GITOMER: Soft skills are the hardest part
When a new sales representative is hired, a company provides what is known as orientation and ramp-up. Once those elements are complete, the company believes the salesperson can go out and begin earning money.
First, it’s a heavy dose of product training. The company and its trainers will spend days, sometimes weeks, on “what it is,” “how it works,” “how it’s used” and a myriad of other semi-useful facts.
Overlooked, of course, is how the customer profits from it, and what the customer’s motive to buy it is. Hello!
MAJOR CLUE: All product training should be given at a customer’s place of business. This is where your product is actually used. This is where a salesperson can gain real-world information about practical application, about flaws and service needs, and about merits and features that are most valuable to the actual user.
If enough time is spent at the customer’s place, salespeople will also uncover why the product was purchased, how the product was purchased and the value the product has. The process is also likely to dispel the single most erroneous belief about sales: “The customer only buys price.”
So much for hard (product) skills. Now it’s time for the harder part: the soft skills, the selling skills.
Soft skills can be taught one of three ways:
1. In-house training. Company trainers that may also include best salespeople, and outside courseware trained in-house.
2. Outside training. Should be presented by someone who can sell an off-the-shelf solution with the intention that the salesperson will learn general sales, a system of selling or a customized sales process where specific aspects of the product and customer are taught.
3. Voice-of-customer training. Voice-of-customer training is when existing customers tell their stories about using the product (what their history is), why they bought it, their experience, how they felt about it after purchase and why they would recommend it.
PERSONAL NOTE: For the past 20 years, I have built my reputation on utilizing my expertise combined with voice-of-customer. I consider the training department vitally important, because they are the glue and history of the company’s success. These elements, if combined correctly, can make any salespeople or sales team THE dominant players in their market – without respect to price.
The reason that soft skills, or selling skills, are the most important, yet most perplexing, aspect of sales success is because they must be accepted by the salespeople as valid, believable and transferable before they can be successfully deployed. The salespeople must say to themselves: “I agree with this. I think I can do this. ”
Most important, the salespeople must do it their way, in their style, using their personality. That way the entire execution of the selling process is transferred to the customer as both authentic and believable.
If you’re a salesperson hungry for greater success, it’s important that you improve your soft skills to a point where they are equal to or greater than your product knowledge.
Please understand I’m not talking about learning some old-world, find-the pain, manipulative sales process. In today’s selling, “making a sales pitch” and “closing the sale” are pretty much over.
The biggest soft skill challenges in today’s sales process are finding the decision maker, creating harmony, engaging, proving value, transferring an emotional message and earning the sale.
I’ve just given you a 30,000-foot perspective on the new science of selling. It’s what I know to be true because I have executed it myself and created my own success with it.