It’s no secret that the majority of decision-makers view sales meetings as interruptions. In the age of prevalent sales technology and tech-driven practices like email blasts and automatic dialers, executive-level buyers are more guarded than ever before. When reps do manage to schedule a call, they often fall back on their extensive knowledge of product, features and price instead of communicating value from the potential buyer’s perspective.
As a sales leader, how do you coach your teams on forming authentic human-to-human connections and meeting executives on their level? By helping your salespeople develop the skills to identify and communicate relevant, credible and reliable solutions to the problems faced by executives and their organizations.
In order to determine the potential business impact that a solution or product can provide, salespeople must possess the business acumen to understand how the enterprises they are targeting operate and the financial terminology used to measure success. After all, no one wants to learn about a product or service until you can prove that you care about them and his or her most pressing business issues. Executive-level buyers expect sales reps to focus on them and facilitate their process to solve their problems. They want qualified salespeople who can demonstrate a knowledge of their business, key performance indicators (KPIs), industry and market position — and communicate this knowledge concisely and confidently. Sales reps only have one shot to prove their relevance and credibility, which is why it’s vital to develop their business acumen.
How can sales leaders help their teams add value to executive-level buyers and their organizations? Here are the answers to the three most common questions salespeople have when developing the discernment necessary to meet executives on their level.
1. Which Specific Areas Should I Be Researching?
It’s rare to encounter a sales professional who does not see the importance of research when preparing for a sales call, but sales leaders must find ways to help their team members streamline their research processes. First, encourage your reps to investigate the overall health of the organization. If the company is public, salespeople can go directly to the heart of the matter by looking at their balance sheets, income statements and cash flows. Expanding the search to include trade publications can provide valuable insights on the context of the industry as a whole. All too often, companies look strong in a vacuum but, when stacked against their competitors, are being outperformed and are at risk.
Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to finding all of the information a sales rep needs. In fact, it’s more about scanning a number of different resources, identifying trends and synthesizing information to form conclusions and questions that the sales rep will use to engage the executive and see if there’s an opportunity to provide value by addressing key business issues.
Remember, it’s not necessary that sales reps become the peers to C-level executives — but they can certainly be relevant, credible and add insight by adopting an executive’s perspective and having an engaging business conversation.
2. How Do I Transition From Connecting to Selling?
Salespeople are hunters by nature: It’s all too common for reps to move quickly to the pitch. However, as a sales leader, you must help your team understand that connecting is selling. The reason that we spend time researching business issues and confirming our research is because it allows us to identify problems that are actually worth solving. Many enterprises have problems that no one is interested in solving, which is why it is so crucial to develop the business acumen of your team.
Instruct your sales reps to think beyond mere pain points; otherwise, they’ll spend valuable time chasing opportunities that will never close. In order to engage, they must identify a problem that’s clearly connected to a business metric that is on the radar of an executive who has the authority to allocate resources to fix it. From there, it’s easy to help clients build the case to justify the investment in what your organization can provide. But reps cannot help build this case if they fail to understand the business and how it operates.
Possessing the business acumen to understand issues that impact bottom-line or top-line performance is the foundation of value-based selling. If sales reps can’t quantify the problem, they’re going to have a tough time quantifying the value that executives use to make decisions and justify those decisions.
3. What’s the Best Way to Quantify Benefits?
To ensure that they’ve identified a business issue with a potentially impactful resolution, salespeople must realize the power of effective questioning techniques. Start by instilling the importance of open-ended, probing and confirming questions with your team. Not only are open-ended questions useful for driving engagement throughout the sales process, but they are also instrumental for helping reps dig until they’ve identified critical business challenges. From there, probing questions will help salespeople form a more comprehensive understanding of the problem.
These types of questions are also effective tools for expanding the realm of possible solutions, enabling reps to deliberately and purposefully create a context that positions their capabilities well and increases the odds of closing the sale. Confirming questions are also a component of active listening and should be used throughout the conversation to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Encouraging your reps to become efficient note-takers will help them accurately reflect the language that the prospect uses and differentiate themselves in a powerful way.
Keep in mind the importance of flipping the script and focusing on the potential buyer’s needs. When sales professionals demonstrate business acumen and engage executives in the right conversations, prospects are more likely to buy, because they’re not being sold to. Instead, reps are presenting relevant, credible, believable and reliable solutions to their problems.
In an unsteady economy, executive-level buyers guard their time and resources fiercely, which is why it’s critical that salespeople develop the business acumen to effectively communicate on their level. Sales reps who are able to engage decision-makers in productive conversations, identify critical challenges faced by the potential buyer, and clearly quantify the value of their products and solutions will always differentiate themselves from the competition, even in the most competitive of business-to-business (B2B) arenas.