How to bridge the sales experience gap, analyze sales opportunities with ease, set the right sales strategy and adopt the right sales tactics.
“How do you teach new salespeople to read the client, to understand their personality and only provide the information when the client is open to receiving it?” I received this excellent question recently from an overseas user. Some seem much more able to read people than others. Such talent reinforces the idea that salespeople are born rather than made.
Those born with acute interpersonal communication skills together with drive, commercial acumen, motivation, and a generous helping of all the other important characteristics of extraordinary salesmen and women are as rare as a rust free Ford Capri.
The rest of us learnt the hard way, via many years of practise speckled with failures and setbacks. Is it possible for a training course, teacher, or coach to bridge the sales experience gap?
If we can imbue those embarking on a career in selling with the sales experience of twenty-year professionals and the judgement of high flyers, then the world will become a wealthier place.
Every situation is different. This is why the profession continues to defy attempts to systematise it. Unexpected situations inevitably undermine all systems that dictate a particular strategy, tactic, or style. Those with sufficient experience know what works in which situations and so you can adapt or switch their approach to suit.
To help salespeople judge situations in the same way that the most experienced top performers do, we have constructed a framework concept and labelled it ‘Learning Frameworks’. The frameworks represent models of how successful sellers make the choices that lead to their success. They are simple to understand and adopt. Whether you are in management or sales, there are many ways to use them. In this article I have explained a sales approach framework for certain types of situation.
Those making decisions about lower value, less complicated sales are typically easier to access. Success in this arena depends on individual skills, efficiency, and work rate. We call this ‘Warrior Selling’, where a single person can conduct the whole process.
The warrior seller can acquire and maintain the necessary technical or product knowledge and has sufficient skills and resources to address the customer’s decision-making needs.
Examples of solutions where normally only one person manages the entire process include, contract renewals, repeat sales or regularly purchased products, and relatively lower cost items that are decided upon by middle managers such as event venues and services, replacements, and maintenance requirements.
A systemised approach is often effective for solutions in the warrior quadrant because success depends on a higher volume of sales that are normally lower cost items.
If a salesperson is required to address both low value and high value uncomplicated requirements, sometimes he or she will need to call high. The higher the price associated with a sale, the greater the seniority of the decision maker.
Calling high demands a different level of credibility, presentation, and skills. We call this Eagle Selling. An example would be management consulting. The impact on customer profits can be substantial and it is hard to succeed in selling management-consulting services through lower echelons because consultant contributions depend on ‘C’ level involvement and recommended changes inevitably require board level support.
When the complexity of a sale is high, because either many people are involved in the decision or many issues must be considered, it is more efficient to use specialists working as a team. These people may work for the same company or different companies operating in alliance.
An example would be the selling technology or software to expert customers such as engineers, scientists, manufacturers, and system integrators. The level knowledge required demands specialists however; the value is relatively low when compared with the largest contracts achieved by the seller. Consequently, a flexible team of specialists address such opportunities.
Many technology vendors sell through third parties and provide expertise and technical support as necessary. Those who sell direct, provide salespeople with access to pre sales technical specialists who often accompany the salesperson on customer visits.
When the value of a sale is very high, Crew Selling becomes Tribal Selling. The high price tag and wide ranging impact of services, solutions, or equipment requires a Tribal approach. Competing for big deals drains resources that the seller cannot recover. Losing such a sale may compromise the seller’s ability to replace the lost business from other sources.
Complex, high high price opportunities demand the attention of the whole department, division, or organisation. Leaving anything to chance invites disaster. If you were leading a sales campaign to supply several million pounds worth of new manufacturing machinery, both yours and your customer’s profits will be dependent on a good outcome. The results will affect investor income and careers. The degree of success or failure affects every stakeholder and employee in both companies. Such circumstances bring new meaning to the term ‘due diligence’.
This sales approach framework helps with planning at all levels. The test of any strategy is its effectiveness as a guide for tactics. For salespeople it clarifies what must be done to win a sale, reach an objective, or achieve a target and hence directs tactics. For example, beginners often become locked in a relationship with one contact at a prospective customer. For sales in the Warrior and Eagle quadrants, this may not matter providing the customer contact is the decision maker. In the Crew and Tribal quadrants, it is courting disaster and often leads to a lost sale.
This 'selling approach' framework helps managers’ marshal their resources to maximise productivity and results. Learning or training can be directed at the tasks in hand. Talent can be focused on the most suitable type of opportunity. Managers can use products sets, geography, named accounts, vertical markets, and even the demands of specific sales opportunities to organise teams and resources and improve performance.
Frameworks improve sales effectiveness by speeding up communication between managers and their teams. Teams brought together to address particular opportunities gain a better grasp of the wider picture and the nature of individual assignments. Less experienced salespeople and managers use frameworks to bridge the experience gap and inform sales tactics.
Article by Clive Miller
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