According to CEOInsights.com, over 48% of inside sales companies surveyed reported that they missed their monthly revenues goals more times in a 12-month cycle than they reached them. Other sales indicators like time on the phone, closing ratios, percentage to monthly goal, etc, pipeline accuracy inevitably suffered as well as sales teams struggled to make quota and reach revenue.
In addition to missing revenue numbers, many other companies indicate that the level of training, core selling skills, and overall selling talent of their sales team could be improved as well. When asked how many companies have a defined sales process in place and a specific training program to reinforce and teach those best practices, our experience tells us that less than 35% of companies have taken the time to define and implement these processes.
While you would expect an under trained sales team to lead to under performance, what is rarely considered is the toll this takes on other factors that contribute to sales decline. Getting rejected daily and repeatedly missing sales lead to a lack of confidence which in turn leads to call reluctance. Getting beaten up for missing quotas leads to poor attitudes and these attitudes spread rapidly throughout a sales organization creating an environment that becomes toxic and self perpetuating.
Is Sales Training Enough?
All companies have some form of sales training, even if it just consists of new reps shadowing senior reps for a few days before they “hit the phones.” While sales training can be graded from inefficient to very effective, there are some important points you should consider when designing your own sales training:
1) Make your overall training not only specific to your product or service, but break your training down to the various parts of your sales cycle and teach best practices for each part. For example, if your first call is simply to set an appointment or send information to a prospect, what are the five benchmarks your reps need to cover for you to consider this a qualified lead?
Having this kind of clarity all the way through your sales cycle will help not only your reps but will help your manager coach them all the way through the sale.
2) Give your reps specific, scripted responses to the sales situations they run into every day. This is the best way to empower your reps and it helps them successfully navigate the sale from beginning (getting through the gatekeeper) through to the end (getting the deal in the door).
An example would be to script out and teach them how to overcome the smokescreen objection of, “I have to show this to my boss” objection. Most sales reps don’t know how to deal with this objection so their usual response is something along the lines of, “OK, when should I get back with you?”
This simply leads to non-qualified leads that clog up pipelines.
A specific, scripted approach to this objection will teach your reps to isolate this objection to see if it’s a smokescreen or a real objection. Have them use something like this: “I understand and I think you should speak to _________. Just out of curiosity, if they say to do whatever you think is best, where are you leaning in regards to using this?”
Again, giving your reps specific tools to navigate through the sale is what is going to help them become successful.
3) Make sales training a daily event. To learn a new skill of any kind you need to reinforce it daily. We recommend running a brief sales meeting every morning to reinforce the skills and techniques that your top 20% are using successfully. Playing recordings, role playing, passing out updated scripts are all things that will help your team improve on a daily, weekly basis.
Specific Sales Solutions
In alignment with the suggestions above, here are three specific sales solutions that you can adapt and implement to immediately make your inside sales team more effective. These are proven skills that will help your team navigate past some of the common objections, brush offs and situations they encounter on a daily basis. You can use these techniques as sales meeting topics and have your team help to customize them to fit their selling situations.
#1 – Question the Red Flags
One of the best ways to determine who actually does make it into your sales pipeline is to make sure you avoid one of the biggest mistakes 80% of salespeople make when qualifying. And that is to overlook or not react to obvious Red Flags prospects give during the initial qualifying call.
In their haste or desperation to “generate a lead” or to “fill their pipeline,” many sales reps will hope that any possible objection they hear on the front end will miraculously go away once the prospect sees their information or product or service, etc.
But you all know from experience — it never does.
In fact, the rule for calling back leads is that:
Leads Never Get Better!
What appears to be an objection or deal killer on the front end, always is.
A sales rep told me about a prospect who wasn’t calling him back, and who (once he did reach him) told him that he was leaving the company. He wrote to me and said, “I guess intuitively I knew he wasn’t the right guy to make the decision anyway.”
And I’ll bet he intuitively knew this because he heard (but didn’t question) the Red Flags the prospect raised during the qualification call.
You can’t ignore these Red Flags! Do what the Top 20% do: As soon as you hear something that triggers your intuition or that gives you that sick feeling in your gut, stop and ask the tough qualifying questions!
