Tag Archives: sales training

Will the Internet kill the modern sales professional?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

In the past few years I have written several articles about sales, its place in the business world and how the consultative solution sell has replaced the traditional sales speak. Technology today has changed all aspects of business from accounting to product sourcing and sales has probably been dealt the hardest blow of them all. We (salespeople) are now stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Consumers have far more options to source from, purchasing agents are now University-trained professionals, marketing strategies now focus more on social media and yet the revenue targets of salespeople have remained steady or have risen, even in the wake of shrinking economies.

business man presenting blank laptopSome believe that strong sales are the basis for an improving economy, and it is easy to argue that no money changes hands until a product or service is sold. Over the last several years, sales training by organizations has taken a dramatic decline, to the point where most salespeople lack the required skill sets to bridge the gap between the new technology and the solution sale. Couple that with an ineffective methodology for recruitment and development of new salespeople, and you have the perfect storm for sluggish sales in many organizations.

There appears to be an imbalance in the changing roles and responsibilities of the modern salesperson.  They are expected to be customer centric, solution providers, relationship builders, product specialists and savvy negotiators. These competencies were all part of the professional sales training program of two decades ago. Today, the focus of sales training programs is attracting clients utilizing social media sites such as LinkedIn, online sales strategies and inbound marketing techniques. Therein lies the issue. The two opposing forces of face to face selling and online buying.

For me the answer is an easy one. Products and services are being viewed more and more as commodities.  Organizations need to be business partners with their clients, and that is achieved through identifying additional value for the client. Value that can’t be found by the Internet tire kickers. Sales people now have more information on demographics and competitors than they could ever imagine thanks to the Internet. Training programs today need to combine the technology skills required to source knowledge and identify new potential, as well as the tried and true competencies of interpersonal selling skills, identifying needs and relationship development.  It is the bold Management team that appoints a Training Champion to ensure all the tools and resources are available to the sales team, and takes the steps to invest in them.

Empower them and they will sell. Empirical data shows that a 2% increase in productivity is shown to net a 100% return on training! The Internet is simply another tool that your salespeople need to be trained to use effectively in building client partnerships.

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Sales, Training and Development

We can train to sell, but why can’t we sell you to train!

By Jeff Bowman

When working with organizations built on sales and marketing, I hear the same thing over and over.

“The sales guys have to go out and sell this”.

Combine this with the reluctance of companies to properly train and mentor their salespeople and you have a recipe for disaster.

Consultative sales is about filling a need that the customer has with a product or service that your company offers, can create or is willing to find for the client.  The salesperson is the front-line relationship builder with the client base.  If there is a problem with the product, the sales person often knows first.  Delivery problems, the salesperson’s cell phone rings.

The salesperson’s job is to  discover needs and opportunities, and in doing so, what features and benefits a customer really requires.

I once worked with an organization that introduced a new case that had an easy-open clasp.  It wasn’t even a product feature, it was the case that held the product.  Marketing took it upon themselves to make this the focal point of new brochures and ads.  Not only that, the price was increased by a couple of percentage points because the ease of use would save time and effort.  And all this was completed without input from the salespeople. Of course when it was launched, it was a dismal failure.

Clients laughed at the salespeople for even considering that this would have an impact on their buying decision, and eventually the discount salespeople offered brought the cost back down to previous levels.

Sales tools need to be designed by and for the salespeople.  I don’t argue that product specs etc. are technical and need to be front and centre in product literature or sell sheets, however the impact, the value add, the benefit to the client needs to come directly from those who know the client best.

Once a salesperson’s  input is considered, the sales cycle will work so much easier, that is if the salespeople know what the sales cycle is.

Sales training is  infrequent by many organizations because they don’t understand its value, they don’t have a proper method of reinforcement or they simply don’t have a manager that can effectively manage a sales person or team.  Often the salesperson is left to fend for themselves. The fact is that everyone in the organization who interacts with a client is a salesperson, and they should have even basic sales training programs every year.

How many sales opportunities are missed in your company because the client dealt with someone other than the “salesperson”? Don’t neglect the revenue generators!

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Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Sales

Sales trainers, coaches and those who offer advice

By Jeff Bowman

There has always been discussion about the value of sales training, the ROI on investing in people.

Although managers love to measure and see immediate results from their investments, it seldom works that way. Sales training is an investment in your company’s future.

Most businesses understand the value of developing long-term relationships with customers. The salesperson is often the face of the company, so it makes sense to develop highly trained and motivated individuals, who best represent your interests.

A good salesperson is a skilled relationship-builder and solution-provider, who cares about their clients as much as they care about their company.  They need training on an ongoing basis and most appreciate the investment a company makes in training them because they understand that in the long run it will mean more revenue for the company and themselves.

So the question is, do you invest in training, or do you offer coaching?  My first question is always “who is the coach”? It often falls on the sales manager, who may not be the most polished salesperson on staff. They may not know how to provide an environment where feedback is well received and leads to changes in sales behaviour. What do you think about when you hear that your boss is going to work right beside you all day?

Sales people get a bum rap sometimes. When things are slow sales people take the heat. Some companies actually believe the cost of training is too high, or sales people don’t work that hard anyways or that anyone could sell these products. Usually that opinion comes from someone who has never had a door slammed in their face, or never had to explain a delivery screw up or price increase.

Sales training should be ongoing, regular and re-inforced through ongoing coaching.

Imagine an investment that leads to new clients, higher- value sales, increased return purchases, referrals from your own customers and increased profitability for the company due to higher levels of customer satisfaction.

That’s what good sales training gets you!

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Sales