When sales leaders are scouring resumes and LinkedIn Profiles looking for new candidates to join their team, several attributes are among the most sought after: integrity, character, finesse, can-do attitude, drive, passion, and the list goes on. But what do nearly all of these attributes have in common? They aren’t skills that can necessarily be taught, but rather are innate traits that these sales professionals have developed over time.
A recent Salesforce.com article suggests that the introduction of CRM began a transition from art to sales science. “This kind of [CRM] insight is how a salesperson provides value beyond what is publicly available on the Internet. They can stay organized and manage relationships with hundreds of prospects at different stages of the funnel. They can get the answers to questions such as: Who do I need to reach out to that I’m not currently in touch with? Who is most likely to be buying this week or next?”
At Costello, we often hear from sales leaders and individual contributors alike that sales isn’t a scientific process, but rather, it’s an art. We wholeheartedly agree that successful sales professionals have important and non-replaceable traits that simply cannot be developed through a textbook. We also equally believe in the concept of a sales playbook that ensures every team member is marching to the same drumbeat, albeit in their own style. Said another way, we believe that the best sales teams master the fundamentals in a controlled environment, and excel because of their characteristics—not in spite of them.
“Winging” The Sales Process Is No Longer Acceptable
Enterprise sales used to be based almost solely on relationships. The sales professional with the most business cards, the most contacts, the most smiles and dials, and the most face-to-face lunches or schmoozy dinners ultimately won the deal. Buyers were less educated and they couldn’t just scour the internet to start their solution research—they had to take their sales professional’s word for it or source opinions from industry peers. Every day, sales professionals morphed their scripts and tried out new language in their conversations to see what stuck. Every single sales process was different, and every sales professional approached their deals in their own way with their own version of flair. Now, however, Forrester says that 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
With that statistic in mind, it’s no longer acceptable for sales professionals to rely solely on their network and their old ways of closing business. While this is generally accepted by world-class sales leaders, sales professionals “wing it” in different, more innovative ways in today’s tech-driven world—in ways that some sales leaders may not even notice. For instance, they can:
- Use their own call script
- Ask their own discovery questions
- Shorten or lengthen the discovery process
- Handle objections in a different manner each time
- Send the proposal at different times in the sales process
- And so on
Most sales leaders can see the potential damage that this sort of ad-hoc personalization can cause—especially when it occurs at scale across the entire sales organization. When each sales professional has his or her own way of moving deals and having conversations, the brand’s perception can be jeopardized and ultimately, deals are lost.
The Art of Enterprise Selling
The best sales professionals have developed skills that help them engage effectively. They have to be able to relate to someone with a purpose and they must do this with genuine interest, with finesse, and with an approach that can carry the conversation down multiple paths, rather than getting stuck when the prospect throws a curveball. Afterall, they are sales professionals for a reason: they understand how to engage and relate to the human beings that are on the other end of the deal.
Successful Sales Teams Combine Art + Science to Master the Fundamentals
This is why we believe that selling is about mastering the fundamentals without sacrificing personality, character, or other traits that make sales professionals so effective. Take this statistic by The Sales Board for instance: “Performance improves by as much as 50% when salespeople have a consistent game plan for their sales calls.” The article goes on to articulate that, “…most sales professionals make the same mistakes over and over without realizing it. Without a logical sales process to follow, they can’t even identify specific problems, let alone correct them.”
In the work that we do with sales teams, we see this pattern day in and day out. Creating a purpose and plan for the call can often seem like the hardest part of the entire process. However, if you and your team know that there are X questions that need to be asked to get to the point, or there are certain objections that are likely to come up during every sales process, then having a framework to guide the sale isn’t taking the easy road. Rather, it’s taking the smart approach that aligns every single sales professional so that your team can win and learn together.
Ready to Learn More?
For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.