Selling in a world of risk avoidance, tremendous price competition and impatient prospects.
With all the changes coming out of the past year, there has been a renewed effort to retrain salespeople to be more customer focused. Everywhere you look, there is an abundance of great sales training material, online content, and newly published books, all pushing salespeople to spend more time asking questions.
Salespeople are truncating the process of getting to know their prospects issues and concerns.
Too many salespeople these days have slipped into a “rush to solve problems and present solutions” mode. They do a great job of asking just enough technical and need-state questions so that they can deliver a demo, statement of work, or proposal. The problem is that most reps – even the most seasoned of them – are less curious about the deeper business drivers and operational challenges, than they are about getting a proposal out the door and solving the customer’s perceived need or problem. My concern when we try and change these habits through training and online content is that we are simply attacking the symptom and not the root cause.
Coaching to it vs. Training at it.
If we want to bring about lasting change in the field, we have to ask ourselves, “are we willing to modify the way we coach, mentor and manage our teams internally?” We may be training our reps to ask great questions, but is our internal communication – even our CRM – set up in conflict with this message?
Consider the amount of small, medium, and large companies – from all industries – presently engaged in optimizing their team’s performance, by investing in different types of customer focused sales training and sales playbooks. In spite of all this effort, their sales management approach remains misaligned with the training, even worse they are confusing and frustrating their sales team with contradicting messages. For example, when you go beyond the training efforts to analyze the CRM- i.e., salesforce – you can see that most company’s opportunity stages are set up in total conflict with their sales training efforts. While the training is geared toward customer focused selling, the CRM is still based on archaic milestones: initial demo, solution presentation, proposal, negotiation, etc. These stages are literally forcing and rewarding the team to be solution and proposal-delivery focused.
Taken to another level, we are training the reps in live and virtual classrooms to focus on the client issues, pain, concerns, and vision. However, when we review deals and opportunity pipelines, the deals we focus on are the ones with the highest chance of closure in the shortest period. Rather than effectively managing to the process, most managers efficiently get through pipeline reviews with deal-focused questions about technical needs, solution ideas, timeline when the prospect wants to see a demo or receive a quote, and of course, when an opportunity will close.
Align Sales Management process to the sales process and sales playbooks.
If we truly want our team members to improve their sales approach, then we need to start by reviewing and revamping the metrics we use to evaluate the pipeline stages and percentages. Most importantly we need to realign our approach to coaching our reps on their deals, their pipeline, and their individual sales calls.
Ultimately, sales management needs to coach, manage, mentor and lead by example.