A question I am often asked is “Are there natural born salespeople that we should be looking for?”
My answer to this is there is no such thing as a natural born salesperson. There are salespeople with the ‘gift of the gab’ who make good sales, but they tend to lack consistency in their results.
Contrary to popular belief, the best salespeople aren’t the best talkers, they are the best listeners.
The best salespeople, the consistent high performers, are those who have been trained in the best sales practices and then supported through management.
A vast amount of ‘sales training’ is focused on product or technical training rather than specific sales skills development. This tends to produce product-focused salespeople who use the classic show and tell sales presentation. Typically the presentation goes something like this:
The salesperson looks around the prospects office, finds some item of interest and begins a discussion on this, much to the annoyance of the prospect that has had the same discussion with a hundred other salespeople and hasn’t got time to waste with the usual so-called rapport building techniques. They then ask a few self-serving questions to uncover a potential need, and launch into a product/technical solution based presentation.
A study of over 500 buyers from the fortune 1000 companies showed that salespeople jump in with a solution before the real problem has been uncovered. This happens in 63% of sales interviews.
Sales, like any other business activity, is a process and needs to be systemised to ensure consistency in the results. Exceptional salespeople have a planned approach to selling and follow a process. McDonald’s doesn’t hire staff and then challenge them to figure out how best to do the job. Instead, they work on the basis that there is a best way to take an order, greet a customer and put a burger together.
In sales there is a best practice too. Like assembling a cheeseburger, sales has a process. Firstly identify your prospects, next get a referral to them, then establish trust, uncover their need – if they have one – present a solution, and ask for the business.
Selling is very simple, but not easy!
Imagine sitting on a plane at an airport, waiting to take off, and the captain comes on and says “This is my first flight in one of these really big planes – I’m going to try and figure out the best way to fly this thing”.
Many companies send their salespeople out into the field with great product training and very little, if any, sales training to ‘fly by the seat of their pants’.
It is a fact that the greatest asset in our businesses is our staff. It costs businesses just as much money in salary, travel and costs for a poor sales performer as it does for a great sales performer. Therefore we need to lift the performance of all our salespeople to ensure consistency in sales results. The way to achieve this is through using best sales practices and measurement for accountability.
A question I sometimes hear is “What happens if we train them and they leave?” I ask “What happens if we don’t train them and Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his famous book Outliers, “Success in any field comes from opportunity and practice”. Many companies give their salespeople the opportunity to undertake sales training. What makes the difference between the good and the great salespeople is the great salespeople continue to learn and practice the skills they have learnt.
They say ‘practice makes perfect’. This is only partly true – perfect practice makes perfect. Therefore, sales come down to using best practices. As sales guru Brian Tracy says, “Until we learn the formula (process) for success, we can’t repeat it”.