How do you measure sales success?
Is it all about making quota or is it about having customers that like to work with you? If you were to judge by the way that most sales people are managed, goaled and rewarded, you would say that the only thing that matters is the achievement of quota. What you measure is what you get! So it is little wonder that many companies find it very hard to manage the difficult dichotomy between making the sales number and maintaining happy and delighted customers.
Do your customers need to like you?
There are many businesses that might focus on delighting the customer, and use ‘customer sat’ as a key measure of success. But customers can be very happy and not buy anything. That doesn’t enable sales success does it? Of course the reality is that both are important. But there’s the conundrum. How does a sales leader manage the joint goals of sales quota and customer satisfaction? On the positive side we can see that happy, delighted customers are more likely to be loyal, and thereby more likely to be returning, to be repeat-buy customers. Happy customers will be more likely to provide good references and even introductions to potential prospects. But do happy customers actually ‘like’ the vendor sales people? Presumably they grew to trust them, otherwise they would not have bought from them, but do they need to like them?
The importance of trust
“TRUST – LIKE – DO THE JOB” these are the 3 key tests of any partnership and a buy/sell
partnership is no different. Customers must trust the vendor. They must like the vendor (meaning their people, especially the sales people). And the vendor must be able to do the job that they promised to do
when they sold their solution. The problem for sales teams is that in an increasingly competitive marketplace there are many, many different providers who are actually perfectly capable of ‘doing the job’. Providing the solution just gets you a seat at the table.
How customers decide to buy
Customers make buying decisions based on the sales team and the service, support, implementation team that they feel they can trust and the one that they feel they will actually enjoy working with.
If you are selling a complex solution, or a solution which will involve a long-term vendor/customer relationship, being ‘liked’ is as important as providing a win-win solution. You’re going to be in this together for the long-term. It’s not enough just to be able to say you made quota this year when you made the sale if you lose all the other sales in the future. Or is it?
The answer probably lies in whether you work for a company or a manager who only cares about the quarterly numbers, or one with an eye on long-term, sustainable success.
The importance of customer satisfaction
With so many companies changing their typical go-to-market model to focus more on ‘software-as-a-service’ and other similar service-based delivery models, it will become increasingly important to measure, motivate and incentivize sales teams to deliver long-term customer-satisfaction, not just short-term business results. Many sales teams are ill-equipped to be successful in this new market because they have spent their entire careers chasing the monthly or quarterly target with little regard to the next 2-3 years.
It’s no wonder that so many companies are focused on trying to improve the consultative selling skills of their sales teams.
We have all heard that in order to be a good salesperson we need to be a good listener and we need to ask questions, but what does that really mean? Research shows that in a typical sales call the salesperson talks 80% of the time. Hardly a balanced dialogue, a true conversation should look more like 50-50. Obviously there will be times when the type of meeting dictates that the sales person is doing the majority of the talking, perhaps during a presentation or product demonstration, but even then, the secret to success is to involve the customer, to engage them. The more the customer shares with you, the better placed you will be to understand their thinking to then be able to help address their concerns.
So consultative questioning then really is all about listening, listening carefully to really understand what the other person is saying and trying to determine what they are thinking.
Suggestions to help you become a better listener
Try to remain silent after you have asked a question, wait and give the customer time to think about their response. In general people don't like silence; we all tend to fill silence by talking more. If you take that little pause … you may find that the customer gives you more information. And having established that that is going to happen, in other words once they've done that once, try it once more - if they give you more information, again just pause a little to see if they volunteer more information.
2. Attentive listening skills
Attentive listening involves things like body language; think about your facial expression, your eye contact, your body movement and posture. When you're in a meeting and you’re listening to the customer, just slightly leaning forward will help show that you’re really listening. Take notes, and refer to the notes, that will help show the customer that you are listening and that you care about what they're saying. Aim to remain focused on the customer. Watch for their signals, watch for their body language. Try not to interrupt the customer and use your notes to summarize.
Finally, one of the best ways of showing the customer that you are really listening to what they were saying is to summarize the discussion.
In consultative selling listening is very important. Think about developing meetings with a customer that are more of a dialogue and less of a presentation. More questioning and listening and less ‘tell-sell’. Practice your listening skills, practice trying to pause and remain silent for a few seconds to get the customer to give you more information, and practice attentive listening, think about your body language and take notes.Try it and see!
What has worked well for you, maybe you have some other thoughts and suggestions?
The previous posts about how to become a trusted advisor 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford,' discussed how to earn trust, give advice and build relationships. Along side developing these skills, it is important to know how to focus on the other person, to be self-confident, to put your own ego aside, to be curious, to maintain a high degree of inclusive professionalism and always be sincere.
