By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Sales managers are far better at telling salespeople what to do than they are at being able to tell them or teach them how to do it. One of the benefits of a standard sales training program is to provide a common set of skills to all salespeople. In theory this should make a first level sales manager’s job easier.
With that said, a B2B seller’s job has gotten significantly more difficult in the last 15 years or so, fueled by non-executives doing research on offerings via the Internet and postponing until the latest possible moment interacting with salespeople. A few things jump out at me:
- It would likely provide a better buying experience if knowledgeable buyers’ first interactions were with customer support staff vs. salespeople. Sellers know less about product usage, something many of the researchers want to learn about. Secondly, sellers are under pressure to close leads and attempts to changes buyer’s minds about requirements prematurely will validate their decisions to defer talking with sellers as long as possible.
- Historically, one of the strengths of sellers has been knowledge about offerings, and vendors continue to spend a great deal of time and money on product training for their sales staff. It might be helpful to reconsider this as buyers often have researched multiple vendors and it is very possible they know more about offerings than sellers. The other downside is that sellers don’t often have chances to leverage product knowledge because executives won’t tolerate product pitches and researchers fear that sellers will try to persuade them to make features sellers feel are strengths part of their requirements.
- As a reaction to the limited benefit of continuing to do product training as though it were still 1995, my belief is vendors could proactively change the mix of product and business training that sellers receive. One way to view a seller’s role when getting involved late in buying cycles is to change product evaluations into business decisions. With more training on business issues and results, sellers could introduce the concepts of value and payback. In doing so they could differentiate themselves from competitors. The number of “no decision” outcomes could be reduced if more compelling business cases could be built.
Most vendors readily acknowledge that buying behavior has changed, yet they continue to use selling approaches that conflict with how buyers want to be treated. A focus on making business acumen a strength and reducing the amount of product training sellers receive could make a difference.