Today's post is by Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch, co-CEOs of IMPAX Corporation, a global sales training and performance acceleration company. Connect with Mark and Dan on LinkedIn.
The results of our 2018 State of B2B Sales study show the relationship between many buyers and sellers is fractured.
Buyers increasingly view salespeople as product pushers and short-term problem solvers – perceptions that make selling tougher than ever.
To accelerate and maintain strong sales performance, sales leaders need to get strategic. Below, we reveal three key actions every sales leader and team can take to thrive in a tough sales environment.
#1: Prioritize value over price.
In many industries, companies are being pushed toward commoditization. This is due, in large part, to the increase in procurement and vendor management practices (bad news: The procurement situation is expected to get worse before it gets better). As a result, sales organizations are seeing the customer’s perception of their value erode.
When price is the top consideration, sales organizations tend to suffer. So, what will sales professionals need to do to counteract this disturbing trend? Make sure your sales team understands value and can position it effectively with customers. Of particular importance are things like
- Conducting research to understand the broader business outcomes customers are trying to realize
- Developing influential coaches within customer organizations
- Identifying and involving higher-level decision makers (who are empowered to buy value)
- Delivering customer-focused messages that quantify the potential impact of working together
#2: Improve sales performance by adopting a sales process and developing your team’s consultative selling skills.
Basic selling skills are still important for sales professionals. However, intermediate and advanced skills (again, like recognizing and articulating value) will help customers regard salespeople as trusted advisors.
Salespeople can’t succeed on skills alone; they also need a consistent sales process to follow (and an understanding of how to implement and scale it appropriately).
#3: Hire and develop great sales managers.
The role of the sales manager is critical to successful sales results. Strong leadership will position you well for success; poor management performance will expose you to the forces of commoditization.
Characteristics to Consider When Hiring Sales Talent
From a talent perspective, having the right people on your team will be key. Sales leaders and salespeople both believe characteristics that will lend themselves to success in the future include things like
- Being collaborative
- Being insightful
- Having business and financial acumen
However, it is not enough to simply understand the profile of a successful sales representative. Sales leaders need to make sure they have a process in place to actually hire to that profile, too.
Improve Sales Coaching Among Managers
One of the most important responsibilities a sales manager has is coaching his or her team. The data on the impact of coaching is compelling: One study found that sales leaders who coach their salespeople see a boost in revenue by about 27 percent! Over and over, results show that simply receiving coaching – regardless of its quality/effectiveness – leads to increased sales performance.
Unfortunately, there is a recognized gap in this area. Our study shows both sales professionals and sales leaders lack confidence in leaders’ abilities to coach the sales team and advance opportunities.
Ultimately, sales teams driving success in 2019 and beyond will focus not only on the performance of their sales teams, but also on improved performance from their sales managers, too.
For more information, download our complimentary 2018 State of B2B Sales study results.