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It used to be that product and service quality were considered the main contributors to competitive advantage. No longer. A highly cited Bain & Company study of hundreds of American companies with customer satisfaction ratings of 85% to 90% found absolutely no evidence that their high customer satisfaction scores correlated with revenue growth.

Today, product and service quality are the expectation, not the differentiator. All too often customers who appear to be very satisfied with a product or service are only as loyal as the next best offer made by your competition. If you want to develop a strong base of loyal customers who will stay with you and recommend your organization to others, you have to create exceptional value beyond your product or service offerings, and you have to deliver superior service.

The Role of Employee Engagement

In addition to a strategic plan that puts customers at the center of your business, the biggest factor contributing to the level of loyalty your customers have for your organization or brand is whether your employees are dedicated to creating value for them.

Fundamentally, this is a question of employee engagement. A growing body of evidence shows that a high level of employee engagement enables the sustainable profitability that comes from customer loyalty. To deliver exceptional value and service, you need employees who are committed to the work, willing to contribute their talents, and inspired to put in more than the minimum required to get by. And these things can’t be mandated by management. They can only be willingly given by enthusiastic and dedicated individuals.

In other words, the more engaged your people are, the more willing they will be to put in the level of discretionary effort that strengthens customer loyalty.

This is why it’s also critical that you build a culture where employees understand and believe in your organization’s vision, mission and values. People work best when their activities are clearly aligned with a set of principles that they can connect with and get behind.

Does your culture support the kind of engagement that will inspire people to go above and beyond? Ask yourself:

Does our organization’s purpose inspire our employees?

Does every employee understand how his or her role contributes to the overall purpose?

Can our employees describe, in their own words and in a meaningful way, how our organization creates value for our customers?

A Management Roadmap for Creating a Customer-Centric Organization

So, what concrete actions can you take to increase employee engagement and move more of your customers from the “satisfied” box to the “loyal” one? Here’s a 5-step roadmap to get you started:

1- Create a vision, mission and set of values (or guiding principles) that focus on creating value for customers—this is essential to drive the right employee behaviors.

2- Operationally define “customer-centric”: Establish metrics that define success and identify the right behaviors to reinforce.
Put your people first:

  • Help them fulfill their personal values and goals and develop their talents.
  • Involve them in creating the implementation plans needed to drive your customer-focus strategy.
  • Invest in them by providing training that’s aligned with organizational strategy.
  • Empower them with the authority and responsibility to make decisions that will produce desired results.

4- Align all human resource and management practices necessary to implement your customer-focus strategy, and communicate the necessary behaviors and competencies required for successful implementation.

5- Emphasize the importance of communication and building trust between employees and managers; be as transparent as possible about your organization’s performance and operational strategies.

When people are driven by values and an organizational purpose they believe in, given responsibility for the results of their efforts, and recognized and rewarded for what they do, they will deliver exceptional value and service to your customers. And that’s how you create long-term customer loyalty that results in superior long-term growth.

 

Re – Blogged From :- Integrity Solutions

 

 

 

 

 

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headshot_mike-e1500048917319

At a recent conference for training professionals in the banking industry, I had the opportunity to share some best practices and lessons learned for creating a selling culture. I also heard about some of the push-back learning and development professionals can face when they’re putting together training strategies to support that selling culture.

Here are three of the common challenges we discussed.

1- Selling is a “bad word.” This is a common reaction, not just in banking but in other industries as well, particularly when the staff views their job as service-oriented. “Sales” conjures up all the bad experiences people have had dealing with pushy salespeople and their aggressive or manipulative tactics to get you to buy their products or services.

2- We don’t want to mess up the relationship. Strong customer relationships are central to a community bank’s mission, just as they are in other professional service businesses. It’s only natural for employees to be concerned about potentially damaging the relationships they’ve carefully nurtured over many months or years, particularly if they already have a negative view of selling.

3-We don’t want to lose who we are as we grow or merge with a larger entity. Because the development of a selling culture is often part of an overall growth strategy or a merger and acquisition where two cultures are integrated, smaller or community-centered organizations may worry that their identity will be lost in the process. When a new sales culture is dictated from on high, there will be even more skepticism about what that means and the implications.

Overcoming the Barriers to Building a Selling Culture

These are all very real challenges. And here’s one more: Sales training initiatives often compound the problems.

