Automotive industry titan Lee Iacocca once said, “If you’ve got the right product, you don’t have to be a great marketer.” While that may have been true before the age of the internet, today buyers see little difference between sellers and their products.

In fact, sellers are already one of the last resources buyers consult when looking to make a deal. As a result, they need to find a new way to stand out from the pack and engage customers earlier in their buying journey. A defined sales methodology coupled with sales technology can help sellers differentiate.

But in today’s market, methodology and technology alone aren’t always enough to beat the competition. Here are five ways that sales organizations can adapt their training programs to help sellers learn how to meet buyers where they are.

1 Shift from value engineering to relationship selling

Given that companies engage sellers later in the buying process, all sellers tend to look alike. When there is little differentiation among vendors, price often becomes the deciding factor. When price is a buyer’s primary focus, sellers need to shift the conversation to value so they can continue building the relationship.

Adding perspective can make the difference between a buyer that engages earlier in the buying decision and a buyer that simply wants contract terms after they have made a decision. With training on value messaging — not just on products and processes — sales teams will develop the skills to articulate messages that resonate.

2 Focus on soft skills to build relationships

New logos are hard to find in every industry, but this is particularly true in manufacturing. As a result, sellers must focus on expanding existing relationships with the buying influences that lead their current accounts.

Growth will be hard unless more technical sales experts start developing softer sales skills, such as building relationships, influencing others and navigating difficult situations. Sales organizations must realize that these skills are just as important as knowing the latest product specifications.

3 Tailor training to sellers’ needs

A detailed assessment can isolate the human dimensions of talent — what we at Korn Ferry call each seller’s unique “DNA.” An assessment can show you which persona, or personality type, the seller falls into, which defines how sellers prefer to learn and what coaching techniques will work best for them.

For instance, some sellers prefer to learn with others, while others like to learn independently. Some will be self-directed; others will expect clear direction on how to achieve their goals. Using data to develop a personalized learning strategy ensures that your sellers will receive information in the way that’s most meaningful and helpful to them.

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4 Recognize that different selling skills are needed for different channels

The sales skills needed across channels, from distribution to direct and inside sales, differ markedly. But companies often deliver one-size-fits-all sales training for each channel.

Sales organizations can start offering more differentiated, targeted sales training to people if they do two things: determine the skills needed for each role and assess their talent to identify skills gaps.

The first step is to create a success profile for every role. A success profile defines what work each role does, then identifies the skill set necessary to perform that work. It also delves deep into the type of mindset that would excel in a role. It’s a data-driven approach to determine what tangible and intangible attributes — including skills, competencies and drivers — are associated with success in a role.

Then, using the success profile as a guide, organizations can evaluate their current salesforce to determine how well they match the success profile for each role. Gaps can be filled in areas where they lack particular skills or attributes with a targeted sales training and coaching program.

A focus on development can also address the risk of employee turnover. As Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner Jason Allen noted, “Our research shows that sales has the highest voluntary turnover rate of any job function. When employees feel that their organization is investing in them and helping them build a career, they’re less likely to leave. Plus, if they are thinking about changing roles, we can use our assessments to figure out a role where they might be a better fit.”

5 Reinforce sales training with sales coaching

Mark Grimshaw, Senior Client Partner in the Global Sales and Service Practice at Korn Ferry, believes that organizations should invest heavily in coaching. “Sales coaching helps build a culture of ongoing learning and continuous improvement, leading to greater seller retention and, in turn, stronger sales and profitability.” Sales training and technology can improve sales, but sales organizations need to reinforce skills with regular sales coaching.

Coaches tap into their sellers’ assessments to understand their strengths and opportunities. They combine this information with insights from their CRM to determine which skills need reinforcement. They can also determine how to emphasize the skills likely to drive more sales. The key, he observed, is that coaching can’t be a one-time thing. “Regular coaching sessions are necessary to ensure everyone stays at the top of their game,” he added.

Coaching should cover the full buyer’s journey, from leads and opportunities to skills and behaviors, funnel assessments, relationship building and territory development. Technology, such as a CRM plug-in, can help reinforce coaching and remind sellers of the sales methodology to follow at each step of the journey.

Strengthen your seller training programs today

Want to learn more? Get in touch to learn more about how sales training and sales coaching can strengthen your sales organization’s results.


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