Businesses in 2017 are running leaner than ever and training budgets are certainly feeling the squeeze! But cost-cutting measures do not have to equate to sales training being eliminated.
Shorter, more customized, and highly focused training events are now the standard. The net gains include the obvious reduction in training and travel expenses. But there are additional gains that are more difficult to quantify, such as reduced stress of time away from sales territories.
The Sales Manager's job may be the most important and most difficult job any day of the week, and particularly when running so lean. Here are some ways to continue to foster sales skills improvement using internal resources and a shoestring budget:
Online Training Modules. Many skills and concepts can be taught effectively online. Visit STAR's newly redesigned Essential Selling Skills online training. This 12-session series is well-suited for newer sales professionals. A great way to use this online training as a sales manager is to assign one or two sessions at a time and then coach around those topics using the practical exercises and planning forms included.
Sales Meeting Kits. A manager can teach themselves or ask a top salesperson to lead a skills-session. A 2 or 3 hour sesssion on handling objections run by someone on your team can be very practical and impactful! Visit our Sales Meeting Kits pages to learn more. Ready-made kits on the following subjects are available: Handling Objections, Negotiations, Selling on Value, Questioning Skills, Elevator Speeches, and Pre-Call Planning.
Announcing a newly designed Essential Selling Skills online training series. The 12-part Essential Selling Skills series includes almost 6 hours of on-demand sessions, each about 30 minutes in duration. This skill-based, practical approach to sales training includes a comprehensive overview of the essential skills needed for success as a sales professional. Self-paced learning provides access to videos, handouts, planning forms, and quizzes.Online training for sales is growing. The increasing demand for online training options is especially relevant in sales because salespeople, more than any other profession, need affordable sales training solutions that provide flexibility, portability, and efficiency.
- Flexibility – Online training can be done anywhere from any device with internet. Sales professionals can access the online learning at their own pace and at any convenient time. The inconvenience of leaving the territory is not a factor.
- Portability – Sales professionals can start and stop eLearning from various locations and access the training from desktop, laptop, tablets and smartphones. Sales professionals are always on the go and appreciate the ease of access.
- Efficiency – Productivity increases with more time in the territory to build relationships and sell because eLearning doesn’t require time away from territory.
- Affordability– Productivity increases with no travel expenses incurred. Sales professionals need to travel enough to sell and can appreciate not having to travel also for training.
Free preview: The Essential Selling Skills series is well-suited for newer sales people. Essential Selling Skills Session 1: How Selling Has Evolved is the first of twelve online learning modules in the Essential Selling Skills Series. This session is free so use it as a no-cost way to preview the entire series. The rest of the the Essential Selling Skills modules include:
When salespeople are assessed on their natural skills and tendencies, newer salespeople typically score on the lower end of the spectrum for what we call the agreeing to action stage of the sales call process. This is because newer salespeople are reluctant to ask for the sale.
A better way then asking for the sale is to ask for the next action. There are plenty of examples of how a salesperson can ask the customer for an appropriate next action without being too pushy. For example, "What if we agreed to set up local inventory for you? Would you be willing to then sign a long term contract with us?"
The Essential Selling Skills Agreeing to Action and Follow Up online training session teaches several ways to advance the sale forward, with emphasis on selecting the method that fits the personality style of the customer. The entire Essential Selling Skills Series offers over 6 hours of sales training broken up into 12 individual modules.
With experience, new salespeople learn to become consultative problem solvers. This happens because they stop worrying about appearing too pushy, and instead focus on recommending actions and next steps that address the customer’s issues.
Think about your last positive experience and your last bad experience with a salesperson. The bad salesperson probably talked too much, didn’t listen to your needs, and pushed you toward a solution that they thought you should choose. The good salesperson asked questions to learn about your needs and really listened and offered you a solution that matched your needs.
