The people designing your sales curriculum and approach have never had and can’t execute the business conversations you need.
EVERY sales leader I speak with wants his or her sales force to sell “value.”
It’s become one of those overused words that’s meaning has been lost in time to corporate and sales guru buzzword bingo.
Ask a group of salespeople and sales leaders to define value and you’ll get a different definition each time. Even CEOs overuse the term without truly understanding what they mean when they say it.
Recently I’ve met with sales and enablement leaders at some leading and very successful enterprises who are retooling their sales approaches and heard some worrying information in my discovery conversations.
The common thread in these conversations is the sales leader’s desire for his/her sales force to be able to:
- Have “broader and deeper business conversations” with senior decision-making executives that tie back to the ‘value’ of their solutions
- Be proactive – share insight and ideas that help to position the salesperson as an expert
- Build a reputation for being competitively distinct as a sales organization in order to attract and retain the best talent
These desires aren’t new. I heard the same 10 years ago. So why isn’t the conversation changing?
I’d like to suggest that it’s for the following reasons.
- No common definition of what ‘value’ means internally (and more importantly how it relates to the customers definition).
- There is no plan to help guide the customer to articulate what they define as value and guide them to make their own case for change
- The people who are tasked with designing sales onboarding and skills curriculum have never done the job of having a ‘broad, deep business conversation’ with a C level executive – they simply don’t know what good looks like or how to do it. So how can they build these elements into your internal programs?
- Hiring profiles need to change – less sales hustle and more curiosity and critical thinking skills that enable a business or transformational conversation
- Lack of clarity and definition of what the purpose of sales is
And, I’m only going to unpack the first few of these in this article..
The issue of value
The biggest challenge with value is that sales leaders believe that salespeople need to be able to show customers the value of their solution; the potential ROI, cost savings, revenue increases, efficiencies, productivity gains, results and impact of their offerings.
These are important…
And, the problem with showing/demonstrating value is a matter of sequencing in a conversation and social proof.
If your salesperson tells the customer what they can expect in terms of ROI, gains, reductions, results, impact before the customer has shared what their beliefs as to the potential outcomes are, then it’s a bit like me telling you how devilishly handsome I am.
I’m a salesperson, of course I’d say that, right? And, how believable are you finding that statement right now…?
If on the other hand, your salesperson can guide your customer to articulate the value of the difference that they, the customer believe would be achieved by addressing their challenges or achieving their objectives in $, then your customer is effectively telling your salesperson how handsome or beautiful your salesperson is…sorry, I mean how valuable your solution/product/service is.
See the difference?
Whose numbers and case for change is more believable for your customer – your salesperson’s or your customers own beliefs and business case? (Of course, your salesperson can advise if the customer is being over optimistic or overly pragmatic)
The customer is selling themselves using their own social proof, not that of your salesperson. Much, much more persuasive.
The issue of Sales Enablement
Gloves off time.
How can somebody in HR, Learning and Development, Sales Enablement who has never executed a broad, deep business conversation that has guided a C level executive to build their own case for change (based on the customers beliefs about value) possibly know how to build a sales onboarding approach that helps sales people to execute business conversations?
That’s why so many salespeople dread attending their internal sales programs and often don’t respect these functions. It’s because they know the trainer hasn’t walked a mile in the salesperson’s shoes.
In addition, there’s another reason why most sales people still struggle to have business conversations. Because, most internal training tends to be product/solution/service led. Picture this.
An internal product expert leads a conversation about the new product/solution, it’s features and function and why it’s better than competitive alternatives. They then share a few customer wins so sales have some reference brands to use. Then they tell sales to go and sell it.
What’s the problem here you may be asking?
Well, the whole focus of the internal training has been “why choose us” – and has failed to incorporate any or much of the customers priorities or needs which have to be captured in a “why change?” and “why now?” framework.
And because these critical elements of customer focus are missing, salespeople “show up and throw up” features and benefits, focused on “why choose us” without engaging in any sort of value uncovering business conversation.
Sales leader and salesperson then wonder why they’re not invited back for a second meeting with the senior executive. (Research shows that 58% of executives are disappointed with their first meeting – and only 7% of first meetings result in a continuation)
The remedy for this is internal sales programs that:
- follow the “Why change, why now, why choose us” framework
- involve executives from customers (to share before and after stories and value created/difference)
- show salespeople and their leaders how to guide the customer to articulate their value (business and personal win)
This is the way to build unshakeable confidence and competence in your salespeople to have business conversations.
Until that happens, expect the same feature/function conversations that don’t link back to the value of your offerings and salespeople who aren’t confident and proficient at speaking with senior decision makers…you know, the people who can say “yes.”
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If you want to learn more, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +1 647-402-2096.
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