Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How Do We Help Our Sales Force Become More Effective?

I recently read a great article in B to B Magazine titled “Been there sold that.” It wasn’t that a single sentence of the article was new information—as a member of a consulting and advanced training firm that spends a lot of our time helping technology companies improve their sales effectiveness we have great visibility into the sales practice—but the fact that the article focused on selling to CMOs and the advice from these CMOs to sales professionals was the exact same that we provide adds credibility to what we see:

• The number one frustration of the CMO was that the sales professional did not know their company

This is a common issue we find in our industry as well, with sales professionals at all levels of success. They simply do not take the time to get to know their customers and prospects. Decades ago all sales professionals were taught to engage in conversations on pain areas with the prospect but that was before the internet, and the plethora of information available to research. Take the time to understand your customer and prospect and how your offering will help them achieve their goals. The article, which is focused on the CMO, does quote an IDC survey of senior technology buyers that states sales professionals are “somewhat prepared” or “not prepared” 54% of the time. So more than half the time the sale is dead before it starts.

• Not listening during the sales presentation

This issue manifests itself in many forms. We see sales professional giving value propositions as a presentation rather than as a talking point, where the prospect spends at least 50% of the time talking. It is also common for the sales professional to speak about the benefits to their offering areas where the prospect has already said they adopted what the sales professional is selling—the sales professional doesn’t adjust.

• Buyers are looking for a sales professional that provide value and understand the customer’s need and the general environment of the vertical

The bottom line here is that buyers aren’t looking to get pitched; they are looking for sales professionals that understand their business and their problems and that can demonstrate how their product or service can help the buyer address their pain points.

• Buyers try to minimize meetings with sales people

A person in a position of authority is constantly asked for meetings, both internally and externally. If an senior manager or executive cannot manage their calendar they will absolutely fail, so getting a meeting is difficult. The number one approach to getting on that meeting is through networking. Build and leverage your network.

• Have relevant material available

Case studies specific to the industry you are calling on are critical.

• Going above the buyer in the organizational structure

I’ll simply take the sentence directly out of the article to demonstrate a point we try to emphasize all the time in our training. We learned this from two perspectives: The SD team are all former senior managers and executives, and we have been involved in a significant quantity of large complex sales. “Often the CEO is the approver, not the buyer. If you usurp the buying organization, they you have made enemies of the actual buyer.”

I also think the article does a great job in summarizing the points so I’ll simply give credit where credit is due and use the words of Mark Wilson, VP-corporate marketing at Sybase, Inc, “The most effective salespeople understand what our company does. They come in with an idea of how they can solve our problem. They are good at listening, and they continue to evolve how they can solve our problem in the meeting. They have a number of case studies, and they pick them intelligently for companies that face the same problems that map to ours.”

David Ramos developed a strategic sales skills workshop and I have to say his program is right on the money. It was developed using his significant experience in working with sales professionals in the technology industry but it is clear that there is nothing unique in our industry: sales professionals simply need an opportunity to learn how to sell in a complex environment. You can contact David to get information on his program at