Think about it: If someone views selling as something you do to the customers—pushing products, applying a few clever techniques and following a script to get them to buy—then sales training focused primarily in these areas is only going to reinforce that view.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do sales training. But you might need to rethink your approach. Let’s look at how you can adapt your strategy and use training to support rather than interfere with a sales culture.

1- Redefine sales: What if your team didn’t have all that negative baggage about sales. What if they viewed the role of selling as uncovering and fulfilling customer needs? Consider how their motivations and mindsets might change if sales was defined as a way to create value for the customer.

Here’s an example: Suppose a customer owns a small business, and through a series of questions, the associate learns that money is tight when it’s time to cover payroll and monthly bills. Based on that discussion, the associate makes some suggestions that lead the customer to take a small business line of credit to help ease that pressure. The customer has peace of mind, and the employee helped solve a problem. Both leave the exchange feeling good about it.

This is a much different view of selling, more aligned with how the associate probably views service. When you provide training that supports the view that sales and service go hand in hand, you’ll start to defuse those initial negative reactions people have.

2- Build confidence through logic and emotion: Most sales training focuses on the logical—things like product knowledge, processes, and selling skills and techniques. But we have to start focusing on the emotional components as well. Plenty of people know intellectually what they need to do to be successful and still fail. What people believe about what they can do is usually consistent with what they’ll achieve. (For more, check out this two-minute video on skill vs. will.)

Related to this is the fact that success leads to confidence. If we take rejection personally, it becomes “failure” in our minds and eventually we’ll give up. Your sales training needs to provide people with the tools to succeed, and it needs to change mindsets about what it means when a sale doesn’t happen. When they go into it with an attitude of, I’m looking to uncover a need, not, I have to sell this product, their confidence won’t take a huge hit if they don’t make the sale. They’ll realize that the need simply wasn’t there.

3- Discover the culture together: Finally, a selling culture can’t be built in silos. To get buy-in, you have to facilitate the discussion, not dictate the answers. We recommend bringing everyone together—mixing together groups from different branches, regions and organizations—and allowing them to discover and define what that selling culture is. Let them help design questions they feel comfortable asking.
Make this the first step in your training initiative. Because when you facilitate discussion about what the culture should be and allow people to be part of the process, they’ll already be on board when they get to the training.

Creating a selling culture is an important step in helping your team get on the same page and improve sales performance across the board. Take the time to think about whether your sales training is supporting the selling culture you want to build.

And here’s something else to keep in mind: Banks, like many industries, are always doing product training (a new credit card launch, a deluxe checking, etc.)—and sales training gets pushed back. Consider starting here first, and it might just be the multiplier of success with those products.

 

Re- Blogged From :- Integrity Solutions 

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How do they do it?

It’s the question on everyone’s minds when they see the successes of those people who always do better in their jobs than all the rest. What factors are driving that success?

Regardless of their industry, product or service, all highly successful salespeople share a few specific core traits that allow them to consistently outperform their peers. So the bigger question that training, learning and development, and sales leaders should be asking is this:

Do our sales training and coaching initiatives take these four traits into account?

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Strong Goal Clarity: Goal clarity is having clear, specific written descriptions of what you want to have in your future. And here’s the thing: Very few people have it.

In fact, almost without fail, it’s the dimension that participants in our sales training programs rank themselves the lowest on in their own self-assessments. Whether it’s a personal goal or a professional one, you can’t get there if you aren’t clear on:

  • Where you want to go
  • When you want to arrive
  • How you’re going to get there

What goal is possible for someone to achieve? As the saying goes, anything is possible—as long as the person has the general abilities, training, resources and desire levels of someone who’s achieved similar goals. Because selling is an “inside job,” the salesperson’s inner needs will always drive their goal possibilities, including the size of the goals they set and reach and the size that they don’t think they can reach.

High Achievement Drive: This is a topic we explored in detail in our recent research project with the Sales Management Association. Put simply, Achievement Drive is energy. It’s the energy released from within you when you have goal clarity. The amount of energy released is first determined by:

  • Level of desire for the goal
  • Belief in whether it’s possible for you to achieve it
  • How worthy you feel to enjoy the goal

These factors then influence the effort, commitment and persistence you’ll exhibit in pursuit of the goal.

Salespeople with high Achievement Drive think differently than others. They think in terms of the rewards for reaching sales goals, not just reaching them. They’re motivated to serve customers exceptionally well, earn high respect, enjoy a certain lifestyle and other benefits. They spend time daydreaming about the exciting things that can happen for them in the future.

