Today’s post is by Mark Magnacca, president and cofounder, Allego.
Modern sales professionals require a much different skill set in order to be successful in today’s tech-driven world. Sales requires researching, listening, strategic thinking, as well as strong communicating – often referred to as “consultative sales.” Salespeople are no longer simply order takers, as they are required to provide detailed knowledge and insight about a product or service as it relates to the customer’s business. In many ways, great sales professionals have become more like consultants.
Why Salespeople Must Add Value
Buyers are becoming increasingly aware of the options available to them because of the abundance of information available on the Internet. In fact, according to the Forbes article, “The Disappearing Sales Process,” “customers reported to being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before engaging a sales rep.” This tells us that, if your salespeople aren’t contributing beyond what appears on your Website, they’re not adding value.
That’s why salespeople need to be more knowledgeable than ever about the customers and industries they serve. They not only need to be trained in the ways of selling, but also in how businesses within their target markets operate and how your products and services can solve their specific business challenges.
A recent blog post by Jeff Thomas, the vice president of sales at SEMrush, adds to this:
“You cannot reasonably expect to consult with someone if you do not know your stuff. Depending on your client base, you may never be better at their job than they are, but you need to know how your product and solution will impact them in a positive and meaningful way. You need to be able to ask questions and give answers that relate their expertise to your product.”
How Can Salespeople Become Experts?
This requires salespeople to not only be aware of what’s going on in the target industry they serve, but also become experts on it – and that means learning and researching on an ongoing basis. Since most sales professionals deal with many clients – often across multiple industries – the challenge of keeping up can grow exponentially.
With this trend of consultative sales, it’s become more common for companies to hire salespeople who have a background in the industry to which they will be expected to sell. This, however, may not be the right approach. Given how fast industries change and how sales reps may need to cover multiple industries, isn’t it a better approach to hire sales professionals with the right skills and provide them with the tools to learn about the customers and industries they serve?
The Benefits of Just-in-Time Learning
One solution to this conundrum is just-in-time learning. When implemented correctly, it provides a combination of training in both sales techniques and industry knowledge to back up the benefits of a product or service – allowing reps to talk to customers in a highly relevant manner. At its foundation, just-in-time learning eschews the traditional sales kickoff or training event in favor of a method that gives sales reps the ability to share content – pitch examples, best practices, lessons learned, tips, etc. – when and where they need it most. So, whether the rep is prepping her pitch in her office the day before the meeting, or in the parking lot minutes before it starts, she’s able to get information that will help her close the sale at a more effective point.
This kind of training is what sets great salespeople apart from the pack. In this blog post, George Athan, the chief strategist at MindStorm Strategic Consulting, says, “In consulting for many organizations and training sales teams, it is alarming that most salespeople are not taught how to effectively sell. The organizations that do training, often times it is not done effectively, and/or not consistently. This rings especially true when it comes to consultative selling.”
Hiring people based solely on industry expertise or their “sales personality” is the wrong approach. As is trying to onboard new reps with a firehose of information. Organizations that hire salespeople with the versatile skills required for modern selling and then arm their teams with just-in-time learning tools are much more likely to have success.
It’s time to provide sales professionals with tools that match today’s demands and empower sales reps to be consultants and not order takers.