Posted by Mike Carroll ● Mon, Jan 27, 2014 @ 08:01 AM

Are Your Sales People Selling Beyond Their Comfort Zone?

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In our consulting practice, we’ve been running a lot of “must win” deal workshops with our clients.  It’s a great way to focus a sales team on the opportunities that really matter and will make a meaningful contribution to revenue and profit goals.  It also provides an excellent framework to review the sales process and sales methodology we emphasize.  And it gives the sales managers we work with a great way to reinforce the right lessons and hold their team accountable to focusing on the right activities to drive results.

What’s been surprising in these sessions is how many sales people can explain in great detail the business issues and challenges of their main contact at a prospective client… and nobody else.

On one hand I’m delighted that they are applying the questioning and discovery skills we emphasize in our development programs. It is important to be able to describe in great detail – from the prospect’s point of view, which is critically important – the compelling reasons why they need to change, the financial impact of not making a change, and the urgency around making the change quickly. 

On the other hand the limited scope of communication troubles me. Many of these deals come out of our “must win” workshop with a relatively low score because the sales person has not gathered other perspectives.  They know one point of view and they know it well.  And in some cases that might be enough.  But even when they are talking with the ultimate decision maker, the sales person would still be better off building a case that includes multiple perspectives across the prospective account. 

Decisions to purchase and implement a new product or service are complicated and are not made in isolation (Sharon Drew Morgan has written extensively on this topic).  Many of the sales people in our workshops who felt they were in a really good position quickly realized that not knowing all the stakeholders and their wants, needs, and decision criteria really weakens their chances for winning the business.  

So why do they do it?  Why do even high-performing sales people who should know better miss this fundamental aspect of winning a complex deal? 

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons but the common thread uncovered in our workshops has been a reluctance to call beyond their comfort zone.  For example, many of our clients sell to manufacturers.  In our coaching conversations we’ve learned some sales people are more comfortable driving around the building and walking in by the loading dock, approaching someone on the shop floor and finding the plant manager or foreman.  Others are much more comfortable parking in front of the building, approaching the receptionist, and finding a way into the C-suite.  

It’s the rare sales person who is just as comfortable on the shop floor as they are in the board room because the guys who are comfortable in one setting are not always comfortable in the other.  And yet, to be successful, they need to be able to talk to everyone involved, understand their point of view and priorities, and develop a recommendation that considers what is important to everyone involved.  What would happen if either sales person stretched beyond their comfort zone and went to the other door? 

What about your sales people?  Are they calling beyond their comfort level?  Do they gather multiple viewpoints?  Can they switch the questions they ask depending on whether they are standing on carpeting or concrete?  Or are they in a rut, calling to their comfort level and hoping for the best?   

Perhaps you can find a way to challenge them to go beyond their comfort level and call other parties within a target account. Encourage your sales leaders to inspect their call reports to look for diversity in the titles they are calling on (or spot trends and patterns that suggest they are calling in their comfort zone). What impact would asking this one simple question have on your revenue growth this year?

Topics: Listening Skills, Cold Calling

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