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The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

Post Series: voice of customer

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer and voice of your markets is critical to hitting your sales and profit objectives today. With all the changes and shifts occurring at a much faster pace than ever before market leading organizations are capturing the voice of your customer to insure they improve sales productivity and achieve profitable sales growth. In this post I will share how customer voice research helps identify needed shifts in how we train our sales organizations.

 

I can remember, growing up in Cleveland Ohio when the Circus came to town. There was such an excitement. Streets would be closed for parades and as children we would line the streets to see the clowns, tigers, and elephants. Our families would buy our tickets and we filled the big top. If we were really lucky, our parents would buy a ticket so we could sit on an elephant. Even as a child I felt sorry for the elephants, they seemed to have a sad, almost surrendered look in their eyes. They looked more like their spirits have been broken than trained.

 

2017 is the end of the greatest show on earth. Why? I was not alone all these years feeling sorry for these magnificent elephants and other animals. Animal rights groups investigated how elephants were treated and trained. Elephants are first given a large tight chain around one of their ankles and the other end of the chain is staked into the ground a specific distance away. The elephant quickly learns the length of its chain. If the elephant tries to wander beyond its training limits it experiences pain. Over time the elephant surrenders and the chain is removed and a much smaller rope is used. However the elephants, now “ trained “ do not try to explore. They are set in their ways. Even with the chain removed they do not step outside of their understood paradigm. Consumers learned about training conditions and ticket sales decreased . The Circus announced it would no longer have elephants in its show by 2018. However they adjusted too late. The greatest show on earth is over.

 

At a recent Toastmasters meeting I heard this story about elephant training and it reminded me of how some sales teams have been trained over the years. Before the “Internet of things” we often chained our sales teams to features and benefits. Our training was 90%-75% technical and maybe 10%-25% communications and relational. I was trained in this time and it made sense back then. Buyers did not have easy access to your product specifications. If a buyer wanted and needed technical information about a product or service sales was the keeper of the information keys so to speak. There was no Google searches, Smart phones, …heck we did not have laptops or cell phones when I was trained to sell. Back then we were trained in 2-3 day long death by power point presentations and given 3” thick three ring binders with copies of all the slides and more product data sheets than we could ever want or need. We were taught to sell using features and benefits, and “overcome objections”.

 

In a post some time agoI shared the leading reason why sales stall or decline is a shift, a change occurred and the team failed to recognize it and failed to adapt and pivot. I see customer voice research work helping us to adapt how we train our sales teams for markets of today. What buyers want and need has changed. In most industries buyers have instant access to technical data now.

 

I want to emphasize salespeople who are our serving their customers and meeting with potential new customers must still understand the technical information and be able to accesses it quickly to give their buyers amazing service and win more business. I believe buyers are telling us through voice of the customer work their needs have changed and sales training must adapt to those changes. Your type of product and industry requirements will dictate how much your training will need to adapt to your buyers of today.

 

How should sales training evolve today?

 

In an excellent article by Bob Apollo the author shares …

 

 

 

“It’s a sad fact that today’s average B2B sales person is still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being far more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits

Even more telling the author explains ….

87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population. Needless to say, the gap between the best and the rest is far narrower in best-in-class sales organizations. What sets these top performing organizations apart?

There’s abundant evidence to suggest that one of the most significant differences lies in their ability to systematically create unique value to their customers through the disciplined application of value-based selling techniques

Buyers today no longer want (not that they ever really did) salespeople trained in overcoming objections. Buyer’s today value a salesperson that understands their industry and possible challenges the buyers company may be facing and offers value based solutions to those problems.

Why are many teams adapting Value based selling?

Jim Heffernan shares in his article: Why Value Based Selling Is So Successful ……

Good value-based sales techniques are tailored to the needs of the customer, making them understand why they are buying a quality product for the asking price. Value selling resolves potential customer issues with pricing and prevents the stalling of important deals and the wasting of precious employee man-hours.”

Market leading organizations listen to their buyers and are adapting. I see companies allocating 50% of training to technical product training and 50% to value based selling, understanding buyer personas, commutation skills. presentation skills and other sales methods like the challenger model. Studies show companies who have a complex sales environment experience 4.5 times greater performance when applying the challenger model. Teams are adapting based on their type of product, market and what their buyers are requiring in terms of much needed criteria to help them make buying decisions today. Market leading sales teams are no longer chained to training methods that fail to serve how buyers buy and what buyers need to buy today. They have a balance of technical, relational and strategic sales and communication training. As markets change, and they will, salespeople are encouraged to venture beyond their current skill levels and explore and learn new skills and adpat to better serve their customers.

Just as markets shift how our buyers shift. Therefore how we train our sales teams must also adapt to give our buyers the best overall buying experience and equip our teams with a strategic advantage to help them win more business. For example Richard Branson shares just how important communication is and how story telling is a powerful communication strategy. Warren Buffet recently shared how if we want to double our value we need to improve our communication skills. John Millen shared in an article ….

“Buffett believes so strongly in the importance of leaders being effective communicators that he offered his own return-on-investment estimate for effective communication.”

There are many benefits of listening to your customers and capturing and leveraging customer voice. One big benefit this current understanding provides is how we train and equip our sales teams to serve their customers.

We must also capture the voice of our internal salespeople and leverage that information into new sales training and tools. We need to ask and understand what our salespeople are facing and develop tools and training to serve them.

 

What do your buyers value today?

 

How do your buyers want to be served today?

 

What % of your sales training today is technical verse value based sales techniques?

 

Does your sales training today include communication training?

 

Could how your salespeople are trained to communicate with buyers become your value proposition?

 

Conduct internal and external customer voice research and adapt your sales training to how your buyers want and need to buy today and enjoy profitable sales growth. Sales today are no longer about being the greatest “show” on earth and have evolved into the greatest “value” on earth. Sales today is about serving your customers and helping them buy. Our training must help our salespeople build trust early and often in the sales process.

We must adjust how we train our teams.

 

What if the Circus was listening to their buyers voice sooner and learned new ways to train their elephants?

 

Would they be going out of business today?

 

My guess is no.

 

What new sales training is your team adding today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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