While I agree that sales skills are important, my experience is you gain those skills on the field of battle. Reading a book or taking a “training” class, while helpful, do not build confidence or the experience necessary to have prior situations to fall back on to improve your skills.
I do think the law of large numbers is the best training ground for new salespeople.
There are some basic principles, that for me, with salespeople I have hired and trained over the years, have proven to be true.
Five basic sales principles
1. Salespeople don’t need more “qualified” leads, they need more leads to “qualify”. If it was easy to “get” qualified leads everyone one would have them.
2. Salespeople have to develop their own selling “style.” I can’t sell like anyone else and my guess is if anyone tried to sell like me they may not do well. I can talk to a salesperson about what they may do differently on the “next” call, however I’m not sure anyone can tell me or anyone else what they “should” do. I have seen hundreds of salespeople sell in a way that would never be successful for me, and that’s ok. People who will buy from me buy from me because of the relationship we develop and those who don’t buy from me may buy from someone they more closely align with.
3. People buy on emotion but they are moved to action by logic. Consequently, learning to ask questions is probably the best skill any salesperson can learn. Open-ended, closed-ended, tie-down, inverted tie-down, etc.
4. Learning the difference between a question and an objection helps to close sales. Questions “gather” information and objections “disclose” information, often when we have not closed a sale it is because we did not uncover the real objection, many times because we were too busy “selling” than helping our prospect “buy”!
5. Understand the purpose of questions, if I ask a prospect a question and I answer the question, whose answer is it, mine right? And if I ask a prospect a question and they answer the question then whose answer is it, theirs right?
The benefit of open-ended questions
Now, do you believe a prospect is more likely to believe a salesperson’s answer or their own answer?
And if their answer “is” the solution then who are they more likely to believe?
An example: You are talking to a prospect and they have a limited benefit plan, say, “pays up to $800 for a brain scan.” (Just an example).
You could explain all the pitfalls and financial risks of “up to $800″; you could talk about the cost of tests and procedures and learn if they want that financial risk. Or, you could ask open-ended questions, then use tie-down questions so their answer becomes the “solution.”
Example: “Now, on your plan, when it says up to $800 dollars for a brain scan, what does “up to” mean to you?”
Then, let them answer, no matter how they frame the answer. Then follow up with another question…
Example: “…so when you say it pays up to $800 then if you had a procedure like this and the procedure was, say, $2,000 then how much would your plan pay?” (I know it seems silly and simple, they will do the math and answer the question, and this is how we will build credibility and confidence from the prospect.)
Now let them do the math, you’ll be tempted to provide the answer, however let them do the math.
Example: “Ok, then if your plan would pay $800 how much would you have to pay out of your pocket?”
Again, let them answer..”$1,200 dollars…”
Now the salesperson responds with a tie-down question that then becomes the solution…
Example: “So, is that what you were expecting to pay?” This has to come across sincere and matter of fact.
Regardless of how they answer (the 80% rule, the way 80% of how people buy) when they say no, or they didn’t realize, etc, don’t explain or sell, like you will “feel” like doing, rather use another tie-down to do the assumptive close…
Example: “Then on any new plan you design today you’d be expecting this to be covered?”
When they say yes…
Example: “So, on a new plan you’d want the insurance company to pay all of this, is that correct?” You say this as you write take down notes.
While we can explain this process, we can even demonstrate it. But, until a new salesperson actually works through this process with a prospect, they won’t learn how to do it or commit it to memory. And, to make the process work, they will hve to meet with client after client until it becomes an integrated part of their sales personality.
The law of large numbers is the best learning ground. There is not a shortcut or some “natural” skill salespeople will have that they can shortcut the sales process.
Anyway, just my thoughts. I could be wrong, then again, I realize I was wrong, once.