These Six Words Will Make You a Better Sales Coach

AlysonBrandtToday’s post is by Alyson Brandt, president of Fusion Learning USA.

 

 

A sales leader’s job is not to create sales; it is to create salespeople. Therefore, coaching skills are critical to success.

Unfortunately, only 50 percent of sales leaders and managers are held accountable for the coaching, development, and performance improvement of their teams. Those 50 percent are committed to help their team – their entire team – hit plan and recognize the value coaching brings. This is the most effective long-term approach to hitting team goals and building a strong, engaged culture.

Most sales leaders intend to make time for coaching. However, it often becomes the “D priority” (“Do it if I can”). When coaching sessions do happen, they often devolve into the sales leaders solving the salesperson’s problems. Solving problems, of course, is akin to catching fish for salespeople rather than teaching them to fish.

To teach salespeople to fish, sales leaders and managers need a simplified, actionable approach to coaching. My goal in this post is to provide you with such an approach.  

Now, if you read the title and thought I was going to say something like, “Hearing is involuntary; Listening is voluntary” … you were close. But no cigar.

Listening is an important aspect of coaching. However, it is really an outcome of Acknowledge and Confirm, two core skills in Fusion Learning’s Sales Coaching model.

  1. Acknowledge – The use of verbal (e.g., “hmmm”) and non-verbal cues (e.g., nodding) acknowledges to the salesperson that we are genuinely listening.
  2. Question – Gather information about their situation and perspective. Then, ask more questions such as, “Tell me more about that.”
  3. Confirm – In communication, messages often get lost. Paraphrasing what we have heard is one way to ensure that we have correctly heard the salesperson and not missed any information. Confirming also adds value by interpreting and integrating information in ways the salesperson may not have considered.  
  4. Respond – After building trust with the salesperson, we earn the right to share our knowledge to guide the salesperson to solve their problem. If, through the “Question” and “Confirm” stages, they have already solved their own issue, “Respond” may take the form of simple encouragement.
  5. Check – Here, we ensure the salesperson is comfortable with the conversation. Look for an emotional response by asking something like, “How are you feeling about our discussion?”

Clearly, coaching is much more about questioning and listening than it is about sharing your knowledge, ideas, and suggestions. A good way to know whether you are questioning and listening is to simply measure talk time in coaching sessions. The salesperson should talk two-thirds of the time. You should talk one-third of the time.

Similarly, measure the frequency of the coachee finding his or her own solution. They should determine their own action plan 75 percent of the time. If you solve, you train them to come to you with issues. If you coach and allow them to solve for themselves, they will learn that it is not necessary to go to the boss for help every time.

So, here is the formula: Question Better, Confirm More, Respond Less.

If you want to be a better coach, those six words are the key.

The concepts in this post were originally featured in Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source 

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How Can You Get More from a Sales Playbook?

BillButlerToday’s guest post is by Bill Butler, CEO of Journey Sales.

 

 

I’ve heard plenty of troubling stories about the state of B2B sales, from startups to Fortune 100 companies. These stories follow the same pattern – sales execution is inconsistent, buyers are not engaging, and we’re missing sales targets. Recent studies drive home these sales challenges:

  • 54 percent of sales reps will miss quota this year.
  • Less than 50 percent of forecasted deals close in a quarter.
  • Reps get a second meeting only 17 percent of the time – primarily because of the seller’s inability to articulate value to the buyer.

Defining the problem is the easy part, but what to do next? Poor sales execution is not an option. Old sales practices are not working and buyers are speaking loudly by their lack of engagement. Companies are still investing in sales technology, training, and process because it’s important to get it right.

Sales playbooks – a marriage between the sales process and content aligned to the buyer’s journey – have generated buzz in the past few years as popular ways to document winning sales practices. In theory, the more plays we run, the more often we score!

Many companies have yet to implement a sales playbook – and the ones that have are not following it consistently. That’s because sales playbooks are like CRM: both help before or after the actual selling occurs. Adding “digital” to the sales playbook integrates the playbook directly into the selling and buying activity. We can track whether the play was run and, most importantly, how the customer responded.

