Image credit: Cea on flickr
For the last few months, my team and I have been working ferociously on my forthcoming book, Pivotal Conversations. The book delves into and describes the messaging framework we’ve developed for sales teams and sales management. We’ve been looking at the powerful and necessary conversations that commercial sales teams have to engage in to do more business
In order to have an even sharper grasp on the real world implications of this topic, I’ve been talking to sales leadership at some very interesting and diverse companies — all to learn what they had to say about the current state of sales and how important the right messaging was to their success.
That’s where Matt Park comes in. Matt has been SVP of Global Sales for several software companies such as Jobs2Web and Softscape, and is currently Director of Sales Operations at Successfactors, an SAP company. Here’s what he had to say.
Matt has been in sales his whole life and has done a lot of training for sales teams in order to get them thinking more strategically. He’s been with sales teams who have good processes in place — but sometimes it’s not enough.
“They were doing the steps,” he said. “But they were not having the real conversations with customers that they needed to have.” In some cases, their performance was so off, that Matt had to revamp the salesperson’s behavior in front of customers.
The 5 Sales Conversations
When Matt mentioned “conversations” as an area of greatest need, I wondered if maybe we were on the same page. You see, the book Pivotal Conversations lays out a buyer-centric outlook on the sales process. It focuses on the following 5 conversations a sales professional needs to address before the buyer will buy.
The Business Conversation considers the customer’s mission — and how the salesperson’s organization and offering align with it.
The Technical Conversation takes into account the customer’s ability to absorb the offering in very practical terms.
The Financial Conversation analyzes the customer’s financial targets, thresholds, and expectations for purchases.
The Competitive Conversation examines the strengths and weaknesses of your organization against your competitors’ — in language that is non-confrontational.
The Risk Conversation addresses the risks involved with choosing your offering.
I gave a brief overview of these conversations over the phone to see if Matt and I were on the same page. “It sounds similar to something I developed to explain sales strategy to my reps,” Matt told me. He said he broke down the sales process to minute details — and described the following stages to them:
IT Strategy (Matt said this is similar to my “Risk” conversation)
People (Who are all the players? How will you deal with them?)
“You must have a plan for each of these elements,” he told me — and this is what he tells his reps. “By breaking it down, you get [sales]people…to have separate conversations.”
The Problem with Sales Training
I’ve mentioned it before, and Matt said it too: “Very little sales training sticks because it is process focused.” Sales reps receive great training — but then they don’t know what to do with it. “It’s like teaching football on a blackboard and expecting people to play on the field,” Matt astutely observed.
To solve this problem, Matt created his own training for each sales team based on the conversation model. He also holds what he calls “Goal-Based Meetings” with his reps. In order to get the most from your team, your meetings need to be framed around reaching a goal. “You can’t move on to Meeting Y before completing goal from Meeting X.”
Bottom Line Advice from Matt
Give your reps the tools they need to have real conversations that matter to the customers and keep your team goal-focused.
Thanks to Matt Park for his insights. To read more from executives like Matt, stay tuned for more posts at Strategic Propositions. You can view my first interview here.
Do your reps know how to have real conversations with their prospects? In your opinion, is this something that can be taught?
Do you agree or disagree with the five conversations outlined above? Is one missing from the list?