Underperformance and How To Fix It

Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Corporate Visions

Saying there’s an underperformance problem in sales is a bit like saying there’s a salinity issue with the ocean. Sales wouldn’t be sales if there were no hitches in executing your message, maintaining good habits or moving your opportunities ahead.

But what if the underperformance problem I’m talking about isn’t just an easily correctable flaw in process, but rather a big fundamental issue caused by skills gaps in your most important buying conversations? That makes it a little more urgent, right?

An online survey, which coincided with the launch of a new book I co-authored, “The Three Value Conversations,” revealed that salespeople are performing at only 70 percent of capacity in three crucial sales conversations — the very conversations they need to master if they want to close profitable deals that will get them to their targets.

In my mind, these three selling “moments of truth” come down to:

•   Creating value by defeating the status quo and differentiating your solutions.

•   Elevating value by building a business case that passes muster with executive decision-makers.

•   Capturing value by protecting margins and expanding deal size during tense negotiations.

Serious skills gaps in these critical areas are a threat to your success. Below, I’ve highlighted what the survey showed to be the biggest challenges in each area, while providing a skills training tip designed to address the most pressing problems.

Biggest differentiation skills challenge: Illustrating sharp contrast between a prospect’s current state and a desired future.

Key skill: When it comes to persuading a prospect to leave their status quo and differentiating your message, your ability to create contrast between where your prospect is today and where you could lead them is essential. New research my company conducted with a Stanford professor, Dr. Zakary Tormala, bears this out. The experiment found that messaging with an eye to creating contrast between the status quo and a “new safe” scenario, versus just presenting your future scenario, gives you a statistically significant boost in some of the most important areas of buying influence, including purchase intent, perception of quality, buyer advocacy and willingness to change.

Another key differentiation skill sellers can use has to do with identifying and introducing your prospect’s “unconsidered needs.” These are the problems or missed opportunities that affect your prospect’s world, but that they aren’t fully aware of. Your ability to identify these “off the radar” challenges will in turn increase the need for your unexpected strengths, which you can map to the needs you’ve identified to show how you can help them get to a safe change scenario.

Biggest executive conversation challenge: Winning access to executive buyers.

Key skill: Ask yourself: What does being executive-relevant in your messaging, content and skills really mean? It starts with making sure you’ve adopted a C-suite perspective in your story, one that focuses on the external factors that are forefront in an executive’s mind, such as regulatory challenges, economic conditions and shifts in customer preferences. You then need to tie these issues to their strategic business initiatives — and to your value — to create a compelling executive buying vision.

Biggest executive conversation challenge: Getting customers to reveal underlying motivations.

Key skill: Customers and sellers alike agree that when it comes to negotiations, customers have all the power. The main factor driving this is the customer’s belief that she has all the alternatives. So how do you become the best alternative?

Instead of trying to retake control or match the customer’s power, which research suggests can actually backfire, salespeople need to turn to more low-power skills and techniques to seize the advantage. One way to do that is by creating value-based exchanges — or “pivotal agreements” —  to help drive consensus and value, instead of relying on giveaways and discounting at a schedule to move deals ahead.

Clearer differentiation, better executive value propositions, more valuable negotiations — the conversations above include some of the most challenging moments in the buying cycle. But make no mistake: Salespeople have a lot to gain — a 30 percent improvement! — if they have skills and techniques to navigate them well.

Tim Riesterer is Chief Stategy and Marketing Officer at Corporate Visions, a leading marketing and sales messaging, tools and training company that helps global B2B companies create more sales opportunities, win more deals and increase sales profitability by improving the conversations salespeople have with customers.

a leading marketing and sales messaging, tools and training company that helps global B2B companies create more sales opportunities, win more deals and increase sales profitability by improving the conversations salespeople have with customers. - See more at: http://corporatevisions.com/#sthash.6xDdfLDm.dpuf