The “digital” sales playbook integrates the sales playbook with a digital experience, such as smart rooms. It is the type of experience buyers are demanding:

  • Engage – in a consumer-like experience
  • Educate – teach me something new
  • Nurture – add content relevant to my journey
  • Analyze – digital body language and don’t close me too soon

The digital sales playbook is the best marriage of the science and art of selling. Sales can run exciting plays that not only advance the process but build rapport and trust:

  • Replace a cold call with an invitation to a smart room
  • Allow the customer to self-educate and invite others
  • Present your story and perform discovery
  • Collaborate with the buying and selling team

Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change – and that time is now. As I told Gerhard Gschwandtner in the video interview below, B2B sales must evolve, and digital sales playbooks will drive that evolution because they allow sales teams to sell more effectively as well as provide a significantly better buying experience.

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How to Identify Ideal Sales Coaching Situations


Norman-Behar-LinkedInToday’s guest post is by Norman Behar, CEO of Sales Readiness Group, an industry-leading sales training company that helps Fortune 500 companies develop and deliver customized sales and sales-management training programs. Follow Norman on Twitter: @NormanBehar.


Sales coaching is vital to the success of sales teams. However, coaching cannot solve all problems. How can you tell when coaching is the best option? We’ve formulated a Development Matrix to help sales managers systematically identify the skills and behaviors that are best addressed specifically by coaching.

Untitled

To use the matrix, first assess the skills of your salespeople from both a proficiency and motivation standpoint. A skill gap based on proficiency means a salesperson isn’t able to perform a task because he or she doesn’t know how, whereas a gap rooted in motivation reveals a lack of desire. For example, a seasoned sales professional may have excellent prospecting skills (high proficiency) but absolutely no desire to make cold calls (low motivation).

The reason both dimensions (proficiency and motivation) are important is that the combined assessment points the manager to the action he or she should take to address the skill gap. Let’s see how the Development Matrix can quickly help you determine when coaching is the appropriate management action to improve skills.

1) Empowering (High Proficiency/High Motivation)

Assume you have a salesperson on your team who is a great negotiator – rating extremely high in both proficiency and motivation. Here, I’d suggest that the appropriate management action is empowerment, not coaching. In other words, you should increase this salesperson’s control and accountability rather than trying to change his or her behavior. You could do this by letting the salesperson manage a complex negotiation without your direct involvement.

The benefit to you is that, by shifting more responsibility to a highly skilled and motivated salesperson, you create “leverage” by having the salesperson do more of the work (and solving their own problems) – thus freeing up your own time. 

Caution: some managers have trouble letting go and truly empowering a salesperson, so be careful not to empower with one hand but then take away with the other by micromanaging the details.

2) Training (Low Proficiency/High Motivation)

New salespeople aren’t proficient in many skills, but are nonetheless highly motivated. In these cases, coaching isn’t effective since these reps don’t yet have a baseline level of proficiency. Here, training is the most effective management action to improve skills.

Training differs from coaching in that it tends to be much more structured and less customized. Sales training is typically done in small groups, not one to one – although ramping up new salespeople may be an exception to this rule. Also, remember that most adult learners forget 80 to 85 percent of what they learn within 30 days of a training event. So, to make training effective, you must follow it up with ongoing reinforcement, including coaching.

3) Directing (Low Proficiency/Low Motivation)

When a specific skill rates low in both proficiency and motivation, you need to direct, not coach. That means giving direction or instructions on how, what, and when to accomplish a task.

As a sales manager, there are many times when it is appropriate to direct; for instance, when someone is new in their position. That being said, having to continually direct a salesperson is a very inefficient use of time, and therefore, this action should be used sparingly.

4) Performance Counseling (High Proficiency/Low Motivation)

Performance counseling is appropriate when the salesperson has previously demonstrated high proficiency in a certain skill, but, for whatever reason, has developed low motivation.

