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were needed, what competence was required to sell our services consist- ently and well; and what processes or systems needed to be developed (or eliminated!) to execute our sales in a disciplined and effective manner.

Lesson 2: develop your way of selling to your customers Tere are different kinds of selling. Ours is a ‘complex’ sale, B2B with a sales cycle of two to eight months. Other companies have ‘transactional’ sales, B2C with an immediate close or a very short sales cycle. Some businesses have both kinds of sales. It took time to develop the

fundamentals of our selling process: ``

A context for selling that frees your salespeople to be honest, direct and willing to walk away when necessary – we found that we were most successful when the purpose of our sales conversation was to develop what we call the DQ – the decision intelligence – of our customers, instead of trying to get them to sign a contract.

` `

A ‘map’ of your customer’s buying process – it took time, but we identified a buying framework: the steps our customers needed to take to develop their DQ so they could make an informed buying decision.


Aligning your selling process with this buying process – successful selling is leading your customer through the steps required for them to make their best, informed buying decision. Now, you can define the skills it takes to do this well.

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A CRM that’s used for planning sales activity instead of reporting it – CRMs usually contain information that is at best outdated and at worst fabricated. We turned our CRM into a sales planning tool by replacing its ‘sales’ stages with the ‘customer buying process’ stages. We now know at a glance how far along a sale actually is and the very next step our salesperson is taking to move it forward.

Lesson 3: transform selling behaviour We knew well Neil Rackham’s summary of his research:1

87 per cent

of classroom learning is lost within the first 30 days. We also knew that effective sales training is caught, not taught. Lectures, online self-learning via video or text, reading – these

26 | November 2016 |

modalities can work well with technical, financial, software or legal training, but sales just can’t be taught like this. We explored our own experience,

and we concluded that people develop selling skills over time according to a five-stage process. For each skill, they: Learn it – this can be taught in a

classroom setting. People comprehend the skill, role-play it, and articulate it. We do this face-to-face, in person and remotely via video conference. Live it – participants form

‘learning partnerships’ in which they help each other practice the skills in real life, slowly experiencing their value. Tis is similar to the experience one has learning to ride a bicycle, in which the ‘learning’ happens to you experientially. It’s obvious when people reach this stage, because they have stories to tell about how the skills have worked for them. Coach it – the experience of

applying skills to one’s professional life creates the ability to help others have a similar experience. We call this ‘coaching’. It could also be called mentoring. Tis is nearly always a one-on-one experience, and it often requires the person being coached to have been introduced to the skill in a face-to-face training experience. Train it – the ability to train others

from scratch is a step beyond coaching. Tis required skills in providing a group with an experience that changes them. It

participants themselves know what they need in order to advance, and we work hard to listen to them and do what it takes to give them that opportunity. It takes time, but we’re finding – just

like that bicycle-riding metaphor – that once they’ve made it to a level, they’ve ‘got’ the learning: they may occasionally forget to apply a skill, but they never lose the ability to do it.

Watch salespeople, and you will see two habitual behaviours: presenting and persuading

was at this stage of development that we found people who could start teaching with us in the academy. Train others to train it - the

final stage of development is the emergence of the capacity to ‘train the trainer.’ We found that this is the level of development required to train faculty for our academy. We developed our training approach

around these levels. We will do anything and everything to get people from one level to another. Often, academy

Lesson 4: enrol the right people Just because people think they can sell doesn’t mean they can. We decided on criteria for participation and we enrolled participants accordingly. Our particular criteria included: viewing one’s professional history as an experience in selling, being passionate about solving problems, curiosity, a capacity for deep listening, authenticity and a desire to let go of the old and learn something new.

Lesson 5: training is 10 per cent classroom, 90 per cent field We were astounded at how long it took our talented people to apply new selling skills in the field. We think it’s because nearly everyone we’ve worked with thinks selling is pitching. Watch


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