Are the best salespeople born with this rare gift, or are they made? Perhaps you have had a positive experience with that ‘one in a million’ sales representative. You know – the professional, knowledgeable, empathetic, and pleasant person who asked the right questions. Then they guided and helped you make an informed decision. They brought you closer to solving your problem. Was this person a product of nature or nurture?
Hiring someone bright and inquisitive is key to making them a top salesperson. This person proved their worth by researching your company, asking questions, and expressing genuine interest and understanding during your discussion. Now let’s look at the skills and practice they should develop to propel them to the star-level performer.
The best salespeople create meaningful patterns from data and experience
Can you recall the first time you got behind the steering wheel of a car? How good were your driving skills? Did you hesitate and feel uncertain about handling the car? Now fast forward two years. Did you develop the skills and the ability to predict other drivers’ actions with greater accuracy and speed?
We learn from our experiences. As experiences repeat themselves, the best salespeople observe similar patterns present in similar incidents. Soon, they will be able to foresee what may happen as an experience unfolds. They have developed the knowledge necessary to respond quickly and appropriately.
Develop a playbook and role-play
Learning from each sales call is a hands-on way to create meaningful patterns and experiences. But there are two other effective ways to accelerate the modelling process. For example, meet with your sales team and develop a playbook of the most common sales call questions and objections. Then establish responses that focus on the customer’s needs and pain points. Your playbook will become a unique training tool and excellent resource while each salesperson practices and refines their response.
Now that you have your playbook, there is one more thing you will want to do. Yes, I am going to say it – role-play. Have you ever role-played in front of large groups of people or to a video camera? If so, I feel your pain. But these scenarios are not necessary. One-on-one role-playing with a colleague or sales manager can accelerate a salesperson’s knowledge base at warp speed.
Here is an exercise that brings brilliant results. Ask your sales representatives to use their phone to record themselves role-playing a response to a playbook question. When they watch the video, have them notice the number of times they say, ‘um’ or ‘like’. Perhaps they are stumbling over words because they lack confidence in the industry’s language or need to learn more about the product. They should immediately take time to learn, practice, and improve their response. Have them re-record it all. They will likely be impressed with the results.
The best salespeople are committed to learning about their customers
Successful salespeople have a passion for learning. They are intrinsically curious and lean toward asking questions. They are proactive in researching companies, people, and products.
This candidate was the person who asked plenty of questions when they interviewed for the job. Their drive and commitment to learning was a powerful tool. They listened well and were able to ask better questions, and gathered valuable knowledge and data about the company (the customer). Equipped with this information, they were able to cultivate a positive relationship and get hired. They closed the sale!
Salespeople committed to learning can also be highly coachable. They consider intensive coaching an excellent opportunity to improve their ability to build strong relationships, help customers succeed, and ultimately solve their problem. They clearly understand that this formula results in increased business development and sales.
If possible, provide your salespeople with existing customer data and previous buying records. What do they buy? What does their buying cycle look like? This information is a great starting point. These are also terrific questions that a salesperson can ask a prospect.
Learning about the customer from social media platforms, company websites, LinkedIn, and articles that pop up on various search engines can provide valuable information; perhaps some colleagues have helpful information about this customer. Even asking a gentle and respectful question or two when speaking to a company’s receptionist can provide a few pearls of wisdom.
All this effort will have a strong positive impact on the customer. They will feel heard and are more likely to trust their salesperson to develop a solution that meets their needs.
The best salespeople develop responsive communication skills
A salesperson with responsive communication skills is someone who speaks clearly and directly to what the customer has just mentioned. That salesperson is listening and entirely focused on their customer’s needs. Responsiveness signals to the customer that someone is paying attention and genuinely cares about them and their situation.
Responsive communication will also guide a salesperson to ask the right questions and uncover the most critical problems and needs. They are not in a hurry to change the topic or steer it toward a sales-oriented approach. This salesperson might ask themselves, ‘What is my buyer trying to achieve?’ They may ask the customer what their current situation is or what keeps them up at night.
Sometimes responsive communication will allow a conversation to become quite creative. I once heard a salesperson ask, ‘If you could snap your fingers and have your problem solved, what would that look like?’ The customer was a bit surprised by the question, pondered it for a minute and then provided the most fantastic insight into precisely what she wanted.
Consider the one in a million sales representative mentioned at the beginning of this blog. It is doubtful that this was his or her first day on the job. This salesperson draws from many past sales and customer experiences and quickly taps into their mental database. Their commitment to learning about the customer by using responsive communication skills provided an impressive result.
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