Sales techniques is a recurring subject when analyzing the performance of any sales representative (and it's no coincidence). It is the maturity in conducting these techniques, combined with a good sales process, that lead a salesperson to have a more consistent results.
To understand the importance of mastering these techniques, researches show that the most skilled salespeople performed 20% better than the unskilled ones. In the same way, it is the good application of these techniques and methodologies by a sales manager that allows a company to be able to remain connected with the real pains of the right customers.
In this sense, it is always good to make clear the difference between sales techniques and sales funnel. Techniques refer to methodologies, such as SPIN Selling, Challenger Sale, Sandler, among others, that will improve sales process and encompass skills, focus and communication. The sales funnel otherwise refers to all stages of the customer journey, from the first contact with the company to the formal beginning of the relationship with the customer after closing the deal.
Sales methodologies and techniques
There are a multitude of sales methodologies on the market and sometimes it is difficult to know where to start.
So, let's talk about 3 well-known and validated sales techniques that can help boost your conversion rate:
The SPIN method is an old acquaintance of the sales world. Formalized by Neil Rackham, it consists on the use of Situation, Problem, Implication and Need for Solution questions. This framework was the result of a large study that identified that salespeople who asked the right questions (and listened more than they spoke) closed more deals.
This method has become very popular over the last decade and has modernized several commercial operations around the world. It consists of the conscious use of questions that help to understand the prospect's current situation (people or companies that have the potential to become customers), thus identifying the real problems, demonstrating their implication in the company's results and, finally, helping to build a clear solution need.
We're not talking about a basic sequential question script here. The framework helps guide the efforts of the commercial team to be effectively more consultative, as the need to ask the right questions gives rise to great reflections about the real value proposition of companies and the real pains of customers.
SPIN, and its mature use, shows us that it is not about asking open or closed questions, long pitches or forced closings. Selling is about knowing how to investigate and lead the customer to discover and verbalize what their pain is and what could, in fact, solve it. Do you remember that stereotypical salesman we use to see? So, now, he is the exact antithesis of the salesperson who truly performs.
Among the main results generated, it is possible to highlight the better alignment between Sales and Marketing, better pricing of products and services and greater ability to adapt to the market. When we look at it from the sales representative's side, this methodology helps to identify the prospects with the greatest adherence to the value proposition offered, thus ensuring sales that generate greater LTV (lifetime value) for the company.
An important point to highlight is that the ability to execute this framework goes through a constant routine of training and giving feedback that can refine the elaboration of the questions in a natural way.
More recently, Adamson and Dixon, with a similar purpose to Rackham in the 1980s, conducted a new research to understand the behaviors of salespeople who sell more, this time in an even more technological and recent context.
The Challenger Sale consists of a model in which the seller takes a more active role, offering insights, thus presenting market trends and news. The main purpose of this methodology is to challenge the client and show him a new perspective.
This model divides salespeople into 5 different personas, which helps us to better understand the new perspective compared to previous methodologies. See below:
1. Hard Worker: Is a profile that works hard and does not measure efforts to reach its goal. In addition, he enjoys receiving feedback and is constantly developing himself as a professional.
2. Relationship Builder: This kind of professional has a bond building skill. He invests time in the relationship and is usually very generous, which makes him a profile of great coexistence.
3. Lone Wolf: It refers to a professional with a more independent profile, who follows his own instincts. He also have a great sense of self-confidence.
4. Problem Solvers: This one has a more analytical personality, and is very detail oriented. He or she is very responsible, reliable and always seeks to ensure the resolution of prospects' problems.
5. Challenger: This one delves into the lead´s reality and specializes in the market of their prospects, always aiming to bring innovative insights, instigating and challenging the customer to see solutions that they had not yet considered.
When analyzing the performance data of these personas, it was noticed that the performance of the professionals in which the Relationship Builder characteristics predominated, only 7% of them were high performers. While the Challenger profile accounted for 39% of the predominance in high performance.
This sales technique can be easily understood by looking at the 3 T's:
• Teach: The salesperson must position itself to always bring new solutions to the customer's business. He must have a deep knowledge of the market, of the prospect, and of the most innovative solutions, helping to create the necessary authority to educate;
• Tailor: Each pitch and approach must be extremely adapted and personalized to the prospect's context and priorities;
• Take Control: Take control of the sales process, it is the ability to constructively challenge the customer, aiming to generate solutions not previously considered by the prospect;
In addition to being complementary to SPIN and other methods, the Challenger Sale's main difference is the ability to provide a unique experience throughout the sale, as the prospect starts to receive more relevant information aligned with their personal and market purposes.
