4 Difference-Making Ways to Look at Solution Selling
In all our years of working with sales teams, we have never met one that did not want to reach higher, faster.
“Higher, faster” is baked into the true salesperson’s DNA. But we have met plenty of sales leaders and managers who were disappointed that their efforts to create a high performance sales team did not meet expectations. When we ask these sales leaders what they have done to boost sales performance, we hear a variety of answers. They typically try to:
- Exert more sales performance pressure by reiterating targets, micromanaging sales activities and threatening consequences for sub-standard results
- Stimulate more effort with increasing reps’ pay or spot bonuses
- Use product-based training to improve the product knowledge of their sales reps
- Offer solution selling training events to improve sales skills
Unfortunately, none of these attempts to increase revenue were directed at sustainable ways to really help reps consistently sell better and perform at a higher level. More sales pressure without the necessary strategic, culture and performance measurement foundations will only create unnecessary stress. Rewards and recognition that are not tethered to meaningful accomplishments ahead of time will not change behavior. While a certain level of product knowledge is a ticket to play the game, sales reps need to be able to identify and articulate how your solutions specifically help their clients to succeed. And lastly, solution selling training by itself, without the necessary sales coaching, training measurement and reinforcement, will only change the behavior of 20% of your participants on average.
But “it is never too late.” Here are four ways to look at selling solutions that can make the difference you are looking for:
- Sales Time Allocation
Understand how your sales reps are spending their time. Make a list of the sales activities that fill their day. You want to focus on the revenue producing activities rather than time in meetings and filling out reports (both of which should be minimized to keep the sales reps doing what they were hired to do…sell and help their customers to succeed). Create a system of tracking activities so you and your reps have data to determine what works and what doesn’t. Then drive the sales activities that are most critical to productivity and hold your team accountable.
- Sales Challenges
Where in the buying or sales cycle are your reps struggling? Shadow your salespeople to evaluate their solution selling skills from the very beginning, their choice of customers and how they handle each “moment of truth.” Can they clearly articulate your company’s value proposition and differentiate your offerings from the competition? Do they practice solution selling by listening carefully to the customer’s needs and wants and by creating a unique solution to the problem? Have they been able to identify the true buyer and track their decision making process? Do they know how to overcome your most common sales obstacles and negotiate with finesse? You need to identify and fill in any sales skill gaps as fast as possible. Provide the targeted solution selling training they need and then be sure there is a sales coaching system in place that will ensure they apply these new skills and behaviors on the job.
- Sales Performance
Fix or prune underperformers. Sub-standard sales performance or a bad cultural fit is unacceptable to high performance sales environments. Work with your below average sales reps to improve their behaviors. If you don’t see improvement in a reasonable amount of time or if you don’t see a true effort and commitment, let them go in a way that makes sense. High sales performers will quickly lose their motivation if poor performers are allowed to continue without consequences.Conversely, you must also consistently and fairly reward and recognize the right behaviors and outcomes. Know what motivates the individuals on your sales team and let them know with whatever makes sense for them (public recognition, gift card to a favorite restaurant, or a more flexible work schedule so they can coach their local soccer team) that you appreciate their contribution.
- Overall Sales Vision
All employees like to feel that they are a part of something big and important…sales folks especially. The more you can harness their emotional attachment to what they do, the more persuasive they will be in the field with clients. How are they making a difference? How are they promoting the company mission? An effective sales force is key to the success of any organization. Make sure they know how much value they bring to their customers and how much they are valued by you and your company.