When was the last time you, as the CEO, listened to a conversation a salesperson at your company was having with a prospective buyer?
I’m sure it’s been a while. Further, you have sales leaders who do that, right?
If you were listening to them on a sales call right now, what would you be listening for?
Most would listen to hear if there were any objections. If the price was an issue. If the salesperson discounted quickly. They’d be listening to hear if salespeople were properly qualifying the prospect. If they asked all the right questions for that stage of the opportunity. Of course, if they were at that point, they’d be listening to how the salesperson closed the deal or if they didn’t close it.
However, those would be the wrong things to listen for.
What Have We Trained Them to Do?
We’ve trained our salespeople to ask a set of questions on each call that will either qualify a prospect or try to move them to the next step in the sales process.
We’ve trained them to pitch and demo.
We haven’t trained them to have a conversation that is worthwhile to the prospects.
Some buyers will grin and bear it because they don’t know what else to do and need what you are selling. However, these old fashion sales calls are not working well anymore, and it’s part of the reason that a prospect won’t even get on a call with your salesperson. They prefer a seller-free buying process.
They don’t want to be asked if they have the authority to make the decision, if they have a budget, and what their timing is. The buyers don’t want to be pitched and demoed.
What Do Buyers Want?
Buyers want to talk to someone who can add insight and ask questions to help them better understand the problem they are trying to solve and the results the solution can provide. If you are not familiar with this type of conversation, read Conceptual Selling by Stephen Heiman and Robert Miller.
As my friend Brent Keltner says, “Don’t talk about your product until you know how it will make your customer more successful, and then talk about your product aligning to what their goals are for a better future.”
Are We Listening to Sales Calls for the Right Things?
One thing that drives me crazy is that we are listening to sales calls for the wrong things.
There are many great tools for listening to sales calls, like Gong and Chorus. Sales leaders can hear both sides of the conversation and can even search keywords and more, but those tools don’t ensure they listen for the right things.
They need to be listening to sales calls to see if salespeople are having impactful conversations with buyers. Conversations that further the buyers’ understanding of their problem, uncover significant concerns, and walk through the potential solutions. The discussion should show the buyers where there is a fit between their needs and your solution, then guide them to make a decision.
But salespeople don’t even know how to have these conversations because they’re not trained to do it.
Most training programs, and sales leaders, are still teaching salespeople to ask a set of qualifying questions before they even know if there is a good fit for the customer.
As CEO, if you don’t know what your sales leaders are listening for, they may be perpetuating an old-fashioned way of selling that is preventing sales.
Just think about how you want to be treated when you are making a purchase for your company.
Once a buyer knows you understand their problem (which shows you care) and can solve it, they will offer all the needed information and introduce you to the other decision-makers. At that point, it becomes very easy to move the sale forward, especially if your salespeople are trained to use a Mutual Action Plan – MAP.
Do your sales teams need to be retrained?
Where’s the Buyer in This?
If you understand your customer’s journey, you will know how your salespeople should interact and when. Don’t know it? It’s time to assemble a team to map your customer’s journey against your sales process.
Keep in mind the buyer’s journey doesn’t end when they buy. It continues long beyond the close if you plan to retain customers and upsell them and further if you plan to get referrals from them.
Your team should be providing an exceptional customer experience from hello to I’m your loyal customer.
So maybe you should listen to a conversation or two. Listen to hear if your salespeople are having a conversation that matters or if they are asking questions just to get information. Listen to hear if the buyer shares their goals or mentions how your solution could make them more successful.
If you’re wondering why deals aren’t closing, then when you do loss reviews, stop asking the standard questions and start asking if they discovered all the buyers’ concerns, if they understood their problem thoroughly, if they added value and helped them make a good decision.
Sellers need to change from givers of information to guides. And then, sales leaders should be listening to sales calls with this gold standard in mind.
Today the seller’s job is to guide the conversation so that the buyer learns more about their problem and how it can be solved. They need to have conversations that matter with all involved in making the decision and bring them to a consensus. Are you training them on how to bring a team to a consensus?
Buyers are fatigued, and they need help. The companies that have salespeople who care, support, and guide are winning.
What’s your sales team doing? Maybe it’s time to listen and find out.
Want more on this topic? Listen to my conversation with Brent on Sales Talk for CEOs.
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.