Reskilling the Salesforce Podcast
Reskilling the salesforce with Karen Stein
To drive significant B2B revenue growth, many sales leaders worldwide recognise that this will require significant reskilling among their teams.
How does your team stack up?
You can now watch the on-demand version of the podcast we held, live on LinkedIn.
During the podcast, we cover many different areas including typical challenges you may be facing to the most important skills you need to equip your sales team. We also discuss how effective training can turn your organisational chaos into sustainable results.
You can also complete the skills audit we mention in the podcast. This is particuarly useful for identifying the skillset of your team and where to channel resources next. Click on the button below to complete this for free.
Read the transcript
First of all, I'd like to introduce the founder of Tianyi Consulting, Wei. Wei, would you like to introduce yourself?
Wei: Hi , this is Wei, coming from Tianyi consulting, I'm really happy today to be with Karen Claire to run this podcast together. So Tianyi Consulting is basically focusing on helping startups and scale ups to enter the global market.
Karen and I, had a lot of exchanges in the last few months talking a lot about the typical challenges, the startups and the scale ups have in sales and more in particular about the changes we have in this post pandemic age and how the businesses can upscale or re-skill their sales force to make sure that they can drive significant B2B sales growth in this particular time. So I think I will now give the chance to Karen to make a little introduction of herself and what she does - Karen?
Karen: Thanks. Thanks Wei so I'm Karen Stein. I am the president and founder of marketing matters. So it's a consulting company in all things, commercial sales and marketing. I spent 25 years in corporate America and I was at early stage companies as well as large fortune 100 companies in basically every role in sales and marketing.
So I have a lot of on the street experience and that's really helped me as I moved into my consulting business, which I've been doing for about 10 years and the world has changed dramatically for everybody in the last three or four years. And the question really is had organizations adapted to that change?
It doesn't mean let's throw the baby out with the bath water, but we do need to understand what's changed for our customers and how we might adapt to that. So we're going to talk a little bit about that today. So thank you Wei and Claire. Perfect. So thanks to both of you for joining us and throughout the session, I'll be moderating any questions that come in. So if you have any, then just drop them in the comments. So let's get started. Over the last 12, 18 months. What do you think have been been the biggest challenges in sales? Perhaps Karen if you'd like to start?
Karen: At least in the United States, especially, I guess we have the great resignation going on. So we have a lot of people that are very new to their roles. So anytime you go into a new job, whether it's within your existing company and you've transferred, or you're hired into a new company, that's a big challenge and, oh wait a minute, by the way, your potential customers are going through massive challenges as well. So their businesses may have flourished during the pandemic as so many, did that are life science based, or it may have really taken a hit as some of the more industrial ones. So you've got that level of change going on and oh, by the way, within that organization, the person that you're talking to could be very new to their job.
And oh, by the way, the competitive landscape has changed, and the global economy has changed. And I think. The level of change. Everybody always talks about it, but the level of change right now in the last few years has been beyond anything that we've ever experienced in our lives. So as a salesperson, you have to recognize that your organization has changed.
Maybe your priorities have changed, but so have your customers potentially. And that's what we wanna talk about a little bit today is sort of resetting and recalibrating when you're reaching out to your potential customers or managing your current accounts.
Wei: Yeah. Good. So, I will add a, a few points, more focused on where my startup clients are. So in the last two years, if they start their business and they face a lot of difficulties and challenges to really meet and ability to their customers, and so what end up with is like, okay I have a business, I set a business as a product, and I want to introduce it to my potential clients. And a lot of things are only done in the digital way.
So after two years, everybody is doing the digital, and I have got questions. For example, like if client is not replying my emails anymore, what I can do, because in this like digital world, it seems like email is the only way to get a communicate go get communication going with your client. Right? So this is one of the challenges that compared how the sales was done before now, the new generation of sales is more used to do it in the digital way. However, when the market opens up, things has changed, but in between, they also face the challenges to get their sales force well trained because traditionally you will hire a trainer or business coach to come to your office.
