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Create sustainable change in sales

3 May, 2018

How to adapt and change behavior in sales to achieve better results?

The needs and behavior of our customers are changing. Increased use of digital channels along with more complex sales processes have put pressure both on sales leaders to change ways of working as well as challenged the behavior of the sales reps. However, changing ways of working may be hard since sales reps are often spread out geographically, and are used to their role being flexible and therefore have established their “own way of selling”. Still, strong competition and the increasing demands from our customers set the bar high, and any sales force not able to reach this bar will face cost cutting and layoffs. Examples of this exist all around us; sales organizations who do not meet their numbers in todays’ booming market, simply haven’t got what it takes. 

Hence sales organizations need to motivate sales reps and improve sale skills. Typically this is addressed by a single training session in sales technique, but that isn’t going to be enough to ensure a lasting change in the sales reps' behavior.

So how should a sales organization ensure sustainable changes of behavior in sales?

Earlier, sales organizations invested in a training event once or a few times per year to inspire and inject new ideas into how to sell. Sales coaching has also emerged as a new trend when developing sales with positive results, if applied well. However, it requires availability and skills from the sales managers, which few possess. Both training and coaching provide results, but when rarely applied it will not lead to a lasting change - a vitamin injection only last so long.

At Ascend we believe in applying a method that creates change of behavior on a regular basis, including skill development. We believe in a three-way approach to ensure lasting change of behavior.

1. Sales enabling tools to remind and support sales reps to apply desired tools and sales technique

2. Skill development to motivate and add new skills and insights to apply, using experience-based learning methods

3. Sales coaching to continuously motivate, follow up and guide sales reps to a better performance

Making these three methods work together is the ultimate success factor. Correctly coordinated and applied they will motivate, develop and enable sales reps into adapting and embracing new behavior and competence.

Do you want to know more about these three techniques, read on!

1. Develop skills seeks to motivate and enable new insights and skills in sales. There are several ways to develop skills, where some methods have a bigger impact than others. Experience based learning has far more impact on skill development, in comparison to more traditional training and e-learning. Indeed, simulations and on-the-job training makes sales reps learn more, learn faster and also highlight potential gaps to address in future personal development. Making it fun and instructive will also add motivation to the job and keep sales reps developing individually.

Ascend has developed a sales simulation methodology, where a sales opportunity is simulated, as a role play, from initial contact to final negotiating and closing. The event takes place in two to three days, where sales reps work in teams, to move the deal forward in competition with the other teams. A high degree of activities, observations (of other teams), feedback and reflection bring together a safe, fun and productive environment that can transform the performance of an individual or a team. Learn more about Ascend's sales simulations here.  

2. Using sales enabling tool(s) supports sales reps in their daily work, by guiding them to focus on the “right” opportunities / leads and to handle them in the best possible way. Tools can be anything from a CRM system, segmentation model or a simple questionnaire. The key to change in behavior is to ensure the tools enable the sales reps along in the sales process and deliver value to the customer. Any tool that can’t provide value to the sales reps will not be used, and therefore will not support any change of behavior.

Examples of enabling sales tools could be questionnaires (online or analogue) that help the sales reps differentiate opportunities and select a more efficient approach to engage the opportunity. Another example would be a CRM system that provide reference cases or other sales tools based upon type of opportunity and what stage the sales process is in. 

The challenge when developing these tools; making them applicable and helpful to the user as well as easily accessible when relevant. If both criteria are achieved, the use of the tools will enable change of behavior and develop new skills in the sales teams.

3. Provide sales coaching will motivate, guide and support sales reps and teams in their development and performance. A great coach will have a great impact on performance; any successful sports team can provide proof of that. In sales, coaching has recently emerged, and while accepted as a sound approach, few sales organizations apply it fully. Lack of time, lack of skills or interest by sales leaders are some of the usual excuses. Does this sound familiar? 

Coaching someone in sales does not need to be a two-hour session, instead it could be a fun and motivating session over a cup of coffee. By applying a method referring to a goal and a plan, it can replace the usual sales follow up call. Replacing follow up with coaching would not add more activities in an already busy calendar. The difference between coaching and follow-up, is the use of questions by the sales coach. Focus on questions to activate and engage the sales rep (or team) to reflect and learn from recent experiences, make appropriate decisions and take actions. 

Make it work together!

To really make a change in the behavior of sales reps, seek to implement an approach where sales coaching, training and tools are used in coordination and in support of each other. There are many examples of this, can you make up of any?

Creating change of behavior takes time and will require the sales management team to have patience before reaping the benefits. Like any change, performance may decrease at first during the change before sales reps are comfortable with the new approach. So stay focused have patience when investing in the development of your sales team.

Regardless of industry, the sales organization with the best ability to improve sales teams’ behavior will outperform competitors over time. So, the question is not if you should invest in your sales teams’ development, but rather how?

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