Sales professionals in 2017 and beyond live in a constant paradox of extremes. Strengths such as aggressiveness can also be viewed as a huge negative by customers who don’t want to feel “pressured.” Too much product knowledge could be perceived by customers as pushing products and not listening to their needs enough. Developing a strong social selling network could be interpreted by old-school sales managers as lazy and not doing the basics like making cold calls.
I had an interesting call with a prospective client recently who is in the process of developing a sales training road map for 2017 and beyond. During our dialogue, we discussed the present-day challenges faced by sales professionals in general and the unique challenges faced by sales professionals selling solutions to the healthcare industry. As we talked, the road map became clearer, and I found the perspectives refreshing and relevant given the fact that today’s sales professionals live in this world of extremes.
The road map of skill development finds a nice balance between strengths and perceived weaknesses and provides a strong foundation for sales professionals to come across to decision makers as businesspeople, not just salespeople.
Here’s an overview of the three primary areas of the sales training development:
Step 1: Understand How My Business Makes Money
Today’s sales professionals need to understand the drivers of their own business’s performance. For example, they need to understand basics, such as the impact their discounts have on revenue, profit, and capacity. “The difference between a 5 percent price discount and a 10 percent discount is critical, but most salespeople don’t understand the impact,” shared the client working on the road map. “They also need to know the impact marketing, manufacturing, supply chain management, and finance has on profit, growth, and the execution of the strategy. Providing these basic business acumen skills is my number one priority.”
Step 2: Understand How My Customers Make Money
As mentioned previously, it is no longer acceptable for sales professionals to just be product experts or transactional product pushers. They must be able to talk the language of business and have dialogues with high-level decision makers about the customer’s strategy, goals, objectives, and financial performance.
“Our sales professionals need to illustrate how our products help our customers fulfill their mission and help the achieve the profitability that will drive increased shareholder value and financial performance,” said my client. “Providing the skills and tools for our sales professionals to understand how our customers make money is our number two priority.”
Step 3: Leveraging Business Skills to Position the Right Value to the Right Customers
“Having the skills to understand how our own business makes money and how our customers make money is not good enough,” said my client. “The third element of this process is being able to leverage those business skills to position the right value to the right customers.”
My client then gave an example of a multimillion dollar IT solution that they typically sell directly to the IT department. During that sale, the conversation is about software, hardware, and price objections. However, the CEO at one company wanted to execute a robust business strategy and was concerned about patient satisfaction. So, the salespeople needed to modify the conversation to show how the IT solution increases overall patient satisfaction.
“We need to position the value of our solution not in terms of the technology but in how we are increasing patient satisfaction. That’s how we position the right value to the right customer decision maker. While it is our number three priority, it is obviously critical for us to be successful.”
In summary, selling has changed forever. Sales professionals must have the business acumen and the strategic business-selling skills to create the right balance and approach to selling that will lead to long-term success.