Selling Skills for Non-Sales Roles
In the modern organization, everyone is a sales professional. Adaptability has new relevance today. In just months, the global pandemic has forced nearly all businesses to change. As a result, more leaders are discovering the advantages that come from the ability to quickly respond to new circumstances.
The most effective organizations are observing this change and taking the opportunity to redevelop their approach to the customer. They are finding ways to marshal more of their resources to meet the customer’s need for ongoing support more effectively. Doing so means encouraging a mindset in which everyone provides value to the customer.
Traditionally, there has been a partition within most organizations. On one side were the customer-facing roles, namely the sales professionals. On the other side were support teams: SMEs, marketing teams, and IT professionals. Modern organizations have removed this barrier and united the two groups around a single mission to deliver continuous value to the customer.
A commitment to this model yields benefits to both the customer and the business because the customer receives a more cohesive buying experience, and those within the business gain a deeper sense of unity and become more efficient as a team.
How to Build Selling Skills Across the Entire Organization
Developing selling skills and a customer-centric mindset among all the professionals in the organization requires adherence to three key practices:
- Applying existing skills in a new way.
- Uniting around an agile approach in which all professionals deliver value to customers.
- Creating a coachable framework.
3 Ways to Develop Selling Skills Among Non-Selling Roles
In the following sections, we examine each of the practices listed above in greater detail.
Apply Existing Skills in a New Way
Many non-sellers already possess selling skills. The challenge is to help these team members recognize this fact and leverage those capabilities in a way that addresses customer needs.
A primary example of this is seen with service professionals. Information learned during a service conversation uniquely positions service professionals to render a dimensional picture of unmet customer needs. Service professionals are privy to the customer’s concerns, interests, and value drivers. They also have a read on the customer’s tone and emotions. This breadth of information creates a detailed picture. Putting this information to use means finding ways to deliver unexpected value with a three-part approach.
- Service professionals need to adopt a new mindset. Traditionally, service professionals are focused on solving the customer’s problem. They do not see themselves as sales professionals. Therefore, service professionals must acknowledge that positioning a solution is in fact part of the problem-solving process. As a body of research from Deloitte concluded, “problem-solving skills requiring intuition, creativity, judgment, persuasion, and empathy could command a premium in a machine dominated world.”
- Service professionals must deliver on the customer’s heightened expectations. To do so, they must take ownership of the issue that prompted the conversation and personalize the experience with an authentic approach. When a service professional is authentic, they seek first to understand, then to solve.
- Service professionals need to spark the customer’s curiosity in the solution by connecting the product or service to needs expressed earlier in the conversation. This solution positioning must be in clear and concise language.
Unite Around an Agile Approach in Which all Professionals Deliver Value to Customers
Agility is about developing situational fluency in which the organization as a whole is able to move at the customer’s pace as stakeholder needs change and their perceptions of value evolve. Adopting an agile approach requires a new set of practices across different areas of the organization.
For example, marketing must generate content that speaks to the specifics of the customer’s challenge. Meanwhile, SMEs must be prepared to articulate their deep knowledge of products and services in a way that is relevant and accessible to customers. As discussed above, service professionals need to leverage insights gained in customer conversations. Therefore, an agile approach is needed to synchronize the oars in the water and bring these disparate capabilities together in a cohesive, customer centric approach that moves in lockstep with the stakeholder’s goals. Simply, everyone must unite around the same methodology in which driving customer revenue is a top priority. This alignment is critical to success because often the approach to selling is a patchwork of practices that have accumulated over years of different leadership.
This solution works when everyone in the organization commits to a single sales system. This commitment, however, is just the start. Over the long term, leaders also have the challenge of maintaining this consistency and avoiding drift because change is a process. Part of that process is resisting the inevitable backslide into old habits. Leaders and sales professionals alike must be aware of this pull so that they can recognize it when it occurs. It is important to break up behavior change into incremental steps so that people feel that they are making progress. In addition, success, even partial success, is important so that people feel the benefits of putting in the effort to master the new knowledge and skills.
Uniting a selling organization around a single methodology means committing everyone to one agile approach that uses the teams’ differences and variety as an asset rather than a hurdle to success.
Create A Coachable Framework
Developing selling skills among those who are not in traditional selling roles means creating a coachable framework so that leaders can illustrate how the capabilities in each area of the business will influence selling outcomes.
A coachable framework is only possible when leaders establish a customer-centric ethos. In doing so, leaders can quickly gauge, at scale, how opportunities are developing and focus on the exceptions that need specific attention. As a result, the leadership becomes more effective because they can devote time to exploring what resources must be provided to help the broader team, rather than on analysis and inspection. This is a more productive management approach than constantly stepping in and simply advising people on what to do without giving them the chance to develop their own critical thinking skills.
Sales leaders must remember that some of those who are new to the everyone-is-in-sales model may resist coaching activities that reinforce a formalized sales process. Here, sales leaders can be effective by helping professionals see that the process merely articulates what they already do, making the keys to their success explicit. If the idea of focusing all capabilities toward sales outcomes begins to feel too rigid, sales leaders should coach sales professionals to explore the “why” behind the next step. Coaches should also avoid the default approach in which leaders focus on recommending that sales professionals do what worked for them. Ensure that leaders refrain from becoming just “advice givers.”
Transforming a group of different professionals into a coordinated, organization-wide revenue team requires a high level of coaching. Therefore, coaches need the support of a clear and codified customer-centric framework that they can reference in any coaching conversation.
Driving Results Through Shared Ownership
Today’s customer needs are varied, dynamic, and nuanced. Therefore, effective organizations are developing a new approach to selling that can address these characteristics. This transformation begins by creating an environment in which everyone has some degree of ownership of sales outcomes.
Adopting this model means applying existing skills in a way that offers visible value to the customer, committing to an agile approach in which all team members are in some way connected to customer outcomes, and ensuring coaching connects to the initiative.
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