By Julie Thomas
Some questions I hear constantly from clients are: “How do our sales reps gain access to the executives they need to call on?” and “How do they prepare for success when they get there?”
The reality is that executives want to talk to other business people. If your reps want to sell higher, they must understand and speak the language of business – the language of finance. Help them learn to think like an executive and develop business acumen by encouraging them to go through these three steps:
Step 1: Investigate a buyer’s company, industry, finances, and people. Do a Google search and you’ll see how easy it is to get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” Give your team the tools to rapidly sift through mounds of information to uncover salient, relative nuggets that can be used in a communications strategy. What’s currently going on in the buyer’s business? Where’s the industry headed? What do the business financials tell you? Who are the key people on the purchase decision?
Remind your reps that, when researching, they need to avoid going down rabbit holes. Instead, they should search the most reliable publications; get information about the prospect’s company, industry, financials, and people; and notice the most recent changes in the executive’s business.
Step 2: Predict the most likely business issues and problems. Based on the information they discover, sales reps need to be able to quickly spot business issues and problems and assess the general health of a business. Is the business growing? Shrinking? Facing new opportunities? Within that context, the sales rep needs to connect your solution to what’s going on in the executive’s business.
To sell higher, your sales reps need to know enough about relevant business issues to be conversant, intelligent, and credible when talking with an executive. Encourage your team members to make educated guesses about important business issues and confirm them with the executive throughout the sales meeting.
Step 3: Prepare to gain access and plan for the upcoming business conversation. According to SiriusDecisions, 65 percent of sales leaders say their top challenge is that reps spend too much time not calling. Take a good hard look at what the individuals on your sales team are doing in lieu of making sales calls. Are they procrastinating because they lack confidence in gaining access to executives? Are they failing to prepare properly for the sales call? If they get in to see the right people, are they wasting precious meeting time focusing on the technical aspects of your products and services?
The highest performing reps are those who have more meetings, which results in more opportunities. But first, a sales rep must gain access. Give your team methods to get past gatekeepers with messages that are so compelling executives want to meet. Listen to their introductions and gauge whether they can immediately establish credibility.
Landing an important sales meeting with an executive who holds the power and authority to make the purchase is not about luck. It’s about knowing how to turn information into insight. It’s about developing stories and communications campaigns to gain access. And it’s about engaging executives through business conversations. All it takes is business acumen and effectively investigating, predicting, and preparing for the sales meeting.
To address this critical need, ValueSelling Associates created a blended learning program, Executive Speak™, which gives a basic primer on business and financial acumen, guidance on where and how to hone in on relevant facts about your buyers, and proven tactics to gain access to decision makers.
Streamlining the research process is so important that, as part of Executive Speak™, we developed the 360° Profile Builder™ – a tool that leads sales reps through answering 16 targeted questions about their buyer. The answers are then mapped to a ValuePrompter®, a tool that guides sales reps through a conversational questioning process. Our Executive Speak™ program develops business acumen, giving your sales reps the confidence and competence to sell higher, create more opportunities, and generate more revenue.
Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a business consultant, coach, facilitator, speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time. She has led ValueSelling Associates to become an award-winning, competency- and process-based training provider that measurably improves sales performance in B2B sales organizations around the world. Visit valueselling.com.