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Are salespeople born or made? Sure, you probably know a handful of salespeople that make the art of selling look effortless. For the rest of us, though, unlocking the secrets to selling success typically involves building on natural talent with hard work. So, if you are a sales manager looking to hone the skills of your budding team, here are four core ideas that will help create a blueprint for turning your promising reps into seasoned pros.

Tip #1: Ensure all training is short, focused, and ongoing

When it comes to training, one of the most critical challenges most managers face is a shortage of time. Consequently, after performing a time-cost analysis, many sales managers choose to enroll their reps in multi-day programs in an attempt to get them up to speed with new sales methodologies quicker.

Although there are some people who will tell you there is no such thing as over-training, too much training too soon can actually have a detrimental effect. A report by Sales Performance International found that, without reinforcement, 84 percent of what is initially learned through such training programs is lost within 90 days.

To learn something – and, more importantly, to make it stick – you have to repeat the lesson again and again until the desired behavior change becomes second nature. Therefore, one of the most important aspects of molding good salespeople into great ones is ensuring that training is delivered in bite-size chunks and on an ongoing basis.

Tip #2: Make preparation habitual

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Over two millenniums later, the sentiment remains as true as ever.

Today’s customers can now easily conduct research online that enables them to gain a comprehensive understanding of both you and your competitors’ product or service offering. With such information never more than a click away, it means there is even more pressure on reps to deliver intriguing sales proposals.

Being prepared, however, will help your reps anticipate any questions a customer might ask, while providing fresh insight that could prove key to boosting sales success. In the age of the hyper-informed customer, preparing properly for every single engagement can help your reps regain the upper hand in sales negotiations.

An extension to the principle of habitual preparation is ensuring your product knowledge is up to date. There are no shortcuts when it comes to product knowledge, and it can be the distinguishing factor that makes good sales reps great.

Tip #3: Encourage your reps to add value by becoming active listeners

In the pursuit of profit, it’s fair to say that some organizations have forgotten to view their customers as people. What these businesses fail to realize is companies that focus on providing their customers with value tend to make more money than those that don’t.

Framed in this context, the idea of sales teams that are solely quota driven and commission based seems outdated. Instead, purpose-driven salespeople who take the time to understand how the products and services they sell can benefit their customers have the greater opportunity to thrive.

For the uninitiated, active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to concentrate, remember, and respond to what is being said. To this end, encouraging your reps to be active listeners means they will be better equipped to identify a prospect’s needs and offer the type of solutions that help close deals.

Tip #4: Stop them from making promises they can’t keep

From competing with team members to meeting targets, when you’re in sales, pressure comes from all angles. For this reason, some salespeople will be tempted into making promises they know they can’t keep when a potential sale appears to be slipping away.

In this scenario, however, it is often more beneficial to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term success. On average, loyal customers are worth 10 times as much as their first purchase, which is why most successful salespeople work on building relationships based on trust.

So, rather than making promises they know they can’t keep, sales reps should be honest and adjust expectation levels where possible. This way, they will stand a much better chance of building a relationship that will help them turn first-time customers into repeat purchasers.

To learn even more about maintaining targets and keeping your sales team engaged and motivated, download NewVoiceMedia’s insight-packed white paper, “Money, is it the only motivator?

Article first published in Selling Power

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About Stuart Croft

VP Sales, US West, NewVoiceMedia

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