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Before there was SalesForce.com (the brand) there were salesforces within companies. These salespeople were usually left to their own devices to figure out who the best prospect would be and how to engage in a relentless pursuit of cold calls and voicemails. CRM has revolutionized the data and knowledge we now have about our customers. We are able to dissect our business in ways we could not have imagined 20 years ago. Data analysis has made the marketing of solutions to likely buyers drastically easier. While this information has been game changing, the fundamentals of selling have not changed. Selling continues to be a “people person’s” career. Selling is about relationship building and problem solving. In spite of all the technological advances, selling is still about people making decisions about the goods and services that best meet their needs.
"Our goal is to create a different buying experience for our customers, and not just through data mining but also through standardization of our selling process to focus on customer needs"
How does it all begin? The old adage of “nothing happens until someone sells something” has some validity. After all, without revenue generation, a company will quickly run out of cash to cover its’ expense. Sales teams are best used to deliver one’s message to the market. Clarity of this message therefore is paramount. What does your company stand for? What do you fundamentally believe? This is where establishing a mission and vision with meaning helps to set a north-star for organizations to follow. From that leadership direction, all other areas of the business are able to align to a common goal. That commonality leads to culture and culture permeates throughout organizations. The IT solutions we use, the marketing information, the products produced, all align in some way to the culture set forth from the start. For sales professionals, our part is to find the best opportunities to work on. Who are the prospects aligned to our mission and vision to become not just transactional customers but, true business partners: partnership where the absence of one party pains the other?
The transactional seller / customer relationship rarely causes pain when one is not there for the other. This may occur in a highly commoditized environment. Our organization experiences this. As a distributor of facility maintenance supplies to a variety of customer vertical markets, we have many competitors selling the same products we sell. In fact, there is nothing we sell that our customers cannot go online and purchase. Our goal therefore is to create a different buying experience for our customers. We approach this not just through data mining but also through standardization of our selling process to focus on customer needs.
The strongest of sales teams align around a fundamental selling process in front of the customer. Many of these processes are loosely based around the fundamentals of Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. The key being: questioning and discovery of pain points. By identifying these pain points followed by tailored solutions, we as sales professionals are able to begin to create what we call “the sticky customer.” The more pain we solve for, the greater the stickiness. From here, we can track the customer pain and the solutions that work best for them in our relationship management software.
While we can teach the sales team a selling process and provide them the tools to track where they are in the process, the key is for the sales professional to use these tools. User adoption of a process or tool seems to be challenging for a lot of sales teams. The most effective and recognized means to gain adoption is to have a front line leadership team actively coach to the behaviors desired. This is not deal coaching to land the business. This is the front line leader understanding the selling process and tools and coaching the sales professionals on how to use them in front of, and in support of, customers. All too often, the drive for “making the number” leads our sales leaders to become super sales people instead of taking the time to teach folks the proper way to sell. Behavioral coaching is much easier when a standardized selling process and CRM tool is used and the coach is focused on the process as well as the outcome. When sales teams are coached and practice the skills of their craft, greater results are achieved. Imagine how well your favorite sports team would fare on game day if it was never coached and never practiced!
Technology will continue to enhance the selling environment. Decisions are able to be made faster by both the customer and the sales professional through the use of technology. One must understand the convergence of selling skills and sales-supporting technology: there is a balance to be made between them. The savvy sales leader leverages both through coaching and practice for a more powerful selling outcome.