For more on Achievement Drive and how it acts as a multiplying factor in someone’s success, check out the on-demand webinar Skill or Will: What New Data Reveal About Sales Success.

Healthy Emotional Intelligence: Two other names for Emotional Intelligence are maturity and stability. Essentially, it’s the ability to:

  • Understand your feelings and how they influence your external behaviors.
  • Take control of your emotions and do the difficult things you might not want to do but must do in order to achieve your worthwhile goals.

When salespeople face possible rejection, failure or ego damage, it’s easy to play weak emotional games: call reluctance, ducking responsibility, being unwilling to hang tough when difficult problems come up. The antidote is courage: calling when you’re afraid to, meeting with people you’re afraid to meet, asking the questions you’re afraid to ask.

Both the avoidance behaviors and the acts of courage come from a person’s internal values, which determine how they will act when faced with a difficult situation. Strong, positive values open the door to higher success.

Excellent Social Skills: This is more than the “gift of gab” or engaging in surface-level communication and small talk. It involves:

  • Valuing people
  • Listening to what people say and how they feel
  • Understanding what people say and how they feel
  • Responding appropriately to varied social situations
  • Causing others to feel understood

Even in today’s technology-dominated culture, a salesperson’s ability to relate to other people reigns supreme when it comes to successful sales performance. Plenty of people who are highly competent technically fail at their sales jobs because they can’t get along with people.

Think about your own salespeople and how well they exhibit each of these traits. Do you notice any patterns? Understanding what these four qualities are is an important step in helping salespeople build and sustain their own high achievement.

But knowing about them doesn’t necessary make someone successful, just like reading a book on flying won’t prepare you to pilot an airplane. Training is the first step on the path to growth, which is incremental and comes through application.

How will you develop and nurture these sales success factors in your team?

 

Re- Blogged From – Integrity Solutions

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LIsa Bullock

Companies with superior and sustained sales performance create environments where salespeople have what they need to perform, grow and be recognized. In other words, their sales managers excel at coaching their teams to success.

Unfortunately, according to CSO Insights, the percentage of managers fully capable of mentoring and coaching their teams has been trending down, and a big part of this is due to the increase in newly promoted sales managers:

  • Over 40% of front line sales managers are recently promoted salespeople.
  • Managers who are newly promoted from a sales role tend to have the lowest coaching effectiveness ratings, with over 65% of companies seeing a significant gap in their ability to coach and mentor.

This isn’t all that surprising. When sales managers are functioning as “super salespeople”—highly skilled at evaluating the team’s sales challenges but less skilled and comfortable with the role of leading and coaching—they often end up focusing their time and energy on filling the gap to help close sales opportunities, rather than on building up the confidence of their team to do it themselves.

This is a problem in and of itself, since the sales manager is now taking on a role the salesperson should be handling, but the issues also self-perpetuate and lead to even bigger problems. The salesperson’s self-confidence may take a hit—or they simply begin relying on the manager to close the deal—while the manager gets increasingly frustrated about having to step in to save the day yet again. The manager eventually assumes that this is the best that employee can achieve and stops challenging him or her to go further. The employee, in turn, recognizes those signals coming from the manager and ultimately plateaus out. It’s a dynamic that we call the Law of Limited Performance.

The problem isn’t just with newly promoted sales managers, though. Whether it’s a lack of skills, awareness or commitment to coaching, many managers are struggling to improve their sales team’s skills and behavior. To successfully break the Law of Limited Performance, sales managers must:

  1. Understand the belief boundaries inhibiting a salesperson’s success. Managers can increase a salesperson’s confidence to step outside their belief boundaries by seeing more in the salesperson than they themselves might see.
  2. Help each salesperson set and achieve goals just outside their current performance levels. Great coaching conversations ignite a salesperson’s ability to “own” their own breakthroughs.

Sales Coaching Tips for Unleashing individual Potential

Here are some tips your managers can apply to engage in coaching conversations that uncover inner belief boundaries, increase the salesperson’s ownership and confidence in developing solutions to overcome their challenges, and appropriately challenge them to break through today’s level of performance.

Stay curious about the salesperson’s perspective:

  • Ask open-ended questions about goals, challenges and beliefs.
  • Resist the urge to have all the answers.
  • Listen actively to fully understand the employee’s viewpoint.
  • Observe how employees are stepping outside their comfort zones.

