SELLING SKILLS – By Krishna C. Kalva
The year 2020 has already proven to be a year of surprises and changes, with almost all industries affected by COVID-19. You might have heard the term “survival of the fittest” – organizations that are adaptive have proven to survive the test of time.
Let’s not forget the role of a sales professional, who is key to transforming the business. Sales professionals taking a virtual route offers a window of opportunities for organizations to leverage technology and drive their digital strategies.
Digital is not all about technology; it is putting the customer in the center and empowering the sales force with the right selling skills and techniques to successfully close a deal. The focus here is on skills like value selling, strategic marketing, storytelling, etc. – combined with the right technique – to keep the customers virtually engaged. This is a relatively new approach when compared to traditional sales, so how do organizations succeed on this journey?
Learning & development (L&D) teams are expected to upskill the sales force on “how to” virtually engage with customers, the supposed new normal of doing business. One of the initial steps for L&D teams is to understand the customer history, buying patterns, decision-makers, etc., as it will generate valuable insights and list priorities. The expected outcome is to identify the customer expectations and choose an approach and technique that is best suited for a conversation.
For example, when meeting with a C-level customer, a sales professional could choose a consultative approach (based on value, solution) and offer a roadmap that drives competitive edge and profitability. Similarly, while speaking with an expert customer, the sales professional could choose an approach to highlight the operational efficiency.
Sales is all about people, and coaching plays a key role to help the sales force in choosing the right mindset and attitude. The role of the back-office sales team is equally important here to understand the market dynamics and to generate insights and opportunities to be successful.
A Winning Blend
Sales forces consist of experienced and non-experienced professionals who offer a blend of perspectives, knowledge and ideas across generations. Training programs developed to address key competency skill gaps are helpful, and organizations must continue to leverage them. However, certain gaps are best addressed through experiences, and sales professionals are best equipped to share those insights. For example, when negotiating with a customer, what kind of a “value message” can a sales rep convey?
The role of the L&D team is to identify gaps and define a framework of collaboration by empowering sales professionals to share their knowledge and experiences with the community. This consists of real-life scenarios, success stories and lessons learned that can be applied to successfully close a deal.
Such empowerment will help the sales reps to authentically deliver the message and help the community to understand and choose the right approach. One of the key outcomes of this approach is to build a community of practice wherein everybody is a learner and a teacher.
Turning your attention back to the original idea, it is important for L&D teams to remain integrated with the business to understand the changing customer expectations and market dynamics. This journey is evolutionary, and success lies in co-creating solutions by being proactive to address specific needs.
Coaching continues to play an important role to emphasize the message sales reps can choose to convey to their customers. Technology and technique is powerful and must be leveraged by sales forces to smartly deliver the value.
Krishna C. Kalva is learning solution manager at Siemens Healthineers. Email him