Focus on the other person
“The only way to influence someone is to find out what they want and show them how to get it” Dale Carnegie. To achieve this degree of influence it is essential to be able to focus on the other person giving them what they need and want. It is not about providing them with your knowledge or expertise but more about giving reassurance, helping the client see new approaches and make decisions. The ability to become an empathetic listening is key to this. How well we succeed in this depends on how able we are to truly feel what the other person feels, focusing on them not our own self-promotion. This is a skill that takes years of learning to master but it reaps great rewards.
What is being referred to in the context of being a trusted advisor is the ability to have the self confidence to listen and understand and brainstorm before offering solutions. To put aside the fear that we are squandering critical influencing time by not immediately providing solutions.
This is the ability to focus on the consultative relationship process, the issues at hand and not on any blame or credit attached to it.
To solve other’s problems we need to ask questions, and to listen, in other words to be curious focusing not on what we know but what we don't know. It is our curiosity which creates the situations which allow us to contribute.
By this we mean being able to align with our clients to work collaboratively by acknowledging and engaging them to find solutions rather than just providing them ourselves.
We demonstrate our sincerity to others by caring behavior, by our attention and interest, by our research and by how we listen. When we then respond enthusiastically we invite the other person to explore with us the possibilities and solutions. Being sincere is a critical element of any relationship and of trust. Sometimes we might find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible to relate or be sincere. As long are really sure that you have tried everything you can there are times when you have to accept the situation for what it is and walk away. In relationships there really are only win-win and loose-loose combinations.
Being sincere and building a strong client relationship doesn’t mean you have to become your client’s friend. To be a trusted advisor you have to care and show you care. Being sociable with your client will definitely deepen your understanding of your client’s needs and fears but that doesn’t imply that you have to become their good friend. If you are attentive to your clients needs the effectiveness of the sales process will be enhanced. To earn trust you will need to do this and to be vested in the long-term benefit of the relationship.
Ultimately you are not trying to build a relationship that is simply a means to an end but you are trying to create a partnership that will mean you go on a journey together to resolve your clients needs. What do you think, do you have any other suggestions, we would love to hear from you?!
4 Sales Methodologies - Product, Solution, Consultative and Partnership Selling
We are often asked what the difference is between these sales methodologies, which one is the most appropriate and whether there is a place for all four? To answer this simply imagine this very basic scenario: you work for a well known high street coffee shop chain, at six in the morning the customer is standing in front of you, which approach do you use:
You decide to convince the customer to buy your best seller. You provide a description about the coffee. You explain whether it is medium or dark roast and you describe features (taste) of each type. You talk about how all your coffee is freshly ground ensuring optimum flavor and suggest that this will be the best coffee they have ever tasted. They buy the coffee and you meet their need. This is product-based selling.
In this scenario you take the time to find out a little more about exactlywhat the customer is looking for. You ask some questions to uncover their needs. Based on their answers you decide that they might prefer one of two to three different blends. Then you spend time describing the various options, you include information about where the beans were grown and how environmentally responsible your supplier is. You explain the care and attention to detail that went into the roasting process to enable the finest quality. You enthuse about your coffee shop, the ambiance it offers, the other food you sell and the uniqueness of your new cups and how well they insulate to keep the coffee hot. You let the customer make an informed decision, confident that your customer will buy, be satisfied and return as a loyal customer. This is solution selling.
This time, you don’t mention anything about what you sell but instead you focus completely on the customer. You don't try to determine which blend to sell them, but how to help them to make the best decision, one which they will feel is right for them. Maybe they don't just want a drink but want to want to relax and meet people. Possibly they would they like to try something new or maybe they actually prefer to keep to their favorite beverage. You try to establish what their needs really are and how you can help them.
You think about where they might be going next and whether they might like to have a bottle of water to take with them. If they are travelling, perhaps it would be good to take a sandwich with them. By talking to them and discovering this information you sell them one or maybe several of your other products and a cup of coffee! They think you were so helpful that they leave your coffee shop feeling good, determined to return. You have differentiated yourself not by the coffee, but by the nature of the overall experience.
They will tell their friends what a great experience it was. Next time they will come with a group of people. Some will want tea, others coffee, some smoothies; but they will all enjoy the experience of buying in your coffee shop. This is consultative selling.
Partnership Selling is possibly the ultimate goal of most sales people. To establish yourself in the eyes of the customer as someone who will work alongside them, someone who will help to clarify their needs, their direction, their goals and what they are trying to achieve. Just as in the consultative selling approach, you establish why this customer is in your coffee shop and how you might be able to better address their needs. Perhaps they will suggest things to you that will enable you to add-value in other areas – thereby helping you to attract more customers: quiet sitting areas perhaps? Newspapers to read? A TV to watch while they wait for their favorite brew? Wifi so they can work and relax? You ask them for input. They ask you for suggestions. They start to become regular customers visiting your coffee shop at different times of the day maybe more than once a day. They become a regular client. You get to know each other, they are impressed by you, the interest you have taken in them, the way you listen and ask questions, you made them feel you care about them. You become their chosen barista and the one they recommend to others. This is partnership selling.