By Sharon Daniels, CEO, AchieveGlobal
Ultimately, all companies are in the business of sales. While goods and services vary from brand to brand, a company’s lifeblood is in the revenue generated from sales. That’s why it’s critical to consider what comprises an organization’s sales DNA—ranging from the talent of individual salespeople, to strength within the leadership ranks, to organizational structure.
The central mantra for many salespeople is “sell, sell, sell!” but the lurching global economic recovery spells out a changing reality. The best sales teams can’t be focused merely on chasing new customers, especially when groups such as the International Monetary Fund(IMF) forecast that growth is slowing and advanced economies face an “anemic and bumpy recovery.” Nor should the focus be entirely on the front-line sales experience—because it is the holistic customer experience, made up of multiple touch points with various parts of your organization, that truly matters.
In this “new normal” of economic reality, talent managers for businesses of all kinds recognize the need for sales teams to develop new approaches. Numerous companies are transforming their sales teams. Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), for instance, announced it will drive growth in its supply chain through training and development. Sales force development will be enhanced through a “commercial academy” focused on training.
“We have the biggest sales force in our markets,” CEO John Brock said during CCE’s earnings call in September. “The biggest finding that we have is that we believe the most qualitative sales force is important, and that’s why we heavily invest in commercial capabilities by rolling out an intensive commercial training program.”
When the differences between high-performing sales people and their low-performing colleagues are examined, it’s interesting to see that top performers don’t concentrate only on developing new business. Instead, they zero in on customer service—one of the findings in “Survey of Sales Effectiveness Report,” a worldwide survey of 1,000-plus sales professionals by training and workforce consultant AchieveGlobal.
“Defining Moments” Are Critical
Sales success is created by providing differentiated and exceptional customer experiences throughout the entire sales and post-sales process. This is accomplished first by understanding the needs of customers and then bringing them the resources necessary to meet and exceed those needs—which is a far different mindset than just peddling a high-cost service or closing a deal.
The key for highly effective sales team members is to have them uncover and meet customers’ needs at crucial “defining moments”—the times when a current customer or prospective buyer has the opportunity to judge an organization. Activities that lead to successful sales outcomes are those that involve both strategy and skills that add value at every defining moment.
The way defining moments add up can mean the difference between being perceived as a product seller, friendly visitor, or trusted business advisor. The aggregation of these defining moments is a critical input to the customer’s decision-making process and overall experience.
The Impact of Training on Sales
More than one of every three HR managers (37.9 percent) named Sales as the department most in need of training, based on a global talent management survey by NorthgateArinso. Training correlates to several key outcomes, based on AchieveGlobal research. Moderate to substantial coaching and training tends be related to higher deal sizes, greater increases in personal sales revenue, and generally more overall success compared with those receiving minimal coaching and training.
When it comes to sales declines of greater than 20 percent, those with low coaching experienced this significant drop-off rate at a rate nearly double those with high amounts of training. And those with a high level of training exceeded performance quotas by more than 10 percent at a higher rate than those with low training levels. People with a high level of training also increased the size of their deals at a rate double that of those with lesser training.
Training leads to better strategic thinking among sales leaders. They’re more apt to set goals, forecast sales results and develop in-depth knowledge of a customer’s industry. High performers have a tendency to request client feedback, exhibit a high degree of ethics and will gain commitment through polished communications skills.
High performers are more likely to possess an understanding of products/services being sold, identify new opportunities in existing accounts, and ensure the organization delivers what is promised. At the other end of the spectrum, lower performers more often focus on building and maintaining a network of contacts, only pursuing leads and providing customers with ongoing advice.
Coaching and training not only benefit salespeople but help all front-line employees move from transaction-based client interactions to experienced-focused service. As such, training should go beyond the sales force and include anyone who has a customer facing role, including accounts payable, contracts, customer service, and even administrative workers. This prepares everyone in the organization to own the customer experience.
Training andCoaching Generates Strong Return
The valuable skills exhibited by high-performing sales teams can be taught, and, investing in learning can result in a strong return. Coaching creates many strong results, including a clear understanding of company objectives and fair treatment of peers and customers. Further, organizations that offer training and coaching are more likely to support the sales force in other ways, leading to greater success.
Even with the right sales skills and sufficient organizational support, it is most critical that salespeople and companies are meeting customers’ needs by providing an exceptional experience. When these factors are synchronized, it is highly likely companies will grow a profitable and harmonious long-term customer relationship.
Sharon Daniels is the CEO of AchieveGlobal, which recently released“A Survey of Sales Effectiveness: Global Research on What Drives Sales Success,” a study that provides insights into the sales practices required to succeed in today’s business environment. Results from the study uncover important conclusions around the sales activities that generate stronger customer relationships and higher revenues, as well as the impact of leadership and organizational support on sales success. AchieveGlobal is located in more than 40 countries and offers multi-language, learning-based solutions globally, regionally, and locally. For more information, visit www.achieveglobal.com.