Productivity was poor on the sales calls and we were asked for advice on how to get the team up and running.
Here are our thoughts:
I seem to recall a statistic that stated that 73% of companies believe their most valuable learning approaches are informal, yet only 30% of resources are focused there. How accurate that is I am not sure but I would certainly agree that informal on-the-job sales training can sometimes suffer from a lack of focus and structure.
Here is our advice on how to develop on-the-job training that will lead to the most likelihood for success:
- Focus on product/service knowledge first to make sure the new team know what they are talking about and can answer questions comprehensively. Nothing undermines credibility more than waffling or not answering a questions directly because you aren’t sure of the answer. Also ensure that the benefits of the product/service are clear to the new salesperson. It is natural to focus on features but remember no-one buys a drill because they want a drill … they buy it because they want a hole!
- Products/service knowledge can be embedded through some shadowing with experienced sales people, and some observation of sales calls. This also helps the new hires to get a sense of how to handle themselves with the customers
- If possible, get them into a smaller part of the sales process quickly, for instance prospecting, so that when they move into the whole process it is less daunting. Gradually build up their involvement as they develop their sales skills and understand the process
- If possible start on the easy sells. Early quick sales will build confidence and also give new hires the chance to find their feet in building relationships with the customer
- Assign someone more experienced to take them under their wing and show them the ropes. The first 90 days are crucial for someone new to sales, and unless you can help them to feel comfortable and supported they may well become discouraged and leave. The company has invested time and money into them so this is the last thing you want to happen. Ask the more experienced salesperson to keep an open dialogue with them so that they have someone to come to with questions or concerns.
- Share success stories across the team as these are a great way for new hires to learn on the job, and they also motivate the existing team. This can be done in weekly meetings, or in just sending out a weekly email to highlight successes and share sales tips
- Do a weekly check-in for the induction period. This shows the new salesperson that you care about them and you want them to succeed. It can be as simple as a quick phone call to see how they are getting on and whether there is anything you can do to help. But it is a powerful message that their success is important to you.
- If you haven’t already, start to document every part of your sales process. For new hires retaining the amount of information needed to do the job is impossible. If you can carefully documenting every part of your sales process such as scripts, frequently asked questions, CRM processes, etc, then they can easily look up the basic information they need (and that they may have forgotten) and it will save you having to answer the same questions over and over again. It also means they don’t feel they are constantly asking about everything and can just seek advice for the more detailed queries
- Encourage your experienced sales team to contribute to the documentation too as they learn new tips and tricks on how to sell your product, to ensure new information is shared with everyone.
- Celebrate big successes with the whole team to create a sense of a unified team and to motivate all members.
And it should lead to increased sales too!
Do you have anything to add from your experience? If so, please let us know by commenting below.
When you are in a sales situation one of the most important things to do is to appear credible, and asking intelligent and thoughtful questions is a great way to demonstrate and build your credibility. Asking questions promotes thought in the other person – particularly if the questions you ask are open (cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and come from a state of curiosity.
When planning your questions, think about what you can ask early on in the conversation or presentation that will cause the other person to really think. Asking a question that causes thought, directs attention or encourages the other person to question their perspective can all build your credibility, providing the question is authentic (or sincere) and not simply designed to lead the other person.
Here are some ideas on devising your questions:
- Plan your questions. By planning your questions you increase the chance of asking something that really resonates with the other person. Being curious and brainstorming possible questions with a colleague will also help.
- Ensure it is authentic. Resist asking a question simply to lead the other person to your point of view. This is often ‘obvious’ to the other person and can come across as manipulative
- Leave silence. Once you have asked a good open question, resist the urge to dive into the silence that follows (which often results in you giving the other person a multiple choice answer for them to pick!) and be comfortable with the silence. Silence is a sign that the other person is truly considering your question and giving it thought
- Using framing. Make a question ‘safe’ or prepare the other person to answer it. Framing is a technique where you give an explanation for why you are asking the question before you ask it. This gives the listener the context and reason for the question along with a little time to think making it easier for them to answer. For example, instead of asking: “what has led you to that conclusion?” in a situation where the question might be taken negatively, you could frame it as follows: “In order to understand your thinking so I can give you what you need (this is the frame), could you explain what has led you to that conclusion?”
You can find out much more about how to build your credibility in The C3 Model of Influencing™ Field Guide, available on Amazon. It teaches our simple Influence Model that will enable you to be more confident, more credible and connect more easily with your sales prospects.
We do a lot of work with individuals in sales and business development functions. We find we are often asked by managers to ‘clone’ the highly successful individuals: to teach a group how to become like someone who is held up as an exemplar. But this is a dangerous request and in our experience it just doesn’t work.