The goal of performance counseling is to investigate and intervene to address motivational or attitudinal issues that negatively impact job performance. It’s a complex management action that requires great care. Always contact your HR department before attempting performance counseling, and be sure to keep the conversation focused on observable behaviors, not judgments.

5) Coaching (Average Skill/Average Motivation)

Coaching is the most common management action to develop selling skills because coaching assumes a baseline level of proficiency and is great for fine tuning behaviors. That is why the “Coaching Diamond” takes up the largest area on the Development Matrix.

The reason coaching is so powerful is that – as proficiency and motivation go from average to high –  salespeople move to Empowerment, freeing up your time.

While coaching can’t address every development need, it is highly effective in improving average skills. For any sales manager interested in becoming a better sales coach, the Development Matrix is a powerful tool that will help you quickly determine the appropriate development action for improving the skills of your salespeople, including when to coach.

If you’re looking for more insights on essential sales coaching skills, I encourage you to get a complimentary copy of our Sales Coaching Guide for Sales Managers.

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The Role of Emotion in Value Selling

DaveKurlanToday's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.  

Everyone has had an experience where their expectations were not met. Such experiences can elicit a strong emotional response – from rage, to disappointment, to sad, to vengeful. I had one of these experiences recently at the airport. Despite arriving 2 ½ hours before my international flight, I was still waiting in line to check my bags and get a boarding pass just 30 minutes before scheduled take-off. I was told it was too late to check and pay ($100) for my extra bag because we were inside the 30-minute mark. I explained that I wasn’t too late, but they were too inefficient and slow. After all, I had been there for a very long time. 

The counter agent did not have any desire to help me and I was getting upset. My wallet and credit card were both out to pay for the extra piece of luggage, but she could not take payment because of the poor timing. She finally agreed to check the bags and, as you probably guessed, I didn’t see my luggage again for three days. I didn’t see my wallet and credit cards again – ever – having left them behind in my rush to reach the gate.

That scenario is a great example of value selling. I know – you’re thinking, “That’s value selling? Are you some kind of crazy person?”

I’m not crazy. 

In modern selling, the way we sell value is to draw out those experiences from prospects until they once again feel the original emotion from their experience. If it’s a current problem, it can be even simpler to get your prospect to share and become emotional. The value you provide lies in your ability to coax the consequences and emotions – the entire story – and provide the solution that not only makes the problem disappear, but the emotions too. 

Most sellers believe that value selling is only about quantification and justification. While those competencies (math and flowcharting) are very important, it’s easier to quantify and justify when you have already extracted the problem, consequences and emotions.

For example, as a result of my long wait, poor service, disrespectful treatment, and anger, I had no money, no identification, and no clean clothes, and experienced a complete sense of helplessness for three days. The consequence was that I had to spend countless hours on the phone cancelling credit cards, getting a replacement driver’s license, updating dozens of Web subscriptions that were being billed to one of my cards – and that I had to deal with a complete disruption of my life. If I had to calculate the lost time, aggravation, stress, and the embarrassment of having to borrow money from people, I would place that cost at about $15,000. 

If you were selling to me, I would find tremendous value in a high-priced turnkey VIP travel experience for any amount up to $5,000 over and above what I paid for that ticket to make sure I never again experienced a scenario like that. Best price or lowest price would have zero appeal.

As a sales manager, your job is to coach your salespeople on the skills they need to sell value. In the video interview below, I share a number of practical steps you can take to make sure your salespeople are working effectively with the customer to move the sale forward.

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Four Secrets of Communicating with Confidence

LaurenLeonard

Today’s guest post is by public speaking coach and vocal professional Lauren Leonard. Contact her at Lauren@CorpSpeechCoaching.com or visit Corporate Speech Coaching to learn more.

 

The relationship between listener and speaker can apply to any sort of communication – one-on-one chat, phone call, meeting, or sales presentation

Mere talking is a world away from communicating effectively in sharing ideas and thoughts, conveying emotions, and offering persuasive arguments. Our communication skills differ for a number of reasons, including our childhood exposure as people interacted around us. Yet, regardless of circumstances, anyone can learn effective communication skills. I often train corporate clients to help them liven up their presentations and become more comfortable with public speaking. Here are four secrets I can share about communicating more confidently and competently.

