8 Keys to Growing Sales In the Mid-Market

photo of a businessman holding keys

Most mid-market companies are looking for their sales team to create high growth without the benefit of a large sales footprint or global brand recognition.  As providers of customized consultative selling training for more than two decades, we can give you the “keys” to improving sales. 
  1. Create a clear, believable and implementable sales strategy
    Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing sales organizations.  If you are looking for high growth, start with defining your target clients and what sets you apart in the eyes of those customers.  Then identify the top 2-3 priorities for the year to hit your growth targets.

  2. Create an understandable and consistent high performance sales culture that leverages your sales strategy
    Our organizational alignment research found that organizational culture (how work gets done) accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing sales organizations.  If you are looking for high growth, ensure that your sales culture is aligned with your sales strategy.

  3. Adopt a common sales process and methodology
    Inconsistent sales and marketing practices wreak havoc on even the smallest of sales teams looking to scale.  Establish a sales process and methodology that the entire team accepts and adopts.

  4. Establish the “critical few” leading and lagging metrics for performance
    It is critical that sales teams keep track of activities and results. Otherwise, how are they to know where they stand and what they need to change?

  5. Meet regularly
    Make your meetings of value. Inspire the team, share best practices, and solve problems.  In short, look together at what is working and what is not and shift plans accordingly.

  6. Maintain a healthy pipeline and accurate forecasting
    The more visibility you have toward achieving future goals, the more likely you will actually reach them. Don’t neglect to fill the pipeline by focusing only on current deals. And adjust forecast figures to reflect as close to a true assessment of potential as possible.

  7. Hire and develop the right sales talent
    You need sales reps who know how to sell your unique value proposition effectively to your specific customer base and you need sales managers who can lead and coach them toward that end. Hold sales reps accountable for their performance. Recognize and reward top performers and provide fair consequences or support for substandard performers.

  8. Give reps the right tools
    Provide the consultative selling training they need to keep their sales skills sharp for the sales scenarios that matter most to their success. Use technology to help them save time and keep their customer contact information current and useful. Also, be sure they have access to relevant whitepapers, customer testimonials and sales success stories that they can share with customers as appropriate.

3 Common Sales Training Objections

a cartoon businessman leaps over two hurdles on a race track

If you are in the field of consultative selling training, you have likely heard the following common objections in one way or another many times over. Business sales training:
  •          Costs too much
  •         Takes too much time
  •         Will have little impact on performance

We agree that many consultative selling training programs deserve such objections. Why? Because they were not thoughtfully planned or sustained to achieve what should be the result of any business sales training initiative—improved sales performance in terms of revenue, margin, portfolio-mix or win rate.

Those of us who design, deliver, buy and sell consultative selling training programs need to do a better job of ensuring that our sales training initiatives achieve real and lasting business outcomes. And here is how we should address their legitimate objections:

1.       Not enough time
We know how busy salespeople are. They resist taking time away from their real work…interacting with customers to drive sales. Sales leaders and their teams should resist any training that does not directly help performance.  For it to be worth spending any time, sales training must answer the following questions in the affirmative: Could your sales team do it better and be more productive? Do you have a clear picture of what it would take to turn average sales performers into top sales performers? These questions are the ones to ask before spending time on improving solution selling skills. Address them together to see if sales training, done right, is the answer.

2.       Not enough budget
Investing in sales training takes resources away from other investments and initiatives. You need to find out just how important it is to increase sales performance compared to other priorities. What will it cost if the sales team continues to do things the same way they are now? What are the organization’s strategic priorities? Where does improving the performance of the sales team fit with other organizational needs?

3.       Not enough impact
This sales training objection is an old one, and one that is no longer valid if you have done the work required to identify the specific sales metric that matters most compared to other priorities.  Sales training must solve a pressing business problem and be directly linked to the organizational strategy. It must be fully backed at the highest levels, targeted to the right individuals, cover the critical few sales behaviors that really need to change, measured before and after, and be sufficiently sustained with sales coaching and follow-up reinforcement to ensure the transfer of training on the job.

Customers have a right to question you and be sure they are making the right move.  Be prepared for these common objections so you can handle them in a way that shows you are focused on doing what is right for them. At the very least you will strengthen the relationship; at the best, you will have completed a sale and acquired a loyal customer.

Read 30 Sales Questions More Important than Budget

How to Make the Most of Every Sales Call

A business man has crossed out Plans A & B in favor of Plan C

If you want to increase your win-rate, never go into a sales call without a plan. 

Our research shows that without a sales call plan you greatly increase the chances that you are throwing away the best opportunity you will get to help your current or prospective customer to succeed. And there is no excuse for wasting a customer’s time after your marketing, referral and sales efforts have worked so hard to get you in the room. 

Here, from the best of consultative selling training, is how to make the most of your precious and hard-won sales appointment.

