There are some phrases I’m hearing my clients say more often when it comes to sales success. They want to be more data driven. They want to use information and not only instinct. They want better structure. They talk often of needing stronger sales culture.

The Future of Sales Needs Fresh Sales Skills

A recent Harvard Business Review article, “Reengineering the Recruitment Process,” shares some eye-opening results from a recent Gartner study that should change the way organizations view their sales training strategy. It shares: “A survey of 3,500 managers found that only 29% of new hires have all of the skills required for their current roles, let alone future ones. The research finds that in key functions such as finance, IT, and sales, positions filled today will require up to 10 new skills within 18 months.”

I took that to my own network with a recent LinkedIn poll. I asked their opinion on the biggest challenges that sales professionals will face in the future. Nearly half of them shared that upskilling the sales force is the top challenge, followed by buyer preferences for digital customer experiences.

Much of the solution to these challenges lies in having a sales training methodology and a sales process. Sales training and sales coaching investments can then be more effective and impactful for your teams.

Sales Methodology & Sales Process Defined

Sales methodology and sales process often get interchanged. In reality they’re two different things but they’re closely related.

Sales process is like a staircase. It’s a linear, stepped approach to moving an opportunity through the sales pipeline. There are often points where products or services get forecasted based on where the opportunity is in the pipeline and win probability. Your sales process might include steps like:

  • Lead generated
  • Opportunity identified
  • Opportunity qualified
  • Demo or proposal in process
  • Conditional agreement and negotiation
  • Opportunity won or lost

Sales methodology is like a chess match. These are a variety of things you can choose from – like strategy, tactics, and skills – to help you at any given time. They are designed to support your sales process and don’t necessarily follow a specific step-by-step pattern. Some examples could include mapping your client’s buying process, your approach to solutioning a sales proposal, sales discovery conversations, or determining the right decision makers then strategizing on how to build relationships. These all support a successful sales outcome, but you may draw on them at different times.

The Five Categories Your Sales Training Methodology Needs

A sales training methodology will give you both the structure and the flexibility you need to create successful sales outcomes. In my experience, there are five key categories that will help your sales teams win more consistently and at higher value. These categories are part of the curriculum design of our flagship sales training program, Strategic Selling for Professional Services.

  • Sales Mindset: This one might be the toughest to master, and yet it’s the most important. In the past 12 months, this might be the one area I’ve worked on the most myself and worked on with my clients. The outlook your sales teams take in times of challenge directly impacts their sales activities. Their sales activities directly impact their opportunities and their sales results. Any sales training methodology requires focus on sales mindset, which can include emotional intelligence, executive presence, handing rejection and delays, and staying agile in the face of disruption. The sales training methodology I’ve designed includes sales assessment work with the entire sales team and leadership team, to accurately gauge for these qualities and capabilities.
  • Advisory Intelligence: This is your depth of understanding about the client or industry vertical you’re looking to grow. The more depth you have, the more you’re able to step into the role of advisor. The step that most sellers don’t follow though, is taking that intelligence a step further by offering specific ideas and recommendations that can make their businesses better. By adding that to a seller’s toolkit, they will become even more valuable to their top prospects and customers.
  • Strategic Relationships: A seller’s ability to build relationships is foundational to success with client growth. In a world where we’re extremely connected through technology, we can find virtually anyone and begin to build a picture of the organization in a few keystrokes. But sellers and business developers often mistake connections for relationships. Or they build relationships only where they’re comfortable. A sales training methodology that includes skills around key relationship roles, network mapping, and strategic alliances will help sellers to access the right relationships more successfully.
  • Compelling Proposals: Over 50% of proposals fail to win the business, but sales organizations spend significant time and financial resources creating proposals and responding to RFPs. Proposals tend to be about us and our capabilities, rather than on the client and their specific challenges and requirements. A sales training methodology needs to flip the equation, and put the focus into what the client cares most about: does your solution help them to get to a specific outcome? Are there ways to measure the success of your work together? Are your sellers providing value at the organizational level and to the individuals they’re working with?
  • Key Commitments: Closing a new sale is never the end of the sales process; it’s the beginning or continuation of your customer relationship. Sales closing is the skill that improves your team’s deal velocity and helps improve the sales pipeline. A sales training methodology that includes skill-building around how to earn commitments throughout the sales process, plus the right questions and messaging to ask for the business, will lead to improving overall sales outcomes.

What Sales Leaders Can Do Next

What can you do next to optimize your sales process and sales training methodology?

  • First take some time to evaluate what exists in your organization today, including sales training programs and other sales enablement tools.
  • Next look at your sales process. Can you clearly articulate the sales process your teams follow? Does it align with your customers’ buying processes and your CRM forecasting methods?
  • Do have a clear understanding of your team’s current skill levels? Do you have a clear picture of their sales growth potential and the revenue potential you might be leaving on the table?

If you’d like an outside perspective to help you answer those questions, let’s connect for a conversation. We’ll discuss your challenges, sales growth opportunities, and how I can help.

For additional learning and key trends related to this topic, be sure to visit my recent Sales Experts Channel talk, Is Your Sales Methodology Ideal for the Future of Selling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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