Why Creating a Great Product is Only Half the Battle
When Og, chief cutter of square, stone wheels, accidentally chiseled a round wheel, he had no idea what he’d done. Only later, fitting the round wheels to his cart, did he realize the benefit. However, it still took the painstaking efforts of Ug, Grr, and Arg to bring his invention to market. And so, it goes. Without an effective sales team, even the best products fade into history.
Today, the sales environment grows at an unprecedented rate. And creating a superior product is still only half the battle. Even the most useful offerings require effective sellers. After all, what good is a great product if it sits on a shelf? Here are practical, time-tested, and proven tips to build a top-notch sales team for your most innovative solutions:
Hiring the Right People
When selecting a sales candidate, many managers rely on their gut instinct. If the applicant is charming, personable, and has a nice resume, they’re worth the chance. At best, this candidate had a 50/50 shot—and that was selling the only widgets to desperate buyers.
In contrast, today’s buyers are too savvy. They read the product specs, comparison shopped, and drew conclusions—before they contacted you. Sellers must know the latest techniques and leverage new technology to display, explain, and ultimately sell their wares. When hiring salespeople, consider these tips:
- Experience counts.
- Experience with product type and customer base counts more.
- Attitude and thirst for knowledge matter.
- Adaptability and motivation are key attributes for today’s sellers.
- Proficiency with technology is a huge plus.
One aftereffect of the pandemic is uncertainty and distrust. Buyers are hesitant to commit. This means selling is second to security. Today, sellers must connect with buyers, build a rapport, and be trusted advisors. In addition to experience, consider these questions:
- Can the rep express empathy?
- Can they listen more than they speak?
- Can they display genuine enthusiasm for your products?
- Can they respectfully disagree in the client’s best interest?
- Can they build relationships?
As sales reps are the face of your company, it’s essential you choose the right ones. Go the extra step. In addition to experience and personality, look for these attributes:
- They can think fast and learn on the fly.
- They’re open to coaching and training.
- They are adaptable to different situations.
- They are positive and enthusiastic team members.
If that seems like a lot, it is. Remember, the right team members are an investment in your future. Considering the commitment required to develop products, you need an equal investment in hiring the best sales team. Next up is ensuring the reps you hire can learn, grow, and succeed in your organization.
Invest in Sales Training
Every sales organization has their own onboarding process. These are the in-house steps you take to ensure a new hire is prepared for your organization. Often, this includes paperwork, videos, meetings, and even coaching. Just as onboarding prepares, sales training builds skills, boosts drive, and help reps succeed.
As the sales landscape continues to shift, training can ensure your reps are on the cutting edge. Today, training can refreshen skills, reinforce behaviors, introduce tips, and leverage technology. When considering sales training, consider the following:
- Enlist a qualified and experienced training partner.
- Check their ROI for past success.
- Ensure their curriculum can be tailored to your industry.
- Invest in refresher programs and continued coaching.
Today, there are many qualified sales training programs available. This is a tribute to the success of training to boost productivity and drive sales. However, not all training programs are created equal. And not all will be right for your products and team. When selecting a training partner, treat the process like onboarding a sales rep. It is an equal investment in your team.
In addition to the program and curriculum, the individual trainer is an important consideration. When selecting a trainer, consider these qualities:
- Sales and industry experience
- Personality and sense of humor
- Training experience, both in person and virtual
- Interaction and engagement
- Storytelling to enhance learning
Along with the trainer, consider your team members. Not every student will benefit from every teacher. Sometimes, it’s more than
knowledge and experience. It’s the interaction of personalities that helps teachers reach students. The same is true of sales trainers. To get the most from your investment, select the trainer who can best motivate and inspire your team.
Link Coaching to Training
With the cost and logistics, training is often an irregular event. Of course, the best training partners will include periodic refreshers and updates to ensure retention. In addition, you want to link your sales training initiatives to your coaching. After all, regular coaching is paramount to the success of your team. From onboarding, managers should schedule periodic coaching, either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, throughout a rep’s tenure.
In addition to regularity, coaching should mix both group and individual sessions. For many managers, group coaching works well for discussing a sales team’s overall performance as well as encouraging group role-play and peer review sessions. Individual sessions are best for tracking a rep’s outcomes and setting new goals. In addition, the best coaching is tied to training. For many organizations, coaching continues the process of training. To link your coaching to sales training, consider these tips:
- Managers must participate in training.
- Managers should be instructed on the training curriculum.
- Managers should link their coaching to the specifics of sales training.
- Managers should assess performance and measure outcome based on sales training.
In addition to linking your coaching to training, managers should ensure coaching includes specific product instruction. While the cliché is salespeople pushing products people don’t need, the reality is different. Even the best products need better sellers to demonstrate their effectiveness and value.
Track the Outcomes of Your Sales Process
Another aspect of building the best sales team is establishing key performance indicators (KPIs). These quantifiable measurements ensure your salespeople employ the skills and behaviors needed to sell your products and succeed. While there are literally hundreds of KPIs to track, here are some of the more important ones:
- Percentage of Sales Team Hitting Quota: This lets you know if an issue is endemic to your team or an individual rep.
- Average Deal Size: This shows if your deals are growing or declining.
- Conversion/Win Rate: This is the percentage of leads that become customers.
- Revenue: This is the amount of money you take in during a specific window of time.
- Sales Funnel Leakage: This shows where your leads drop out of the sales funnel.
Of course, depending on the size of your sales organization, this list can grow exponentially. While KPIs are vital for managers, don’t complicate metrics for reps. It’s best to focus on a handful for each sales rep, depending on the types of clients they have. This way, you can measure the amount of sales training and coaching they employ in their efforts. In addition, it reveals what’s working and what’s not. Once you know this, you can set new benchmarks and address issues.
With its emphasis on measurement and metrics, sales can seem like a numbers game. However, the best managers know it’s so much more. Just as your reps must connect with prospects and build relationships, the same goes for managers and reps. A few percentage points here or there pale next to motivation and drive. So long as reps have these, training and coaching will boost the numbers, for both reps and your organization.
We remember innovative products, like our first computer, smart phone, and new car. However, behind each were marketing and sales teams. These unsung folks rolled out the products, built momentum, and placed them in consumers’ hands. Without their efforts, the products—indeed, our lives—would be vastly different. This principle applies to every professional salesperson, no matter what they sell. Of course, creating products that satisfy needs, solve problems, and improve lives is a gift. However, for the success of an organization, it is only half the battle. The other half is the team assembled to sell it. When these work together, the products touch lives and make individuals and organizations stronger.
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