This was not happening. And or in the past you have chance to join the visit with more experienced sales people. That was also not happening. So now suddenly the market opens up and you want to reach out to your client much faster, but then you, you don't know how to do it. And then the stop startup is facing a very big disadvantage compared to the much larger organizations, because they have much better reach out and marketing machine.
Which will help them to access the customers much more easily. So today we'll also talk about, you know, if, if, if you see gaps in your skill set, what are the really important skills you have to like restore immediately and what you can do to help, to develop those kind of skills, most essential ones.
Okay. So I think Karen has a lot of experience in those and we will spend some time to talk about those as well.
Karen: One quick, add on comment that folds into what you just said Wei. I think, if you look at the sales funnel, I think so much my experience being in sales is I was bludgeoned by my sales manager to basically close deals before the end of the quarter.
Right. So I think with this new world, much more emphasis needs to be put at the beginning of the sales funnel. For some of the challenges that Wei just mentioned is how do you get to that person that you need to speak to? How do you find them and how do you find out what's going on with them? So I would say that the emphasis on upskilling your Salesforce is really a lot of it's going to be in the beginning of the sales funnel is finding the right people, trying to get to them and doing that discovery. So we'll talk a little bit about that today, but that I think is kind of an encapsulation to me is focus on the front end is the big challenge for many sales folks.
Wei: So as Karen has just mentioned, these are the typical challenges we explore, in our exchanges. And the first question actually I want to ask Karen is like, okay, if you have a person in my case, many of my clients, they did have such issue or situation that they are tech companies. They are very great in their technology and they really need people who understand their technology to, in order to sell their product. So what usually happens is that they hire a PhD. With very good scientific background to join the team and give them the title of a sales manager. However, usually this is a very big change or transition from a scientific background into a very commercial driven role. So what will be your recommendation there about how to develop the people with scientific background into successful sales. What are the key skills you think people need to have to begin with?
Karen: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think the easiest way to encapsulate that is to listen right. And discovery. Discovery is always just so critical for the sales process and if you're a very smart technical person and I have many clients that are very smart technical people, and you are transitioning from either a scientific role or an engineering role. Or any kind of role, basically you're a product expert and how you've made your living is to talk about your technology and your product and be the smartest person in the room. Well, that's not what sales about sales is about extracting information from that customer. What has changed in their organization? What are they measured on? What are the problems? What are the priorities and really extracting from them where to focus as opposed to a monologue. You know, I have a former client that the CEO is absolutely brilliant, passionate about his technology. And I used to laugh when we would do some customer visits and he gave this incredible presentation for like 30 or 40 minutes, but it was really like a monologue. Right. And I remember saying to him once, and I said, Did you ever have a first date? And he goes, what do you mean? And I go, I said, did you go out on a first date and just talk about yourself for 40 minutes? Or did you ask the other person, Hey, what kind of food do you like? What are your favorite movies? What about music? I said it needs to be a dialogue and especially in that first 15 or 20 minutes, Your customer's worlds have changed as well as yours. And you need to remember that they wanna be successful too. So asking them questions to understand how they've been impacted. And what's important to them is a great first step because it starts to forge that relationship. And if it's a customer you've already had, then I would go back to that customer and say, Hey, how has all of this impacted you? Right? So obviously it has in some way, shape or form. And I think that learning how to ask questions and not just waiting to answer, right? Some people ask questions and then just wait to talk. It's really listening. So that you're shaping that discussion in a way that's meaningful for both yourself as well as your potential customer. So I think the listening and the open ended questions are the absolute, most important thing Wei: That makes a lot of sense. And then another common questions I have got is that people ask me , Okay. I have so many different things to do because we are a small company and and we, we need to achieve our sales target. However, we don't have market access. We don't have brand recognition. And my boss ask me to do everything and as a salesperson, how I could really arrange my time properly to make sure that I can achieve all the objectives I have in those different tasks. So what you will say to, to the young sales people who just started their like career in sales? Karen: So I think it really depends on the organization and the product. So, you know, I've had. I've been in jobs where I've sold and marketed capital equipment versus consumables. So if you have large capital equipment, those purchases are happening, you know, maybe every couple of years.