Boost salesperson engagement and creativity:

  • Solicit ideas for new options to manage limitations and solve challenges.
  • Provide positive reinforcement of the value the salesperson brings.
  • Offer praise to increase the likelihood of using new skills and behaviors.
  • Encourage employees to discover and try new things.

Translate new skills and behaviors into actionable results:

  • Link them to delivering organizational value.
  • Promote commitments that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
  • Recognize progress frequently, and provide course corrections as needed.
  • Leverage mistakes as learning opportunities.

Take a look at how you’re developing your newly promoted sales managers as well as your more experienced ones. Are you providing them with the skills and behaviors they need to meet this critical coaching requirement? Stepping in to fill the gap for their salespeople isn’t a sustainable solution. To unleash individual potential and drive long-term sales performance improvement, your sales managers have to take the time to recognize and understand the belief boundaries of each of their salespeople.

By Lisa Bullock

 

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“If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me, you first need to understand me.” – Steven Covey

A powerful statement. Simple and eloquent, profound and meaningful.

Taken a step further, we might add that you also need to understand yourself. After all, you can’t really communicate effectively with someone else without first recognizing how you prefer to communicate—and how you may be perceived by that person as a result.

But once you have the foundation, the bigger leap—one that only a few truly master—is to understand and adapt to the person you’re communicating with. That’s where your biggest opportunity lies.

As most of us are keenly (and perhaps, at times, painfully) aware in our relationships outside of work, people view the world through different lenses. This, in turn, affects how they communicate and like to be communicated with. We do our best to work through the communication challenges because, as much as technology has infiltrated everything our daily lives, we still strive for those personal connections.

The same applies in the workplace. New technologies and fads come and go, but being able to understand what your customers value most and then being able to effectively communicate with them from that vantage point is often what differentiates you and your organization from your competition. It’s also what forms the basis of strong, sustainable customer relationships.

A Corporate Executive Board study found that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience. This supports the notion that perceptions are reality. So an important question for you to think about is this: How are you perceived by those you’re communicating with? Your ability to connect with people certainly weighs on that perception.

And the next question is, are you doing everything you can to build deeper, trust-based relationships?

The Behavior Styles Connection

You probably have some familiarity with the concept of Behavior Styles. It’s literally been around forever. Even Socrates grasped the value of understanding different behavioral approaches as he helped shape Western philosophy and evolved his Socratic method. The Behavior Styles Assessment, which reveals your personal Behavior Style and helps you understand the Behavior Styles of colleagues and customers, gives you a way to create personal chemistry and build rapport with diverse people—fundamental skills in sales, management, personal relationships and everyday life.

Let’s take a closer look at how Behavior Styles can help you strengthen customer relationships and improve your sales effectiveness.

In his classic book The Loyalty Effect, Frederick F. Reichheld says that the best way to move from transactional, rational dialogue to a more meaningful exchange is to focus on creating an emotional bond. When you communicate in such a way that your clients and co-workers feel valued, the outcomes of your conversations will yield better returns.

Easier said than done? Well, with the right level of awareness and commitment, anyone can master the ability to sell, serve and coach others by understanding and adapting to different Behavior Styles. The information you learn about their Behavior Styles can help you shortcut the process of connecting with them in a more personal and meaningful way.

A rule of thumb is to follow the three A’s:

  • Awareness of your personal communication preferences and how you may be perceived by others
  • Alignment of your communication strategy to another’s, once you determine their primary Behavior Style
  • Action, including successfully adapting on the fly as you communicate with others

The Compound Effect of Loyalty

Why should you bother? Ultimately, your ability to communicate effectively with clients and prospects—to move from transactional to emotional conversations—is what can move them from neutral to satisfied to loyal. And once you reach a true “partner” status, that loyalty will compound itself. Your loyal, fully engaged clients are not only willing to spend significantly more wallet share, they’re also the ones who will go to bat for you, becoming your best sources of referrals and new business.

No matter how much technology evolves, sales is a business of relationships. Having meaningful conversations that engage people in a way that they value is always going to be one of your most powerful selling tools. And that means you have to understand their Behavior Style so that you can focus in on what they care about most.

How many of your customers are fully engaged? How might more effective, engaging communication (as defined by the customer) help you achieve both your goals and theirs?

If you’re a leader seeking that competitive advantage, ask yourself this: What am I doing to equip my team to maximize every interaction?

