|By Rebel Brown
|February 1, 2013 07:00 AM EST
There's no doubt that the buying cycle has changed dramatically thanks to the availability of information and opinions on the web. The impacts on sales and marketing are significant, yet the changes seem to be slow in coming. One area that has always interested me is the training and focusing of new sales reps. It's especially critical in today's shifting world. Relevant information and insights make a new rep effective, yesterday's me-focused info and pushy sales approaches saend buyers running. So how do we evolve? I first met Trish Bertuzzi on Twitter about three years ago. Since then I've come to respect her insights on matters of sales. I asked her a few questions about the big change in sales.
1. The buying process has changed dramatically thanks to the availability of information via websites, social media, communities, research, peer groups and more. Yet sales hasn't changed quickly to keep up. Why do you think that's happening?
I don’t think sales has not changed but I do think they are struggling to change. Making the transition from being the keeper of all knowledge to being the person that has to jump into a sales process at the point where they have to add value much further along than they had to before is not easy.
In the past, when information was known only to a few, the sales person educated their prospect from get to go. They dropped what they thought were pearls of wisdom along the way and the buyer responded appropriately. Now the buyer self educates and by the time they engage with sales they have the basics well in hand and want sales to get very specific. How can your product/solution help me address this very specific challenge better than the status quo and/or your competitors?
They don’t want to hear about features and benefits. They do want to hear about how you have helped other executives and/or companies like theirs address the issue. And oh, by the way, tell me something I don’t know. The sales people who become trusted advisors are those who win and gaining that level of knowledge takes work and is an investment in success.
2. What do you mean by context with regard to sales and marketing messages? What's the big change that we need to make when it comes to training our new sales teams to speak to buyers in context?
The context refers to becoming that trusted advisor and speaking a language that resonates with your unique buyer. Let’s say you can sell to the CFO, CIO and VP Marketing. In the past we would message to these contacts with a vanilla message probably based on what our product/solution does. It didn’t work that well then and it works even less well now. Each of these executives has a unique set of responsibilities and challenges. Putting your message into a context that resonates with them will get you heard.
3. Traditional selling was steeped in a focus on setting goals based on metrics (# of calls, # of proposals etc.) How does that need to change in today's world?
Does it need to change? Maybe the metrics are different but in sales you still need a measuring stick to understand where you are in your attainment of goal and if your only measuring stick is revenue, well by that time you can’t change anything to impact results.
There are a core set of metrics that need to be focused on but those metrics vary from one organization to the next. If you are selling into the enterprise you would focus on a very different set of sales process metrics than you would if you were selling into the SMB. Combine that with whether you are a hunter or a farmer and you can see that metrics are market and sales process dependent but they are a great predictor of future outcomes. Without them we are in a fingers crossed, hoping for the best situation.
4. Why don't we invest in growing the skills of our selling teams? What do we need to do to change that; culturally and tactically?
Why don’t we invest in growing the skills of our team.. that is a great question! We will spend tens of thousands of dollars in a recruitment and hiring process and then balk at spending a small amount of dollars on coaching and training. Why..why..why…
Every day should be a day of learning for a sales rep. Every interaction with a buyer should be viewed as a unique opportunity to figure out more about their industry, their challenges, how they are motivated, what impedes their success… you name it. But what do we do? We go to work the every day and go through the process of selling without stepping back to think about what we are learning.
Worse yet, our sales management teams are not fostering a culture of learning by not giving us the structure and/or the bandwidth with which to be strategic. I hear about it from reps all the time. They are so busy trying to make their activity metrics that they don’t have time to sit down create a strategic plan for how they will make their number.
You don’t always have to spend money to invest money to grow the skills of your team (but please feel free to do so and call us). Sometimes all you have to do is give them some breathing room to sit, think and share what they have learned.
5. We all know the first 90 days of a sales reps organizational life is critical to their success. What are the top 3 things we need to do better, or start doing?
Teach them about the industry/s they will be selling into.
Teach them about the day in the life of their buyers and how your product/solution can address very specific challenges unique to that buyer.
Teach them how to effectively use the tools you have place at their disposal.
Over the last two decades, Trish has promoted Inside Sales as a community, profession and engine for revenue growth. In the process, The Bridge Group has worked with over 190 B2B technology clients to build, expand and optimize their inside sales efforts.
By a combination of hard work and timing, Trish and team's research & ideas have been featured on Inc.com, by associations like SLMA & AA-ISP and across more than 68 sites in the sales and marketing blogosphere.
Click here to download Trish's ebook, Sales Onboarding: The Express Route from Hire-to-Revenue
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