Claire: Should we at this point, should we just have a look at a couple of the comments that have come in from the audience? I think this one is, is quite key from Owen and thanks for all your comments so far. Subject matter experts don't typically belong in, in sales roles. Do you want to just talk about this comment in a bit more detail, Karen?
Karen: I'd like to ask, I mean, what I would say Owen is it depends. So being a consultant, of course, every answer is it depends, but it really does. If you're using that subject matter expertise, whether it is in application or a product or a technology, if you're using that to engage in a very robust dialogue with a potential. Great. Right. So if you're using it to extract information, that's great. If you're using it to be a monologue, as I call them techno dumps, then that's not great, but you know, ways clients are very small. So typically you've got a lot of people doing multiple roles. But I think that training in general focuses on the technical aspect. I mean, my first sales job, I was a product manager before I was sales. So you asked the question, can we be one? So I was a subject matter expert and I, but I never got any sales training. I had no idea what I was doing, but I worked for a market leader and I'm stubborn in persistence. So I would just really cold call a lot of potential clients and customers and managing existing customers and trying to forge my way into the company and make relationships. I didn't really learn anything about the sales process until my second sales job, but it was interesting that even in that job, the first four weeks were in product training. So I think when we think of training, how we think we're going to equip people is by making them subject matter experts to Owen's point.
And that's good, but they need to be sales process experts and open ended question, asker experts, not just technology and product experts. So. Perfect. Do you have any additional thoughts Wei?
Wei: No? I, I would just ask I would just try to continue with what you have just mentioned about the recruiting thing. I think it's, it's going to be very interesting because again, the post pandemic situation. So as you told me , the, the recruiting market in, in the us for example, is booming because after pandemic, everybody want to grow the business. And suddenly there are so many demand on the sales hires and you don't really get enough people or with say people with so-called experience. On the suggestion, what do you, do? You hire people with no experience and try to train and develop them? Or we say to, to, to develop the good skills from the beginning, instead of, you know, trying to change people who has a lot of experience, but might not. Be suitable for today's world. Let's put it this way.
So what you, you are really expert in this area. So what you will say, like, can people be trained to be a good sales?
Karen: Sure. Yeah. And of course the answer is, it depends. so not everybody, not everybody can be trained to be a salesperson. Okay. Just like not everybody can be, a research person or a marketing person.
Personally I think that I've been advising clients. I hire on DNA, right. If somebody has really good DNA or should I say the right DNA for a sales role, then they can be successful and you can train them. Okay. So personally, when I, I, I interview and hire people for clients occasionally. Right. So, because they're short on resources and I wanna understand what motivates them, what frustrates them, how they act in certain situations.
because if they're coming from a technical role, you go into an office or whatever, but you have a list of 47 things to do every day, right? So there's, there's specific demands. Whereas when you're in sales, you orchestrate your own day. If you choose to do nothing all day, every day, you're not going to last, but you don't wake up in the morning with 14, you know, meetings on your calendar. And I think that if you can hire the right DNA and then you need to invest in their training and not just the technical training but get them really engaged in the sales process. And again, understanding so I think it's challenging for people that a big chunk of their career, they were paid and compensated and rewarded for being really smart and having all the answers. And now you have to say, okay, no answers. Just the questions. And eventually you can get to the answers but start with the questions. And some people will get that. I, I worked with one of my jobs when I was at Thermo Fisher, I was with a sales guy, brand new, didn't have the right background, but I loved his DNA.
So I encouraged the sales manager to hire him. And we were in Poland of all places. And we go on a couple of calls and I can't tell what's being said, cuz it's being said and Polish. And then afterwards, and I said, you can't just talk for 40 minutes. I said, at the end of each slide say, well, that's what we're seeing.
What do you typically see? How does that compare to your results? What are your biggest challenges? And I said, embed questions in there. And it was, it was a great week because the very next call he did it and I got to actually see that coaching in action. Next thing you know, there's like six people huddled around the computer trying to see what this guy has to say, because he's asking them questions. And he was somebody who was open to coaching because he had less experience. But other people aren't comfortable asking questions because they make, they think it makes them look weak for something I'm like, no, it makes you interested in what your customer's doing.