  1. Clearly define your desired outcome.Think through what would be a satisfying result of the sales call…not only for you and your organization but for the customer and the customer’s customers. At a minimum, the outcome should move the sale forward on the customer’s side toward making a “go or no go” decision. To help you focus on a realistic and quantifiable goal, make sure that the result of the call is specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-based. An example might be a commitment from the customer to call you back tomorrow with specific requirements for what you have recommended after they have gathered information from their team.

  2. Identify the customer’s probable needs.Review in your own mind the customer’s current situation. What problems do they face in their marketplace? What are current issues for their company? What is it they need personally and professionally to be successful? Then, make a list of what the customer has already expressed in terms of needs. Are they urgent? Do they lead to a clear and measurable and desired business result?

  3. List the critical few questions you can ask that will lead to real needs.Are you missing any critical information? Ask insightful questions that will spur the customer’s thinking toward the risk of NOT following your advice. What are the implications of inaction? What are the complications of action? Are there other business priorities that will take precedence? Are there other stakeholders who need to be involved and won over?

  4. Articulate the payoff.Be clear about what is to be gained by working with you and taking the recommended course of action. What specific value do you bring to the table that your competition cannot? How does your solution hit all the right targets for the customer? Describe what success will look like in terms of what matters most to your customer.

Of course, you may not be able to carry the discussion through to the payoff in the early stages of building the relationship. But you still need to have a sales call plan that will move you and the customer closer and closer to the final stage or working together or moving on.

Remember, preparation is the key to any sales call. Don’t wait until those last few minutes when you are in the customer’s lobby. You need the confidence of having done your homework and being well prepared to take advantage of each and every sales call.

Download Sales Best Practices Toolkit for Leaders

4 Immediate Steps to Improve Sales Training Effectiveness

a white key on a black background with the word "Success" in big letters

So often when sales lag, sales leaders look for a quick fix. They figure that their salespeople must be doing something wrong. Why not find a business sales training program that will teach them the “right” way to sell? 

Unfortunately, this rarely works…for several reasons.

A lack of consultative sales skills may not be the root cause of poor revenue generation. Salespeople may not be at fault. Instead you could point the finger of blame at poorly designed sales territories, the lack of a proven sales methodology, undifferentiated offerings, outdated technology, increased competition, or compensation systems that support the wrong behaviors.

Even if you decide that your salespeople need consultative selling training to build the sales skills they need to succeed in your specific environment, then be aware that sales training by itself does not ensure their behavior will change or their performance will improve. You will need a follow-on system to reinforce the desired sales behaviors and a training measurement system to hold everyone accountable for their performance.

Let’s look at how you should go about selecting a consultative selling training program that will bring you the business results you hope for and be your key to sales success.

  1. Know what you need.
    An assessment of the sales skills, experience and motivations of your current sales force
     can save many headaches, not to mention your training investment. You need to find out what critical few competencies and behaviors work in your specific sales situation by examining your top sales talent. Once you have a profile of success for your sales strategy, then look at the individuals on your team to determine who needs what in the way of skill-building. Sales training without diagnostics, planning, and meaningful objectives would be a waste.
  2. Be choosy. 
    Find a sales training and consulting provider who specializes in consultative selling training and who is willing to work with you to customize the program to your specific sales strategy, sales culture and sales force based on your sales force assessment.
  3. Clearly determine the sales success metrics and learning goals. 
    First identify the sales metrics that you want to improve such as revenue, margin, win rate, portfolio mix, deal size, and sales cycle.  Then set learning objectives and design a measurement system to track progress and provide actionable feedback.
  4. Set up a system of reinforcement. 
    Hold sales team members accountable for actually applying the consultative selling skills they learned. Measure their adoption levels and performance.  Reward them appropriately as new behaviors are practiced on the job and new performance targets are met. Create a system of ongoing sales performance coaching to encourage and embed the desired behaviors.

How Consultative Selling Needs to Change for the C-Suite

3 targets but only one with darts in the bull's-eye

In today’s competition for executive audiences, being just “good enough” to get in the door is not “good enough” to keep senior level attention, much less earn the sale. You need to be able to aim and hit the bull’s-eye over and over if you want to succeed at consultative selling to high-level customers.

At its core, Consultative Selling Training is all about learning how to ask the right questions that define what the client truly needs, show your credibility and add value.  The better you are, the more your target client will craft the exact solution with you to meet their needs in a way that makes sense. The proven sales approach has been around for decades and is sound and very effective with most buyers. But when you need to work with a client at the C-level, the approach needs to change.  Here is how:

  1. You cannot waste their time asking multiple questions. You need to have the answers to many questions from other sources. This means you need to spend time researching and preparing for your meeting ahead of time. Use every resource at your disposal to learn as much as you can about the industry, the market, the competition and the specific issues facing your specific client. You need to have a real understanding of your customer’s business before you face them.

  2. You need to provide value.Arriving prepared is a given. But to earn your customer’s respect, you need to bring subject matter expertise and meaningful insight to the table. Executives generally appreciate learning something about their business that they had not known before. Read up so that you are aware of current and future trends that might affect their business. Is there a new technology that could boost (or even harm) their prospects? Is there a business partnership that could bring real value to both players? Is there an emerging market they have not yet explored? Is there something that your other clients are doing that may be valuable?  Your challenge is educate and engage.

