Let’s try to understand what great salespeople do and why some salespeople fail. As a sales manager this study will help you achieve your sales team targets.
Analysing your sales team
When you want to figure out what’s really going in with your sales team, it’s time to look at what they do in front of their customers.
I am big believer in observing salespeople’s behaviour to see what they have applied and what is not working, especially after investing time in building their sales skills.
As luck would have, there are researchers out there to help us shine a light on the real problem in getting the sales team to apply the learning and hone their skills, once they leave the sales training room.
Researchers Lynette Ryals and Iain Davies observed 800 sales professionals in live sales meetings to understand the gap between investment in sales teams and their performance. They discovered in their research of sales meetings, that 9% of sales meetings end in sales. So why is that?
In exploring this, they discovered a set of patterns among the best of them. It seems that a 1 in 250 salespeople exceed their targets. Well that doesn’t surprise me, when I observe the range of behaviours that we unearth during a sales training course. At the high end we have the experts, closers and consultants, who make most of the sales while the narrators (product sellers), socialisers (relationships builders) and aggressors (pushy sales people) score very low in their sales close rates.
Here are some great info-graphics to show us what is really going on, courtesy of HBR and the researchers.
Eight selling behaviors were highlighted in the study, of which only three were actually related to sales success and high close rates. By mapping how salespeople defaulted to a particular sales technique and behaviour, they discovered salespeople fell into 8 categories on a quality to performance scale. The top 3 were consistent in closing sales. And made up 37% of the sample. The remaining group of sales people – 63% – under-performed because of their selling behaviours.
The Sales Outliers are the Best Closers and here’s what makes them a successful Salesperson
Here’s an infographic of the skills of the three salespeople that close the sales more effectively – Experts, Closers, and Consultants. These formed the Best 37% of the salespeople. The closer each corner of the green heptagon is to the edge of the circle, the more effective the salesperson is at the corresponding behaviour. This is a great study to understand what great salespeople do.
Experts (9% of salespeople) are good at all seven selling skills; Consultants (15%) good listeners and problem solvers; and Closers (13%) can pull off big product sales, but their smooth-talking style is less effective when selling services.
The Friend to Everybody #1: The Socializer
We always think of the best salespeople as extroverted and socially-astute and winners in the selling game. Based on the research, Socializers score the lowest when it comes to closing the sale.
Why such salespeople that are Socializers fail?
Notice the difference in their performance against the aspirational traits and the average of all salespeople. Salespeople that are good Socializers spend way too much time making friends and involving themselves in the buyer’s personal world, instead of staying focused on the result of the meeting, which is to get the buyer closer to making one more decision and closing the sale.
The Underachiever in Sales #2: The Storyteller
Storytellers have a great ability to illustrate the value by sharing how successful the offering was in the minds of their existing buyers. Often they lose focus on progressing the sale by sharing too much of what is not always relevant to the buyer in front of them. It can bore or turn the buyer off. It’s always about gauging the relevance of the story in the sales conversation. The positive in all this is, at least their gab focuses on how other clients used the product or solved the problem. Ryals and Davies discovered that much of the buying signals can be lost by focusing too much on past success rather than asking and listening to burning issues relevant to the client sitting in front of them.
The Product Seller #3: The Narrator
Narrators rely heavily on their product knowledge, the same sales pitch and the marketing material that is more suited to written communication. They lack the dynamic approach that bends with the concerns and questions thrown to them by the buyer. If they are not flexible enough, they can come across as unsure and rigid in understanding what the buyer really needs. Product knowledge is a must, but it is not a selling technique to use with inquiring buyers who wants to dig into the value of what’s on offer.
The Master of Detail #4: The Focuser
Focusers, tend to stick rigidly to the formulaic way of presenting and talking about the ins and outs of the technical specs of the product at the expense of listening, probing to figure out what the clients is interested in hearing and to get a sense of the bigger picture in the purchase along with the concerns of key stakeholders. Detailed people miss the buying patterns of the buyer and fail to progress the conversation to a close. They often confuse sharing product knowledge with closing the sale in the buyers mind.
The Pushy Salesperson #5: The Aggressor
Aggressors are the least liked of sales people. They drag the selling into the price pit and drive down the price often just to win the sale. They are bad for the seller’s business and for the market they operate in. They can win sales, but often at the price of a long-term relationship or company reputation. They can be unappealing to do business with because their style can often be like a battle with a win/lose dynamic. Somebody always looses in the short term and the company and industry may lose in the long term, driving down the price at the expense of quality.
Fixing the Problem by looking at the sales team in the right way
Ryals and Davies found that too much time in sales training is spent on doing the sales pitch, building rapport and presenting the product. Giving product presentations is not selling. These skills are no longer enough to keep the sales people at the top of their game. The sale is not made there. So many sales people think they have to know more about the product to get the sale. They don’t. They have to spend more time developing their consulting skills and sales-closing techniques and taking more risks in the sales conversation.
What is clear about The Experts, Closers and Consultants is their skill in designing and using a more sophisticated and smarter approach to each customer. They have a strategy for their sales meeting. They profile the buying strategies, the have high-quality coaching skills; they ask great questions, they know how to move the conversation from exploration to consulting to closing. Their listening and retention skills allow them to coach their buyers to come to a quality decision by the end of the sales meeting.
Sales training courses that continue to focus on the standard commodity of opening, closing, overcoming objections is not what the low performers needs. They need the tools to become better at recognizing their behaviour, developing better questioning skills and sales techniques that getting quality outcomes from every sales meeting.
You may also like to read our ebook, The Sales Outliers, How top People Power Ahead in their Selling Game
At Zenith Training, we offer sales training courses that can add more dynamic selling skills to improve buyer engagement in each sales meeting. Want to learn more?
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