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March 30. 2013 4:02AM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Changing your approach to selling isn't easy


 
As a sales professional, you've learned different skills, approaches and techniques over the course of your career. You've likely developed your skills through a combination of formalized sales training, observing others as well as a bit of trial and error.

One of the aspects of selling I love the most is that there are so many different ways to get to the end result you are striving for. The question becomes, what approach is the most effective for you and the type of customers you are selling to?

In addition to the skills you have acquired and learned through experience, every company has an approach to selling that they have determined to be the most effective way for salespeople to sell. Companies typically invest in a sales training methodology and implement a sales strategy across the entire sales organization. And it's common for the approach to change and evolve over the course of time.

With any decent-sized sales team, consistency is important. When a sales approach and process is defined, the biggest challenge a company faces is helping their sales team adopt the concepts and actually apply them in selling situations. Traditionally, salespeople like to do their own thing. We've developed our own way of selling that we have determined to be the most effective, and we're not big fans of change. But being open to new approaches and the latest selling techniques as well as following the process your company has defined is important.

Another challenge organizations face when rolling out and implementing a sales methodology is the ongoing support and coaching to ensure people adopt and implement the skills and techniques. Here are a few suggestions on ways you can improve the adoption and application of new skills and approaches within your organization and ensure you get the most from your investment in sales training and professional development.

Train your front line managers: The managers who work with your salespeople on a day-to-day basis are critical to any successful sales training program. Managers need to be subject-matter experts in the techniques, but most importantly, they need to be able to coach and develop people. If managers are unable to work with people and develop their skills on an ongoing basis, people will fall back into old habits and you may as throw the money you spent on training out the window.

Reinforce the skills: Training can't be a single event. You have to have a plan in place to continue to reinforce the skills people learn after the training is completed. Develop a plan that includes refresher sessions, supporting materials that help enhance the skills they learned as well as additional methods of transferring the knowledge and supporting the behaviors you expect.

Share successes: One of the biggest gaps in any sales training program is the sharing of knowledge among the people who are involved in the program. Create ways for people to share successes and what's working. When people have success with a particular approach or message, that information needs to be shared with everyone who can benefit from learning about it. Highlight successes, share what's working and make time to identify and work through the challenges people are experiencing.

Be batient: There are different studies and statistics that have been published related to how long it takes for someone to break a habit and start a new behavior. In a recent conversation I had with an experienced sales executive, he cited that it takes 21 days to get into a new routine and adopt a new behavior. The immediate application of the new skills learned is critical. If you aren't using what you learned, you'll forget it quickly. Just don't expect people to become experts overnight.

Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.

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