Here are some examples you can begin using today:
If someone says that they usually buy from ________, but would like to see your information, ask:
“Why would you switch vendors?” Or
“How many other companies have you looked at in the last six months?”
And then: “And how many did you go with?”
If someone says that they will pass your information on to ________, say:
“Thanks. So that I make sure I’m not wasting her time it’s best that I speak with her for just a few minutes. Can you please tell her that (your name) is holding please?” (If you’re then told they are not available, make sure and get their direct line or that person’s extension and keep calling until she picks up.
If someone says that they’d be glad to look it over, ask:
“Great, after you do, and if you think that it can help you (or your business, etc.), what would the next steps be?”
And so on.
#2 Teach your reps how to avoid getting brushed off
So many times prospects aren’t really interested, but they either don’t know how or won’t come out and tell us. Instead they will say things like, “Go ahead and send me the (information, brochure, demo) and I’ll take a look.” Or, “Put that quote in writing and send it to me.”
When a top closer hears this, his/her first thought is, “I don’t have the time to do that, and I especially don’t have the time to follow up with an unqualified lead.” Here’s how they handle it and how your reps should, too:
Put off #1: “Go ahead and send me your information.”
Your response: “I’d be happy to, and if you like what you see is this something you would move on in the next couple of weeks?”
“Before I do, I want to make sure you’d be ready to act on it if you like it. Let me ask you…(qualifying questions on budget, decision-making process, etc should be asked next)”
“Sure, and after you review it, how soon would you make a decision on it?”
“And what would you need to see to say yes to it?”
Put off No. 2: “Put that quote in writing and send it to me.”
Your response: “I’d be happy to, and from what we’ve just discussed, does it sound like you’d go with it?”
“Absolutely. How does this compare with the other quotes you’ve received so far?”
“Great. Based on the quote/price I just gave you does this sound like it fits within your budget?”
#3 Five Ways to Stop Talking Past the Close
Have you ever caught your reps doing this? They deliver a great presentation, think that your prospect is with them, but then they just keep on pitching.
Or, they get an objection, answer it, but then again, they just keep pitching — or worse — they go to the next rebuttal and start reading that pitch.
Talking past the close is much more common than repeatedly asking for the sale (which is what they should be doing). And why is that? It’s because it’s scary to ask for the deal and be told no. It’s much easier to keep pitching, “Maybe they’ll just cave and finally hear something they want and buy.”
Sound familiar? It should. That’s how 80% of your sales reps are pitching. They are ad-libbing, talking past the close, and even introducing new objections. What a mess!
Here are five ways to stop talking past the close, so your reps can spend more time closing, and earning the income the Top 20% do:
1) Record yourself. Before you can stop talking past the close, you first must begin hearing and catching yourself doing it. One day of recording your reps and you’ll become immediately aware of when and how they do it.
2) Use a script. One of the best parts of a well-crafted script is that it ends with your reps asking for the deal! Listen to their recordings and then craft a good response to the common objections they are getting. Then, make sure they adhere to the script.
3) Ask for the deal five times. If you give your reps a close quota of asking for the deal at least five times, then they are going to be much quicker in asking for it.
Have them keep track of this on a piece of paper using stick figures. If 20 minutes has gone by and they don’t have any marks on the paper, then you know your team is in trouble!
4) Welcome getting a no. So many sales reps are afraid of no’s, but you don’t have to be. With most sales you’ve made, you’ve probably heard some no’s along the way, so reframe the way your team thinks about them and realize the truth — each no gets you closer to a yes. So welcome getting a no. It usually means you’re that much closer to getting the sale.
5) Shut up and listen. Teach your team to be quiet after they ask for the sale. Use your mute button or cover the mouthpiece and count to five – 1/1000, 2/2000, etc. By forcing your reps to remain silent for five seconds after asking for the sale, they’ll actually have something to concentrate on rather than fear.
If your sales team is in the 50% of teams that aren’t making their monthly sales quotas regularly, then daily, specific sales training is your fastest way of changing that. There are other factors as well, including having a Defined Sales Process, an organized sales training program that reinforces your best practices, etc. But using and reinforcing the three techniques above will bring you and your team immediate results.