As a sales performance consultant and coach, Anita Nielsen answers this question for her clients. She works with sales leaders and salespeople to help them up to their game and get them to where they want to go. As a sales coach, Anita does one-on-one training and offers sales enablement services. She is known as a fixer when sales aren’t going smoothly.
Anita is also the author of the newly published book, Beat the Bots.
In recent years, sales reps have been wringing their hands about how robots are going to take away jobs. Anita’s book was the result of hearing these same fears over and over again. She doesn’t agree. She believes people who are great at customer service and building relationships will always have a job. The AIs won’t be able to learn empathy or trust and they can’t build that human connection. Buyers crave that connection more than ever due to the rise of technology. Customers want to work with people who they feel have their back and want them to succeed. They want sales reps they can trust and interact with.
How AIs help the sales force
Computer-based programs can do many things. AI can help with jobs that entail just dialing or deal with a template but they will never promote trust or empathy. The complex purchases won’t be handled by AI and technology. When they need specific business outcomes, customers still want a sales rep to help them figure out how to achieve those outcomes. Trust and empathy are two of the biggest factors that keep a human connection in the sales force. Buyers want to work with people who can provide both.
There are many things that a bot and AI can do. Some of the AIs are helping people to screen phone calls and can determine how long a salesperson spends talking to a customer or the length of time the customers are speaking. The technology won’t take away the jobs of salespeople. Tech is there to make salespeople better by supporting their work. It’s not there to replace the valuable things salespeople do for their customers.
Value is in the eye of the customer
When Anita talks with sales leaders, one of the first things they say is that their sales team doesn’t know how to articulate value to the customers. She then asks what they mean by value and Anita has yet to hear the same answers. What she does is break down value in three layers:
There’s the basic inherent value, the general value. The general value is the reason why customers are buying.
The second one is the company’s value. This value reflects what a company does that sets it apart from its competitors.
A customer looks at who you are and what you stand for, and how well you understand your customers. As a company, these need to be brought together to bring personalized value to the customer. What can you offer to make your customers feel better or more successful?
For salespeople and companies, the only thing that should matter is your customers’ perception of value and is to articulate how you can support those values.
As salespeople, it is our job to tap into the emotion behind the purchase and figure out what the customers’ motivations are. This discovery, however, has to come from a place of good intent. Be a salesperson who truly wants to help your customers succeed. People can sense your intention and good intention goes a long way.
It is this mindset that will guide your interaction with your customers. High performers are the ones who are instinctively tapping into these driving emotions.
Anita was working with a saleswoman a few years back who was selling medical devices. The device was sold to emergency departments and it helped get quicker results with less errors when checking for blood pressure and other stats. Every time a sale was done, training was provided to show the nurses how the device worked.
After once a particular sale, Sharon the sales rep was working with a nurse director named Florence ( both names changed) and she wondered why Florence wasn’t scheduling the training for her team. Florence had been living in the States for 20 years but still had a thick Philippine accent. As a result, Florence was insecure and stressed about conducting the training. Sharon understood and so she offered to do the training herself. Six months later, Sharon got a call from six different hospitals. She had gotten referrals through Florence, the nurse she’d helped. Florence was a customer for life and was pointing new customers to Sharon. Be the salesperson who is able to anticipate and address a customer’s problems and challenges.
Be good at discovery
The first thing you need to learn is to be great at the discovery. Learn to ask questions that are going to help evoke emotions. Use high-impact questions. For example, if you’re selling technology, you might ask:
- Help me understand how you guys are using X technology today.
- How well do you think your team is performing with that technology?
- What are the reasons that are happening?
- How do you think the team feels about leveraging the technology?
When asking questions, consider the hows and whys. Be humble and ask questions that will help you understand what your customer’s values are. Be real and sincere about learning your customer’s needs before introducing your product or service. You first have to know the problem you’re there to solve first.
Anita teaches her clients the question of exercise. In her book, Anita offers questions that can help launch these conversations and suggests picking out three that will help them master discovery. Her client gets to pick out the questions that feel most authentic them. Otherwise, methodologies don’t work if it goes against their nature. These questions can be practiced and implemented over time.
Language of the Elephant
A social psychologist talked about the idea of change as a human rider sitting on top of a six-ton elephant. The rider represents the rational system of the brain and the elephant is the emotional system of the brain. The path is the change that needs to be made.
When talking to the rider, you’ll talk about the data and the features. If you’re talking to the elephant, you understand what the team’s pain is, what the initiative is to them. At the end of the day, if you want to sell, you have to sell to that elephant so the rider and the elephant can move together. If a salesperson gets this, they can change the way they interact with customers immediately and it changes the whole dynamic.
“The Psychology of Sales” episode resources
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