During a recent new client strategy meeting where I interviewed the entire sales team, I came away with a breakthrough idea regarding their sales efforts. I think it is pertinent to almost every past client and all future clients. I just had to share it.
First let me say this. As I work with sales organizations on their sales management challenges, one of them being sales team development, a continual issue always appears: the inability of the sales people to ask excellent discovery questions.
Next, they fail to fully understand the impact of their solution will have on their prospect’s business. Most salespeople today sell their product or solution, may touch on a few limited benefits (FAB=feature/advantage/benefit selling) and adapt to solution-based selling. However the vast majority cannot “connect the dots” of what they hear and what people want. What they are missing is what I now termed, business guidance.
Second, many salespeople have been trained to discover the “pains” a prospect is experiencing. I almost cringe with embarrassment when I hear salespeople asking, “What keeps you up at night?” or, “What are the business pains you are trying solve?”
The question I ask to wake up salespeople is, “How many other salespeople have asked those same questions to your prospects?” In other words, if salespeople today are using the same sales techniques they were trained on five or even 10 years ago, they are on automatic pilot and therefore not executing professionally. They are certainly not separating themselves from the competition during the sales process. Salespeople today need a better “ultimate strategy.”
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It must be recognized that in today’s world, our prospects have access to the internet. They are more educated on our products or competitive products and solutions than ever before and more aware of sales techniques or sales training programs. So what is a salesperson to do?
I believe the next level of sales professionalism must be carried forward to what I have labeled: delivering “business guidance value” (BGV). All the past sales training programs somewhat are built on this new level of sales process. However, they all need to be updated because of technology, prospect environments and the commodization of the marketplace.
Delivering business guidance value means salespeople must understand their product/solution; they understand how their product/solution is used by a client; what benefits their products/solutions bring; and they must understand the nuances of traditional sales strategies, including effective sales discovery. However they must now take it to the next level. What does that involve?
The salesperson must take all the accumulated knowledge they have and relate to the prospects at their business levels and beyond. The salesperson must speak to how the benefits of the solution will impact the prospect’s business plus how the prospect will leverage those benefits to gain a competitive advantage, drive increased levels of sales, improve operational efficiency, impact customer responsiveness or improve market share. This becomes the ultimate strategy that will separate the business guidance salesperson from the pack.
The future of professional sales is relating how your product or solution not only saves someone money, time, and/or resources, but what or how those savings should be utilized to impact the performance of the prospect’s business.
If you have determined your product/solution can save the client $50,000 a year, then your recommendation must include how or where the client will invest that savings over the next three years of $150,000. Specifically, should they invest it in marketing, product development, newer technology or even new vehicles for their service people? The salesperson must make the business guidance recommendation. The key factor to remember is the $50,000 a year savings would not necessarily be invested in additional products/services from your firm, but the salesperson must show the client how their business can be directly impacted by the savings from your solution.
This will require extensive sales training programs that will include case study review, increased levels of discovery role playing and business guidance value presentations.
My recommendation would be to begin this process by extensively interviewing your existing client base to explore the impacts of your solutions on their business and how they used those benefits to grow their organizations. Perform a case study kind of research.
After that, build a sales certification program into your normal sales training plans where each salesperson must pass through a variety of sales training programs that validate their skills or increases their sales professionalism at least every two years. Where we have created these kinds of programs, clients have experienced increased sales velocity ratio’s, larger average order values and longer term client relationships.
And your choice is? Take action and become the business guidance leader in your market or keep up the battle using the same tools and concepts of your competitors.
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