Do you still sometimes find yourself pushing to close the sale? The skills, approach, and methods used by sales professionals have changed dramatically over the years. Unfortunately, we still see sales people continuing to direct their focus on closing the sale, rather than focusing on building a relationship and providing a solution that is tailored to the customer’s needs. Learn more about this topic in How Selling Has Evolved, a free eLearning module session that launches our 12-part Essential Selling Skills online series.
Most salespeople agree that relationship building during a sales call is important but not every salesperson excels at this. Let’s explore two factors that will improve your ability to build relationships as a sales professional: 1)When is the best time during the sales call to do this?, and 2)How much time should you spend on relationship building?
The best time to build relationships is during the Opening Stage of the sales call because “…you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Use the initial time in the sales call to focus on relationship building, and then enhance it as the sales call develops further.
The second factor is: How much time should be spent on relationship building? Avoid the two extremes of spending too much time on relationship building in the Opening Stage, or skipping this stage altogether.
Learn more practical relationship building guidelines in the online Essential Selling Skills Module 4: The Opening Stage and Relationship Building.
The amount of time you spend on relationship building depends on several factors such as:
- How are you communicating with the customer? Typically, the time spent on relationship building is longer during an in-person sales visit than on a telephone call. This doesn’t mean that you should skip relationship building when speaking on the phone with a customer, but it does mean that you should plan on spending less time.
- Does this person expect or enjoy small talk? As cited in our recent blog on Customer Personality Types some customers are more social and want to spend time on relationship building and rapport while other customers want to get down to business quickly. Vary your approach accordingly and you will be more effective.
- How is the customer reacting? If the customer looks or sounds impatient and wants to move beyond the Opening Stage, transition to Exploring and Presenting Information, which are the next two stages in STAR’s 6-stage Sales Call Process.
- What is your sales call objective? Some sales calls are primarily focused on relationship building. For example, imagine that your goal is to expand relationships with multiple customer contacts at one of your key accounts, so you’ve decided to schedule a joint sales call that will include a few people from your company and a few people from the account. A lot of time would be spent on relationship building in that example. By contrast, some sales calls are primarily task-focused and don’t require much relationship building.
Contact email@example.com for additional details.
How you sell is often just as important, or more important, than what you sell. The concept of selling styles, or how you sell, is a crucial selling skill and can set you apart from average sellers.
The best sales professionals vary their selling style to fit different types of customers. For example, how you sell to a customer who is very sociable and relationship-oriented should be different than how you sell to a customer who is very direct and wants to get down to business. This may sound obvious but it is not common practice – average sellers tend to use the same selling style with everyone, which limits their effectiveness.
In general, a sales call tends to go well when your selling style matches the personality type of your customer. If you sense that the conversation is not going as well as possible, be flexible and switch to a different Selling Style that is better suited for the other person.
You should consciously adjust your selling style during each sales call. In order to do this effectively, you must be able to assess what type of personality style you are interacting with, so that you can then flex to the most appropriate selling style.
The Interpersonal personality type enjoys small talk and wants to be assured that you care about him and aren’t going to vanish after the sale. You will do well if you use a more Relationship style of selling with an Interpersonal Personality Type.
The Need Fulfillment personality type is most concerned that the products and services are going to meet their critical needs. If you can customize a solution that matches their needs, it will have high value. You will do well if you use a more Collaborative selling style because the Need Fulfillment personality type wants to interact with a sales professional who asks questions and offers appropriate solutions.
The WIIFM personality type (What’s In It For Me?) likes to know how your product will benefit them, and how it is superior to the competition. You will do well if you use a more Technical selling style with the WIIFM personality type because he likes a salesperson who is knowledgeable and can factually describe the various products and service options.
The Director personality type typically is a busy decision maker and wants to quickly and clearly hear how you can improve her bottom line and bring her tangible results. You will do well if you use the Closer selling style with the Director personality type because she prefers that you get to the point and make a decision quickly.
NEW! Visit the Essential Selling Skills series page to learn more about this 12-part online training series containing over 6 hours of sales training. Module 12, Varying Your Selling Style is dedicated to selling styles and how to vary your style with various customer personality types. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.