1. People react positively to interesting people

People crave beneficial information, and they want to listen to interesting people. When it comes to speakers, audiences definitely want someone to engage and inspire them. The people in your audience have taken time out of their day to listen to you – they don’t want you to experience failure; they are on your side and they want you to succeed in your endeavor. Knowing your audience supports you should boost confidence and further inspire you to speak your best.

2. Fear and excitement share a space

Amateur speakers are not the only ones who feel in knots before a performance. Many a seasoned actor – as well as other types of performers – admit to having stage fright. Do you wonder how you can cope with performance anxiety?

One important fact to remember about anxiety is that, despite its physical manifestations (even painful sensations), this feeling is a product of the mind – not the body. You have the power within you to control these anxious feelings. Breathing from the diaphragm is one of the major ways in which to redirect our nervous energy for a positive outcome. Also, our posture, eye contact, and getting present with our audience will help mitigate the anxiety. Even such a simple relaxation exercise as counting out 1… 2… 3 breaths can help you talk down anxious feelings. 

3. Confidence has value

Confidence is one of the necessary components for becoming a better public speaker. It is also one of the best side effects of achieving that success. When learning how to improve speaking skills, fair and constructive criticism can aid your progress. Yes, we all speak every day. Yet the question is – do we communicate well each day?

Needing help in this area is not a sign of weakness; seeking help throughout the process will have a definite positive impact on your success. And, when you learn how to become a better public speaker, you gain the satisfaction of accomplishing a milestone and the proficiency to put it into practice.

4. Rehearsal matters

Great performances do not just happen – they come about through effort and practice. Recently, an acquaintance of mine asked a musician who played the accordion how his fingers could move so quickly over the keys. The answer: 38 years of practice. Therein lies the secret to a great performance. Practice as much as you can before a public speaking engagement. You will tremendously increase the odds of delivering a successful presentation. 

Rehearsal time is the period to work out the kinks – not in front of the audience during a performance. Practice diligently and you will be more familiar with your material. That, in turn, translates to the audience. Ask for feedback from a trusted source – or videotape your rehearsal. Rehearse out loud. It is difficult to see the intricacies of content through silent reading, and rehearsing out loud allows you to find a need for a transitional thought to aid the flow, locate redundancies to cut, or shorten sentences if you need more breath.

A prepared performer is a competent player who can handle any situation. Productive rehearsal periods generate extra confidence, which results in a win for both the performer and the audience. 

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How to Shift to a Demand Creation Culture

LaVonKoener_smToday's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. 

 

Traditional selling is based on a simple premise – a customer has a problem and a vendor has a potential solution. It's the vendor's responsibility to capture the preexisting demand surrounding the customer's problem. I call this approach demand capture. It's all about out-strategizing, out-positioning, and out-smarting the competition. All good stuff as long as the customer has real demand that needs to be captured.

This is what traditional selling has been all about for years and years. In fact, your existing sales lexicon is most likely jam-packed with demand capture language. Consider all the times you've been told to solve the customer's pain or ask questions like "what keeps you up at night?"

According to the International Monetary Fund, the economy is only going to be growing around 4% this coming year. Yet most organizations have growth targets of 7-10%. So how are you going to make up that difference, beat your hungry competitors, and hit your numbers? Simply stated, what happens when there is not enough demand in your marketplace?

The Shift from Demand Capture to Demand Creation

This is the time for you and your sales organization to switch to demand creation. You need to go from finding customers to making customers. So instead of talking about a known problem, you'll need to start identifying unknown opportunities or gains. It's all about creating demand where there isn't any. That means generating budgets, producing new vision, and stimulating new thinking. 

