Nicolas Dejehansart

About Nicolas Dejehansart

Nicolas assists companies in driving their commercial performance to the next level. His pet projects are about enabling sales teams to win more deals, secure higher margins and lower the cost of sales. Get in touch with Nicolas to gain competitive advantage:

Last week, I had another meeting with a Head of Sales in order to determine improvement opportunities within his sales team. Once again, the Head of Sales expressed to me the closing skills of his account managers should better. 

While this might be true for some, the reality is that this is mostly the symptom of another problem.  

While conducting several assessments to determine skill and proficiency levels within and across sales teams in several organisations, we noticed a recurring pattern: sales professionals induce the difficulty of closing themselves

How? They often go for the kill too soon in the selling process.  

Let me explain. We all know buyers go through their own buying journey. After being triggered by something, their interest is raised, they become aware something should change, start exploring,… to finally end up deciding what specific solution they need and whom shall be the best provider of this solution.  

If, as a sales rep, you start proposing a specific solution while the buyer just became aware something in his current situation should change, or worse, if you start telling him why he should collaborate with you, you will create a lot of friction.  

When you think of it, it is no rocket science. It all has to do with the mental phases we all go through in our decision process towards change. This mental journey is illustrated by buyer journeys. This is something your sales reps should be aware of so they can determine what they should and should not do, and when to do it.  

So, what about your sales reps’ closing skills? It is quite simple, really. If you want them to be efficient in applying their closing skills, first ask yourself if your selling process is aligned to the buyer journey. If so, your sales reps are able to identify the buying readiness of prospects, know what to do accordingly, and when to close.  

Want to know if your selling processes is truly buyer aligned?

Related Content: 

Probably you have seen this quote passing by several times on your LinkedIn feed: 

“CFO says: What happens if we invest in developing people & they leave us? 

CEO responds: What happens if we don’t & they stay?” 

Now I ask you: How do you make sure your investments in learning & development are effective and pay off? Simply put: How do you make it stick?  

The major pitfalls of sales trainings are the following

  • Lack of reinforcement  
  • Lack of engagement  
  • Lack of business relevance  

Competency does not come from periodic, one-time training. According to Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, learners forget 90% of what they learn from an event-based approach within 30 days, with most of the new material being forgotten within the first few hours after the training.  

Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

True though; there is not a single, absolute learning curve. Several factors contribute to learning retention, like individual ability and prior knowledge. But the risk of forgetting fast is real for most of us.

A first solution to promote knowledge retention is spaced learning (1). In short, i.e. multiple training opportunities. Many figures like this one show how less is forgotten after each review.

Rate of Retention with Repetition

Repetition is indeed the mother of learning. We also notice great results by combining spaced learning with micro-learning (2)! Micro-learning breaks down complex courses into smaller manageable learning content. Not only do we enhance retention rates through repetition, but we also speed up the learning process because trainees avoid the phenomenon of mental fatigue.

Of course, transfer to the job (3) is equally as important. In the end you are aiming for measurable business results, are you not? Knowledge of concepts is one thing, the capability of applying them another. So, if you want to see impact on your sales results and implement lasting positive change, you will want to change habits and behaviors. 

That is where the design of the training matters and on-the-job learning and coaching come into play. Think about group coaching, peer learning, in the field coaching done right (i.e. where the coach does not intervene) and using mobile technology with scenario-based challenges. 

By genuinely including your team in continuous training opportunities, you can make lasting changes in sales behaviors and positively impact performance. 

Next, make sure trainings are relevant to the business and your team’s objectives (4).

Do you remember those compulsory courses you had to follow in school which were nowhere close to your field of interest? Probably not your absolute best. It is the same with business training. Making it business relevant and aligned to individual and team objectives will generate higher engagement, increase on the job practice, and generate tangible results.

A good way to gauge this, is whether people within your sales team take ownership of their day to day activities and proactively ask for feedback about their successes and challenges, encountered while consciously trying to apply what they have learned.

Finally, think about building a performance dashboard (5) measuring proficiency, adoption, and the link to commercial performance. It will enable you to do two things:

  • See how competency levels are evolving within the group in order to put your time and effort where it matters most
  • See the direct link between your investments in L&D and business results.

Want to read more about this topic?

Related Content

Covid-19 has forced us to make major changes to our approach and way of selling. Some changes are temporary, but still, a number of things have changed permanently

1. The use of digital media in sales 

The preference to buy and sell via digital media appears to have considerably increased.  We have noticed that salespeople in the field have been compelled to have their sales talks online due to the lockdown. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has required many enterprises to take a crash course in digitalisation and remote working. As a result, enterprises have gained new insights and the habits or expectations of customers have changed. A substantial majority of executives in B2B suspects that these changes will be permanent (see McKinsey covid-19 B2B decision-maker pulse).  

In this respect, 3 elements appear to be essential for the future: 

  • A B2B salesperson becomes a mini-marketeer who launches drip campaigns through various media, thus structurally increasing the number of touchpoints with the right balance between digital and human interaction.  
  • Obviously, salespeople have to learn how to interact through digital media. Preparation, agenda, the setting of objectives and the use of the right supporting material are key elements, in addition to technical dexterity.  
  • Again, aligning the actions with the customer’s buying cycle is an essential factor.  Salespeople need to know which type of interaction preferably takes place through which type of media, depending on the nature of the conversation and the new preferences. Does it concern an introduction, a brief exploratory talk, a more in-depth conversation or a negotiation? How many people are involved? Is it an individual or a group conversation? … 

2. Be relevant and avoid procrastination

We are faced with the most serious economic crisis since World War II. This means that many enterprises act conservatively due to the uncertainty, try to cut costs, postpone non-essential investments and focus on matters that are essential to safeguard their value chain.  Some enterprises, however, are looking forward and invest in order to transform and emerge stronger.  

This is the best way for salespeople to handle the situation:  

  • It’s of crucial importance to start from the customer’s current main concerns and acute needs and to determine the services or products that may provide a solution.  The rest becomes irrelevant and only gives rise to resistance on the part of buyers. You should therefore reconsider your customer value propositions.  
  • Confidence is the foundation of a strong business relationship. A self-serving approach and product pitches are therefore mercilessly (and rightly) punished.  
  • For a good understanding of the customer and facilitation of the purchase, establishing contacts with several people in the same enterprise is essential. Due to the larger number of contacts, salespeople are forced to interact remotely part of the time if they want to use their time in an optimal manner.  
  • Gain knowledge of the customer’s sector and the changes in that sector that may have a permanent impact. This way, you can use the market information to inspire the customer and work together to develop a vision for the near future and work out the way to realise this vision.  

3. What are the main pitfalls that may cause you to lose your competitive edge?

  • Assuming that what was true before the covid-19 outbreak will also be true after the restart. Start from a blank page and assume that the landscape, the way of working, the challenges, aspirations, expectations and priorities of customers and prospects have changed.  
  • Adapting too slowly to the new reality (while your competitors are taking the lead) 
  • Allowing everyday issues to control our time and failing to prevent salespeople from spending too much time on after-sales and the processing of urgent incoming requests.  
  • Failing to ensure that salespeople divide their time optimally and with purpose and develop the new skills that are currently required to fill their pipeline and optimise their chances of success.  
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