Today's post is by Duane Sparks, founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source for leading-edge information about the art and science of sales training. Duane is the author of Action Selling. Download his free white paper here: The New Role that Drives Sales Leader Value.
Do you, as a sales leader, ever feel as if your competitors are trying to copy your every move?
If so, your experience mirrors what I’ve observed during decades of training and certifying thousands of salespeople. I’ve guided hundreds of companies through every phase of business development, and what I’ve noticed is that every industry is seeing the end of meaningful differentiation in products and services.
Common Differentiation Pitfalls
This is what makes sales leadership one of the toughest jobs in a company. As fast as you can come out with a new product, adopt a new sales methodology, or launch a new marketing campaign, your competitors jump on the bandwagon. Lacking a competitive advantage, many sales organizations respond in one or more of the following ways:
- They lower the price of their offering and/or offer deep discounts.
- They race to develop a new product without an understanding of its potential value in the market.
- They adopt a new sales methodology.
In some cases, these options might not be totally bad ideas; however, by and large, they are temporary fixes.
How to Leverage Sales Training to Differentiate
If you want to create a lasting competitive advantage that will be extremely difficult to copy, focus on building a team of the most competent salespeople in your industry through continuous sales training and sales coaching. In other words, don’t try to compete on product features, customer service, sales methodology, or messaging. Compete instead on the basis of sales skills.
When salespeople are properly trained, they are aware of what makes them most successful. This means they can continuously improve and show others how to get similar results.
What if you had an entire sales force made up of consciously competent people? What if your team members knew exactly what made them successful, and they could explain it to others in clear, concrete terms? It seems obvious that this would be the best possible situation for any team.
Why Sales Leaders Must Become Excellent Sales Trainers
If your goal is to differentiate your company by developing your sales team’s skills, then you must lead the way as a sales leader. In fact, you must become intimately involved with the sales-training process and transform into an effective trainer in your own right; this point is essential. Remember:
- You cannot delegate sales training and coaching.
- You cannot rely on simply hiring superstar salespeople who won’t ever need sales training.
- You cannot neglect or avoid sales training because you have other priorities.
Based on my experience, building a highly competent sales force through continuous training and coaching gets real results. Many years ago, I was vice president of sales and marketing for a small player in a fast-paced technology business. Without a differentiated sales position for the company, price was the only buying factor.
Fortunately for my company and its employees, we declared that we would become the best-trained sales force in our industry, and we meant it. Shortly after making that decision and implementing an aggressive plan for training our team, we began a seven-year spurt during which our growth was six times greater than the already explosive growth of our industry.
That’s when I learned the value of using sales leaders as sales trainers to establish a competitive advantage.
To learn more about this approach, download this complimentary report, "The New Role that Drives Sales Leader Value." You’ll discover 1) the three duties of any sales leader, and 2) how you can avoid the common traps that plague sales-training efforts. Plus, you’ll get a free self-evaluation checklist that will enhance your training savvy as a sales leader.