Once they are aware of the issues facing a company, salespeople must develop solutions. That calls for more and different sales training. Salespeople need less training on products and features, and more on how CEOs and other high-level executives address the problems they face. "The product training is great, but what they really need is to understand more about what is driving the company they're trying to sell to," says Kieran. "They need to be able to think like an executive."
One of Cavanaugh's gambits is to try to demonstrate that an investment in his products and programs will provide an attractively positive return. "We're going to do a cost-benefit analysis with them to show that if they spend X, they'll get Y in return," he says. For example, a company with low employee morale and poor attendance would be shown how one of Cavanaugh's programs could cut the number of temporary employees needed to replace absent workers. From there, it's straightforward to quantify cost savings in fewer temp salaries and, hopefully, justify the buy.
To think of that kind of objection-beater, salespeople need training in general business management and in specific problems facing their target companies and industries. Kieran recommends coaching salespeople on competitive pressures, regulatory issues, supplier conflicts and other sensitive issues executives encounter. Says Kieran, "If you take a 360-degree view of what that company is facing, you can get pretty adept at figuring out what [the executive is] going through."
Mixing It Up
Some experts say the fence between marketing and sales has to come down. "Salespeople used to be take leads from marketing or generate their own from cold-calling," says Singer. "But the days of cold-calling are numbered. Today, a salesperson needs to know how to do direct marketing, how to write a headline, how to do a sales letter, and how to generate leads without picking up the phone."
Singer recommends salespeople get training in conducting e-mail campaigns, publishing client newsletters, writing print and radio ad copy and more. "It's always been sales on one side and marketing on the other," he says. "But marketing is the same thing as sales. It's just sales in a different medium, in print, audio or e-mail."
McClennan echoes Singer's call for more marketing-oriented salespeople. He's training his to develop marketing lists and use e-mail client letters created with contact management software to stay in touch efficiently with large numbers of prospects. "We've also found we need to make sure our marketing and sales [efforts] are well-coordinated," he adds. "Our salespeople need to understand what the marketing message is and see that it finds its way into sales scripts."