If you have science, like you, I know you do a lot of life science. We, yeah. If your customers are scientists, they wanna talk about their life's work. They don't wanna just hear you talk for 27 minutes about your life's work. . So I think that, you know, you need to test for that DNA. And I think that frustration, as you said, it's hard to get ahold of people. They're not, in work. So you can't just call the corporate number and find, not answering their emails. If you get frustrated after three or four of those, then sales isn't for you. You need to be able to take 10 of them and go, okay, I'm going in for another 10 and you have to keep at it. It really is a numbers game, or get creative about how you get in front of them. I think that that's DNA that you can't teach that either you have the DNA to be resilient, to keep going in. I always think that you should have to be in sales before you date get used to rejection right up front then move on, you know?
Claire: Thanks Karen. I mean, I quite like this from Benjamin - the company without being to understand what your customers need. You don't have anything to supply. It's links back into what you were saying about the dialogue people should have with whoever it is that they're trying to sell something to you. And just to really build it into that conversation. I don't know if you two have any points more about the conversation behind sales. Wei: I think I do have one. One very interesting point to add on what Benjamin has just said. I mean, this is one of the very important skills word leaders believe that they should upskill their Salesforce, which is to have a value creation mindset. When you do sales, sales is no longer to sell a product. When you do sales, you must create value. So the way you create value, of course, the previous way, or a lot of people already are doing that, is that, try to understand what the issue customer has and try to offer solution to solve that problem. This is one type of. Value creation. But as, as things got involved all the time, so now we have even better opportunity because we are dealing with a lot of new technologies, which, which a lot of them are really changing the ways things are being done today. So instead of doing this basic consultation step, you have to go a little bit further and dig a little bit deeper to really into , your customer's whole value chain and see what you can do to further improve the whole chain , of the things your customer has. So to create real value, what, and change what things are being done today. It's not like react to our existing problem, try to understand it and provide a solution, but to be more proactive and to try to really. Think about yourself as a contributor to your customer's value chain and create value on top of that. So I think this is one of the important points. The word business leaders think is important to upscale their Salesforce. I just want to add one point here and maybe Karen, you have more to say? Karen: just one other comment. So Benjamin, I would say, you know, where, where I grew up product marketing led the company. So they did the strategy, they did the roadmap, they understood the needs of the different markets, and they were able to marry the needs of the market with this product portfolio, whether it's hardware or service or combination. And I think ultimately, I would expect product marketing to be helping sales ask the right questions, right. To me, the, in the beginning of a sales call is like doing therapy, right? So the goal, if, if you've ever had therapy. The therapist, doesn't talk for 20 minutes while you listen, they ask you why you're there. What's important. What frustrates you, et cetera. I think that good product marketing people will feed some of those questions to the sales people and not leave it up to the sales people's own device. Because again, those people were paid for 22 years for knowing stuff and sharing stuff and saying stuff, right? So embed the questions in the presentation or arm the salesperson so that they don't feel comfortable. You mentioned Wei it's a PhD. Their instinct is to start by telling you something, not by asking you something so help your sales people by saying here's the four or five questions you should ask, embed them into the presentation. Don't even have a presentation, just have a discussion. And if you can give them some of those questions to ask the customer's answers will direct you on where to add value to your point. If you start talking about this, when this is what's important to the customer, that discussion's going to be a click in about four minutes. So there should be some questions to extract that information up front, and hopefully you have good product marketing people that will understand a way to phrase those questions to extract the information. So, and I'm a product marketer as well. So that to me, they go hand in hand, you know, sales without good product marketing. Doesn't go anywhere and product good product marketing without good sales, doesn't go anywhere. So they're very. Claire: Perfect. So, I mean, that's some really insightful answers and I'm aware that time's ticking and there's a really good discussion happening on in the comments. So what I'll do is we'll go onto the next topic. But there will be a Q and a session at the end. So we'll come back to your comments. Please do keep them coming in. So I know we've touched on this before, but obviously like recruitment is quite an important topic when it comes to why somebody needs to upscale your sale, their sales force. And of course it can have a positive impact. The right training can mean that the sort of retention of the employees is maximized. And I know Karen, you had some points on this particularly about like probability forecasting and that sort of thing. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that?