A critical sales skill for all experience levels of sales professionals is questioning skills. Improve your skill at asking great questions and you will see improved relationships with your customers and better sales results will follow.
The STAR questioning methodology includes Informational, Opportunity, and Commitment question types. Take time to prepare skillful questions and you’ll see improved relationships and results.
Examples of great questions to ask when you hear these common objections from your customer during a sales call:
Customer says: “We have been buying Product X from the same supplier for many years and are content with our current situation”
- Informational Questions: “What services/ capabilities do they provide to you?” “How long have you used them?”
- Opportunity Questions: “What caused you to switch to them many years ago?” “What do you specifically like about what they do?”
- Commitment Questions: “If we could provide the same/additional services as you currently get, would you be willing to approve us as a second source?”
Customer says: “The cost to our company to approve a new supplier of Product X is very time consuming and expensive.”
- Informational Questions: “We can often do some steps for you. What is the process to get approved? And which steps are the most costly?”
- Opportunity Questions: “What would you like to improve about the current product?” “If you could change one thing about the current product, what would be of most value to you?”
- Commitment Questions: “If we agreed to do some of these steps – which would save you time and money – would you be willing to evaluate our product?”
Customer says: “We already buy Product X directly from a manufacturer” (imagine that you work for a reseller or distributor)
- Informational Questions: “Who is the manufacturer? What led you to select a manufacturer rather than a reseller?”
- Opportunity Questions: “What would you like to improve about your current situation? Have you had any issues such as delivery delays?”
- Commitment Questions: “I’d like to schedule a meeting to introduce you to the various manufacturers that we represent. Agree?”
Customer says: “Your price is too high.”
- Informational Questions: “Compared to what/who?” “Do you differentiate the total cost of using these products from the price?” “By how much are we too high?”
- Opportunity Questions: “What if we could show you that your total costs will decrease substantially even though the price is slightly higher?”
- Commitment Questions: “What if we schedule a meeting to show you specific cost savings?”
For additional STAR sales training services on questioning skills visit the links below and send an email to email@example.com.
Essential Selling Skills series is an online sales training program containing over 6 hours of self-paced sales training. The series is divided into 12 individual sessions with session 6 devoted to Questioning Skills and session 7 to Listening Skills.
One-on-One Coaching for Selling Essentials - a customizable coaching package.
Questioning Skills Sales Meeting Kit: managers toolkit to lead a sales meeting on questioning skills for the entire sales team.
Salespeople by the nature of their job need to be in the field selling. Of course they need the tools to sell, but time away from the territory is opportunity for the competition. Online solutions for both training and coaching fits like a glove for salespeople. There are many advantages, but beyond the obvious cost and time savings, it is the flexibility that is most appreciated.
There are three ways in which our clients have appreciated and utilized the flexibility of online training. First, some clients have combined shorter in-person training workshops with personalized online coaching for each person. This type of consistent and personalized interaction with each participant has helped to fully develop their own best practices and really change behaviors. For example, within weeks of completing a combined workshop/online coaching assignment for one of our clients, we received feedback from the president reporting improved sales from this very effective, affordable, and flexible approach.
Second, rather than do an in-person workshop at all, many clients are now scheduling a series of live online training workshops instead. Because these are taught as live events, it still allows customization of the content of the workshops, question and answer sessions, and interactive activities. Flexible scheduling is one of the main advantages of a live online workshop. Rather than commit to a full day or longer that would occur in an in-person workshop, the online training sessions are divided into a series of short modules, typically one hour or so. Furthermore, each module can be scheduled at a day and time that doesn’t take away optimal sales time with your clients.
Third, another option is to purchase on-demand, recorded online training sessions. These training sessions are ideal for any employee needing to sharpen up on a particular skill. On demand training provides the flexibility to offer training to individuals or small groups that otherwise would not justify doing an in-person workshop or live online training session. Participants view the training at their convenience, allowing them to receive training and not lose any face-to-face selling time.