In this second of his two-part blog series, John Heaford, Head of Methodologies, at SalesMethods completes his response to the complex question of: What the customer really wants from your salespeople?
Delivering Value Today
In the first post on this subject, we referenced, “The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences” by Matt Watkinson. The depth and breadth of Matt’s research is outstanding. To take this beyond the Customer Experience, in Matt Watkinson’s view, this means behavioural training for sales professionals has to include continual, routine drill & practice on each other in addition to “formal classroom” workshops on product/services, processes & methodologies and knowledge management (e.g. CRM based sales tools/applications).
Moreover, this is endorsed by Beth Rodgers (‘Rethinking Sales Management’ John Wiley & Sons, 2007) in advocating that a greater proportion of sales managers’ time should be allocated to real-time observation of their salespeoples’ behaviours in front of customers, followed by individual or group coaching on common strengths (as exemplars) and weaknesses.
Over the past 4 years, I have conducted a specific in-workshop exercise with over 300 sales professionals, to determine their natural approach to delivering value in the act of meeting their customer, well before any product or service is delivered. The test is simple enough. Working in teams of 3 or 4, they were asked to share their views with me, as an imaginary senior decision maker in their chosen target customer, by articulating just 3 aspects in each of the categories including: a) People, b) Process/Principles/Values and finally, c) Products and Service, which would encourage me to want to hear more about their business by extending the agreed time limit for the meeting. I was looking for a ratio of around 4:1 “noise” about me and my business followed by them and theirs, in that order. In 80% of cases the order was reversed but the ratio remained. They just couldn’t find enough to say about me, which told me that they had not researched my company as much as I had already researched theirs.
Knowing that this behaviour is common across a wide spectrum in the ‘B-to-B’ sales community, calls for a better understanding of what form behavioural training should take in order to meet customer expectations. Practice alone does not make perfect…………… no! Only perfect practice makes perfect, especially if monitored, tested and coached. Moreover, science shows us that more is not necessarily better. In 100 repetitions, consisting of 40 poor and 60 good, a poorer performance will result if compared with a mere 60 repetitions, which were good. Unfortunately, not enough sales development programmes focus on the strongest principles and strict, replicable disciplines, related to the whole journey of customer experience in terms of the latter’s expectations.
Matt Watkinson relates this succinctly in his illustration for the martial arts arena. He makes reference to the strategy manual of the Samurai Miyamoto Musashi, wherein the distinction between a ‘hit’ and ‘strike’ brings into focus a huge disparity in terms of reliability. Unconscious occasional success of the former (based on a guesswork and seat-of-the-pants lottery approach) might produce a kill. The latter, however, demands continual practice towards mastery of a strict principle and discipline, which is conscious, deliberate and reliable. As an established Shotokan karate instructor and long-term designer and deliverer of sales training programmes, I can personally endorse this as the only route to repeatable success.
In the summary, can your customer trust your salespeople to deliver the value that they promised? Does this extend beyond that which depends solely on them, to the strength of their internal relationships? If true, this would suggest that they are able to commit to broader customer expectations, based on their ability to harness support from their virtual team, which includes senior executive leaders. Will this lead to recognition of your company’s capability to provide high value, “whole journey” customer experience through your sales people? That’s the target. Train for it.