Innovation Junkies Podcast

Seven Critical Practices of a High Performance Sales Team

In this episode, the Jeffs deep-dive into what it takes to be a successful salesperson. They talk about how to deliver a compelling presentation, conditioning your clients to generate referrals, and the seven critical practices of a high performance sales team.

Jeff Standridge (Intro):
Are you ready to change the trajectory of your business and see massive improvements? Each week, we’ll share strategies and practices to generate sustained results and long-lasting success in your organization. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine:
Hey, and this is Jeff Amerine. I’m glad to be back.

Jeff Standridge:
Yes, sir. What do you know? Everything good?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. I know one thing is for sure, sales is the hardest part of any business and it’s the hardest part to get. Right. And I know you know a ton about it. So, why don’t we talk about skilled sales force and how that fits into every successful company?

Jeff Standridge:
You got it. We used to have a leader who said, “Nothing happens until you sell something,” and that’s exactly right, and getting the whole organization to understand that it’s vitally important. But today we’re going to be focused on the seven critical practices of high performing sales teams. Seven critical practices of high performing sales teams. Shall we jump in?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, let’s do it.

Jeff Standridge:
All right.

Jeff Amerine:
Want to talk more about prospecting?

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s talk about it. You want to kick it off or you want me to?

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. Well, we can talk a little bit. I’ll give some perspectives on that. I think prospecting is a grind. Prospecting is something that no one really enjoys doing. It’s the dialing for dollars, it’s qualifying leads, it’s sending out contact emails. I mean, it’s just that process that is, there’s no way to really simplify it even with digital means. But you have to have people that are willing to grind through that process of doing the outreach, of identifying quality leads, and of actually qualifying those leads through a methodical process. So, I know you’ve had a ton of experience, so what’s your experience?

Jeff Standridge:
Couldn’t agree with you more there. And I often tell, not just often, actually always tell every person that I coach from a sales perspective, is that there’s only one thing that differentiates top salespeople from bottom sales people, or I guess I should say the major thing that differentiates top sales people from average or even, well, if you’re a bottom salesperson, you’re probably not going to make it very long. So, let’s say top and average. And every single salesperson who’s ever sold anything, struggles with call reluctance. They struggle with reasons why they can’t prospect, reasons why they can’t go out and call on five more customers. I got to get these invoices out. I got to get this proposal done. I’ve got to do more market research.
The only thing that differentiates top sales people from average sales people, they both experience the same amount of call reluctance, but the top sales people actually block time on their calendar and they treat prospecting almost as a religion, almost like weekly religious services. They do the prospecting, even though they don’t feel like it. So, it is an absolutely vital necessary part of the overall sales process. The prospecting that you do or don’t do today, will come home to roost in 30 to 90 days from today. And so, if you’re prospecting hard, then you’ll begin to see the fruit in 30 to 90 days. If you’re not prospecting hard today, you’ll begin to see the lack of fruit in 30 to 90 days. Feast or famine. So, prospecting is a vital, vital component of it, and you have to put it on your calendar and make it a religious practice.

Jeff Amerine:
I had a mentor that was at Harris Corporation in satellite communications for many years, but it was back in the 1980s and he happened to be from the south. His name was Bill Tankersley, and he used to say, “Folks, selling and prospecting is like shaving. If you don’t do a little bit every day, eventually you’ll be a bum.” Now, I don’t know what that says about us, but I think it’s good advice. I mean, it gets to that point that you said that you’ve got to do a little bit every day.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. That’s right. The second practice of high performing sales teams or sales individuals is accurately identifying client needs. So, I like to tell salespeople, don’t say anything about your product, your service, or your solution, until your client has demonstrated some interest in the benefits you can provide. And the only way for them to do that is for you to understand what their needs are and to really talk with them, ask them questions. And I like to treat it as an exploratory process, almost like a physician of selling. You don’t go to the doctor and you tell them what you want, and they give it to you. You go in there and they ask you questions. They ask you about your height. They ask you about your weight. They ask you about your blood pressure or they diagnose those things. They ask you about your symptoms. So, when you’re engaged with a potential client or a prospect, really understanding what their needs are before you start trying to sell them anything is a vital, vital part of the process.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think it was Covey that said, and he wasn’t saying this specifically about selling, but it applies, “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” With the idea being, you’re really there first to learn, not to pitch, but to learn, to figure out what those pain points are and what those problems are that they’re really interested in having resolved. Couldn’t agree with that more.