Source:- https://www.integritysolutions.com/insights/blog/value-connecting-customers

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By Steve Schmidt, Partner

“If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me, you first need to understand me.” – Steven Covey

A powerful statement. Simple and eloquent, profound and meaningful.

Taken a step further, we might add that you also need to understand yourself. After all, you can’t really communicate effectively with someone else without first recognizing how you prefer to communicate—and how you may be perceived by that person as a result.

But once you have the foundation, the bigger leap—one that only a few truly master—is to understand and adapt to the person you’re communicating with. That’s where your biggest opportunity lies.

As most of us are keenly (and perhaps, at times, painfully) aware in our relationships outside of work, people view the world through different lenses. This, in turn, affects how they communicate and like to be communicated with. We do our best to work through the communication challenges because, as much as technology has infiltrated everything our daily lives, we still strive for those personal connections.

The same applies in the workplace. New technologies and fads come and go, but being able to understand what your customers value most and then being able to effectively communicate with them from that vantage point is often what differentiates you and your organization from your competition. It’s also what forms the basis of strong, sustainable customer relationships.

A Corporate Executive Board study found that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience. This supports the notion that perceptions are reality. So an important question for you to think about is this: How are you perceived by those you’re communicating with? Your ability to connect with people certainly weighs on that perception.

And the next question is, are you doing everything you can to build deeper, trust-based relationships?

The Behavior Styles Connection

You probably have some familiarity with the concept of Behavior Styles. It’s literally been around forever. Even Socrates grasped the value of understanding different behavioral approaches as he helped shape Western philosophy and evolved his Socratic method. The Behavior Styles Assessment, which reveals your personal Behavior Style and helps you understand the Behavior Styles of colleagues and customers, gives you a way to create personal chemistry and build rapport with diverse people—fundamental skills in sales, management, personal relationships and everyday life.

Let’s take a closer look at how Behavior Styles can help you strengthen customer relationships and improve your sales effectiveness.

In his classic book The Loyalty Effect, Frederick F. Reichheld says that the best way to move from transactional, rational dialogue to a more meaningful exchange is to focus on creating an emotional bond. When you communicate in such a way that your clients and co-workers feel valued, the outcomes of your conversations will yield better returns.

Easier said than done? Well, with the right level of awareness and commitment, anyone can master the ability to sell, serve and coach others by understanding and adapting to different Behavior Styles. The information you learn about their Behavior Styles can help you shortcut the process of connecting with them in a more personal and meaningful way.

A rule of thumb is to follow the three A’s:

  • Awareness of your personal communication preferences and how you may be perceived by others
  • Alignment of your communication strategy to another’s, once you determine their primary Behavior Style
  • Action, including successfully adapting on the fly as you communicate with others

The Compound Effect of Loyalty

Why should you bother? Ultimately, your ability to communicate effectively with clients and prospects—to move from transactional to emotional conversations—is what can move them from neutral to satisfied to loyal. And once you reach a true “partner” status, that loyalty will compound itself. Your loyal, fully engaged clients are not only willing to spend significantly more wallet share, they’re also the ones who will go to bat for you, becoming your best sources of referrals and new business.

No matter how much technology evolves, sales is a business of relationships. Having meaningful conversations that engage people in a way that they value is always going to be one of your most powerful selling tools. And that means you have to understand their Behavior Style so that you can focus in on what they care about most.

How many of your customers are fully engaged? How might more effective, engaging communication (as defined by the customer) help you achieve both your goals and theirs?

If you’re a leader seeking that competitive advantage, ask yourself this: What am I doing to equip my team to maximize every interaction?

 

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions

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Sales training

Originally contributed as a guest blog on SellingPower.com

By Mike Esterday

If you’re like most sales leaders, you’re constantly hunting for the “secret sauce” of sales success. You’re convinced that, once found, that secret sauce will put your organization over the top – and into the rarefied group of consistently top-performing companies.

Look no further. Chances are good that you already have all the ingredients you need. You’ve just added them to the sauce in the wrong proportions.

We recently conducted a research study in partnership with the Sales Management Association to find out what top-performing companies focus on that’s different from the others. The answers were revealing and, in some cases, surprising.

We surveyed leaders at more than 200 sales organizations. We asked them to rate how a salesperson’s achievement drive – that is, their attitudes, beliefs, and passions – affects their performance. Likewise, we asked the same of them about how a salesperson’s product knowledge and selling skills affect performance.

