How many different people from your company talk with your customers?
Consider asking your team to evaluate and discuss two different selling scenarios.
The first scenario deals with your newest customers. Ask your team how many different people from your company will talk with a new prospect (either by telephone or “face-to-face”) from the time someone identifies a new selling opportunity until you have a signed agreement in place? When I ask this question of my clients we quickly can identify as many as five or six different people from their company who will interact with a prospect before they have a signed agreement in place. People talking to a prospect include the sales person and usually you, as their manager. Will your prospect need to talk to your credit manager? What about any of your senior management? Will anyone from technical support or your administrative/order entry team be involved? What are your numbers? How many different people from your company are involved with a new prospect/client before they say yes?
And what about your existing customers? The second scenario to discuss with your team deals with the majority of your business that comes from your existing clients. From January 1st until December 31st, how many different people might interact with one of your existing customers? Whatever your number of contacts were with a prospect, the number talking to an existing customer to maintain their business is usually higher.
So how many “non-salespeople” in your company are talking to your customers on a daily basis? And what kind of impact are they having on your team’s selling success? Are they contributing to communicating your uniqueness and value or are your customers buying from you in spite of these “non-salespeople’s” best efforts?
A “selling non-salesperson” is someone who actively (and independently) talks to your prospects and customers on a regular basis as part of their responsibilities but still don’t consider “salesperson” a part of their job description. For a number of companies these “selling non-salespeople” have never attended a sales training class or been coached by anyone with a strong sales bias (like you as a leader of the sales team).
An interesting phenomenon exists in selling today. Just about every sales organization has non-salespeople talking directly with both new (and still un-sold) prospects as well as existing customers. But almost none of these “selling non-salespeople” have ever received any sales training, or ongoing coaching on how to be more persuasive in their responsibilities. How much sales training and coaching have you implemented so far this year with your list of “selling non-salespeople” who are actively talking to your prospects and customers? For most…the answer will be none.
Increasing The Selling Skills of Your “Non-salespeople”
First, Get a “Sales Champion”
Your first challenge to increasing the persuasive skills of your “selling non-salespeople” is to identify who will take on the responsibility of becoming your support team’s “sales champion.” To increase the selling skills of your team’s “selling non-salespeople” you need to identify the leader who’ll be responsible for “championing” this effort. Their responsibility is to lead the efforts to make these support people, including your administrative, technical and managerial people, more sales aware and sales focused in their normal efforts in front of both prospects and existing customers.
This type of special coaching and training cannot and will not work if you only conduct a one-time “sales training” event for these support people. Generating long term change and improvement with support individuals requires ongoing attention to first train and make them aware of your selling expectations and then second to continue to coach and remind them of the important contributions they can make to your selling efforts and results.
There’s a good chance you, as the sales leader, will not have the time required to become this ongoing “sales coach to the non-salespeople.” But you can potentially have the time to “coach their coach” so the support team leader understands what, and how behaviors and selling language need to improve. Who can you recruit to be this ongoing coach and champion who’ll understand, or at least appreciate the critical importance of having a single sales team offering a consistent level of support backed up by consistent selling and branding messages?
Second, does everyone supporting your prospects and customers understand the basic components of persuasion and selling?
Once you have your sales champion in place for these “selling non-salespeople,” your second challenge is to design and identify the structures and stepped selling processes you want these support people communicating as they do their regular jobs. Individuals who support a selling process don’t need to receive the more complete sales training that would normally be provided (but rarely is) to your regular full time sales team. But they do need to understand key selling concepts including:
- The basic steps of a sales call and how to ask questions.
- How to communicate or handle an angry customer.
- How (and when) to take responsibility for a problem or customer request.
- How to persuasively say no to a customer request.
- How (and when) to share information or insights with the rest of the sales team.
Consider organizing a series of simple training outlines that will cover these, and any other sales ideas you feel they need to understand and master. Design a series of one hour training classes. These one hour classes are best conducted by spending up to ten minutes for debriefing of successes from trying last week’s sales ideas, twenty minutes discussing or presenting a new sales concept, twenty-five minutes role-playing or practicing this new skill or sales concept, and then five minutes reconfirming what everyone has agreed to try between now and your next sales class. This topic or idea covered then becomes a central focus of any sales coaching from both you and your sales support champion who’ll coach and lead your team as they work to practice and implement these new ideas.
Third, is everyone from your company delivering the same selling message of uniqueness?
Your third challenge is to insure all members of your extended sales team understand and can explain why your customers buy from you and your company. The toughest question a sales person is asked by their prospect or existing client is “Why, based on all the competitive alternatives available to me do I want to buy from you?”
As important as this question is…most sales teams have never worked to define and strengthen their single best response to this question. Not working on this question as a team means you’ll likely discover each sales team member communicates a different message to their buyers. This “each person communicates a different message” challenge wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact they’re not the only ones from your company talking and persuading your customers. How many different selling messages are you as a total organization delivering to your customers and prospects?
What can you do to better define your single best answer to this “Why buy from you?” question. You don’t need your support people being able to present your newly defined complete message of uniqueness but you do need them understanding what your selling message is and also understanding their responsibility and role to help remind and confirm your message when they talk with a prospect or client.
Fourth, does everyone understand when (and how) to pass a problem onto someone else who can better solve their customer’s problem?
Your fourth challenge to increasing the selling skills of your “selling non-salespeople” is to make sure everyone understands how to quickly, persuasively and effectively hand a customer or prospect over to someone else who can better respond. The majority of support people have never been trained on the best way to pass on an angry customer or to get a customer or prospect help from someone better qualified than them to address this customer’s problem or challenge.
These skills sound simple and self-evident…until you lose a customer to a competitor because someone on your team didn’t handle a challenging situation properly or persuasive enough to satisfy your customer’s concerns. What can you do to better train and coach your people on this team-focused way to support and grow your customers?
Fifth, will you now integrate these support people into your normal sales training and coaching efforts?
Once you start to train and coach your team on these first four challenges, then your fifth longer term challenge is to now continue the coaching and skill growth of your support team.
Sixth, what can you do to insure the attention and structures are put in place to keep this an ongoing coaching and leadership effort?
Your sixth and final challenge to increasing the selling skills of your “selling non-salespeople” is to make sure you and the rest of your leadership team maintain the attention and sales structures you’ve put in place so they become an ongoing component of your persuasive selling and customer support efforts.
What can you and the rest of your leadership team do to confirm your support and belief in the ongoing maintenance and improvement of these critical persuasive skills? Customers notice when someone other than a sales person asks additional questions, expresses an interest in their business and challenges, confirms why their customer is buying from them or helps strengthen the overall customer service experience.
These are hyper-competitive times. Today you have stronger and more consistent competitive pressures to sell against. And these hyper-competitive times also demand the best efforts and involvement of your entire team. You need to have every member of your team “rowing in the same direction” so they deliver a consistent message of value and uniqueness that continues to be proven and confirmed.
We know you’re good….now the question is…are you good enough…and strong enough as the leader of your sales team to insure all members of your extended sales and support team are working as a single, effective and persuasive selling unit?