Selling Skills Training: 4 Shockingly Effective Tips for Field Sales Teams
9 min read
As a field sales manager it’s your job to extract as much value as possible from each of your given territories. But how do you go about doing that? Which are the sales training topics you should be focusing on? You could invest more money in the team by hiring more salespeople. A quick fix but one that can’t be implemented on any real scale. But perhaps a better, long-term investment to extract value is by maximizing the efficiency of your guys working in the field through effective selling skills training.
The techniques learned through an effective selling skills training program will stay with field sale reps forever, such as:
How to hold yourself when delivering a presentation
Recognizing what stage a customer is in the buying cycle and how to approach them
Learning how to effectively manage your time on the road
Identifying a high probability upsell opportunity
They can be consistently applied by your team every time they meet with a client; quarter after quarter, year on year, not just as a one-off solution that might help you achieve your short term targets.
But before you lay down thousands of dollars for an external consultant, give some of these in-house pointers a try:
Selling skills training for field sales teams
Asking the right questions
Let’s be honest, you’ve probably walked past one of your team members on a call to a client while on the way to the coffee pot. And, as you’re pouring away, stirring in your creamer you “overhear” what’s being said.
As the conversation progresses your face begins to wince and contort at each little error they make until eventually, its twisting and dancing around so much you’ve bitten down and left a bloody imprint on your lower lip.
Are these really the questions my team are putting forward to potential customers?!
Unfortunately the answer is often yes. Due to a lack of selling skills training many field reps haven’t been taught how to guide a customer towards a purchase decision through a carefully crafted set of guidelines. Instead, wires are crossed, they jump back and forth across points confusing the client missing the opportunity to close the deal.
The good news is there is an effective system you can use to train your sales team to untangle those wires and get them selling as efficiently and effectively as possible:
Based on the hugely popular book and extensive research of Neil Rackham, that system is known as SPIN. Basically, Rackham and his team analyzed 35,000 calls over 12 years and came to one conclusion:
During a successful sales cycle it is the buyer who does most of the talking.
So, they propose we get customers to talk…a lot.
The way they suggest doing this is by transitioning through four unique types, or stages, of questions with the buyer:
Situation questions are geared to learning more about (funnily enough) the buyer’s current situation. Your reps are on a fact-finding mission; any background data they can get hold of, what current resources do they have etc.
Remember though, a lot of background information is readily available online or in the CRM. You don’t want one of your field team coming into a meeting and opening with some very basic questions as they’ll come across as unprepared or worse, uninterested. Make sure they understand the importance of a little homework and preparation.
One way around this would be to start with a question such as:
“Just to make sure we are on track, I understand that…*insert research* correct?
Some further situational questions could be:
“So what exactly is your current process for dealing with…”
“What system do you currently use?”
“When did you switch over to this new system”.
Problem questions are used to probe for areas of dissatisfaction with their current process, product or system. Your reps should be as subtle as possible in this phase, guiding the prospect towards pointing out the culprit.
Some example questions:
Are you finding that your team are abandoning the system because of (x) action?
How difficult are you finding it do (x) action?
What’s the reliability of your current system?
Implication questions point out the consequences of not acting on the problems discovered in phase 2. Through this guided process the prospect should feel like they’ve arrived to this conclusion by themselves, discovering that attending to (x) problem is more urgent than previously thought.
Some example questions:
What are the hard figure expenses of your team not adopting the system?
If the systems goes down, what are the (x) material costs and (y) invested time to get it back up and running?
What are the negative implications of pushing (x) system onto your team?
Need-Payoff questions guide prospects to identify the need of (x) solution because of (y) problem. If done correctly, you might even find prospects highlighting your product/service without the explicit help of the sales representative.
Some example questions:
If your team adopted (x) system, it would help increase user adoption correct?
Tell me why increasing user adoption would be good for your company?
What other benefits do you think (x) system would have?
Now you can’t expect your team to roll straight into this new process so block out some time in your calendar for some roleplay, just like you would for a standard sales visit. This way your reps can practice transitioning from each phase, refine the questions that make sense for your particular solution and nail down a solid repertoire that they can believe in.
But please remember, these are only guidelines .
Being in field sales means your team are likely to be asking more P.I.N questions as the situational information should be readily available after qualification from an SDR. However, this does completely depend on your particular sales process. Keep in mind that the whole idea of SPIN is to rework your UVP into a set of questions that in return, guide the prospect towards the value of your product/service solution.
Selling Skills Training: Cross Selling and Upselling
One of the most underutilized sales training ideas and weapons in a field sales rep’s arsenal is the product upsell. Too often you’ll find that once an initial contract has been signed, that’s it. Your team may make the odd check-in if there’s been a problem with an order, or a faulty piece of equipment, just to ensure things run smoothly, but that’s it.
The problem is they are leaving a lot of potential money on the table.
To extract as much value from a customer as possible you need to teach your field reps how to analyze the data from the CRM or ERP. For example, let’s imagine you’re selling hair products to salons within a 100 mile territory.
You could set a filter in your mobile CRM to show which salons within a certain territory are buying shampoo, but not conditioner.
Now there’s no way that these particular salons aren’t going to be selling conditioner so logic suggests they’re sourcing it off a competitor, right?
Armed with this knowledge, the next time your rep visits (x) salon they can either suggest a product expert accompanies them from the supplier, to demonstrate how effective the two can be when used in unison, or if they have sufficient knowledge, conduct the product demo themselves in attempt to pry away that business.
So now instead of making their biweekly visit to the salon, content with selling their standard quota of shampoo, the field rep uses real-time data from his mobile CRM to target a high-probability upsell opportunity.
