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Thinking Your Way To Increased Sales

Customers want it all, and your sales team can provide it

A recent headline from a McKinsey report on sales trends spoke volumes: “Customers want it all.”

Think about what a typical buyer is dealing with today, and it’s understandable why their “wants” are so wide-ranging. They have higher expectations placed on them, but tighter resources and increased scrutiny on their spending. Every purchase decision is expected to have a clear business benefit.

Their workloads are escalating. E-mail inboxes are overflowing, not just from client, co-worker, colleague and supervisor communications, but also from all of the people who are constantly trying to sell them something.

With the time, attention, budget and responsibility pressures adding up, customers want fast and highly efficient transactions, flexible approaches and solutions that can simplify and address complex challenges. Tallying up the list of “wants” ultimately boils down to a desire for partners who aren’t just going to sell to them, but who will add value by solving their problems and making their jobs easier and faster. If the sales professional can’t make a connection quickly and understand what’s most important to the customer, the customer is going to find a salesperson who can.

Meanwhile, sales professionals are dealing with pressures of their own.

Sales professionals need to build the kind of relationships that lead to shorter buying cycles, larger deals and long-term loyalty, but that is a tall order when the customer simultaneously “wants it all” and doesn’t have any time to spare.

How do we help sales professionals quickly develop the savvy to deal with the dual realities of ever-more-aggressive sales targets and customer demands for what sales consultant Tom Searcy calls “silly putty contracts” that keep options flexible in favor of the customer, depending on the economic environment?

How do we keep sales professionals focused on generating revenue and making the most of every opportunity when there are so many new ways to “lose?” Customers will begin looking at the entire set of experiences that a company provides, not just a single service, transaction or product.

To be successful, sales professionals have to:

  1. Recognize that speed of learning is critical. Whether it’s learning the organization’s sales processes, understanding prospects’ business issues, or becoming familiar with the ins and outs of a new product release, heightened competition, an uncertain economy, and an increasingly informed customer base mean organizations need salespeople who can quickly learn what they need to know so they can start selling.
  2. Personalize their sales approach in a more meaningful way. Sales professionals know they need to tailor their approaches, but superficial tactics aren’t enough. It’s not just about explaining product features and benefits, or demonstrating a value proposition. Salespeople have to quickly figure out what their customers care about, what they pay attention to, how they prefer to communicate, and how to present information in a way that respects those preferences and doesn’t require more time – from either the sales professional or the customer.
  3. Communicate and collaborate effectively within their organization. Complex deals and customer “wants” are requiring greater collaboration with others in the organization, from customer service, marketing and product development, to finance, operations and legal. Sales professionals have to be able to work effectively with their internal partners to make sure the company delivers what the customer expects.
  4. Adapt, shift, flex, repeat. Changing business and customer requirements are the norm, not a passing phase. Sales professionals need to learn how to manage their own thinking and become comfortable shifting strategies on a dime, processing last-minute information, and responding to novel ideas in a way that meets everyone’s objectives. Agility is now a must-have competency.
  5. Leverage stress to their advantage. Selling is a high-stress job and never more so than today. The most successful sales professionals know how to use their mental resources effectively so they can stay focused and productive.

Spending on sales training is on the rise, but we have to start with thinking to get the best return on that investment. Are your sales professionals focusing their time and energy on the activities your customers really value?

This article is excerpted from “Achieving Higher Levels of Sales Performance In A Demanding World,” a white paper from Herrmann International. Herrmann International helps companies achieve improved productivity, creativity and results. Its training programs focus on practical ways to leverage differences in individual thinking styles. The white paper can be downloaded here.