The Pacific Coast Highway takes travelers along hundreds of miles of the Pacific Ocean. This highway is full of hazards that could prove deadly to an untrained semi driver. You would not let an untrained / unlicensed driver deliver a semi load of your product, so why would you let an untrained salesperson sell your product?
The Pacific Coast Highway has several parallels with the sales process. In sales we have all experienced setbacks in one or more of the examples that follow. The better we are trained the more efficiently we will handle future opportunities.
Fog is among the deadliest of hazards you can experience while driving the Pacific Coast Highway. Since fog greatly reduces visibility it makes seeing where you are going difficult at best. In sales not probing to determine your prospects needs is the equivalent of fog. A thorough needs analysis is the only way to get a true understanding of your prospects needs. If you don’t get that clear understanding you will not know if your product or service fits their needs. If you don’t know it’s a fit, your prospect surely won’t know either and most likely they will wait for a supplier that can show them how they solve their issues.
Traffic can be unbearable while traveling the Pacific Coast Highway. It can take you significantly longer to get where you’re going if you get stuck in a traffic jam along the route. In sales your competition is the equivalent of traffic. Unless you develop a unique selling proposition to differentiate your company from the competition your message will get stuck in a, me too traffic jam. I frequently speak with small business owners who say they see an endless stream of salespeople trying to win their business each and every week. Make sure you have an elevator speech that is on target. You only have a short window of time to give them a reason they should learn more about your product or service. If you can’t convince them they need to learn more, you will be at a stuck in sales traffic.
Rockslides close sections of this freeway several times per year. They are often caused by the deterioration of the earth below rocks and boulders. Finally, one breaks free and gravity pulls it down along with several other rocks that the first one loosened. In sales, relationships with customers are fragile. Failure to continue to nurture the relationship can start to weaken its foundation leaving the door open for the competition. To be successful at Nurturing a sales relationship really comes down to basic sales skills. Staying engaged and actively listening to your customers can help keep the door closed on your competition. Avoid those rockslides and become a trusted advisor to your clients.
Hairpin Curves and cliffs are additional hazard along this route. It takes total focus to make sure you are staying on the road. Taking your eye off these roads for even a second can be fatal. That same focus is also needed in sales. Understanding your current customer’s needs is just as important as those of prospects. Needs analysis are not only for prospects. Sales professionals should make it regular practice to get a status update from their clients at each visit. Understanding any changes in your customers’ needs are important to keep them purchasing from your company and not letting your competitors get a foot in the door. Skipping this step can have your company in danger of not knowing changes in competition, industry or economy.
Now that you see the hazards on the Pacific Coast Highway, I’m sure you would agree that you would only let a trained CDL driver attempt to drive the route with your product onboard. I hope you also agree that you should only let trained salespeople represent your brand. Not providing your sales force with continuing sales education decreases your success rate with both prospects and existing customers.
So who is responsible for the training of sales professionals? It really falls on everyone involved in the sales process. The sales people, sales management and the company itself all need to take responsibility for ongoing training in the art of sales. Training is not limited to high paid sales trainers, though it might be the right option for your company. It can be as simple as online training, in-house training or starting a book club where participants read a book a month on selling and then the group has a meeting or call to review what was learned in the book. Even if the company buys all the books for its sales force, it is a small investment for the return that it will receive by having well trained individuals.
Even the most seasoned sales professionals can benefit from ongoing training. Some may feel like they don’t need it, but even the smallest nugget picked up will make them more skilled at their jobs.
I recommend that all companies focus on continuing education for their sales force. It will help the sales representatives avoid the hazards that cost them and the company the sale. When your sales people are performing at a high level, they will find the process more enjoyable and financially rewarding.
Please share additional hazards you see in not providing ongoing training to your sales force.
David Domos developed WhyBuyFromYou.com to provide content to help small businesses develop their branding, marketing and sales systems. In the past he held key leadership positions for a fortune 500 company. That company led the market in both sales and brand awareness and David was a significant contributor to its growth. David has been on the Amazon.com best seller list in their Direct Marketing, Communications and Entrepreneurship categories. He is a student of sales, marketing, branding & small business growth, continually focusing on the reasons people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou or visit www.whybuyfromyou.com.