As a sales manager, a large part of your job is making sure everyone in your team is fired up, focused and receiving the training they need to be super effective. You are ultimately responsible for helping them be the strongest they can be.
One of the key challenges you face is that the world of sales is changing at a rapid pace. The way teams must work, and the approach they need to take to successfully engage with today’s B2B buyers is almost unrecognisable compared to what it once was.
It’s now all about consultative selling and other new sales strategies that put the focus firmly onto the customer and their needs, rather than the product you’re trying to push.
For sales reps who may have been around the block a few times and are used to doing things the old school way (e.g. driving the numbers, ‘Always Be Closing’ and high level networking), change can be a difficult pill to swallow. They’d often much rather keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, which means training is more important than ever.
Getting buy-in to anything new is always going to be difficult, especially in the beginning. But, it’s not impossible. Basically, your team needs to see just how successful they can be using the new approach. Once that happens, they’ll never look back. And, once you’ve broken through the barriers and have everyone on board with a new way of winning over buyers, it will be smooth sailing.
So, what training do you need to think about to help your team successfully sell to today’s B2B buyers? Here, we take a closer look at what it may take.
The new breed of B2B buyer
Long gone are the days of B2B buyers seeking information from sales teams. They are well informed, proactive and will carry out lots of research online before ever speaking to a potential vendor. While training in core skills like objection handling and product knowledge will always be needed, you need to think about the specific skills that your team needs to master before approaching this new breed of buyer. Think what those skills may be when you’re dealing with leads who already know a lot, may have engaged with the content on your website already and are very specific about what they want and need.
Content marketing can be an effective tool for getting in front of buyers. That means marketing is now playing a far more central role in the sales process than it has before. It’s not only needed to generate leads but to nurture them along, before passing them over to sales at the right time so the deal can be done. Getting sales and marketing teams working closely together and fully aligned in their thinking is going to be vital for securing new buyers.
It makes little sense for marketing to embark on a content marketing journey unless everyone else in the company is on board with it and understands the process and what they need to contribute. Training around the strategy itself is therefore important, as well as all the key mechanics that fall under it, such as: buyer personas, the buyer journey, content mapping and online lead nurturing.
To get the most out of it, make sure any content you use for your sales and marketing needs is held in a central database that is easily accessible by all team members. Again, some training and guidance will be needed here, so everyone knows what’s there, how it could help them and how to quickly find what they need.
Another big change seen in recent years is the amount of technology now available for sales teams to use. Your biggest challenge is no longer going to be choosing a CRM and getting your sales reps to use it. The key to success is not only having great technology in place that can help you stay on top of your game but to make sure your team knows how to use it and likes using it.
Ways to connect with potential buyers have also changed thanks to advances in the digital world. Email remains a top tool for most teams, however you now have the option to post messages and issue content in all sorts of ways, including via social media channels or using messaging apps. That means you need to know what will work best for your potential buyers, so find out what they are using. At the end of the day, your success is still going to be dependent on how well your team can connect with people.
Social selling is now a very big deal and apps like LinkedIn Sales Navigator have become a power tool that many sales organizations just cannot live without. Likewise, tools like Lead Forensics, which can show you who has visited your website and what they looked at, long before they ever make contact with you, have become invaluable.
It is a mistake to assume your sales team will simply be able to get on and start using these things on their own. Make sure you provide good training and also hold knowledge exchange sessions, where people can talk about the various apps and tools they’ve used and had success with.
Teams need to understand that their customers (in almost all cases) will be embracing all things digital, so you need to meet them on their level. And it can help them in many other ways too. Technology can be really useful for researching prospects, so make sure your team knows how to do that effectively. And remember, technology doesn’t sit still so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for new innovations that could benefit you in the future.
Soft skills training
As well as understanding what a consultative selling approach is and how to deliver it, sales reps need to be expert communicators, with skills in both active listen and asking the right questions.
Here is a rundown of the key skills that any good sales rep should have and which take continuous training to perfect:
- Knowing how to ask questions, both open ended and closed, and when to use which type
- Being able to actively listen and be fully attentive to the person you’re in contact with
- Being skilled in the art of negotiation
- Knowing how to read body language and adapt to the signals you’re receiving
- Being able to develop scripts to effectively qualify leads via the phone
- Strong time management and being able to prioritise effectively
- Improving individual and team productivity
- Networking both on and offline and being able to seamlessly combine the two
- Knowing how to research prospects and get to know their world, taking advantage of the information for sales calls.
A good place to start when considering your training needs is to look at your own data on what’s working and what’s not. Use it to establish where your training needs may lie. Mark Roberge from HubSpot talks in his book “The sales acceleration formula” about how he did exactly that, going on to build HubSpot’s extraordinarily successful sales team.
It’s also never a bad idea to take a step back and check that everything is running as smoothly as it could be. Then if you need to, get in professional help to plug any skills gaps you may have discovered.
Finally, it can be easy when you’re busy managing a team and trying to stay on top of everything to forget about your own skills development. So, take your own advice and make sure that you never neglect your own training needs.