Hiring great Sales Staff is notoriously difficult and I for one have made a few bad hires over the years. It is so easy to get sucked in, as the personalities in front of you have a natural ability to talk such a good game. A new approach was needed. I changed my tact when interviewing for sales positions and discovered that within 15 minutes you could determine if someone was worth further consideration. That alone was a bonus. It was very simple, focus the entire 15 minutes questioning candidates about their customers and avoid all questions about the individual and the products they are currently selling. It was scarily eye opening.
It’s not rocket science, but before you ever get to selling, you need to have an understanding of why a customer needs your offering.
- What Problem do you help solve for your customers?
- How are they hurt by this problem?
- What is most impacted by it? Who in the organisation is affected by it?
- How and why does it impact upon each of them?
- How does the problem impact on your prospects customers, shareholders, and competitiveness?
Wow, I have never seen so much squirming in my life. First couple of questions were generally fine but beyond that, 80% of the time, all I could hear was umms and aghs.
6 questions to cut through bullsh*t. More importantly, 6 questions that form the foundation of a sales strategy and yet there are companies out there who have sales representatives who have no real idea of their customer needs.
That got me thinking and I decided to have one to one conversations with each of our existing sales staff and get them to answer the same questions. I heard loads about what our products did, but when you pulled them back to the key questions, there were too many umms and aghs for my liking.
Bottom line is that it proved beyond doubt that we were failing to get across to our staff why we developed our solutions in the first place. More worryingly, we had been one of those companies with SOME sales staff who had no real idea of their customer needs. Totally unacceptable.
We decided to address this not just with sales staff, but across the board with all employees. Interestingly we choose to do this by making our sales strategy formal and a key discussion in all future staff induction / on boarding. After all, it’s important that everyone in the business knows what problem our customers have, how we solve it and why we are best placed to help them.
What do we mean by Sales Strategy?
Beyond the previous questions which focus on the Problem the customers have, there is focus on potential Solutions and Choices for customers. There is also a significant emphasis on how best to Position our solution to win deals.
Solutions and Choices
- What would be seen as a great solution?
- What would be seen as a significant improvement?
- How can success be measured?
- What options are open to potential customers internally, from you, from your competitors?
- How effective, relevant, practical, affordable is each option?
- Who benefits most from the solution?
- Who is directly impacted by the solution? Negatively.
- How do we make ours the preferred choice?
- What value does our solution bring to our customers?
- Where have you proved that and can you make your claims defendable?
- How can you make it the best value available?
- How can you justify the cost of the solution?
- How sustainable is your solution?
- Can it be easily replicated?
- How do you differentiate your solution to the problem relative to others on offer?
- How could your solution help your customers differentiate themselves from their competitors?
- How could your solution improve competitiveness and stakeholder value?
- What is the ultimate value of your offering?
- What tools / collateral do we have to articulate the issues we are resolving and the benefits / value of the solution?
By making the Sales Strategy a series of questions to be answered through discussion we were able to stay current with any changes in the marketplace. We also were not producing a document that could prove extremely valuable to competitors if they were to get access to it. It works.
Below you will find a sample template from www.barvas.com with all the Key Questions to help define your sales strategy. Adapt to suit your own circumstances.