You’d be surprised who IT firms are now hiring for sales and consulting positions—people with hospitality and restaurant backgrounds. Why? Because they know how to talk to people. They know how to engage in conversation, be polite yet firm, smile, and let the bad stuff roll off their backs. These skills make them star employees. Yes, they also have the technical expertise, but their people skills are what enable them to prospect well, develop relationships, and close business.
CEOs and sales leaders across industries tell me that their people routinely email and send text messages to clients, and then complain that they can’t reach their contacts. After all, they’ve followed up several times via email. Yet, when sales leaders tell these struggling reps to pick up the phone and have real conversations with prospects, they don’t do it.
You Can’t Point and Tell
There are probably many reasons, but a lot of salespeople just don’t know how to have business conversations. They’re far more comfortable hiding behind technology. This way, they don’t really have to think. Marketing gives them templates, and away they go—to bury their heads in their computers and accomplish nothing.
It’s not really their fault. They haven’t been trained and coached on business acumen. They know how to give demos and deliver their standard (boring) pitches. But they don’t know how to uncover clients’ pain points and have discussions about ROI.
You can’t just point at people, tell them to sell, and expect miraculous results. One of my colleagues, a vice president of sales, told me that he tells his people all the time to ask for referrals. “How’s that working for you?” I asked. You can guess the answer.
Teach Them, Don’t Leave Them
It’s not complicated to teach people how your products and services work. Teaching your sales team how to conduct business conversations is more complex. It takes building skills, lots and lots of practice, joint calling, feedback, coaching, and reinforcement.
If you want your team to reach and exceed their quotas, you must invest time in teaching them how to build customer relationships, have valuable conversations with clients, and prospect through referrals. Then you reinforce that learning by demonstrating it for them. After all, as a sales leader, your biggest responsibility (and greatest measure of success) is making your reps into superstars.
How do you ensure that your sales team has the training and skill sets they need to succeed?