Now let’s apply some rough numbers:
Hair loss oil ($15)
As you can see, a standard, biweekly visit to this particular salon yields $1,135,00
Hair loss oil ($15)
However, after a careful analysis of the real-time CRM data, this particular field rep was able to target this salon as a potential upsell account. By convincing them of the value of the combined use of products (conditioner + oil) and offering a small discount to round out the deal, they were able to increase the sale by $1,100,00.
Now imagine this particular rep’s territory includes 20 salons, with 8 of those salons marked as potential targets for upsell.
Even if the rep is only successful with 50% of those accounts, look at the potential profit:
8/2 = 4 x $1,100,00 = $4,400,00
Training your field reps to accurately analyze the data or better, have a personal sales assistant tool that could automatically do that for you, is going to help you extract the maximum value from your territories.
Selling Skills Training: Face-to-face with clients
Did you know, experts suggest that it takes (quite literally) just a “blink of an eye” when meeting someone to decide whether we’re going to like that person, or not. That’s an extremely short timeframe! And with the amount of time field reps spend face-to-face with clients, the importance of creating a good first impression can’t be overstated.
This includes the way you look – did you go for slacks and jacket vs. matching suit and tie, how you smell- Hugo Boss vs Calvin Klein Obsession and perhaps most importantly, the way you interact.
Remember the old adage “Nobody ever bought anything off someone they didn’t like”?
So training your field reps in the finer details of presentation and interaction with clients is vital if you’re hoping to maximize their selling opportunities.
When going through roleplays with your team ask yourself some of the following questions:
How do your team carry themselves when presenting?
Are they slouched against the board?
Are they shuffling when walking?
Do they engage the customer with direct eye contact when delivering?
What message does their body give to you?
Would you buy something from this person?
If you’re not convinced with their performance, then it’s time to get coaching.
One easy place to start is with a smile. It portrays genuine interest, empathy and concern with a clients problems as well as bringing an upbeat, positive environment to the room. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental, however. Entering a meeting laughing and giggling to yourself is going to make you appear less credible and customers will struggle to take you seriously.
Another important area to focus on is posture.
Holding a strong, dominant posture makes you come across as confident, credible and more trustworthy. Definitely the vibes a client is looking for before making a purchase decision.
Again, work with your team in roleplay to iron out these small details so when they do get in front of a customer you can be confident in their performance.
Another staple of the field sales rep’s diet is the sales/product demonstration. It’s the moment that often makes or breaks the sale, so its vital your field team know how to deliver on the night (don’t just take their word for it).
Ensure that your guys always arrive early. This gives them ample time to introduce themselves to whoever it is they are meeting, (decision makers, stakeholders etc.) and to thank them for their time.
If giving a product demonstration they are going to need extra time for assembly, or if it’s a powerpoint, to find a sufficient space from where to deliver the presentation. They also need to ask themselves:
Do they have a back-up plan if there’s no internet?
Could their laptop suddenly die on them?
What are they going to do if there’s no outlet for the laptop?
Your team aren’t going to necessarily be able to solve all this if they arrive 5 minutes before…so make sure they’re carry an offline version for whatever material it is they need.
Another thing to consider is the delivery pace of the presentation. Now it’s almost always too fast as our brains seem to run a few mph. quicker when under the spotlight. It’s also worth training them to get the audience to do something. Get them invested in the presentation, raise their hands or something. Getting them to laugh too, definitely helps your reps come across as more engaging.
To round it off, let’s focus on how to close the deal by giving them a reason to buy on that day. Your reps could offer a financial discount but it’s often more powerful if they can personally get invested in the deal.
For example, they could say:
“If you sign-up today, I’ll personally come down and ensure the system is installed correctly.”
“If you sign-up today, I’ll personally lead a day’s free training for you guys once the new system has been installed.”
You can pick up on all these things through a series of live role plays. Get them to act as they would normally in front of a client as this benefits EVERYONE; they sell more, you hit your targets – win, win, win!
Going the extra mile
It’s about building long term relationships, so if some equipment breaks down, (I’m looking at you medical device guys) instead of placing an order at HQ and getting the item sent over in a couple of days, it’s worth investing that time into delivering it directly to the hospital. Ask to see the doctor in question. At the end of the day, that’s what they are paying for – someone they can have a face-to-face, human interaction with; someone they can go to with any potential problems.
It might seem like a reactive mindset to have, but coaching this mindset to your team can be a really good long-term play – your competitor is never too far around the corner and going the extra mile really does keep the wolves at bay.
Selling Skills Training: Time management
Maybe not quite what you were expecting when googling selling skills training, granted, but don’t be so quick to underestimate the impact effective time management can have on selling.
With your field guys having to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time it’s obvious that they need to be doing this in the most efficient manner possible. Driving from one end of their territory, to the other, then driving back again before returning to the office isn’t really the way to go about it.
Train them to organize their meetings according to where they are going to be.
There are tools built specifically to optimize your team’s time on the road, that plan their daily route, alert them of any sudden changes due to traffic, and even the option to automatically alert whoever they are meeting of their possible delay. Small details like this can go along way in building a positive, long-standing relationship with clients.
Finally, preparation is key. Before the visit, train them to do their research.
Think about it. If a prospect is interested in your product/service it’s fair to say that some initial discussions have been had, right? So when your rep enters the conversation and is clearly unfamiliar with who the prospect has spoken to, what their specific pain points are and the specific solutions offered to solve it, they’re going to appear extremely unprofessional.
If you want to find out more about how to increase the efficiency of your field sales team and extract maximum value from your territories with minimal financial outlay, take a look at the benefits a mobile CRM