, and you get increased sales.
So when it comes to sales training just do it! After all, you are worth it and you should, like me, believe in better. Oh and It won’t turn you into Jordan Belfort!
If you would like information on any sales training for your business then use the form below or contact me, Simon Hares at firstname.lastname@example.org