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February 10, 2016

A future of consultative selling

As I touched on in the recent post entitled Can sales be taught, the art of sales is evolving quickly. Modern sales professionals require a much different skill set in order to be successful in today’s tech-driven world.  Sales requires researching, listening, strategic thinking, as well as strong communicating, often referred to as “consultative sales.”  Salespeople are no longer simply order-takers, as they are required to provide detailed knowledge and insight about a product or service as it relates to the customer’s business.  In many ways, great sales professionals have become more like consultants.

Buyers are becoming increasingly aware of the options available to them because of the abundance of information available on the Internet. In fact, according to the Forbes article entitled “The Disappearing Sales Process,” “customers reported to being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before engaging a sales rep,” which tells us, if your salespeople aren’t contributing beyond what appears on your website, they’re not adding value. That’s why salespeople need to be more knowledgeable than ever about the customers and industries they serve. They not only need to be trained in the ways of selling, but also in how businesses within their target markets operate and how your products and services can solve their specific business challenges.

A recent post by Jeff Thomas, the Vice President of Sales at SEMrush adds to this. “You cannot reasonably expect to consult with someone if you do not know your stuff. Depending on your client base you may never be better at their job than they are, but you need to know how your product and solution will impact them in a positive and meaningful way. You need to be able to ask questions and give answers that relate their expertise to your product.” This requires salespeople to not only be aware of what’s going on in the target industry they serve, but also become experts on it, and that means learning and researching on an ongoing basis.  Since most sales professionals deal with many clients, often across multiple industries, the challenge of keeping up can grow exponentially.

With this trend of consultative sales, it’s become more common for companies to hire salespeople who have a background in the industry they will be expected to sell to. This, however, may not be the right approach.  Given how fast industries change and how sales reps may need to cover multiple industries, isn’t it a better approach to hire sales professionals with the right skills and provide them with the tools to learn about the customers and industries that they serve?

This is where the Allego platform can be transformative in an organization.  The platform is geared to allow salespeople to learn from others within their company, in a very convenient manner and at the time when the information they need is most relevant, e.g. as they’re approaching a deal. Rather than dump a huge amount of information on each new rep, Allego allows them to get the information they need when they need it.  We call this “Just-In-Time Learning.” This provides a combination of training in both sales techniques and industry knowledge to back up the benefits of your product or service, allowing reps to talk to customers in a highly relevant manner. This kind of training is what sets great salespeople apart from the pack. George Athan, the Chief Strategist at MindStorm Strategic Consulting says, “In consulting for many organizations and training sales teams, it is alarming that most salespeople are not taught how to effectively sell. The organizations that do training, often times it is not done effectively, and/or not consistently. This rings especially true when it comes to consultative selling.”

Hiring people solely based on industry expertise or their “sales personality” is the wrong approach.  As is trying to onboard new reps with a firehose of information.  Organizations that hire salespeople with the versatile skills required for modern selling and then arm their teams with “Just-In-Time Learning” tools are much more likely to have success.  It’s time to provide sales professionals with tools that match today’s demands and empower sales reps to be consultants and not order takers.



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