sales leadership

Sales as a Guide, Not an Educator

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The sales world has changed dramatically over the past decade as salespeople are no longer educators.

Granted, education is still a component of the qualifying system. However, salespeople are now a guide in the process. Clearly, the availability of information on the web has created a highly-educated prospect.

The clearest key is this transformation shows up at the beginning of the selling process. Prospects now approach companies with a certain level of understanding regarding your solutions. They have probably researched your company through other sites, scoured your website, and even talked to some of your customers…all before they make first contact with your sales team.

This transformation fundamentally changes the relationship between the salesperson and the prospect. Adjustments must be made. Perhaps your sales team needs to take an evangelical approach by spreading the good news of your solution in the market. Or maybe you have to switch to a relationship-based sale with a sales team focused on interpersonal skills. Qualifying will always be the backbone of successful selling, but the methodology will change.

The success of your team will rely upon their ability to adjust, if they haven’t already. Some categorical shifts to consider:

Old - Sales is an educator
New - Sales is a guide

Old - Prospect profile is information-gathering
New - Prospect profile is solution-savvy (from your competitors too)

Old - Prospecting is general introduction
New - Prospecting is specifically focused

Old - Qualifying focus is Pain and Money
New - Qualifying focus is Want and Need

To be clear, any successful qualifying system will require uncovering the prospect’s perceived pain and their budget to remove that pain. However, the initial qualifying pass will need to start by sorting out the nice-to-have vs. need-to-have solution for a partially-educated prospect who approaches with the beginnings of a self-determined solution.

Coaching for Qualifying

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As a CRO, you have many responsibilities, but one not to overlook is a concerted effort to coach your team. CRO’s are force multipliers - your ability to impart wisdom to your team will make your team more successful. The best ROI for your coaching time with your salespeople is qualifying.

Qualifying is the backbone of all successful selling. There are 5 stages of our Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQ’s) that we espouse in our selling system. However, no matter what selling system you use, your team must be strong qualifiers to succeed. The responsibility for growing that qualifying ability falls on you.

Selling Power has a quick-read, archived article that describes some fundamental questions your team should be asking of any prospect. The author compares qualifying prospects to investigative journalism. From the article (emphasis mine):

In many respects, qualifying prospects is like investigative journalism. The reporter (or, in this case, the salesperson) has to find out the facts of the story, based on who, what, when, where, why, and how. That means coming up with answers to the following questions:

  • Does the customer actually have a need for our products or services?

  • Can the customer afford to buy what we’re selling?

  • Is my primary contact the person who has the ability to make a buying decision, or is this person just gathering information? If not, who does have the authority to purchase?

All qualifying starts with a need so the author is on target. The CQQ’s from our Revenue as a System include Message, Motivation, Money, Methodology, and Market. When you are coaching your team, always keep the qualifying topic at the forefront.

Chicago Briefing - June 27

Learn about the RoundTable at our upcoming briefing on June 27.

Does your business have more upside than current performance exhibits?
Are you locked-in on the rapidly changing sales world?
Who is your go-to person for sales leadership questions?

The RoundTable provides answers to these questions and so much more.  You can learn about the RoundTable at one of our upcoming briefings in Wheaton, IL.  We will be hosting a 1 hour briefing on Wednesday, June 27th at the Arrowhead Golf Club.  If you would like to attend, please register today.

2 Key Traits for Managing Millennials

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This list could be much, much longer in dealing with this generation. However, let's focus on two traits that we are seeing consistently in successful leaders of Millennials.

1. Empathy - a quick, paraphrased definition from Merriam-Webster:  the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having those things fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Now to be clear, empathy has always been a valuable leadership trait through the generations.  Leadership is associated with power which allows leaders to operate, potentially, with a heavy hand.  They need not worry about reading their direct reports.  The leader provides the direction and expects the reports to execute it.

Empathy is a critical component of emotional intelligence.  The ability to read the nonverbal cues of people provides access to the largest channel of communication.  7% of communication is verbal (i.e. words) while 93% of communication is nonverbal (e.g. tone, body position, inflection, posture, etc.).  Nonverbal communication is the universal language and if the leader can read it effectively, he or she has an advantage in leading Millennials.

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2. Patience - This trait appears to be more uncommon by the day.  Millennials have matured in a microwave world.  Data, entertainment, communication has always been at their fingertips primarily through their cell phone.  Patience has not been a common point in their collective lives.

The ingrained lack of patience means the leader of this impatient generation needs...patience.  Saint Augustine famously stated, "Patience is the companion of wisdom." How true.  The Millennial generation often pushes for expediency in their careers to the point where they leave companies after short tenures.  They believe they have acquired all of the skills they can from that company and their path to the CEO suite is unclear.

The modern-day leader has to maintain a steady hand with the Millennials.  The leader must manage the Millennials expectations and provide a growth path focused on skill development.  The key is to coach them to take measured steps forward.  Patience will provide progress.

Keep this in mind, by the year 2020, Millennials will make up approximately 75% of the workforce.  Their generation requires an evolving leadership style better suited to the Millennial mindset.  Two traits, empathy and patience, will be in growing demand each year.  The leaders with the ability to adapt will successfully harness the energy of this new generation.

CRO Rule #10 - Use Interviews as Simulations

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CRO Success Rule #10:
Candidate interviews need to be a simulation of the sale you expect them to conduct.

We have arrived at our final CRO Success rule and it is an important one.  Bad sales hiring happens for many reasons, but there are “free moves” you can use to enhance your hiring success.  One of them is the interview.  Too often we see hiring managers who simply want to have a discussion about a candidate’s resume along with telling them about the position, the company, the benefit plan, etc.   Bad move.

The better approach is to mirror your typical sale in the initial interview.  Sales interviews do not need to be comfortable, easy-going discussions.  Instead, match the parameters of your typical sale.  Have multiple people in the interview if they will have to sell to a group.  Be somewhat short and curt with them if your prospects are typically in a hurry and not eager to talk to a salesperson.  Interrupt the candidate, drill down on their answers, ask for deeper clarification…all of these moves are free.  You would be wise to incorporate them into your hiring process so you can see the candidates in action.