People are individuals and trying to clone someone who is highly successful and tell others that this is how they need to be implies they need to change their personality. But influence is not something that can be easily detached from personality.
Our definition of influence is to ‘produce an effect on an individual or group by imperceptible or intangible means’. It’s about being a compelling force to produce an effect on the behaviours, actions and opinions of others. At its simplest, influencing is about putting your point of view across in a compelling way that motivates another person, or group, to take the action you desire. The root of the word influence comes from the medieval English word ‘influent’ meaning to ‘flow in’. So influence is about a flow rather than simply something you ‘do’ to someone.
In most situations that you will encounter, influencing is subtle. It takes place outside of conscious awareness and is a combination of what you communicate and how you communicate it- verbally and non-verbally. You might want them to:
- take a certain decision
- buy a product or service
- agree with and commit to a course of action
- simply to hear your point of view.
You will be using your voice, body language, and the power of language to either create a compelling message – or one that falls on deaf ears.
Whilst some people seem naturally and easily able to influence, it is a skill that can be learned by paying attention to, and developing, the right things and by putting your awareness on your current preferences in how you influence, so that you can be more flexible in how you communicate with different people.
We created our C3 Model of Influencing™ to give you the framework to do just that. What’s more, it’s based on research and has been proven to be effective in a wide variety of influencing contexts and situations.
The C3 Model of Influencing™ Field Guide is available on Amazon.
We had a good question on our TomandJerryUK facebook page recently about credibility, asking us how to judge whether a question will build your credibility or not.
Asking insightful questions is of course a great way to build your credibility, to show that you really know your subject, and also to build a connection with someone by showing you are interested.
Our advice was to avoid boring questions, or those to which you already know the answer. What we teach in our Business Development/Sales programmes is that a great question is “what is important to you about….?”. This elicits values and if you can then match these values with what you deliver then you are more likely to win the work. Shared values definitely form the basis of successful business relationships.
The example we often use is that of finally getting in front of a long-courted client for a briefing prior to submitting a proposal. Having asked the “what is important to you about” question in relation to buying training he mentioned the word ‘rigour’. So we of course ensured that we included the word ‘rigour’ a couple of times in our proposal. When we found that we had won the work we asked the client what it was that made him chose us. The reply? “You seemed to speak our language”. Whilst its not as simplistic as that, it illustrates how finding out values and responding accordingly can have an impact.
Here is a reminder of our 7 core principles to guide you in asking questions. You can find more details in our ‘Asking the RIGHT questions’ blog:
- Start with an attitude of curiosity
- Have a clear outcome for your questions
- Let the conversation flow naturally
- Use both open and closed questions
- Make your questions understandable
- Ask questions that help you to pinpoint the dominant buying motivations
- Avoid offending your buyers!
Interestingly our chapter from Brilliant Selling on Asking the Right Questions has now been included in Pearson’s (our publishers) new book “10 Brilliant Chapters from 10 Brilliant Books“.
Do you have any questions that you find work well? We would love to hear about in the Comments below.
Brilliant Salespeople ensure that they make time to plan their meetings in order to maximise the chance of achieving their objectives from them. This planning often takes little time but can make a significant difference. We know of lots of salespeople who do not plan in this area- who turn up and ‘wing it’. For the small investment in planning, they could dramatically improve their outcome.
• Research the prospect e.g. use the internet
• Set an agenda for the meeting
• Plan your key questions
• Think about who should be there
• Plan you own outcomes – what do you want to achieve?
• Think about what it is the prospect needs to know
• To bring greater empathy, put yourself in the prospect’s shoes
• What questions may come up? How will you address them?
• Plan how you will make your points clear and compelling
• If presenting with others, who will do what? When is it best to handover? How to manage handovers?
Internal sales meetings
• Look at, and action if appropriate, the minutes from the previous meeting
• Think about issues on the agenda so that you can contribute
• Understand what is expected of you in the meeting
• Do the necessary preparation
Do you plan and prepare before all of your sales meetings? If so, do you have anything to add to our list?
Being a good listener is one of the key characteristics that all brilliant sales people have. When we undertook our survey to help inform us when we wrote Brilliant Selling, we found that when we asked ‘what are your key strengths as a salesperson?’ listening was the top answer.
Many of us think we are good listeners – but are we really? Are you guilty of any of the bad listening habits below? If you are then remember that awareness is the first step towards insight that allows you to improve.
So if you recognise that you have some of the bad habits here, print out our graphic and look at it before you go into your next customer meeting, and ensure that you are truly listening effectively next time. It WILL make a difference.
You can download our Become a Good Listener to Sell More graphic here. Do you have any tips on becoming a really effective listener?