Here’s what may surprise you: More than 80 percent of the respondents rated achievement drive as being of equal or greater value than product knowledge and selling skills in terms of positively impacting sales performance. However, only a quarter of the respondents said they were very effective in delivering sales training that focuses around achievement drive.

That is a tremendous gap between importance and effectiveness on what is potentially the most important driver of sales success.

Here’s the kicker: Those who said they were effective at focusing sales training on achievement drive reported 20 percent stronger results than everyone else.

What about you? Does your sales training emphasize achievement drive and ignite motivation?

What’s Causing the Gap?

If so many executives recognize the value of achievement drive, then why don’t more companies address it in training?

Well, ostensibly, it’s just plain easier to provide salespeople with product information and techniques on what to say and when – and then manage numbers and activities.

But relative ease is only part of the story. In fact, there are plenty of ways leaders rationalize focusing on skill and product training – even when they agree that attitudes and achievement drive play a bigger role in performance.

Based on our study, here are the top four reasons sales leaders ignore attitude and achievement drive in sales training:

  1. Skills and product training are just easier to deliver and measure.
  2. We expect people to have this already when they’re hired.
  3. The subject matter is too personal for corporate training or coaching.
  4. We’ve never done this type of development in our organization.

This isn’t to say that training on product knowledge and selling skills isn’t important. But it will only take your team (and your organization) so far.

When training goes beyond product knowledge and techniques – when it gets to the motivating attitudes that increase achievement drive – that’s where your competitive edge lies.

Top Performers Focus on These Three Critical Conversations

So, what advice can we take away from the lessons of the top-performing companies in our study?

We learned there are three critical conversations every salesperson must focus on for the organization to consistently realize its growth goals:

  1. The conversation I have with my customers – How will I interact in ways that are seen as valuable by customers? This is where training around selling skills/methodology, account strategy, and product knowledge falls.
  2. The conversation I have with myself – Those moments of reflection, inner belief, and personal values are sometimes seen as “intangibles,” but the impact on performance is quite real. This is where training focused around achievement drive comes into play.
  3. The conversation I have with my coach – One of the key determining factors for growth is coaching. However, when and if sales coaching actually happens, it’s nearly always focused on how to improve the first conversation – a salesperson’s ability to interact effectively with the customer. It rarely addresses the other critical conversation, the one that salespeople are having all the time – with themselves.

This holistic approach to development requires ongoing commitment from the top and alignment throughout the organization. But, as our research shows, it can be the turbocharger for your success.

When you think about it, it’s not all that surprising. After all, who among us hasn’t felt the undeniable power of self-belief and self-drive? And who wouldn’t want to work for a company that is committed to developing people in a way that unleashes their inner drive and potential? And, just as important, who wouldn’t want to do business with a company that values each salesperson as a whole person – not just a selling machine?

Take a closer look at your sales training approach. Are you missing any of the key conversations that could be the “secret sauce” of your sales success?

 

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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By Bruce Wedderburn

As a sales leader, you’re there to make a difference—a difference in team performance. You’ve looked at the range of experience on your team and seen multiple opportunities for growth, so you immediately implemented the latest sales and marketing thinking to pave the way for double-digit gains over the next 12 to 24 months. It’s the kind of vision and take-charge leadership that has impressed organizational leadership.

The only problem is, the expected sales gains from your initiatives have been slow to materialize. As the months have progressed, others in the organization have begun expressing doubts about your strategy. Worse still, you’re beginning to have your own doubts.

This isn’t unusual. As organizations look for organic growth in increasingly competitive markets, leaders are searching for the latest technology, the next app, that one competitive strategy that will elevate them above their peers. But despite all of the new advances and approaches, the reality remains: Your salespeople still have to have conversations with customers.

Another sobering reality? More than any other factor, the quantity and quality of those conversations will determine whether or not your organization reaches its sales goals this year.

We recently conducted a research study in partnership with the Sales Management Association, and the findings were illuminating. We learned that there’s not one but three critical conversations every salesperson must focus on for the organization to consistently realize its growth goals. Improving any one of these will increase your team’s productivity. Improve all three and you’re on your way to a breakout year.

