When selling has been a key part of your role for over 30 years, and you have been teaching and coaching both the professions (lawyers, accountants and surveyors) as well as marketers for almost 20 years, it is easy to forget how important it is to remember the basics.
On Tuesday morning I ran a training session for PM Forum on “Integrating marketing with selling and relationship management” http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training/index.aspx and talked about a range of basic selling skills and sales topics with delegates from accountancy, tax and legal (both solicitors and barristers) firms. Whilst some of the delegates were in a business development oriented role (e.g. pitch support, key account management) many were on the marketing and communications side of the spectrum and were relatively new to the world of selling. At the end of the session, I asked them what they had found most useful and it was interesting to hear their views:
Relationship mapping with the DMU
Relationship mapping is a technique that is used both in new business development as well as key account management. Essentially, a diagram is drawn where the various individuals who are known at the organisation are mapped out – linked to their functional department and location. The strength of the relationship is marked against each individual (sometimes using the red, amber, green traffic light system) and sometimes the seniority as well (low, medium, high). Then we plan action based on which relationships need what attention. We also identify the gaps – where we are unaware of the individuals or where we do not have a sufficiently good knowledge or relationship.
Sales process models
The course explores a number of key sales process models – including those from PACE, Miller Heiman and Huthwaite International. We also talked about the sales process models that are built into CRM systems such as InterAction. However, we discussed the need to develop a sales process model that properly reflected the sales cycle within the different practice areas and markets of the professionals involved and some of the ways that an understanding of the sales process could be elicited from them.
Whilst most firms are aware of and track the conversion rates that they achieve on pitches and tenders, we talked about how often the conversion rates in other areas – for example, from visits to the web site to enquiries, from enquiries to dialogue, from dialogue to contact, from seminar attendance to meetings and so on – are neglected. The manner in which conversion rates for various stages of the sales process where multiple meetings and contacts take place was addressed.
Importance of research
Most marketers and business development folk understand the importance of research – and particularly the need for good research during both targeting and in advance of any sales contact (whether by email, telephone or in person). What some found interesting was that professionals were often presented with research packs that they didn’t quite know how to use in a sales context or where the research was not produced by someone with sufficient understanding of how the information was to be used in a sales situation. I advised them to have a go at developing a research pack for a potential sales scenario themselves and to spend time thinking about how the research helped identify appropriate questions and possible opportunities. And then to guide their professionals through the process a few times so that they learned how research could help them have a broader, more commercial discussion with the client and identify issues and opportunities beyond their specific area of expertise.
Most people know that selling relies on the relationship between the supplier and the client. It’s all about people. But the delegates were interested in the variety of different models exploring differences in personality, communication, thinking and buying style that could be used to support the development of rapport, matching of people and good relationship development.
Listening and empathy
Most of you will know that I place great emphasis on the importance of empathy both when marketing and selling. But it was interesting that a couple of the delegates found it helpful to be reminded of the power of active listening in selling situations. Sometimes you forget that the simplest things (like giving people time to formulate their responses before answering a question, allowing people space and time to elaborate on a thought or point etc) – but listening carefully and reflecting back in an empathetic way shouldn’t be one of them!.
Similar to the material on personality and other styles, we also considered the behaviour of people in teams and groups. And this was considered in the context of both the sales team as well as the client team and when they came together. A number of tools to help analyse and improve team dynamics were mentioned.
Most delegates felt that the various practical tools that they received to help their lawyers and accountants analyse the sales opportunity and plan their action for each stage of the sales cycle were most useful and indicated that they would be putting these into immediate use on their return to the office. I’m happy to have been of service!
Of course, there are many good sales books (some even focusing on professional services) around as a source of additional knowledge – and details were provided during the session. However, I always remind people that my first book provides a good introduction to both the concepts of consultative selling as well as examples of how it is applied in both tendering and account management scenarios within the professions. http://kimtasso.com/publications/books/dynamic/