Karen: Yeah. You know, I think training is very important. It's important for retention of employees, right? Everybody wants to be successful. And if you're not hitting your number, your sales manager is bludgeoning you I'm happy. I was in sales in the eighties because I had no cell phone. So my manager couldn't find me.
And, he couldn't send me 87 chats and texts and you know, so you get bludgeon for that and people wanna be successful. So if you can show them a path on how to be successful, I think you need to sit down and understand what they're doing. So there's the process and the soft skills. And I think things like probability forecasting I always have a very strong feeling about this. I inherited a business once that had a $60 million. Sales funnel. I was so excited because I only had a 15 million bogie I'm like piece a cake. Well, I'd say about 5% of that pipeline was real. It's like, I walked by way and he said, I might need a 10 million, whatever.
So I had that in as 20% probability when you have capital equipment. Well, when you have anything, but especially equipment it's really all or nothing. It should be binary, not funnel probability related. Right. You know, unless you're trying to build a sales funnel, that's 10 X you're bogie. So the sales manager needs to understand that so they can kind of scrutinize well, what's going on.
So when I sit down and say, clients that are growth challenged will bring me in, you know, whether they're small or large and I'll sit down and say, so what are we doing? Show me your, and as you go through those, maybe the funnel's not big enough. You know, they have a 2 million bogie, they have a $2 million sales funnel.
We all know that that's not going to hit it. So you probably need, or a three or a four or a $5 million sales funnel and the probabilities, where are they? Are they existing customers, new customers? Do you understand the sales cycle? You know, capital equipment is, is always a favorite of mine. And if you sell capital equipment, that's over a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
You pretty much know by June or July, if you're going to hit your year. Right? Because it takes a long time and you'd have to have everything locked and loaded to get all the signatures in place to revenue that year. And not everybody necessarily connects those dots. And I've had CEOs say to me, well, what are we going to do about Q4?
I go work on next year. you're not going to get people. Don't have a half a million dollars hidden, you know, there is the Bluebird, but I think that you really need to understand what's behind that. So maybe they're not doing enough business development. Right? So if they're only calling on the same customers and spending too much time on account management, you need to train that salesperson to do better time management to dedicate so much time per week for business development, or are they stringing out the sales cycle because they're, they're getting stuck in a certain area. So I think that, before you do any training for anybody, you need to sit down with the person and understand where they're struggling, where they're comfortable, where they're uncomfortable, so that you can really pinpoint training both of process, as well as sales skills to help them be successful.
And then hopefully offer them some coaching, which is really important to reinforce what they learned. And they tried it and, and then somebody can help them bring it to the next level.
Wei: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, I I read through this McKinsey report recently talking about the reskilling of their sales force.
And one interesting point, they, they talk about is that they say, because the word is changing or the market is changing so quickly. And the broad brushing way of training will never work anymore because the training takes six months. And maybe you're talking a lot about the golden principles and try to implement them into your daily practice.
But, but they really have so many. Issue daily issues and daily challenges to address. And because the market is changing so quickly, they have always different issues on daily basis. Mm-hmm right. So they, so it's really, if people has no experience, it's really down to training or coaching to help them to solve those challenges and problems.
So I, I think what they say is that the training needs to be more toward real issues. So you don't get trained because you need to be trained, but you get trained to better solve your problems. So, Karen, I know you perform a lot of trainings, so what do you think, what, what's your view on this? Do you feel it in the same way, or I just want to hear your comment on this.
Karen: Okay. Well, I think with training, I mean, a lot of people have gone through training. I've been through sales training, but it's typically two or three days it's all day and you can only absorb so much and very few people will put it into, you know, implement it the next day. And that's really what you want.
So, you know, I developed a modular training program back in, and instead of doing days and days of training, it's basically training on one or two small concepts that the trainee can implement the next day. And then I provide unlimited remote support. Sometimes they've even coached and been on sales calls, the silent person in the background to give them some coaching.
So I. Sitting down with your sales people to understand what is that root cause? Where do they need to be trained? You know, so it's not just product training and technical aspects. And my modular training program, the reason I developed it was when I was a commercial leader. I'd bring trainers in, bring everybody in very expensive.
