There used to be a time when selling was a social activity. Sales people tracked their clients’ birthdays and anniversaries, knew their children by name, and fostered deep personal connections. It was a simpler time, it was a happy time. But times have changed. Today relationship sales reps do not hit quota.
Lynette Ryals, a professor at the Cranfield School of Management in the UK, did a study of 800 sales people and found only one in three reps were “consistently effective.” 63% of sales people don’t achieve their sales targets, and the worst performers were the “Socializers.”
Socializers are what we typically think of as relationship sales people. They’re good at initiating the relationship and establishing rapport, but they lack the knowledge and expertise to move the sale forward and close the deal.
Who has time for golf?
I appreciate sales people who take an interest in me and my business, but I need more than that. I need to solve problems, and move my business forward. And I’m not alone.
Time is at a premium. I don’t know any executive or business owner who isn’t concerned about their productivity or their time. They’ve got objectives to hit, and decisions to make. And when they engage a sales person they want someone who is not only pleasant to work with, but understands their business and gives constructive advice and feedback to make sound business decisions.
Sales aren’t made on the golf course, they’re made in the office.
Customers want Experts
Professor Ryals found the most effective sales profiles were “Experts” and “Consultants.” She writes, “Experts make selling seem effortless, keep customers happy, and consistenlty outperform their peers.” She goes on to state, “Consultants listen well and are good problem solvers; they develop solutions that meet their customers’ needs. But they tend to be one-dimensional and to forgo valuable case examples that could boost sales.”
The difference between Experts and Consultants is degrees of expertise. With some mentoring Consultants can integrate more case studies and industry expertise into their sales process. They have the foundation to facilitate the buying process, and as they grow in their job they’ll become Experts.
Experts and Consultants outperform Socializers, because they bring value to their clients. They are facilitators. They help clients contextualize all the information available to them, understand their needs and make sound buying decisions. And if the deal doesn’t make sense, they let the client know quickly so both parties can move on.
Great sales people are made
There’s an old myth that sales people are born not made. That may have been true twenty or thirty years ago, but not today. Extraversion and sociability may help a sales person initiate the sales process, but they’re not enough to bring it home.
Customers want experts: people who know their products and services, understand their applications, understand their place in the market, and can help clients navigate the buying process and make sound decisions.
These are not easy skills to acquire. It takes time, mentoring and lots of on the job training to grow from a Socializer to a Consultant to an Expert. The companies that outperform the competition get this, and work very hard at grooming their sales force into Experts.
What comments or suggestions would you add to this topic?