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Marc is depressed. He looks at his dashboard in the CRM and sees that his results aren’t living up to his expectations… or those of his manager.
The goal is clearly visible on his screen, but his figures are far from it.
He realizes that the problem is not his lack of effort, but rather the way he sells.
If the situation doesn’t change, he puts his job, his lifestyle and his dreams at risk.
It’s a situation that can create internal tension and a sense of urgency that pushes you to look for solutions. It can create a spiral of frustration, self-criticism and self-doubt.
In Marc’s case, the solution is clear: he needs to improve his skills as a sales representative to achieve his goals.
But in the hustle and bustle of daily activities, he may not realize it.
The first step is to recognize that there’s a problem to be solved.
What are the signals that a sales rep needs to improve their skills?
In an ideal scenario, the person will realize for themselves that they need to improve their skills. As a general rule, we don’t like it when it comes from sales management or the vice-presidency.
The person may notice the following signals:
- Its conclusion ratio is not high enough.
- She has trouble getting appointments.
- It has difficulty qualifying incoming leads.
- When she has telephone conversations, she has difficulty talking about money.
- It has difficulty selling value and often finds itself in a negotiating position.
- She sends a lot of proposals, but gets no feedback (ghosting).
- She doesn’t get enough sales, and her remuneration is affected.
Sales people are often reactive. It’s when they look at their past results that they realize they haven’t sold enough, and that their remuneration is paying the price. It’s not always a question of money; it depends on their motivation.
It could also be a feeling of not performing well, or a feeling of being able to achieve more sales. So they aspire to improve their results.
In the case of an account manager, she may notice that she doesn’t have a good view of her account’s potential. She realizes this when her boss asks for the game plan for the year, but she is unable to give sales forecasts in her territory or according to the account. Instead of relying on hard data, she trusts her instincts.
When sales reps realize these shortcomings and begin to analyze their results, it’s then that the realization dawns: “Maybe I have a skills issue. What am I not doing that I should be doing, or what am I doing that I shouldn’t be doing?”
What skills does a sales representative need?
Sales DNA is often the first place to look to improve sales skills. The DNA is made up of six elements that can either support tactical sales skills or sabotage them.
If the sales rep feels a need for approval, for example, he or she will seek to be liked or loved by his or her customers. He or she may then hesitate to call customers for fear of disturbing them, or may avoid challenging them or asking them difficult questions.
He or she may also have limiting beliefs that prevent them from doing their job properly. The same goes for the other elements of the sales DNA.
We also need to look at tactical skills, which can be acquired through coaching and training.
For example, does the person have all the attributes of a hunter :
- Does she intend to hunt?
- Is she able to get appointments?
- Does she reach decision-makers?
These characteristics determine whether the person will be successful in soliciting new customers.
In consultative selling, when the sales rep is in conversation with the customer – whether face-to-face or virtual – is he or she capable of holding an in-depth discussion?
Consultative selling requires the ability to find the compelling reason to buy. Is the salesperson able to ask the tough questions to identify this compelling reason? A weakness in these skills will have an impact on the sales process and closing ratio.
Of course, cross-functional skills such as communication skills, interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a team can have an influence on sales success. However, these are not the ones that will have the greatest impact on your ability to sell. Tactical skills are far more important.
There are more than a dozen tactical skills for which you need to have the necessary attributes to succeed in sales. If you don’t have them, you need to acquire them.
4 strategies to improve a sales rep’s skills
Here are four approaches to consider for improving sales skills.
- Start in the right place. Improvement must start with the elements that will deliver rapid gains in sales skills.
- For example, if a sales rep has difficulty with the first goal, he or she should start by working on prospecting. Focus on elements such as telephone conversation or the ability to pre-qualify incoming leads.
- There’s no need to work on qualification, because it’s between the second and third goals.
- Several improvement strategies are possible:
- seek coaching from your sales manager
- read books on the subject
- take part in seminars
- take training courses
- Similarly, if a sales rep has difficulty asking in-depth questions and digging for the compelling reason to buy when she’s at a discovery meeting, this skill needs to be worked on.
- Seek external expertise. It’s a great way to develop skills. But what you learn has to stick.
- Prima, for example, offers all the coaching and training you need, but that’s not enough. You need an environment conducive to improvement.
- Once the coaching or expert training is complete, you need the opportunity to be challenged by a member of the internal sales team to continue growing in your role.
- Change little at a time. It’s best to choose a few things to work on during the year. Once you’re satisfied with the skill level you’ve acquired, you can try to reach a higher level with the same skills, or develop different skills.
- Evaluate all sales team members. This will give you a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in sales. A scientific reading will help predict what the person will do in the field. Assessment tools like OMG give you a clear picture of the situation, rather than relying on intuition.
Skills development is the responsibility of every sales representative
The path to improvement is a personal journey. Every sales rep is responsible for developing and improving. This requires courage, rigor and the ambition to always excel in one’s role.
Take the time to evaluate yourself or your sales team to get a clear picture. And if you’re a manager, don’t forget that you can motivate your team members by showing them the skills they can acquire that relate to their personal desires.
If you recognize yourself in Marc’s story, either as a manager or as a sales representative, contact us. We’re here to help you exceed your sales targets and have fun doing it.