Nobody can do their day job cuz they're sitting and training all day and nobody ever used it. And I remember as a consultant, probably back in 2014 or 15, I did a training and one of the guys in the training, he goes, Hey Karen, that's the third time I've been in your training. I'm like, well maybe you should try implementing.
It gets crazy, talk out. And it's just because it's so much, you know, and I wanted people to be successful just like I wanted to be successful when I was working in those organizations. So I think. I think really understanding where people need training. And I also think that the customization aspect is important.
So if you go through a conventional sales training, a sales, funnel's a sales funnel, the steps are the steps, but let's face it. How you're going to sell a consumable that's $800 is going to be very different than what's required for a $300,000 piece of capital, different stakeholders, different hurdles, et cetera.
So if you go through that, bla that generic peanut butter training, you're going to pick up a few things, but you're still going to struggle as opposed to, this is exactly what you need to do for your customers, your market, your products. So I think it's bite size chunks and it's customization. And then it's looking at salesperson via a coaching method to make sure it worked well. You tried this to get to four people, did it. Okay. It didn't work. Let's come up with a different method to reach out to them, or it did work great, but it gives them constant feedback to help them navigate so that they can be most successful. And I think that's important. People who are paying for the training, want it to be successful and have a good ROI and the people being trained wanna be successful and get that bonus or that good performance review.
Wei: Agree. Good.
Claire: Brilliant. So, let's move on to the final, main section of the podcast, which is all about COVID 19. And of course we've heard so much about COVID and all the changes that that's brought about from businesses. So we talked about the McKinsey report. And, Wei, I know that this was obviously you looked at this report what do you think the most important areas to upskill are? You know, if you could choose, say three.
Wei: Yeah. Actually we have touched some of the important areas already. For example, to have like a value creation mindset and to embrace the changing ever-changing environment.
One of the other things I want to talk here is about in today's word, the sales needs to be a more how to say. Have have multi skills, not like a sales who can sell, but I think the analytical part of a salesperson is becoming more and more important. I, I want you to give you examples, for example, like, okay.
I have limited time how and where I'm going to spend my time. Okay. What is the most efficient way to get in contact with my potential client? Okay. Some may prefer to be reached out by email. Some may I can do it through social media. For example, LinkedIn, and some, I may need to catch them on Congress meetings.
Okay. But there are so many meetings out there which I should go to. Right because I've so many, so limited time and resource. So for example, there, the big data will come into play, which is not even existing if you, if you think about five years ago or even two years ago, but now you can really use big data to tell, okay, for this event who is really going there they coming out from my target customer group and these kind of things.
If you have those skillsets, your sales will be much more efficient, you know? So this are the other aspect I, I think is important in the post COVID times that companies need to think if your sales have these type of analytical skills or the capability to use those multiple channels to get in contact with your customers.
Okay. Sometimes I also, make , a, example? I saw many people experience sales people. They, they also start to use LinkedIn and they always post something about the company and the product, but I'm pretty sure that these posts never reach out to their potential clients because they're not even connected with their potential client.
So they got a lot of likes and you know, but these are all comings from their colleagues. So, you know, if you are spending time on social media and if you are doing that, it's a waste of time. Okay. So if you, yeah, if you are convinced that this is the good way to do your, to, to spend a part of your work time to do, then you'd better know how to do it properly.
Right. So I think these are the things which I want to add as one important aspect of the pandemic risk giving of Salesforce. Claire: That's really interesting. I mean, Karen, if you are thinking that, that's, there's some bits we want to improve. We're not sure how, how to improve it. Can you talk a bit about skills audits and things like that and understanding the abilities of your team? Karen: Yeah, sure. So I I worked for Milliport long ago and far away.
And they had something called KS and Es, which were knowledge, skills, and experience like what you needed to be able to do a job. And I always loved that. They had a lot of good HR policies back in the day. And it would say these are the skills and knowledge. This is the processes you need to understand in order to successfully do a job.
