Paul reveals the steps to develop your sales team into value-added top achievers.
If you expect your team to be top achievers, you need to train them like top achievers. Make training and development part of your sales culture.
Positive momentum = progress. Reinforcing and acknowledging the effort increases confidence.
Remove your team’s ability to discount. How much harder would your team sell value if discounting was not an option?
What is the one thing your team can do right now that will have the most effect on their sale success? Listen and find out.
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How do I build a team of top achievers?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how to coach your salespeople to become value-added top achievers.
And here’s what prompted this episode. I was actually giving a keynote this morning up in the Chicago area, and at the end of the meeting, there was a great question—a question from one of the sales managers. He said, “Paul, these value-added selling techniques are great. How can I better coach my salespeople and implement some of these techniques? How can I help them become top achievers?” So that’s what we’re going to focus on in today’s episode.
Now, before we get into that, just a reminder, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. It’s available wherever you get your books. Check it out on Amazon. You can also visit our website, TomReillyTraining.com. We actually have a two-day Value-Added Selling program coming up in the next few weeks. Actually, it’s going to be here before you know it.
So let’s get back to the question. Basically, this sales leader wanted to coach his people so that they would become more like top achievers. And the reason he’s asking about top achievers is because in our research when creating the fourth edition of Value-Added Selling, we interviewed, we surveyed, we analyzed top achieving salespeople. To be a top achiever, that means you have to be in the top 10% of your organization. And so, he wanted to know how he could better coach his top achievers in the field. So I’m going to share a few ideas.
Now, a few things to consider. When you’re looking at your team right now, you’re looking at their skillset. Remember, if you want them to be a top achiever, you need to train and develop them like a top achiever. You know, oftentimes as sales leaders, we tell our salespeople, “Hey, go out there and sell value,” yet they haven’t been trained to do it. So, if you expect your team to be top achievers, you need to train them like top achievers, which means you need to make training and development part of your culture within your organization.
One sales leader—who I actually trained their team—what he decided to do every single month, he would get his team together either virtually or in person, and conduct training. And these trainings were not in-depth. He didn’t put them to sleep with a bunch of PowerPoints. It was interactive and he often would use Value-Added Selling as the curriculum. He would take one chapter of the book and have his team come together and they would discuss it. They would talk about it. They would share ideas on how they would implement it. And then they role-played some of these ideas and concepts. So, it doesn’t have to be overly formal, but you do have to make it a routine. So, if you want your team to be top achievers, you need to train them like top achievers. So that’s the first idea.
Second thing we’ll talk about is we need to take yes as an answer. We need to accept positive momentum and progress. So when you look at your team’s current skill level and you’re trying to equip them to become top achievers, we need to know that it may take a little while. Initially, you may see them struggle trying to use the lingo. You may see them struggle to articulate a value proposition. What we need to do is reinforce the effort. We need to make sure that we are acknowledging to that salesperson, “Hey, I understand you’re trying. You are doing all the right things. Keep it up.” Reinforce the behavior, and eventually what’s going to happen is you are going to give them more confidence. Coaching and reinforcing the behavior initially can help shape their attitude later in a more positive way. So again, we want additional training. We want to reinforce the effort. Initially, we want to take yes for an answer.
Now, this one may sting. You want to remove your team’s ability to discount. You know, I think about this. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon River to go back in and invade Rome, as soon as they crossed the Rubicon River, over the bridge, he burned the bridge. And his whole idea was retreat is now no longer an option. Think about how much harder all of those warriors would fight knowing that retreat was not an option. How much harder would your team sell value if discounting wasn’t an option? Salespeople will take the easy way out when you give them that ability.
You know, I think about this. One organization I was working with, I was talking to their team and asked about their discounting behavior, and they said, “Yeah, our people are discounting all the time.” I said, “Okay, well, why do they have the ability to discount?” And he said, “Well, we need to make sure that our people are flexible in the field, that we can respond quickly with quotes and all that.” And I said, “Okay, how much can your team discount without gaining approval from a manager?” And the sales leader said, “Well, they can discount up to 55% without getting managerial approval.” And so there was a finance guy on the call as well, and I looked over to him and I said, “Hey, what’s the most common discount percentage given?” And he said, “55%.”
You know, Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to the time allotted. Well, in a similar fashion, a salesperson’s discount will also expand to the parameters that are set. So, I would encourage you to completely remove your team’s ability to discount.
And if they do want to discount, I would have a profit protection checklist. And on this checklist, you’re going to ask your salespeople some questions. For example, let’s say a salesperson comes to you and says, “Hey, we need 10% off this order or we’re going to lose the business.” I would challenge them and say, “Okay, first of all, are you talking to all the right people? Are you talking to the head decision maker?” If the answer’s yes, move on to the next question. Ask them, “Have you differentiated our alternative? How have you sold the company value, the product value, and the unique value you bring as a salesperson? Have you differentiated your solution?” Number three, “Have you clearly communicated the value of our solution, the outcomes that they’re going to generate?”
And in asking your salespeople these questions, you’re challenging them. And if you’re not convinced by their response, I would not give them the ability to discount. This also coaches them up, right? You’re inspecting what you expect. So by asking these questions, you’re going to encourage them to communicate that value, those key differences, and meet with the right people in the future. So just something to think about.
Now, one final thought here before we begin wrapping things up. If you want to coach your people to be top-achieving salespeople, you need to encourage them to do what top achievers do. Now, one thing we found in our best sales practices study was that top achievers will plan. In fact, our research shows that only 10% of the general sales population routinely plans every sales call, whereas with top achievers, it’s a different story. In fact, 95% of top-achieving salespeople routinely plan every call. This is what I believe is a keystone habit. This is the one thing your salespeople can start doing that will have the most dramatic impact on their success.
Now, for the sales leaders listening, here’s what you do. You’ve got to get out in the field with your salesperson, and before every sales call—whether it’s a cold call, whether it’s a prospecting call, whether it is a product demo, or you’re meeting with an existing customer—you need to ask your salespeople these six questions before you go in.
First question: What is your objective? This is a clear question. A sales call with no objective is defective. So, what is your call objective?
Number two: What is your probing objective? What kind of questions are you going to ask? This is important because top achievers do a better job of asking questions; they listen more than they speak. So challenge your team. Get them to come up with some questions.
Number three: What is your presentation objective? What is your goal in this presentation? What are you going to present? How are you going to present it?
three (four): What collateral pieces do you need? Meaning, what kind of marketing information do you need to bring in with you to be prepared?
Number five: What obstacles do you anticipate?
And then finally, number six: What action do you want from the customer at the end of the call?
If you ask your salespeople these six questions before every sales call, they will be more successful. This is pre-call planning. This is what top achievers do. And if you want them to be a top achiever, you need to coach them like one, and it begins with pre-call planning.
Alright guys, well, there’s some ideas on how you can coach and train your people to be value-added sellers—to be those top achievers that we talk about. Take the advice, if you do nothing else, at least focus on pre-call planning. Make that a priority. Make it a habit. It will continue to pay dividends.
Make it a big day.