Sales Skills – Learning by Doing

Al Morgan, Director of Solution Marketing at Porter Consulting

salesSkillspngIn my last article about training, I laid out some ideas about developing skills by delivering them in manageable chunks. We find most folks like learning by doing, so our goal is just enough information, just in time. This time, let’s look at what goes into the chunks and how to make sure they get absorbed.

Just enough, just in time

Most of the sales reps we work with are already successful at selling. Our job is to get them to expand their comfort zone, either to a new solution, or addressing a new customer segment, or both. Most of the projects we work on are “complex sales” where there are multiple stakeholders in the decision, with different points of view. Average deal sizes go from $10k to $500k. Our goal is for the rep to qualify the deal sufficiently so that it makes economic sense to bring in an outside resource, such as a presales specialist to advance the deal.

This process includes breaking down the deal profile so it can be qualified a bit at a time, generally through short conversations with multiple stakeholders:

  • What is the best fit customer profile? Also, what makes a prospect a poor fit?
  • What are the stakeholder profiles, and how do you recognize them? Usually the roles look like door opener, owner of the problem being solved, and the budget owner. We also look at who might be opposed to our specific solution.
  • How does the solution value proposition map to the interests and domain of each stakeholder?

At that point, we can create conversation guides that allow the rep to ask just the right questions to each stakeholder, to test their interest in a solution. We simplify this further by giving the sales reps tools for their phone or tablet that let them easily grab those questions for each discussion. The answers to these questions become the criteria for scoring deals.

Deal Management and Profiling

We have been introducing our customers to some great new tools (, that can embed these types of questions directly into the sales process. The reps can now score deals on their phone or tablet as they engage the customer. This approach reinforces the training, since the reps use the questions from training to evaluate their deals. In addition, periodically reviewing the deal scoring gives the rep a solid foundation for account planning and next steps.

  • High scoring deals get extra attention or resources to advance them quickly.
  • Deals with scoring gaps need additional time and perhaps new contacts.
  • Deals with consistently low scores get dropped or put on the back burner.

The scoring also immediately updates the CRM system and can alert other members of the sales team to new information.

There is a wealth of information in the deal scoring that can help sales management, marketing and operations to compete more effectively. We’ll cover that in an upcoming article.

Shifting the Curve

Applying these principles helps make selling complex solutions easier for sales teams. Every sales organization has a few “A” reps to which all of this comes naturally. But upgrading the skills across the sales organization is where the payoff comes in terms of new customers, revenue and margin.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: email me at almorgan(at)porterconsulting(dot)net.

Al brings 30 years of IT solutions marketing to bear on current marketing and sales challenges.  Technologies change constantly, but it still takes content, skills and confidence to win the big decisions. You can find more blogs and content from Al at  Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.

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