And it was something, there was one for every position in the company. So I've created something similar for whether you're an individual salesperson or you or a cha channel manager, you know, do you really understand sales planning? Do you really understand negotiation how to close sales? Do you understand how to build a sales funnel and how to forecast, et cetera?
So, you know, on my website and I think we're going to share here, I have a, an assessment that says, this is what a. Topnotch salesperson or channel manager looks like. And when I work with clients, I make sure that the employees understand this. Isn't to beat you up, that you don't know how to do something.
This is to help you to give you training in the specific area that you need. In some cases, you're training on a process. And in some cases you're training on a soft skill. And one quick chuckle I'll share. So I did a voice of customer training for a customer, and he wanted a second day of it just for the sales people and sales managers, which was interesting.
So we had a bunch of staples buttons and we said, okay, you can only ask open ended questions. If you ask a close ended question, you get out. And we said, let's see who can make a five. Call with a customer. And it was hysterical because I'm walking around the room and all you heard was those staples buzzers going off because you'd hear somebody say, did you, or do you so really over the course of the day, they got better and better at it.
And it was funny that even these experienced sales managers, they were emailing me months later saying, wow, I learned so much when I ask all those open-ended questions with my customers, my funnels, bigger, I have more customers inviting me back for the next step in the funnel. So, you know, for them, they were all technical experts.
They understood the sales pipeline, but they could not get those new customers cuz they didn't know how to engage them. And they used that thing. So I think that if you can put that graphic back up there I stole this shamelessly from a sales manager. When I really learned how to do sales. And he said, you know, sales people miss their numbers.
And everybody just focuses on the results and bludgeons them. He said, but there's a root cause here. And it's one of these four things. Either. They need more different knowledge. They need to be doing different types of activities. What are their effort? How much time are they putting in and what are their skills?
Rather than focusing on the fact that the number is being missed. It's really focusing on what's on the left side of the equation, which one of these is deficient where that particular employee might need some training and a skills upgrade in order to help them be effective. And then it's really important that you put those things into place and they implement so that person can assess after 30 or 60 days.
Is it working or is it not, not you do the training and a year later you say, okay, your numbers still stink. really is not effective. So it's, it's the identification as well as helping them implement and coaching them after the fact to make some suggestions about how they can move forward successfully.
Yeah. So I think that's the important thing. Not peanut butter, not all skills for everybody. It's. You have to go through person by person and you can do that. You can do a, a skills assessment online with a link and you can get the analytics for your team. So you can say, actually, everybody needs this.
They can't get in the door, but only two of them need to work on negotiation and closing the deal. So that's, what's going to make it effective for them. And they're going to be engaged because it's training where they need it, not where somebody else needs it. So, Claire: and I know you've also got this equation at the bottom here.
Karen: Yeah. So that, so that goes back to the graphic we just showed. Right. So it, it shows all of the math, but it's knowledge and skills. And are you doing enough of the right things? Right. So what are the activities and how many of them are you doing?
Because if you don't know which of these levers to tweak, sometimes you may need to tweak all four. If it's a brand new salesperson, they may have no idea how to do time management. They have no idea how long it might take to get in the door and all the different meetings that you have to happen.
They need to understand those things, the knowledge about the sales process, as well as the technology, as well as the customer's company, you cannot prepare enough for a customer visit. Go look at their website, go look at their press releases, go look at their annual reports or anything you can find. Go look at their LinkedIn posts, find out what's important.
You know, I went to a client and he's like, Karen, I don't have any time for you right now. My supply train chain is a train wreck and I can't make product. He goes, we'll talk to you in a year. Now, if I had just kept launching on my other training services or whatever, it's like, I, I just need to get product out the door.
I just need to find suppliers. So I think it's important. That you're listening to that and going okay. And I heard that and I will reach back out to them, you know, in another six months. So I think that those things are important to understand.
Wei: Sounds good.
Claire: So thank you so much [to everyone who's come along today. And if there's anything that you would like to revisit, then this is going to be available on demands literally straight after it's ended.
You'll be able to revisit anything. We'll also be sharing with you the link to the skills audit that Karen talked about. So if we just start off with some of the comments, there was a good discussion that was happening earlier. About like this one, I should put it on the screen. If I had asked my clients what they wanted, they would've told me faster horses. And I'm sure you both have been there before.
