The Many Uses of Sales Training

FEB 6, 2013 5:07pm ET

I always state to attendees of my sales seminars the techniques, ideas and concepts relative to sales training have practical applications in multiple situations. Sales training techniques and practices should not be viewed from a myopic perspective, but rather how they transcend the discipline of selling. Interestingly, I was reminded of this very point by a recent experience with a coaching client.
My client is a computer solutions salesman who has worked, in a well-paying sales capacity, for several hardware and software manufacturers. In mid-December his division was closed and he found himself, like so many others, looking for employment.
After several weeks, he had the opportunity for a telephone interview with the department head of a large, privately held, software company. After one of our weekly sessions he mentioned he was anticipating, with trepidation, the interview because he had limited experience interviewing for a job.
I inquired if he felt confident with how he was going to handle the interview, he replied, “I’ve got an impressive, verifiable background and know my field of expertise. Logically, the rest should fall into place.” After a brief discussion, we came to the mutual conclusion that he was a train wreck waiting to happen.
I suggested we review his anticipated interview as he would any selling opportunity and utilize many of the techniques we had worked on. He looked at me quizzically until I was more explicit.
The most important concept of any situation is the oft-cited statement that success will be more likely when (wait for it...) preparation meets opportunity. Simply put, this salesperson was being afforded the opportunity to interview for a well-paying sales job yet had not properly prepared.
From this point, we simply took the time to recall effective sales techniques. The first order of business was to get a large pad and pencil to write and review our thoughts. The next item to address was gathering as much information about the prospect (interviewer) and his company (prospective employer).
This will assist the salesperson (interviewee) in proper preparation for having a modicum of control during the sales presentation (interview) and ensuring a productive, mutual conversation instead of a one-sided question and answer session. Furthermore, the salesperson (interviewee) will convey that this sale (employment) will only work well if it is mutually beneficial.
The prospect’s (employer’s) questions (objections) can usually be anticipated, therefore, the appropriate responses should be written clearly to ensure maximum effectiveness. Several questions the salesperson (interviewee) should ask are, “Where do you see your company in three years? After I’m hired, where do you see me in three years?”
Several factors are accomplished with these prepared questions that otherwise might not have happened. The salesperson (interviewee) is setting up the appropriate sales presentation based partly on the question, and more importantly, the second question is a subliminal attempt to close the sale (imply that the position will be his).
Furthermore, the salesperson (interviewee) noted that it was imperative to determine if the prospect (interviewer) was going to make the buying (employing) decision, when the decision would be made and what the salesperson (interviewee) could do to be certain his product (himself) would be purchased (employed). Having accomplished all of the above (and then some) the sales person made his closing statement, “When can I expect to receive an employment offer (sales order)?”
Through this insightful discussion, the salesperson ascertained the company planned on going public within six months and it was critical for the prospect (interviewer) to have his department fully staffed to illustrate the effectiveness and adherence of their business plan. Also, knowing that there might be some ancillary benefits available (other than salary and commission) the salesperson (job applicant) was now going to prepare for further remuneration discussions.
Fortunately, the salesperson (my coaching student) received a written offer a day after the initial interview. Not wanting to risk the opportunity for employment (making the sale) he contacted me that he was going to sign the offer immediately and email it right back.
I suggested that as in successful selling opportunities there is more to the transaction than just the sales price. Read your buyer (the department head making the offer). The buyer acknowledged that he will do business (employ) the salesperson but there was no reason for the seller (job applicant) to jump at the first offer until there’s certainty that you’re not leaving anything on the table.
I suggested he ask for another $12,000 annually and be given stock options relating to the IPO. At this juncture it was imperative that the salesperson (applicant) profusely thank the prospect (employer) and state that he’s looking forward to starting immediately (fulfill the order as expeditiously as possible) but wanted to discuss two terms for consideration. Reluctantly, my student took my advice and the outcome was outstanding. He received $10,000 more in his annual salary and a guarantee of stock options and the ability to acquire more shares through the IPO.
Simple, easy and effective sales techniques can be employed in situations that don’t appear to be a selling opportunity. For you accomplished sales professionals, when encountered with an opportunity that might not appear to be sales oriented, put it into a sales context and proceed to utilize your best-selling techniques.
More importantly, when afforded the opportunity to present your offer, idea, product, service or most other situations, remember that success (here it is again) will be more likely if you are prepared for the opportunity. Preparation is not rocket science and should be kept as simply as possible to ensure the effectiveness of your presentation.