This summer, I finally decided I was ready to go from the junior varsity batting cages (65 mph) to the high school varsity cages (80 mph). Boy was that a mistake. I did foul one off, but the experience was mostly entertainment for my sons and their college friends. Later that day, I checked to see just how fast my reaction time had to be to square up on an 80 mph pitch. My findings: less than ½ second. I had no chance. I can’t imagine facing Justin Verlander and his 100 mph pitches.
Fast forward (no pun intended) to yesterday. I was in Chicago speaking to a client about his sales team. In his view, they have the necessary selling skills, the desire to sell, and the motivation to sell. But something is missing. He knows they can be doing so much more. As we dug deeper, it became clear that they can’t catch up to the fastball.
First of all, the products and services they sell are complex and require a great deal of sales knowledge to understand. My client does provide extensive “product” training and when quizzed some of his salespeople will get most of it right…and most will get some of it right. Good, but not good enough. Buyers are picky, looking for guidance, and want to buy from experts. Knowing some of it only sometimes…strike one!
On top of that buyers want to know that you understand their needs, their companies, and their industries. This requires additional knowledge of not just what you are selling, but how to sell it. Bring it altogether, and we call this sales knowledge fluency.
Among the information salespeople must know is:
- What needs drive your buyers to want to buy what you have to offer? I don’t just mean the superficial ones, I’m talking about digging deep into needs and understanding both rational and emotional needs, such as:
- “I need to reduce turnover.”
- “I need to increase throughput.”
- “I need my consultants to not have to wait for IT fixes.”
- “I need to look good in the media stories.”
- What is your impact model? When someone works with you or buys your products what do they get in return:
- Higher morale
- Greater productivity
- Less computer downtime
- No bad publicity and restful nights
- What is the buyer’s company all about:
- What type of ownership?
- What is the culture?
- Are they involved in the community?
- What are their goals and dreams?
- What is the environment in which the buyer’s business competes:
- Who are the competitors?
- What are the revenue drivers?
- What is their cost structure?
- What are the most important issues facing the industry?
When I asked my client how well his salespeople do in these categories, his own delayed response said it all. No market or buyer knowledge…strike two!
Finally, I interviewed the few salespeople who I was told got “most of it right.” Yes, what they said was accurate and they did get most of it right, but not without a few hiccups and pauses. The hiccups and pauses are the difference between a solid hit and a whiff. When it comes to sales knowledge, accuracy is just the first step. Accuracy says they can get it right without the pressure, with a few pauses, and only minor stumbles – junior varsity stuff. They need to be fluent – demonstrate mastery of the information with speed – in front of the buyer with complete confidence.
Buyers want and demand a major leaguer – someone who can answer their questions without missing a beat. No sales knowledge fluency…strike three!
While his team does have the sales skills, desire, and motivation, it’s their lack of sales knowledge that is holding them back.
How to Build Sales Knowledge
The next steps for my client to build this sales knowledge in his team:
- Conduct a knowledge audit to see just how much information is currently accessible to his salespeople.
- Create a sales knowledge fluency training program that will serve as the foundation for getting that knowledge to his sales team.
- Test and test again until each salesperson can get it right every time, quickly.
Helping your sales team become fluent in all that they need to know will go a long way to creating that credibility and confidence that will win over more and more buyers. Oh, and also make sure they don’t get caught looking when the buyer throws them a curve ball… but that is for another time.