By Jim Szafranski
On most sales teams there are top performers and those who see only moderate success, but three standout strategies can help turn everyone into an A player.
Implementing these sales management practices can seem intimidating – especially when you’re trying to deliver results – but you can accomplish a little at a time, in pockets of your team, to produce the step-by-step improvements we all seek when we are trying to deliver sustainable results.
- Master Remote Collaboration
Collaboration in the context of a sales team simply means focusing on being your prospect’s ally and partner rather than treating them as a short-term goal for your benefit. Anyone can be told directly what they need and how to get it, but, by working together and using dialogue to come to these conclusions, a salesperson is able to build trust and rapport that is central to identifying a winning solution. This is becoming especially important as prospects do more research – often developing opinions about you, your company, and your product even before the first meeting takes place.
Since the majority of today’s software selling happens over the phone, taking extra care to ensure collaboration feels personal is important. At my previous company, Fiberlink, I encouraged my team to carry one simple objective into every meeting: learn about your customer. If you go into a call hoping to learn about your prospect rather than pitch them, it won’t matter that you can’t see each other – the organic conversations that come out of that can build a profitable foundation.
- Find the Plus 1
By the second time your sales reps interact with a prospect, they should have a customized plan for how they’re going to help. After analyzing the top performers at Fiberlink, I noticed they consistently identified three product features that influenced a prospect to move forward with our solution. While two of these primary issues were relatively universal and easy for a sales rep to execute, it was the third one – the thing that completed the solution and often was something the prospect couldn’t simply articulate upfront – that resulted in a sale.
This wildcard feature that closed the deal? It differs from prospect to prospect. Identifying it through education, discovery, and communicating its necessity became our focus, and we called it our “2 + 1” sales process. To aid our sales reps and simplify scaling, we packaged this education and discovery process in a single graphic of a solution map, which then acted as a conversational tool to help the entire team excel.
By creating a process around this 2 + 1 strategy and sharing it with the rest of the department, Fiberlink was able to go from single-digit to double-digit lead-to-close rates across all sales executives before we were ultimately acquired by IBM. That remote sales success and process, I believe, was core information IBM wanted to learn from Fiberlink.
- Activate Customer-led Conversations
Neither truly collaborating with prospects nor finding the Plus 1 would be possible if sales reps were forced to stick to a script. More and more companies today are discovering what our sales management team learned at Fiberlink – that pitches are at their best and most effective when there’s room for exploration and discovery based on the prospect’s needs and pace, not the rep’s.
When you ditch the script and let the prospect lead the conversation, it turns finding the solution into a puzzle. Solving it together is not only the fun part, but an approach that makes getting to the sale an authentic and smooth experience.
Encourage your sales team to let the prospect take the reins. If they’re nervous about leaving their memorized lines behind, take the time to coach them in one-on-one sessions. Use a solution map or live product demo as your conversation script. There’s no shortcut around ditching the script; learning how to listen and talk with, not at, prospects is and will continue to remain crucial for sales success.
A conversational approach to content is highly beneficial at all points in the sales process. Trust is built, dialogue is genuine, and participants are able to arrive at a solution quickly and naturally. The ability to get to the crux of a customer’s interests each and every time you communicate with them creates a consistently relevant and engaging experience. And those are the types of experiences that lead to both purchases and consistently happy customers.
At my current company, Prezi, our sales management team calls this approach “conversational presenting.” We’re learning that it can benefit any department, but the sales- and marketing-specific rewards are extraordinary. Our new platform, Prezi Business, was built around this approach, and aims to make delivering the right information and the right amount of information in a conversational manner as easy as it should be.
Jim is in charge of overall customer and business operations at Prezi. Since earning his engineering and management degrees from MIT and Stanford, he’s built his career around helping users and communities adopt new Internet and mobile technologies. He’s passionate about making new technology fun by creating innovative user experiences and business models. Prior to Prezi, he was SVP of product management, customer acquisition, and success at Fiberlink (acquired by IBM) where he helped build the company’s industry-leading mobile enterprise cloud platform. When he’s not pursuing Prezi’s mission to help millions of people communicate better, you’re likely to find him in his backyard with his children and his home-improvement list.