Do you have industry experience?
That’s a question we get a lot during prospect/client calls or meetings. I never quite know how to answer it, although it seems appropriate. Not that I am trying to avoid it, but I’m not sure how important industry experience is when it comes to good selling.
Being a sales expert, I wear my sales hat wherever I go. Whether it’s ordering a coffee at Starbucks or any other coffee shop, buying a car, returning an item with an on-line retailer, having an issue with my phone or credit card company. Many of my blogs are inspired by sales experiences and I see mistakes and missed opportunities everywhere, no matter what industry.
We here at CSA mostly provide sales training to the B2B world, but our philosophy would also sit really well in the B2C environment. If only companies would start to understand that we are all people (regardless if we are buyers on a personal or professional level) and bad selling is bad selling.
Industry experts might focus on the features
Too many sales people focus on the features and benefits rather than the value and talk themselves out of a sale as a result. The benefits of your product/service is something that your sales manager should be able to train you on. It’s important to understand what you are selling and to answer questions if they come up, but it’s more important to first connect with the person you are talking to, understanding the underlying philosophy of human interaction and behavior and to then take the next step.
If you understand how people feel, you are able to build trust
For example, if I have a customer service issue with American Express I want the person on the other end of the phone to first understand why I am upset (should that be the case) and the show empathy. If I lose my card abroad, that’s an upsetting experience, but if a sales/service person calms me down, the interaction will be a lot smoother and easier for everybody involved.
That’s a skill that can be trained. Proper listening and paying attention to your customer’s behavior is a core competency of Consultative Selling. It’s what we train in our program.
Sometimes I wish that companies would hire us in a field where we have had no previous experience. Why? Because it would help them to gain a insights about their business that they might not be aware of. That’s the beauty about outside perspective. It’s not tainted and it focuses on the real issues that your company might face, rather than being just as good or better than the competition.
Industry jargon is not brain surgery
Four years ago we started working with a 3PL/Logistics provider. We were new in that field but it didn’t matter. The company was struggling to get back to its pre-recession revenue and we helped them achieve that goal. Our client wasn’t looking for a company that had logistics expertise, they were looking for a provider who was a sales expert. This company is still a client of ours, they have grown dramatically as a result of working with us. Have we learned a lot about the logistics industry in the course of the last four years? Of course, but lingo and terminology can be learned quickly, that’s not brain surgery.
Also, every company has a unique set of challenges. Sometimes a technology company has more in common with a market research firm than with another tech outfit. Why, because the way they structure their sales force might be similar, or how they use their CRM system. What’s important is to identify the opportunities for growth and to then design the program around it.
What do Ballet, PR and Sales have in common?
It’s the fundamental change in the way people sell, their outlook on prospect and client situations, their attitude and the way they learn how to add value to their clients rather than pushing product features that makes the difference.
Just look at my professional background. I started out as a professional ballet dancer, became a PR expert and finally ended up in sales. What did I need to be successful in all those disciplines? Tenacity, perseverance, respect and professionalism.
So, the next time you hire a company to help you in an area of improvement, ask yourself the question. Do I want somebody who knows my industry, or somebody who is an expert in what they do?
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