Consultative Selling, Commitment and Training – Like Oil & Water

commitmentFirst the links:

The Huffington Post and the Hubspot Blog both published an article, by Dan Lyons about OMG and Kurlan and what it takes to succeed in sales.

This article was named Top Sales Article for last week and Top Sales World.  While you are there, check out the contest for Top Salesperson – perhaps you can nominate someone who works for you.

We recently evaluated a sales force where the salespeople had, on average, only 18% of the attributes of a consultative seller.

“How could that be?”, asked the Director of Sales.  “Achieve Global has come in 3 times in 3 years to teach consultative selling!”

That could be the punchline, but it’s not.

So, why didn’t the training on consultative selling stick?  There are reasons aplenty!

1. Salespeople with a low Figure-it-Out Factor (FIOF) don’t pick things up very quickly.  That same finding is used to determine how quickly a new salesperson will ramp up and apply what they learned from training.  A score of 75 or better (out of 100) is representative of a salesperson who will quickly, well, figure things out.  Their average score for 18 salespeople was 46.

2. When you provide sales training, it’s not just new skills that you ask people to learn.  You’re asking them to change how they sell, so in essence, you’re asking them to change who they are as salespeople.  Salespeople with a lack of Commitment don’t have the incentive to change.  They are conditionally committed.  They will do what it takes – up to a point – as long as it’s not too difficult, as long as it’s not to scary, and as long as they agree with what you want them to do.  If you want them to change, and they don’t agree that it’s necessary or that these new skills are important for their success, nothing changes.  I write so much about sales Commitment that a Google search for my articles with commitment turned up 33,500 results!  Just remember, attempting to train salespeople who lack commitment is like combining oil and water.  Attend the EcSell Sales Coaching Summit on April 15 in Charlotte NC!  I’ll be speaking on this very subject of Commitment.  It’s a great conference and well worth the investment!

3. You simply can’t train salespeople to sell consultatively in a 1, 2 or 3-day training.  Our experience suggests that rather than overwhelm them with the fire hose and go away, it works much more effectively to spoon-feed them with a one-hour live, interactive, internet-based approach over 8 months.  Consultative selling is not what most people think it is.  Most salespeople think that you prepare some questions, ask the questions, and when you hear a problem, you provide a solution.  Not really.  9,770 results come up for my articles on Consultative Selling.  Most importantly, it’s a conversation, not a series of questions.  It’s a conversation that’s different from what most salespeople are having with their prospects and it relies heavily on effective listening and note-taking skills.  Sure, questions play a big part, but if listening and note-taking suck, so do the follow-up questions.  Since this is different from what most salespeople have done their entire lives, these types of selling conversations must be demonstrated, through role-plays, time and again, covering all the possibilities and applications, until salespeople finally get the conversation in their heads.  You can’t learn consultative selling any other way.

4. In between training sessions, salespeople must be coached on consultative selling by their sales manager.  In the case of this sales force, sales managers were spending only 12% of their time on coaching and it didn’t include coaching to reinforce, develop or improve consultative selling skills.  The sales managers didn’t really know how to sell consultatively either!

5. In order to effectively apply a Consultative Selling approach, salespeople must have the strengths to support having a conversation like this.  When the particular strengths do not appear in a salesperson’s sales DNA, they become weaknesses.  Need for Approval (need to be liked) and Becoming Emotional (talking to yourself) are huge problems for consultative sellers.

This story appears here because it is fresh in my mind, not because it is in any way unique.  Company after company and sales force after sales force believe they are taking a consultative approach when, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Speaking of truth, that’s all you need to significantly increase sales.  Revealing the truth about your sales force’s true capabilities and future possibilities is all it takes to begin fixing things, coaching them up and growing the revenue.  You should try it!