Does Your Sales Team Need to Love Your Product to Sell It?
The short answer? Yes.
Sure, we can all hold our noses and do things we don’t like, but few of us are also good at masking the discomfort. It’s obvious. You can’t appear engaged in that conversation while also thinking through tonight’s dinner plans in your head.
Of course, the long answer is it takes more than love. A sales rep also has to be confident in what they are doing in order to have the good intent, sincerity, and knowledge needed to close a deal with today’s B2B buyer (who has already Googled you for three weeks before calling).
Why Sales Confidence Matters
Selling is about solving buyer needs. It’s about advocating a product that solves their problem in the best way possible. To do so, your reps must have confidence in your entire sales ecosystem in order to meet those needs. We break this down into four cornerstones of a sales organization:
- Your offering
- The rep’s skills
- Available resources
- Internal systems
These four cornerstones all feed into the buyer’s experience, good or bad. Here’s a metaphor we like to use to illustrate the point.
Think of a plant. First you have the visible leaves and fruit. Next, underground, is a large taproot to keep the plant steady. Smaller branch roots grow off of the taproot before ending in a root cap, which is very strong. It’s responsible for pushing through the dirt to find the moisture and nutrients critical for photosynthesis, which allows the plant to grow.
A sales engagement is similar. The fruit, or buyer’s decision on who to buy, is the result of the buying process. The buying process is a series of activities the buyer does to determine which solution is best. In more simple terms, the buying process is someone deciding what they think about different products. That perception holds up the decision — “I pick solution A because it can be implemented faster and has the customization options I like.”
But there is so much more under the surface of that final decision. What your sales team does or doesn’t do will absolutely influence the decision. (This includes the information your marketing team makes available for the buyer online.) This sales activity is our taproot — the foundation of the buyer’s perceptions that keeps that purchase decision in place.
But there is still more. Your sales ecosystem — those branch roots and root caps — are feeding those sales activities. Poor sales skills drive poor sales activities, just as an effective commission structure will drive positive sales activities that lead to closed deals.
Let’s dive deeper into each of the four cornerstones.
Confidence in Offering
Does our offering meet the needs of buyers?
A client recently pulsed their sales team about their confidence in a new customer service model introduced earlier in the year. Only 41% of reps were confident the new model benefited customers and an even lower percentage of sales leaders (34%) were confident.
This brings us back to the original question: Does your sales team need to love your offering?
We have to believe the 59% of that client’s reps who are struggling when they talk about the service model. While the company made changes they thought were effective, they didn’t capture the people who were responsible for selling the model. That must change before the service model can become a competitive advantage.
Confidence in Skills
Do I have the ability to work effectively with buyers?
This cornerstone asks a sales rep to assess their own skills in relaying their offering to buyers. This is not an objective assessment (which we’re not sure is ever possible). It’s a measurement of the rep’s perception of their skills. This matters because, for example, when a rep doesn’t feel comfortable talking about your reporting feature, they are much less likely to mention it, which could skew the buyer’s perception of your product.
Here’s what one rep wrote in a recent survey:
“I believe I can communicate most of the value that [my company] brings to the table for our customers. I do think having some training around different contracts and the language in them would be beneficial for future deal reviews.”
What manager wouldn’t be excited about running contracting coaching sessions to help that rep sell more? The rep is holding their hand up for help.
Another rep wrote:
“I have never conducted a pricing transparency analysis for a customer or prospect. I still have much to learn about contracts, our discounts, and our consulting services.”
Sounds like a newer rep who, thankfully, already understands the range of items they need to learn to be effective. Either way, it’s clear the rep’s perception of their skills will impact current sales activities and deals.
Confidence in Resources
Do I have the resources and tools needed to effectively work with buyers?
Whether software tools, pricing calculators, or subject matter experts, resources are essential to a sales organization. Effective resources will reduce your sales cycle and increase your win rate if they are used correctly and often by sales.
Through our research, reps have reported everything from resources being “too hard to find” and “not available off-line when I am meeting with a client,” to “clunky” and “out of date.” You don’t have to be a fortune teller to see what buyers will think about those same resources.
Confidence in Systems
Do our internal systems positively impact my work with buyers?
In addition to your tools, you have processes in place that are either accelerating or decelerating sales. Take one comment from a sales rep about his company’s pricing and risk assessment system:
“Our pricing methodology is quite convoluted and has number of inherent faults in it that are now just accepted by everyone. As a high level example: We build up the price from the bottom in disparate silos where the stakeholders from each silo have agendas and KPIs that have very little to do with pricing to win. The effort/cost calculations then get put together and are reviewed by a HUGE number of individuals who in turn increase the contingency and risk numerous times. Finally the cost is delivered to the Account/Sales who then add further risk to come up with the price to the client. This leads to significant over estimation in regards to contingency and risk which is not visible in the end product. Our hourly rates are VERY compatible in the market place but almost without an exemption our effort estimations are 30 to 50% higher than our competitors.” [all emphasis added by respondent.]
This rep doesn’t have confidence the pricing system helps clients or his sales.
But, people usually ask us, what if this isn’t an accurate depiction of the company’s system? It doesn’t matter. Their sales rep — someone interfacing with buyers — thinks the system is “convoluted” and their pricing estimations are “30% to 50% higher.” The way that rep approaches each deal will be influenced by this perception of the pricing system, right or wrong. Time to work on that system or do some education training.
Where Our Sales Confidence Index Helps
Our Sales Confidence Index measures confidence in each cornerstone, teaching you which levers you need to pull to improve how your sales team interacts with buyers:
- Offering training or improvement
- Skills training
- Resource improvement
- Systems improvement
It also identifies your sales team hubs, which are internal experts who can help you identify and communicate the improvements.
So, do you know what’s at the root of your sales team? Where is their confidence in the areas that drive interactions and influence buying behavior? Contact us if you would like us to help you answer that question. We can run a confidence pulse for you in about a week.
Originally published at www.primary-intel.com on July 27, 2016.