Sandler Method or Sandler Selling System
Like the sales techniques presented above, this one is also based on conducting research and analyzing the psychology of purchase. Unlike SPIN Selling and Challenger Sale (respectively published in the 1980s and 2010), this model was developed in the 1960s by David Sandler.
This methodology consists of a clear system of rules and principles that aim to empower the seller in the negotiation (complementary to the Challenger Sale) and deliver value and transparency to prospects.
This technique can be understood by analyzing the 8 steps of this system:
1. Rapport: It's about the ability to create a genuine and trusted connection with the prospect. Keep in mind that people buy for emotion as well as rational reasons.
2. Clearly define directions and objectives: This is the step in which the sales rep establishes their authority and leadership in the negotiation. The goal is to leave each meeting with the next steps defined and aligned with the prospect, always seeking to gather as much information as possible about the customer's purchasing process.
3. Finding the real pain: In this step, we seek to understand the client's real pain. Pay attention to the word "real". Despite the obvious need to find the pain, it is necessary to understand that, what the client initially verbalizes is not always his real problem. It is necessary to ask questions that aim to get to the root of the pain, so that we actually generate value and significant impact on the prospect's business.
4. Discover the Budget: to create an assertive proposal or even know if it makes sense to send one, it is necessary to check the budget that the prospect can invest at that moment. Knowing how much they are currently spending on solutions for the same pain is one example.
5. Understand the Purchasing Process: smaller companies may eventually have only one decision maker, but the general rule is that companies have an interdepartmental purchasing process. For the sales representative to be successful, it is necessary to know the steps, people and departments involved as soon as possible.
6. Presentation of the Solution: this step, although simple, is where we saw more salespeople get lost. With all the information about Pain, Purchasing Process, Budget and a good relationship established, it was time to present the solution. It's worth rescuing the second of the Challenger Sale T's: Tailor. The solution must be presented if it solves a real pain, impacting all the stakeholders involved and generating a clear vision of results.
7. Post-Presentation and Closing: we went through all the previous steps and after presenting the solution we need to understand which path will be followed. If you understood the pain and did your homework well, the prospect has a clearer view of the value generated by the solution, so it's time to non-aggressively define the next steps, even if the answer is no. It is important to maintain the leadership and authorities built up throughout the negotiation.
8. After-sales and Onboarding: after the contract is signed, it is necessary to ensure that the customer has a good experience and engages early on, as this is essential for them to experience the impact of the solution. The quality of this step also helps to predict whether a customer is more likely to leave or not.
When we observe the results of the Sandler Selling System in practice, especially when the principles and values are correctly adopted, it is possible to notice that the commercial team starts to work in a more standardized way, acting more proactively in the conduct of negotiations (which significantly impacts in the sales cycle) and truly connecting the customer's pain to the values and solution offered, through a more listening, focused and personalized attitude.
This technique, like SPIN Selling, shows us that anyone can learn to sell, as long as they are properly trained and qualified to investigate their prospects well and ask the right questions.
Importance of sales techniques
Observing and analyzing the sales techniques that we discussed above, the first clear conclusion we see is that skilled salespeople, understanding of customer pain, and investigative sales tend to have a better performance or more chances of achieving the desired high performance.
Another very important point when analyzing the SPIN Selling, Challenger Sale and Sandler Selling System methodologies is that they are complementary. The Challenger persona, for example, has great affinity with the techniques worked within SPIN, which provide great investigative and analytical support. Likewise, the Challenger persona represents the behavior identified by Sandler, especially with regard to leadership and understanding of the relationship of power and constructive tension in the prospect X salesperson relationship.
It is also possible to note as a consequence, that salesperson training, when taken into account by commercial management, should not be restricted to just one or two techniques and methodologies. Each market has specificities that demand a critical and realistic implementation of each of these models.
Finally, a fact that needs to be taken into account is that in the current situation we have an abundance of information and increasingly rapid changes due to the evolution of technology and changes in human behavior itself. Thus, it is essential that commercial managers revisit these models frequently and adapt them to the profile of sellers and help them to continually improve conversion rates.
And you? How have you been using sales techniques to improve the conversion rate of your sales funnel?