Jeff Standridge:
One of the techniques that we teach there is that the one asking the questions is the one controlling the conversation. In other words, don’t go in with a PowerPoint and expect to just stand up and orate for 45 minutes, because you’re not going to get very far. The person asking the questions is the one controlling the conversation. So, when you can get a client to actually begin talking about their business and begin to actually describe to you the business problems that they’re having, because you’ve crafted open ended questions that you’ve asked them in advance. The more you ask questions, the more they begin to trust you. The more they begin to trust you, the more they open up to you. The more you then ask questions, the more they trust, the more they open up. And it’s like this flower that blossoms, and it gives you precisely what you need to then do the next step, which is solution mapping.
And the third step is to actually craft a solution that’s mapped back specifically to those issues in priority order that that client told you that he or she was experiencing. Those business problems that we had talked about previously, every client has them. There is a reason why they’re looking to leverage your product, services, or solutions. You got to find out what they are, and then figure out how to talk about your solution in a way that maps back to those issues, concerns, or business problems.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. And it’s really nice, if you do a good job at this, you can move out of the realm of nice to have and into the realm of must have, because you’ve allowed the customer to tell you what their priorities are and what they’re really interested in.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. The fourth thing is compelling presentations and proposals, so learning how to talk in front of a client, learning how to read verbal cues. I can’t tell you the number of times, I’ve had a situation where I had a 15 slide slide-deck and the executive decision maker came in five minutes late, walked in, and he said, “I have seven minutes.” And everything in me wanted to start at slide one and go all the way through slide 15, because I’d worked hard on my slide deck, but that would not be very client-centric. So, what I had to learn to do was to step back and say, “Okay, well, I wasn’t planning on that, but I’ll tell you what, let me reswizzle here for a minute”,  go to slide 13, and then lead with your ace, answer questions as they come up, and then move to the close. And so, learning how to read that room, how to deliver a compelling presentation, but also how to actually adapt and readjust on the fly, is absolutely critical.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. I mean, I’ve experienced that as well at times when you’re all prepared and they say, well, the executive or the person that has the buying authority will come and say, “Well, these are the three things that I want to know about.” And sometimes you don’t use the deck at all, it’s a conversation. A lot of times the choreography of a presentation is one thing, the Q&A is where that game is won or lost. So, your ability to respond to specific questions they have and overcome objections is where you win oftentimes, and where you differentiate yourself from anybody else that’s just standing up there giving a presentation.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s absolutely right. And you just made a great segue into the fifth item, which is overcoming objections. Here’s a mind shift that I want to challenge everybody listening to the podcast to make, is that if a client is not interested, or a prospect is not interested in what you’re selling, they generally will not raise objections. Objections are an actual buying signal. I had to have this conversation with my wife not long ago when we had someone who came in and they were selling something door to door, and she brought them in and they were going through their thing, and I just wanted to get them out of there. So, I wasn’t going to ask any questions, because objections are buying signals. I didn’t want to give any buying signals.
And my wife kept asking questions and kept asking questions and kept asking questions. And I had to educate her on that fact afterwards that, look, you’re leading them down a path of false hope if we knew we weren’t going to buy. But in real instances with a client, a real client situation, questions and objections are actually buying signals. What they’re basically saying to you is help me overcome this concern, or help me answer this question. And if you can do that, you’ve removed one more obstacle on the way to closing the sale.