This is transformational for the sales profession, which has remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s when Thomas Watson first rolled out the IBM typewriter. With the recent convergence of a number of emerging trends, we simply have no choice but to move away from our current over-dependency on traditional demand capture to demand creation. It's no longer about just selling better; rather, it's about selling differently. Let technology and lower cost resources like call centers handle your demand capture needs.

How to Transition Your Team to Demand Creation

To make the transition to demand creation selling, we need some fairly dramatic changes.

Change #1: Update and upgrade your product messaging and sales conversations.

Product marketing messages need to be upgraded and focus on trends and your industry innovation. Instead of demand capture sales conversations like "Here is our offering, and here is what it can do," your conversations should be more substantive and sophisticated. A demand creation conversation might sound like "Here are the unique things you are not doing but could do with our assistance." These types of conversations also need to happen with higher titles within your customer’s organization. 

Change #2: Ask sales managers to revamp their approach to coaching, incentives, and funnel/pipeline management.

From a more logistical standpoint, Management needs to have increased visibility into the funnel earlier in the buying process so they can have visibility in the demand being created and can offer support. Sales tools need to be more than just template-based checklists; they need to include built-in intelligence and coaching guidance for measuring the amount and quality of demand being created. Reward structures and sales incentives also need to be changed to encourage salespeople to stop relying on RFPs and take proactive actions outside of existing procurement plans.

Change #3: Ask salespeople to leave their comfort zone.

But perhaps the most significant and far-reaching change is the new type of sales professional needed. Although rarely discussed, most of today's sales professionals have a tendency to hide behind the caliber of their product offerings, their pricing, or their company. They won't be able to do that with demand creation. They must leave their comfort zone and differentiate themselves by how they sell.

Without a doubt, this new type of selling is now with us to stay. The only remaining question is will you change now because you want to or later when you have to. If you choose to change later, just make sure you aren't too late.

 

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How to Capitalize on the Resignation of Your Top Sales Performer

MarciaNeedles-CassieRosengrenToday’s guest post is by Marcia Needels and Cassie Rosengren, co-founders of Digital Knack.

 

Imagine it’s Q3 and you’re the vice president of sales at a tech startup. The lean sales team you have built is finally gelling. The top performers are driving revenue and junior sellers are learning the ropes. Pricing, pitch, and product are aligning. That is when your top sales pro walks into your office and resigns.

Perhaps this person quit due to leadership, change in commission structure, or culture. Maybe it’s a reason out of your immediate control – an offer with higher base pay, relocation, career change, a new or better emerging solution, larger territory, or a less commoditized product.

As the recruiters and co-founders of Digital Knack, we help companies stay on track when facing inevitable departures. Companies who can adapt with talent loss have much to gain. Here are some tips on how to gain from your seller’s departure.

1. Before departure, learn what needs weren’t being met. Evaluate those unmet needs for your existing team and meet them when plausible.

2. Resist the desire to provide a counter offer. The moment your top sales pro resigns, you usually start thinking about winning him or her back. You think: I want this person to stay – what does he or she need, and how much will it cost me? Keep in mind that money is usually a factor, but not the primary one (especially for Millennials who expect passion, culture, change, evolution, and agility from their employers). Furthermore, 90 percent of employees who take counter offers end up leaving within six months. You may lengthen the shelf life of your top seller a bit, but you just showed your entire sales team that a counter offer could be a good way to get a raise.

3. Be proactive and shape the internal communications around the departure. Use it as a chance to check in one on one with your team members.

4. If you decide to address the unmet needs of your team, ensure you set realistic timelines for rolling out those changes, and don’t under-deliver. Otherwise, you’ll invite a domino effect. You want to isolate the departure, not spread it.

5. Don’t go looking for a clone of the talent you lost. Take a fresh look at the role and make it fit with your existing team, business objectives, and needs. Assess your talent requirements by asking yourself and hiring stakeholders these questions:

  • What do we need to accomplish in the next 90 days, six months, and year? How can we reach these goals and what type of talent will help us get there?
  • What type of employees make up my organization? What skills are missing from our current bench?
  • Who are the decision makers for this hire and do we agree on the type of talent we need?

