As a sales manager, how do you improve your team’s performance?
Increase commissions? Set up internal competitions? Punish poor performance?
All these tactics might improve salesperson productivity if they’re already doing the right things. Think of it this way – an amateur golfer won’t win the PGA tour just because the winner takes home $1.8 million. That’s a mighty big incentive, but our amateur won’t win unless his skills trump the competition.
It’s the same with salespeople – sales is an art and a science that requires deliberate practice. If you want to make a real difference in performance, the key for many salespeople is coaching.
Whether through group sales team meetings or one-on-ones, here are the top 3 exercises to work into your coaching sessions to build your sales team’s consultative selling skills.
1. Asking Great Questions
Spend time with your salespeople practicing the art of asking great questions. What’s a great question? A question that gets at the heart of your prospect’s problem or demonstrates a deep knowledge of their business immediately positions your salesperson as an expert. A great question will also guide your prospect toward discovering the value of your product or service.
Improving your team’s ability to ask great questions starts with knowing what the questions are. Put together a list of the problems your product or service solves for your customers. Great questions are phrased to reveal those problems. For example, if your widget reduces waste by 15%, a great question would be, “Tell me about the impact of excess waste on your business.” Or, “What would it mean for your business to reduce waste by 15%?”
Once you know the questions to ask, spend time with your salespeople role-practicing. The more your sales team has practiced using these questions, the more comfortable they’ll be in a prospect conversation.
2. Active Listening and “Listening Between the Lines”
Active listening is one of the most important consultative selling skills. Without listening to a prospect’s needs – spoken and unspoken – it will be nearly impossible for your salespeople to develop a solution that meets them.
Salespeople must be adept at asking clarifying questions, confirming what they’re hearing, and listening between the lines for what the prospect isn’t saying directly.
Active listening includes non-verbal communication such as posture, eye contact, attentive mannerisms, and mirroring the prospect’s facial expressions and behavior. To get your salespeople to key in on their non-verbal active listening skills, we recommend videotaping practice sessions and reviewing them with your team. You can also have your salespeople work in small groups, with two people role-playing and a third taking notes on their active listening skills.
Stories help our products and services come to life. It’s much easier to imagine ourselves purchasing or using something once we’ve heard how it worked for someone else – especially someone in our industry or peer group. Your salespeople need to be adequately equipped to talk about the real impact of your solutions for your clients. You should have a range of stories available to match different prospects and tell the most appropriate story for each potential customer.
You can help your salespeople tell better stories simply by collecting and cataloguing those stories. Line up stories with the problems your customers face so your salespeople can connect the dots during a prospect meeting.
What belongs in a success story? We recommend following a 3-part model:
- Problem – The specific challenge your customer was facing
- Solution – The solution you provided
- Results – The tangible impact for your customer
Once you’ve catalogued success stories for each of the problems you solve, your salespeople should actually practice telling these stories. Just like with active listening, you can videotape these sessions and review them with your team to help everyone improve.
Keep Practicing Consultative Selling Skills
There are many more exercises you could do with your team to keep building their skills. Don’t underestimate the value of deliberate practice – the more often your salespeople practice these key skills, the more comfortable they’ll be in a consultative sales conversation. At least once a month, practice:
- Asking great questions
- Listening actively
- Telling great stories
Let us know in the comments if these exercises are working for your team. We’d love to hear how you coach your salespeople!