In recent years, the Sales Asset Management (SAM) market – Sales Playbooks, Sales Content Management – has exploded. Through newly released tools and more established software suites, companies are utilizing SAM to create, manage, package and distribute high-impact, customer-facing content to the sales team. But getting the right content into the hands of the sales team is only the first step.
In a survey by SiriusDecisions, sales executives and customers reported that the top inhibitors to sales success are the inability to articulate a value message, and a lack of subject matter expertise on the buyer’s industry or solution. Can reps articulate the business value even when provided the content? Most can’t. 85% of reps lose a deal because they cannot outline value.
Questions that need to be asked to determine whether you are maximizing your SAM investment include:
- How do you validate that the knowledge pushed out to your team is understood, absorbed and being used with customers?
- Can your sales people deliver a two-minute explanation of your company value on the spot?
- Can your sales people handle common objections?
- Can your sales people effectively articulate customer stories?
- Do your sales people know which stories are most compelling to customers facing varying business problems?
- Can your sales people adjust their approach based on the competitor they are competing against?
In a recent sit-down I had with Peter Lynch, Talent Executive for Great West Financial and entrepreneur, he identified how to ensure reps are well groomed for their jobs. He had the most memorable and amusing acronym for the three qualities that every sales person should work to access and develop: KFC. Knowledge. Flexibility. Confidence.
Make it easy for your reps to absorb and retain knowledge about your products, customers, competitors and market at the point when they are most motivated – in the field. Peter referenced recent research that shows most people’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. What your reps are learning in a classroom or via a webinar is not being well-retained. Anything that you share with your sales people in the field must be short, engaging and easily accessible. People are more apt to engage with, respond to and retain messages from video. Just like it’s easier to learn to change a tire by watching someone do it on YouTube, it’s easier for your reps to learn about a great customer story by watching it in a short video.
Flexibility is one of the most important skills that a sales person can develop. This skill is about knowing how and when to adjust your message, your style and your plan based on the current customer, business need and situation. A great sales person can listen carefully to a customer and craft the best response or approach based on what that customer is both saying and not saying. Provide your sales reps with peer learning opportunities, shared stories from the field, winning strategies and “what’s worked for me” videos so that they can hone the art of listening, interpreting and being able to craft a story for their customers.
The best sales people are those who are willing to challenge their customers, bring a new world-view to the discussion and deeply believe in the value that they offer with their products and solutions. Confidence in themselves, their ideas and the company’s products is the essential factor. Building confidence is the very first thing every sales rep should do. It comes down to the fact that the person with the most authentic confidence has the most influence. It can’t be faked. And confidence is built through practice, practice and more practice, as well as coaching and feedback from a trusted peer or manager. A star athlete would never go into competition without practicing. Ditto sales: practice builds self-confidence in telling customer stories, handling difficult situations, making that collateral in your SAM come to life with a compelling narrative.
People Buy from People
So for all the investments that have been made in Sales Asset Management systems, the old adage is applicable more now than ever: People buy from people. Your sales reps need to provide consultative value and influence in the buying process to gain trust and commitment from customers. If the assets and technology you have built for Sales and Marketing collateral are not coming to life when your sales team communicates, then your investment is going to waste.