Jeff Amerine:
Exactly, exactly. And by the way, with that door to door salesman issue, a mean dog will fix that for you for future reference.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, tell me about it. The next thing is closing a sale. And so, understanding as a salesperson, when the right time to transition the conversation from objections to closing the sale. And basically it’s, “Well, mister or miss client, we’ve talked through all the issues that you have. We’ve laid out our solutions specifically to those issues. We’ve answered a number of questions that you have about that. Do you have any other questions? Is there anything else that we’ve left unsaid?” And when the client has all of their questions answered, then it becomes very, very natural to actually move over and say, “Well, then I believe the next steps in the process are…”
And so, think about what those next steps in the process are and be prepared to say, “The next steps in the process are then, if you will sign right here, our statement of work says, we can begin in 12 days.” Whatever your next steps in the closing process of your sales process are, is vitally important to just transition to that. Once you’ve done all of those other things, that’s 90% of the selling process. 10% of it is actually transitioning to that close.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah, that’s so important. And not being afraid to ask for the close and also not overselling. Sometimes you’ve got to understand what those cues are that you’re getting. And don’t keep adding more detail or more reinforcement. When you’ve already got them, you’ve got to have a sense of, we’ve got them, they’re ready to go to the next steps. I’ve seen a lot of deals blown up by someone continuing to talk past the point where they should have known they’re already on board. You add more detail, you might generate new objections or raise other questions that aren’t relevant.

Jeff Standridge:
Man, I am so glad you brought that up. When the client says yes, stop selling, or you will sell yourself out of a deal. Absolutely, cannot agree with that more. And don’t be afraid to use awkward silence. So, “Mister or miss client, we’ve answered a number of your questions. Do you have any other issues? Okay, you don’t. That’s great. Well, the next step in the selling process, or the next step in the process then is for us to move forward with the statement of work. So, if you want to just sign right here”, and shut up and let the silence work its magic. So, once the client says yes, stop selling.
And that brings us to the last thing, which is generating repeat sales and referrals. We need to condition our clients from the day they start doing business with us that we’re going to be coming back to them for referrals. And when you get referred into a new client, you actually leapfrog the trust continuum up to a point where it’s almost like you already had a relationship with that client, because you’re working on the coattails or riding on the coattails if you will, of someone with whom they do have a relationship. So, build into your selling process a mechanism to generate referrals and begin conditioning your clients that you’re going to be asking for them along the way. Any ideas or thoughts you have on referrals?

Jeff Amerine:
No. I mean, it is incredibly important, because in two ways, one is referrals to other customers is important. You clearly have to deliver in order for them to feel good about giving you the referrals, but the expectation is that you will. And then the second thing is we’ve gone through this process of describing how involved and expensive and difficult it is to get that first sale done. Once you have that customer on board to use the terms of art of the day, to improve the lifetime value, you want to keep them. So, you got to also constantly think about, well, now that we’ve landed this client, how are we going to expand? What else can we do for them that is going to solve a problem or be of value to them? Now, you have to have some sense of timing for that. But once you get in there and you got a good rapport established, you’re delivering on your initial expectations, looking for what else you can do is an important way to do it, because it’s a whole lot easier to mine that existing account than to get new customers.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. That’s right. Generating repeat sales through quality delivery and standing behind what you’ve sold, and also generating a process to drive referrals into you from those clients. So, the seven practices of high performing sales people, prospecting, accurately identifying client needs, mapping your solution back to those client needs, delivering compelling presentations and proposals, overcoming their objections, closing the sale, and having a process to generate repeat sales and referrals.

Jeff Amerine:
Good stuff. Every business rises and falls with their ability to sell, no doubt about it.

Jeff Standridge:
That’s right. This has been another episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. Thank you for joining.

Jeff Amerine (GrowthDX Plug):
See you next time. If you liked the content of today’s episode, then you should really take advantage of our strategic growth diagnostic. Our GrowthDX helps you benchmark your company and leadership with a set of best practices across six critical pillars of a successful growth plan. Visit innovationjunkie.com\growthdx. As always, we’d appreciate it if you’d leave a rating and a review with your feedback. And hit that subscribe button so you can join us every week. See you next time.

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