6. Remember to perpetually recruit. Efficiency and accuracy during talent loss are key. Engaging with top talent year-round will alleviate the pains of searching for your new team member.

7. Outline the initiatives that will need to be handed over from the departing team member. Create new accountability with your existing members to deliver on the pending initiatives. Give your team a chance to step up and advance as a result of your loss.

8. Plan for ramp-up. The average seller needs six months to ramp up. Even if you’re recruiting perpetually and have talent to pull from, ramp-up time needs to be accounted for when assessing your business objectives for the next 90 days, six months, and year.

Most people looking to make a move check out mentally before they actually walk out the door. Unhappy employees are unhappy for a reason. If the reasons are in your control and reasonable, fix them. If they’re not fixable, acknowledge them. Unhappy employees risk damaging culture, team dynamics, and your brand. It’s why employee satisfaction rates and business vitality are directly correlated. Companies such as Zappos, Amazon, and Riot Games go as far as paying unhappy employees to leave. They don’t want to employ people who need a paycheck while they interview elsewhere. They don’t want to employ anyone who’s not a good fit with the company culture.

The best companies in the world lose great employees all the time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs every day. But you can make the most of these inevitable departures. When your top seller makes a move, remember that a new top seller will emerge. Employment is an ever-changing landscape, so use these shifts as a chance to re-assess your team, your company, and your needs. You may find that what you need is not what you had.

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Why Does Everyone Keep Talking About The Need to Spend More Time Selling?

DonPiersonToday’s guest post is by Don Pierson, CEO of SalesFitRx. Formerly he was founder of three companies: Flypaper Studio, Interactive Alchemy, and Learning-Edge. 

 

If you’re tuned into the professional sales community – and, because you’re reading this blog post on Selling Power, you certainly are – you’ve probably become used to a steady drumbeat about the importance of helping salespeople spend more time selling.

Well, I’m not going to be one of those folks who keeps talking about it. I’m going to SHOUT ABOUT IT!

Why?

  1. Giving your reps more time to sell is the most important key performance indicator (KPI) relative to sales success.
  2. It’s undeniable that sales professionals are spending less time selling – according to CSO Insights, sales professionals spent only 35 percent of their time selling, down from 37 percent the prior year.
  3. This decline has been a growing trend for years.
  4. You can fix it.

Seriously, if you’re not measuring this KPI, you absolutely must start. Now. And, if you don’t know what the ROI is on even tiny increases in helping your reps spend more time selling – say 1 or 2 percent – you need to find out. (You can use our simple ROI calculator and find out in less than a minute.)

When you get serious about this, you CAN fix it. Selling time isn’t declining because sales professionals have suddenly become lazy. It’s because the landscape around them is more challenging: the rate of change within both the competitive landscape as well as their own company is constantly accelerating. Seemingly small demands on their time add up. And they’re supposed to just swim faster to make up for it? No wonder they lose ground and feel frustrated.

You need to stop the insanity of doing what you’ve always done. It’s not going to just get better on its own. But you CAN beat this by truly understanding – and helping your reps understand – where their time goes and how they organize it. Once you have hard data and insight, you can work together to fix it. Really.

But hey, here’s some good news: it’s likely your competitors are in the same boat. So fixing it can not only substantially impact your sales, it can also give you a competitive edge.

As I told Gerhard Gschwandtner in his interview with me (below), there are absolutely ways to help your salespeople spend more time selling – and those solutions are getting great results for many sales teams. I encourage you to watch the video to learn more, or see how SalesFitRx works

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How to Improve Your Buyer's Journey

UntitledToday’s post is by Kate Feather, EVP of Marketing and Business Development at PeopleMetrics, a feedback and consulting firm that helps organizations build client-centric cultures.  

 

When you look at your sales metrics, do you ever feel like you’re looking in a rearview mirror rather than gazing into a crystal ball?

