Skill-based Sales Training the Key for Sales Excellence

June 6, 2011  |  Posted by in Sales Training

During a recent interview with Selling Power magazine, I was asked how companies can maximize their ROI on development.  It’s a question I am asked often, and understandably so.  Training can be a significant investment.  It is only natural that decision makers would look for assurances for ROI.  First and foremost, organizations should make sure they are pursuing the right type of training; i.e., skill-based training rather than product-focused training.

It is really frustrating to see the number of sales professionals and companies that are led to believe that product or “solution” training is all that is needed in today’s hyper-competitive business world.  In reality, product knowledge is nothing more than admission to the game.  Thorough solutions knowledge is akin to dressing professionally; failure to do so will effectively remove you from consideration, but that aspect alone will not give you a competitive advantage.

Here’s the problem with a product-focused sales approach:  First and foremost, it places the sales representative’s focus on the products/services they offer, rather than the need or “gap” of the customer.  The sales representative rooted in the operating reality of the company they represent will never succeed in becoming a “business advisor” to their customers.  Instead, they resemble a walking, talking brochure – a perpetual broadcast of features and advantages searching for a home.  And in all likelihood, most of that product information could be found via Google or YouTube.  Not much authentic value added in this scenario.

The sales profession is evolving with increased emphasis on skill, not product knowledge.  It takes specific selling skills to engage customers, explore to understand their experience, diagnose their needs and provide valuable solutions.

It was once said that John Wooden could beat the opposing team with his players and then take that same (opposing) team and beat his own players, coached by the opposing coach.   That assertion was a testament to the power of Wooden’s skill development versus the raw talent of the players he recruited.

How many times have you lost business where you clearly had the superior product?  It has happened to all of us.  The reason wasn’t the product presentation; it was failure to tie your solution to the customer’s needs.  The truth is that great sales people with outstanding selling skills can sell with half the product knowledge of their competitors because they operate from the customer’s reality, not from their own.

Without a doubt, our job as sales professionals includes in-depth product knowledge.  But without fully developed selling skills, we would be destined for an endless cycle of showing up and throwing up at every customer encounter, with the predictable result of leaving disappointed and without the sale.

Look at your sales game.  What are your strengths and areas of opportunity?  Do you have the diagnostic skills to understand needs from your customers’ perspective?  Do you have the skills to understand their processes, their competition, customers and end users?  Have you watched your own product in action with the customer?

Ultimately you will either be just another solution provider on the lookout for an application, or the skilled sales professional who achieves status as a VALUED ASSET to your customers.  Despite your best intentions, your role may be pre-determined by the type of sales training your organization selects.


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