Here’s what those conversations are:

  1. The conversation that salespeople have with their customers. Customers have more access to more information than ever before, and that’s driving increased commoditization in your industry. As a result, your customers’ perception of “value” has shifted from what you’re selling to how you’re selling. In other words, your salespeople’s interactions are where the real value is today—the value that will differentiate you from the competition. It’s in these critical conversations that salespeople can move the discussion away from price and begin building the elusive “Trusted Advisor” status in the customer’s mind. Succeeding with this conversation is mostly about your salespeople’s skillset.
  1. The conversation that salespeople have with themselves. These are the conversations that all of us have dozens, if not hundreds, of times each day. We each have a set of inner beliefs about who we are and the level of success we deserve to enjoy. Countless external influences over the course of our lives—parents, friends, relatives, teachers, co-workers, clients, spouses, good experiences, negative ones, highs, lows—have contributed to these beliefs and shaped who we are, our level of confidence and what we say to ourselves about ourselves. For salespeople, this inner talk affects what level of buyer they will call on, how many customer meetings they will have, how they feel about prospecting, how they respond to being coached, their vision for their career, how they handle rejection, how they handle success, whether or not they will improve, and the hundreds of experiences that make up a sales or management career. This all affects a person’s attitude and confidence. Succeeding with this conversation is mostly about the salesperson’s mindset.
  1. The conversation that salespeople have with their coach. Coaching is a key determining factor for growth and one of the great buzzwords of our times. However, when and if sales coaching actually happens, it’s nearly always focused on how to improve the first conversation—a salesperson’s ability to interact effectively with the customer. It rarely addresses the other critical conversation, the one that both salespeople and managers are having all the time—with themselves.

What the Pros Know About Success

Professional athletes know that the three S’s— stamina, strength and stretching—are essential for success, and so they constantly work at training and developing all three. Most recreational athletes, on the other hand, work at improving only one or occasionally two of these critical fitness qualities.

In the same way, all three success conversations can and should be constantly developed. Your salespeople’s skillset and mindset can both be improved through training and coaching. And when their skillset and mindset are working together, supported by effective coaching of both, your sales organization will be on the way to new levels of success and satisfaction.

Too many organizations look to external factors such as new technologies and the latest fads for the answers to growth. That’s like a professional tennis player who looks to the latest advances in racquet string technology, cloud-based ball tracking systems and energy-rebounding shoe design while overlooking the importance of improving foot-speed, confidence and fitness.

Without mastering what’s most important, the rest doesn’t matter.

What conversations are your salespeople having?

 

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions

 

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There isn’t a sales person alive today who doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be selling product, but instead should be selling to help meet the needs of their customers.  The problem is that, despite this, customers are still reporting a very low level of value from time spent with sales people. Why the disconnect?

As customers, we’ve all been on the receiving end of one or more of the common selling strategies. Here are a few you’ve probably seen:

  • A product focus is when salespeople spend most of their time showing and talking about their product or service, its features, advantages and benefits. Objective: Help people understand their product or service so that they’ll want to buy it.
  • A transaction focus is used by salespeople whose main goal is to “get people to the yes”-in other words, to agree to buy whatever they’re selling. Objective: Make the sale, whatever it takes.
  • A customer-needs focus is when salespeople go through a discovery process to determine if customers have needs, wants, problems or objectives they want filled, satisfied or solved. Objective: Establish a need before initiating any selling activity.

Thinking back to your experiences as a customer, how did you feel in these different scenarios? Were you bored? On the defensive? Did you learn something about your needs or discover a pressing challenge that you hadn’t even realized existed before? Or did you just want to get off the phone or run for the nearest exit as fast as you could?

With both product- and transaction-focused selling approaches, the salesperson is essentially trying to convince you that this product or this “deal” is so great that you simply must have it. Their success comes down to how effective they are at persuading you to believe their position.

In fact, many salespeople will say they take a customer-needs-focused approach, but their actions say otherwise. You can tell because they’re still falling back on this idea that they need to sway you or influence you to do something (the implication being that it’s something you don’t really want to do). No wonder customers often feel like they need to push back in these situations. It’s basically a battle of wills, one that’s being fought on a simmering ground of doubt and distrust.

With a true customer-needs approach, on the other hand, the salesperson is focused on helping you get a clearer picture of your own situation so that, together, you can identify what the requirements are and how they can best be satisfied. Their success comes down to how effective they are at bringing your true needs to the surface and the overall value they deliver in filling those needs.

Instead of trying to convince you to buy something, these salespeople spend most of their time finding out if you have needs that they can address. No solutions are even offered until your wants or needs have been admitted.