When selling, we often don’t think consciously about how we are going to do it and whether our sales approach will help or hinder our success. We process huge amounts of information every second of every day and have to simply adopt habits in order to manage this. And over time these habits become unconscious – we do them without thinking.
Everyone sells differently, and in order to sell authentically we all need to be ourselves. It is no good trying to ‘become’ someone else when we sell. What we need to do is to consciously understand ourselves and our preferences, or habits, so that we can continue doing what works and change what does not – whilst still remaining ourselves! We have many different preferences that decide what we pay attention to, what motivates us and how we respond in different situations.
When we learn something, we go through a period of time when we have to concentrate and put all of our attention on the thing we are learning – for example, riding a bicycle. After a while, this simple becomes an unconscious skill. We have developed a habit.
To change an existing habit or to create a new one, we need three things:
We must be consciously aware of our existing habits if we are to change them. We need to have the knowledge of how to change and we must have the desire to make that change now. Some of our selling habits currently support a good result and we need to be aware of these as well. The more consciously competent we are at some aspect of selling, the better we will get at it. You can find out more in The C3 Model of Influencing Field Guide.
Imagine this scene. You have just finished a lengthy sales meeting with your boss. You have been left in no doubt that you have to hit the quarterly revenue target. In fact you spent most of the meeting discussing the revenue number and the prospects and how likely they were to close this quarter. Your boss is under pressure and therefore so are you, so the focus was on ranking and likelihood of deal closing. Does that sound familiar? This meeting is about results only.
It is often said that ‘sales is all about results’. In a real way this is true, but the only problem is we can’t ‘do’ a result. If the sole focus of our attention is on the number, target or sector penetration percentage then we might know when we have got there (because it is measureable) but in order to ‘get there’ and achieve that objective we will need to focus on performance – those things that we can control or do and which either contribute or detract from achieving the result.
Contrast this with a meeting that outlines the result (you need to hit the number) and then discussed your specific action plan for each account. Perhaps for one the focus is on the next meeting and how you can plan and prepare. Maybe for another it is brainstorming how you can reach the decision-maker and what you can do to influence them the most. This meeting is focusing on different aspects of performance that will help to maximise the chance of achieving the result or objective that you want.
What makes a focus on performance so effective is that YOU are in control of it. If you think about an Olympic swimmer training for the 400m freestyle event, clearly the result he or she wants is to win the event. But the swimmer can’t control the outcome because there will be seven other swimmers in the same pool. But the swimmer can focus on his/her own performance and set a challenging performance goal which acts as the focus.
There are many things that contribute to performance in sales and you need to keep focused only on these things that you can control or things that you are able to influence. A big part of what can make the difference is being able to influence in ALL sales situations – whether it is a telephone conversation, a first face-to-face meeting or a key presentation – and not just those situations in which we feel comfortable.
We have developed ‘C-cubed influence’ to focus on 3 areas that we can all control – confidence, credibility and connection – in order to become highly influential in any sales situation. We regularly teach C-cubed influence to our clients around the world, and if you are strong in all these three areas then you will become a highly skilled influencer.
We were delighted to be invited by Nicola Cairncross, successful internet marketing entrepreneur and creator of the Business Success Factory, to take part in one of her regular podcast interviews with global entrepreneurs.
In the interview Nicola probed how we have got to where we are in life, how we built up six and seven-figure businesses, how we work together and our thoughts on selling through influence.
You can listen to the interview now (below), or you can download it from I-tunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud here.
Podcast – Tom and Jerry talk to Nicola Cairncross about their business mind, business marketing and business money:
Listening should be an active process and if you develop this muscle you will improve your ability to influence others and move them towards the outcome you want.
Here are our eight rules of active listening. How many of these do you already use? If you know that you have some weak areas on this list then try to be aware of them and focus on them next time you are in a sales situation. If you can listen better you will understand better, giving you insight and more opportunity to have more influence in the situation.
- Value the other party: show concern and demonstrate that you respect their position
- Listen to what is not said: pay attention to what is missing, beliefs masked as judgements and the tells of body language
- Limit the time you speak: most people have low attention spans. Salespeople can tend to talk too much- try to minimise your chunks of ‘sales speak’ to about 30 seconds. You may have heard of the ‘power of three’ before. Three is a magical number and if you limit yourself to three key points you will come across with more credibility
- Avoid thinking about what you are about to say: you will miss their message. Do not try and manipulate the conversation by asking questions which you already know the answer to
- Listen to the other party’s point of view: they have a unique and different perception of the world
- Repeat and reflect the other’s comments: this will ensure you have heard them correctly. Alternately, summarise their words
- Take notes: but avoid transcripts
- Maintain eye contact: do this whenever possible.
Do you have anything to add to this list? We would love to have your comments.