  3. Approach the session as if you had to pay for the privilege.Though this sounds a bit over the top, there actually are firms that charge salespeople for the privilege of addressing their executives. They feel that having time with their senior leaders is worth paying for the time. Certainly, you would invest a good deal more effort in researching, planning, and role playing your meeting if you actually did have to invest real money for the opportunity. 

Don’t be among the 33% of salespeople who squander their time with executives. Be prepared and bring value.

Learn more by going to http://www.lsaglobal.com/solution-selling-training

Consultative Selling: Don’t Forget the Customer’s Role

two stick figures stand at a flip chart as they draw up a game plan

As consultative salespeople, we sometimes get so wrapped up in what we need to do to connect with the customer and provide value that we drive the bus without fully taking stock of where our passengers want to go. We are “do-ers” and as such we like to take control of the situation. 

Sometimes this gets in the way of developing a true partnership with our customers. We forget that true partners both derive benefit from the relationship and both should contribute to designing and implementing the solution. There should be two at the drawing board! This is the foundation of consultative selling training. Solutions should be co-created to be sure that the right problems are being addressed and that the buyer participates fully in the process.

Here’s an example of a consultative salesperson “taking over the bus” that occurs rather late in the sales cycle but can still delay the selling process…

A meeting is scheduled between the salesperson and the prospective buyer. The sales rep has worked through many contacts to reach this target buyer and has done extensive research to be sure that they know what’s going on at the company and that their proposed solution will impact a business metric that matters to them and their organization. The sales rep has set clear goals for the meeting and prepared their own agenda. Clearly the salesperson is “ready to drive the bus” but where does the customer fit into the picture?

Make sure the customer is as well prepared as you are for the meeting.  

  1. Check-In.  You need to present your goals for the meeting and check to see that the customer is in agreement. If not, ask them what they hope to accomplish in the session. If your goals are not in alignment, the value of the meeting is considerably reduced.
  2. Include.  Ensure that all critical stakeholders have been invited and will be attending. Without the “right” people in the room, decisions will be delayed and potential solutions or approaches missed.
  3. Clarify.  Identify what information the customer may need for the meeting to be productive. Did the customer commit to gathering some data so you can tweak your approach to fit their specific business strategy or organizational culture? Make sure the information will be available so you can move forward and take appropriate next steps.

These three items can be covered efficiently with a focused agenda and a follow-up call to check on agreement. Make it simple and make it short with a clear focus on results. A thoughtfully crafted agenda for your sales call will save your time and your customer’s and keep the selling process moving full speed ahead.

Learn more by going to http://www.lsaglobal.com/solution-selling-training

How Sales Coaching Impacts the Bottom Line

three business people confer at one's computer

So many companies miss the opportunity to grow their sales when they neglect a very straightforward solution.  They don’t train their sales managers to be effective coaches.

How can the lack of sales management training for your new sales manager affect your company’s bottom line? Sales revenue is dependent upon many things but primarily upon the quality of your salespeople and the effectiveness of their manager. When the sales team manager is inexperienced, the team flounders and is less productive. However, when the sales manager is adept at motivating their sales reps and coaching them to ever higher performance, you have maximized the team’s potential. 

The problem is that too many sales managers are promoted without having had the benefit of sales leadership training. They may have had consultative selling training when they were selling directly. That was when they caught your notice as a high performer. But they were promoted without the benefit of leadership training on how to manage and get the most out of their people.

First, sales managers need to get to know their team members individually and to understand what motivates them. A good manager
spends quality one-on-one time with each of their reports to get a sense of who they are and why they behave as they do
realizes that each team member responds to different motivators and each has a preferred style of communicating
adjusts to the style of each member in order to communicate more effectively and also understand what will motivate them to high performance

If, for instance, you have a very expressive, sociable rep, your quiet, slow-paced analytical communication style will not capture their attention for very long. And if this same rep loves sports and checks on the stats regularly, a pair of tickets to a sports arena would be an ideal motivator or reward for extra effort or achievement. You get the idea…

The other piece of effective sales management is sales performance coaching. Know what sales skills are most critical to success in your market and then assess, develop, encourage and measure those skills in your sales team. Good managers know how to guide toward consistent performance improvement. They can diagnose performance problems and ferret out the root cause. Then they can solve the problem with the right mix of sales training, sales coaching, incentives, resources or an improvement plan with clear and fair consequences for non-performance. Good sales managers know the strengths and weaknesses of their sales team and find ways to build on the strengths and overcome the weaknesses.

Give your sales managers the tools and support they need to succeed and watch your company revenue increase.  Our research shows that consistent and effective sales coaching makes a 4-to-1 revenue difference.  Doesn’t that seem worth it?

Learn more by going to http://www.lsaglobal.com/solution-selling-training