Here’s the kicker: Our research shows that when people sell this way, they can experience a 15 to 30 percent increase in their sales.

To understand why, we have to look at what we know about the art of persuasion: The more we attempt to persuade people, the more they tend to resist us. But the more we attempt to understand them and create value for them, the more they tend to persuade themselves.

What is your focus?

If you’re in sales, one easy way to identify your own central sales focus is to think about how you spend your time when talking to customers.

Do you spend most of your time in the first half of your contact talking about your product or service? Or do you spend most of your time asking questions that focus on the customer’s needs?

In the interview stage of an effective customer-needs-focused selling process, you should be spending at least 80% of the time listening. And when you do talk, it should be mostly in the form of questions and paraphrasing back to customers what they tell you to make sure you understand them. You explore, ask questions and get feedback, and you make no attempt to sell anything until the customer:

  1. admits needs, wants, problems or objectives they want filled, satisfied or solved.
  2. agrees that not only do they have needs but that they are open to solutions.
  3. agrees to talk to you about a solution.
  4. confirms that they can make purchase decisions.

Generally, if they don’t agree to all four of these steps, you probably don’t have a good prospect. Or they aren’t the real decision makers. Or they don’t have a compelling reason to take action. Or they aren’t favorably disposed to buying from you.

Take a closer look at your own approach to make sure you’re truly focused on creating value for your customers rather than wearing them down to buy from you. One of the most important questions you can start with is this:

In your typical selling situations, who does most of the talking?

If it’s you, chances are, your focus is more product-oriented or transactional, and it’s likely keeping you from reaching your full sales potential.

Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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You hire two people with the same qualifications and skills. One succeeds; the other fails miserably.

Why?

Part one of Optimizing Performance for Strong Results, a two-part podcast interview with Integrity Solutions’ Mike Esterday, takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon and explores specific strategies you can take to unleash a stronger drive to achieve within your entire workforce.

As Mike explains, rapid change-in politics, government and businesses across every industry-along with increased competition, pricing pressures and product parity have raised the stakes on performance. At the same time, many managers are struggling with how to coach, recruit and work with the growing population of Millennials in the workforce. As a whole, this group has a stronger desire to find purpose in their work, and if they don’t find it, they’re willing to leave. And that means retention has become a pressing concern as well.

The good news is, the issues are connected: If we can light that fire within our people, they’ll not only be more likely to succeed, they’ll be more likely to stay.

Why So Many Training Strategies Miss the Mark

How many people have plateaued in your organization? How many do you believe can move off that plateau and perform at a higher level?

In the podcast, Mike shares that when he asks that second question, the answer he typically gets is about half. But what many managers don’t realize is that lack of belief in their people has a direct and negative impact. People pick up on it, and so they perform to the level that they think their managers expect of them.

“All growth, whether personal or corporate, begins with expanding mental paradigms,” Mike says.

Most people perform at the level they believe they should be performing at, he explains. In other words, our actions, behaviors and even our abilities are bounded by our comfort zones. To improve performance then, training and coaching need to focus on stretching that “area of the possible.”

But most don’t, at least not effectively. Mike explains the simple reason why:

“That soft stuff is hard! It’s a lot easier to teach people product specs, selling techniques, managing numbers and activities. It’s tougher to get at attitudes, beliefs and achievement drive.”

But those factors are the “turbo chargers” for most people’s success.

The other key? A learning process that gets people to learn and practice skills long enough that they become part of their natural behavior.

The Importance of Purpose

Purpose is also a major factor in growing performance, Mike says. Organizations that focus on purpose tend to light that internal fire more. In the podcast, he explores three components to this focus:

  • Purpose of the organization: Communicating clearly why we’re in business
  • Purpose of the job or team: Lighting the “personal why” by clarifying the purpose of the individual’s or team’s role and how it links to the organization’s purpose
  • How that purpose creates value for the customer: Understanding the impact on the customer

This last point is critical. Customers can tell what our intentions are when we interact with them. Are your employees thinking, “How can I get this transaction done?” or “How can I fulfill their needs?”

When people shift their view from believing the purpose of their job is to sell products to believing the purpose of their job is to improve lives, they’ll release more achievement drive, and that will increase the activities they need to do to succeed.

And that, Mike says, is how you create meaningful work.

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Re-blogged from Integrity Solutions.

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