Many sales leaders we know can’t accurately predict the probability of their winning each opportunity, even when they use sophisticated sales-analytics tools. Because they can’t be in every meeting and conversation, they aren’t able to gauge buyer engagement. Instead they rely on past win rates, sales cycles, and activities to predict the future. But histories can’t reveal how engaged the buyer is right now, at each step of their journey with each seller’s company.

Lacking real-time buyer feedback, how can leaders know when to intervene, or when to tell their reps to move on? How can they know which team members need coaching, and in which specific areas?

Value: The One Metric You Are Missing

In our recent B2B buyer trend research at PeopleMetrics, we discovered that the quantity and quality of the prospect’s communication with you influences the purchase decision more than anything else. Ultimately, the perceived value of the time a buyer spends with your company drives the decision to purchase. Consider the following facts from our report.

  • Half of B2B buyers told us that the vendor they ultimately rejected did not provide sufficient value.
  • Three-and-a-half times more B2B buyers gave a perfect score (five on a five-point scale) on value to the team they ultimately chose.
  • As buyers’ perceptions of value moved from good to excellent, the average size of the contract increased by nearly $100,000.

Measuring Value: Ask for Perceptions

In our industry, we help companies listen to their customers at key moments of truth and use this real-time feedback to close the loop. By listening to the voice of the customer, companies can strengthen relationships, find opportunities to coach employees, fix issues, and seek referrals.

However, few companies actively solicit buyer opinions or listen to buyer feedback during the sales process. Some companies say they don’t want to burden their buyers, or they don’t believe they’ll receive honest (or any) feedback. Others have simply never thought about it.

Our research and work with B2B organizations has revealed the following.

  • Buyers welcome the invitation for feedback. If you think about it, your buyers invest a significant amount of time and resources getting to know you. By asking if talking with you was a valuable use of their time, you can show you recognize and appreciate that investment.
  • One-in-three buyers give feedback, and the two-in-three who don’t are communicating as well. A non-response is as valuable as a response in helping you to revise forecasting.
  • Buyers give varied feedback from top marks to mixed ratings and suggested improvements. Data analysis shows a strong correlation between buyer ratings and win rates. This validates that buyer feedback is honest and linked to the ultimate decision they make.

Using Buyer Feedback to Improve Performance

A closed-loop buyer feedback solution is more than measurement. What you do with that feedback can change buyer engagement, value perceptions, and win rates.If you measure value perceptions during the sales process, you can react to make that experience more memorable – and gain a competitive advantage.

Sales leaders can learn and act on what buyers say (or don’t say) in four important ways that are missing today.

  1. Course Correction: A buyer who didn’t perceive sufficient value (indicated by a rating of four or lower on a five-point scale) is not likely to buy from you. Sales leaders who receive this feedback within minutes can reach out quickly to address the situation. One client who is using our feedback solution closed $1.2 million in new revenue by leveraging 11 course-correct alerts. In rearview-mirror measurement world, that deal likely would have been lost.  
  2. Targeted Coaching: Buyers will tell you why the rep didn’t get a perfect score. This feedback, along with ratings on five core competencies known to correlate with value, provides outside-in (buyer-centric) insights to focus your coaching and training efforts. Feedback specific to each rep and buyer can transform performance management from one-size-fits-all programs to custom-cut training.
  3. Perfect Scores (and Probability Improvement): By adding buyer value perceptions to your measurement, you can improve the accuracy of your forecasting. Buyers who give perfect value scores, and who recognize special and unexpected efforts, are more likely to buy from your company (barring any internal changes in strategy, direction, or budget). Over time, you can look at the correlation between your perfect scores and win rates to adapt your forecasting accordingly.
  4. Non-Response (Touch Base and Move on): Our research has shown that the two-in-three customers who do not respond to the survey are significantly less likely to buy from you than those who share their opinions. A non-response still offers insight into the buyer’s perception. It communicates that the opportunity may be dying on the vine. In the situation of a non-response, you may wish to touch base with the buyer.Failing a second response, you can know it is time to move on. You’ve gotten to “no” quicker and can turn your attention to the opportunities that deserve your energy.

