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April 2, 2015

3 Consistent Characteristics of High-Performing Sales Teams

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Over the years, I’ve found three consistent characteristics within top performing sales teams:

  • First, their sales professionals add value throughout the sales process by engaging in meaningful sales conversations with their customers.
  • Second, their sales teams have the skills to effectively sell and present value to their customers.
  • Third, their frontline managers are skilled coaches who provide constructive feedback to help their teams achieve their full potential.

Let’s look at each one of these characteristics in more detail to understand what makes them so important.

1) Quality Sales Conversations

Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic shift in power between buyers and sellers. The web has enabled buyers to the point where they are no longer reliant on sellers for information. In many cases, buyers are in the middle of their purchase process before they even speak to a salesperson.

Unfortunately, many sales professionals are still focused on "pitches” as opposed to understanding their customers’ needs and customizing their message to align with buyers' priorities.

Sales professionals need to improve the quality of sales conversations they are having with their customers and help their customers solve business problems. This means doing better research prior to making calls, developing focused objectives, asking the right questions, and presenting thought out solutions that closely align to the customer's needs. Sellers who can successfully execute these skills will thrive in today's environment.

2) Selling Value, Not Price

While many sales professionals talk about selling value, few know how to do it. That’s unfortunate since successfully identifying, quantifying, and presenting value to a buyer is a highly effective way to offset pricing pressure.

Selling value involves developing a clear understanding of the benefits your solutions provide to your customer, as well as the associated costs. This includes identifying what is important to various constituents (end users, managers, key stakeholders, and decision makers), and, to the extent possible, quantifying that value.

As an example, reliability is typically valued by all constituents but many sales professionals do not take the time to quantify what reliability means to the customer. Selling on value takes effort and persistence by the sales professional since they have to look holistically at the customer’s business.

Salespeople must also be cognizant of total cost since there are many drivers besides price (for example, training and implementation costs) that can influence a customer’s purchase decision. Ultimately, value comes down to the total benefits (both tangible and intangible) you offer less the total costs your customer will incur in purchasing, implementing, and operating your solution.

In order to sell value, sales professionals need specific skills, such as the ability to systematically analyze the customer’s business, understand the priorities of multiple stakeholders in an organization, and effectively present value to your customer.

3) Strong Sales Coaching

Most sales managers are promoted from the sales ranks and, as such, are proficient at selling but have little insight on how to coach their reps.

Sales coaching, when properly executed, can have a profound impact on sales success. In fact, in their 2015 Sales Management Performance Optimization StudyCSO Insights found that companies with better than average sales coaching have much higher overall revenue plan attainment than companies whose coaching skills “meet expectations” or “need improvement.”

High performance sales coaching involves creating a coaching culture, assesing skill gaps, developing coaching plans, observing calls, and following a consistent process.

These three characteristics have been present in every high-performing sales team I have come into contact with. If you want to improve your team's results, start working on these areas today.

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