Is Your Sales Force Trained to use Higher-Level Thinking Skills?

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I’m reviewing the agenda for this week’s Advanced Selling Strategies workshop for sales managers and senior sales executives, where our goal is to prepare attendees to sell more effectively to the upper end of their company’s target markets. (Workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, March 19 & 20. Contact information below)

Our experience is that most attendees are likely to be grounded in, and comfortable with the lower-level thinking skills of remembering, understanding and applying conventional selling models. Unfortunately these conventional selling models while useful in the small, simple sale, can lead to disaster in the large, complex sale, or when selling to senior level executives, professionals and entrepreneurs.

What we’ve found is that although they may claim otherwise, most sales people (and their companies) rarely have a clearly defined sales strategy. Neither were they trained to weave the higher-level thinking skills into their sales process. Let’s therefore quickly look at what a sales strategy is, and why sales people should employ higher-level thinking skills.

A sales strategy defines who a company’s customers and prospects are, what the value proposition is, and how the selling is done. It articulates the communication and other activities that need to take place between the company and its customers and prospects, with the goal of understanding customer needs and demonstrating how the company’s products and services can create value by meeting those needs.

Implied in this definition is that to be effective at penetrating that 20% of customers who provide 80% of their business, sales executive must step up their game to engage higher-order thinking skills of analysing, evaluating and creating, so that they can offer better solutions that their clients had anticipated. Now this matter of getting sales people to create value from the way that they sell rather than merely communicating value, is critical to the firm’s competitive advantage. Indeed where there is product parity, your sales force could be your only real differentiator. Worse if you’ve got new products or plan to enter new markets.

Our experience is that most sales executives need assistance to effectively craft or modify their sales strategy for different markets and changing customer needs. Equally, some measure of hand-holding (read skilful coaching) is required to habitually weave higher-level thinking skills into their sales process.

Need help to cross that bridge? Let me know.

Herman D. Alvaranga is president of the Caribbean School of Sales Management. Please contact him by E-mail: hdalvaranga@cssm.edu.jm

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