What Are You Doing to Improve Value?

At PeopleMetrics, we believe buyer feedback is a key element of improving the buyer’s journey. It presents the crystal-ball opportunity that many sales teams need to take real strides in adding value for their buyers. Our LeadMetrics solution helps sales leaders use feedback from buyers to predict sales and train their teams. To learn more, you can watch the video below, or visit our website.

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Three Tips to Deepen Customer Relationships

JeffSeeleyToday’s post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International Inc.

 

 

The single biggest void in professional sales today is the skill needed to cultivate meaningful customer relationships. Ironically, making customer connections has never been easier, thanks to social media, email, and texting. But, because our ability to connect is never more than a few keystrokes away, we have a false sense of our position with customers and prospects.                     

Making Connections via Technology Is Not a Relationship

As I told Selling Power publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner in the video interview below, we often confuse a voicemail, email, or one-way texting with productive progression in a customer relationship. This level of engagement may or may not help us get or stay on our customers’ radar, but it does not create opportunities for problem-solving conversations and needs assessment. Nor do these connections drive purchase decisions, displace competitors, or facilitate influence. For these outcomes, you need a bona fide relationship with a degree of influence with your customer. Such relationships are based on trust, credibility, rapport, and respect; all four are the building blocks to a long-term, productive, and profitable relationship.

How do you move your position from remote engagement to a deeper relationship, such as trusted resource and advisor? Consider these tips.

  1. Create Curiosity.

    Make yourself interesting and valuable to your customers and prospects by giving them information related to them and their interests. This information includes competitive information, industry-specific insights or news, or general business information.

    These materials may have no direct connection to your products or services; they may not always have a direct connection to the customer’s business, but they must provide new insights of interest. Be a strategic resource: you should provide detail and thoughts on why the information impacts their organization and market. Research articles related to industry trends or concerns specific to your customer. Share insights from blogs, articles, or the latest business/leadership books – these can be leveraged across all of your customers and prospects. Customers often miss published coverage about their own company, and are appreciative when it is shared. Even when the subject matter isn’t of direct interest to your customer, you are demonstrating your insight and that you have your finger on the pulse of current events and thinking in business. You are positioning yourself as a credible information resource with insights that can help achieve their business objectives.

  2. Be Curious

    The best sales professionals always have an authentic interest in their customers and the business reality in which their customers live and compete. It is often surprising how little sales professionals know about their customers' worlds. In our everyday struggle to become more networked, we have to be interested to gain and keep access to the higher levels of an organization. Cultivate your own intellectual curiosity. Understand more than is required to hold your own in discussions with customers. Doing so will not only improve your insights and progress your position with customers, it will make your professional life more interesting and fulfilling.

  3. Create Opportunities to Listen, Not Talk.

    This perspective is often counter-intuitive to sales professionals, but it is the time spent listening, not talking, that deepens our relationship with customers. Think about the most significant relationships in your personal life. These were not cultivated with one-way conversations in which you continually talk about yourself, your assets, and your strengths. They are the culmination of reciprocal contributions and emotional investment.

    Customer relationships are different only in that the investment may not be reciprocal at the outset; initially, you need to do the lion’s share of the work. Invest in the relationship. Stay focused on the customer. Nothing is more disingenuous than listening for advantage to launch into your own agenda. This is a one-way ticket to the exit. Every meeting or conversation in which you learn more about your customer – his/her competitors, concerns, goals, and personal interests – is a meeting in which you have increased the depth of that relationship and improved your position with the customer.

Don’t make the mistake of considering unanswered voicemails, emails, or even text messages as evidence of quality interactions, or assume  that customers are just busy and will get back to you when they have time. Although these  conversations of good intent get shared with sales leadership and added to the CRM as customer contact, no real progress was made in developing the relationship.

Scroll through your “connections” or “friends” lists. For each name, ask yourself what you know about the individual. Do you really know this person at all? The answer will help you understand your own professional gap and provide the starting point for deepening your customer relationships.

 

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