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Selling Complex Solutions and Why Conventional Sales Training Won’t Work

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Mar 9, 2017 8:15:00 AM

Your technology or solution fits the client's needs but they are currently using another solution. While selling against the competition is a common problem for salespeople across all industries, advertising and marketing technology or software solutions challenge salespeople in a way that conventional sales training and product training doesn’t address.

Selling innovative technology requires a new multi-platform approach to training that goes beyond just building confidence to providing the right understanding and resources needed to win the first few sales.

Now, some people would like to believe that technology just sells itself, but consider the key element in closing every sale: interaction with a salesperson.

The relationship between the buyer and seller as well as their respective organizations is a major competitive advantage when selling technology.

While the buyer has most likely conducted their own research to first understand, frame, and give a name to their problem or opportunity, their motivation to buy really comes down to whether your solution is a good business and personal fit.

The buyer makes a decision based on how well the salesperson is able to connect the dots between the customer’s needs and how the solution will be the right fit to address those needs.

If it were just the technology, you wouldn’t need the salesperson. 

But since that’s not the case, here’s why you should kick conventional sales training to the curb and focus on winning more sales with these ideas:

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Be an Expert

Traditional sales training is typically built on the premise that you must memorize and regurgitate facts, figures, features, and benefits of your products and services. While yes, salespeople must know this information, the problem is that a lot of companies lump “selling skills” and “product knowledge” training together when they should be completely separate programs. Selling skills training is all about how you communicate your message. But the first step is having a solid understanding of the product and market knowledge prior to learning how to present the solution.

You can be an expert by focusing on:

Knowing the Market

Understanding our target market and niche is critical. We need to understand the unique circumstances, competitive environment, and business processes of our target market. In doing this research and preparation, we are better equipped to address the needs of our target market and identify what core business challenges our technology can address.

Knowing the Client

We need to go beyond the market and spend time getting to know each individual company’s situation and circumstances. Each client will have unique business challenges and processes that need the support of technology in a customized way.

Factors that will affect the type of solution needed will vary depending on their stage of business growth, current processes and systems in place, business goals, and management methodology.

BONUS: Here's a video from our CEO, Steve Bookbinder, about how to stay knowledgeable and up-to-date on the latest trends going on in your industry:

Be Curious

Typical sales training is focused on you and your company. However, in the real world of selling you will only have success by focusing on the customer.

Sellers must work towards building a deeper connection and trust with their buyers in order to be successful when selling their technology solution.

To do that, you must master the art of being curious and learning how to uncover needs by going below the surface of the sales conversation.

My advice is to practice asking 2nd level questions and 3rd level questions.

For example: Let’s say it’s a first appointment where you’ve proactively prospected to get the sales meeting. The prospect begins by telling you, “The reason I wanted to meet you is that we are currently looking to change vendors and I thought your solution might be what we are looking for.”

Typical response: “Great! Tell me more about what you’re looking for.”

Below the surface response: “Before I go into our offering, can you tell me why you originally chose your current vendor and why their approach hasn’t worked for you? Did something change?”

Finding a solution that fits the customer requires going below the surface of what was explicitly said so you can ask about the implicit – what you deduced from the customer’s words.

Be Prepared

While conventional sales training may address how to turn around sales objections, it doesn’t teach you the strategies necessary to anticipate and handle new objections.

Most salespeople sound confident when they already know what they are going to say before they say it. They are at their worst when they don’t know what to say. And nothing can stop a salesperson more than fear of not knowing how to answer a question or turn around an objection.

My advice is to encourage all sellers to share the objections and questions they’ve been getting on a weekly or monthly basis. This will provide real world examples so that you can continually practice and refine your answers. This is also a great way for the whole team to share essential information that will help everyone do their job more effectively. 

Be a Problem Solver

Elevating ourselves from the status of order taker to trusted advisor and problem solver can give us a real advantage in the marketplace.

To do that, it’s imperative that salespeople understand the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the technology.

Start by mastering the specialist vs. umbrella argument. Either your company offers all related services under one “umbrella”, or you specialize in services that umbrella companies offer, too, but your version is better. 

Umbrella companies offer a single point of contact and the ability to move services to the ones the client needs.  Specialists are stuck only providing their one service which may not be the right fit over time.  But, if you are a specialist company, your argument is that no one else can reach your level of specialty and for that reason the fit with the customer’s needs will be closer. 

By understanding our limitations and setting expectations early on through effective communication, we can dispel any misconceptions the client may have and avoid misunderstanding or off-target results. Truly knowing all about your solution will help maximize revenue and client satisfaction.

My advice is to develop this “positioning” skill. It requires ongoing verbal practice; over your career at various points you will need to be an expert on one side or the other of this argument. To be seen as a consultant, we need to have a thorough needs analysis approach, build our profile as a subject matter expert, have a high level of rapport with the potential clients, and look for ideal solutions—not just “our solution” to client problems.

Conclusion

Traditional sales training needs to evolve into a more comprehensive approach. Because to become an excellent salesperson, it’s less about selling skills and product knowledge, but more about your ability to translate your message and make a connection to the buyer and their problem.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated.

Topics: sales tips, sales training, solution selling