Karen: No, that's a great, that's a great question. And I think that this goes back to smart people, not wanting to ask questions, right? So if somebody says to me, well, this is what I want. I'll be like, well, why do you need that? What would be the value? So this goes back to the value creation of what way was talking about before.
So they are, if, if they tell you what they want, it is their envisioning, what you can provide, but only, you know, what you can really provide. So if somebody says to me, you know, I want, I want red post-its. I'm not just going to give 'em red. PostIts I'll be like, okay, well I've got yellow and I've got blue. So what does having a red PostIt do for you?
What would be the value? How would your life be different tomorrow than it is today? If you had the red PostIts and that's how you really start to understand what they need and it may not be PostIts at all. It may be something else. So asking them not just what they want, but why, what would be the value?
How would it change their research? What would be the impact on through put or production or whatever field that they're in. It's really getting to the root cause of their statement and asking why. And again, very anti-intuitive for seasoned salespeople or senior technical people, because they're going to hear, they're going to hear, I want the red post-it and they're going to say we have red post-its and then they're going to talk about all the virtues of the red post-its.
And then the customer never buys and they don't understand it. Well, they didn't really need a red post. It great point, Rosa. So the question it's always, why, why is that important? What will it do for you? What's the value? How does it change your work, et cetera?
Wei: Sorry. Yeah, and I think I, I will add two points, I think.
Yes, this is a good question. When, when you say, if I had asked my customer clients what they wanted, it's, it's like, okay, you want to provide something. To them, but as I explained a bit earlier, so now the first approach is that you, you really look into the, their problem and you see what you can provide as a solution.
So basically if I think at that time, the problem is that they need something to carry the staff or to transport the staff from one place to the other. Then you will say, okay, what I can do to solve this problem. So this could be a car or this could be a rocket or whatever. So the creative part is still with you, but you need to understand the real problem first, which is what, what you are asking for your customer. Okay. And now things even can go up step further instead of. Trying to understand, they need to transport things from a to B. Maybe you can start to think, okay, can I do something that you don't even need to transport it? I can offer you another solution to solve, to, to make your process better and solve your problem.
Okay. This is the more, this is even more consultative way of thinking. Yeah. Okay. Not even thinking about what I have to do to provide a solution, but how I could even maybe element the issue that you, you don't have this issue anymore. Okay. So I think this will even create more value to your client.
So I think the question is not in contradicted to what we are talking about today, but I think it's really, again, goes back to Karen depend on the way you ask questions and what kind of questions you ask.
Karen: Okay. Yeah. And a good product marketing person, actually, Rosa, I would never ask a customer, what do they want? Because what they want is better for free. So we already know, I don't need to. Right. So, but I would say, you know, I've had a client recently in life science, I'd be like, so what do you think is holding back your research right now when it comes to blah, blah, blah. So that's a very different way to get to the question.
So we’re going to talk about what's preventing it and then you're going to talk about, well, what are you seeing because of it? What does it look like? And if you had that information, what would you do differently tomorrow? How would it accelerate what you're doing? So I think that having those questions sort of teed up in your cheat sheet somewhere, you know, whether it's just in your mind and you can remember, or, you know, your notes or whatever, but asking questions in a different way is very important. And, and good product marketing people should be feeding. The sales people and the sales managers. And if you're too small to have them, then think of it yourself, but what are the limitations? What are the bottlenecks? What one thing would you change about how you're measuring this, or doing that I think is important.
Claire: Perfect. So we'll do two more questions. This one from Owen how about we also train marketing to generate good leads?
Karen: I'm just laughing at that because I worked, I worked in a division at a company and the sales people were just bad sales people. I'm sorry, but they were, and basically it was, well, we need more leads. And I said, so you have no impetus to actually try to generate your own leads and reach out and find customers.
You're just going to sit there until you get leads. So I agree, Owen, they should be generating good leads. But the salespeople should not be off the hook for doing their own finding customers, cold calling, networking their way into the company. I think it's a, it's a shared responsibility and they should both embrace that responsibility and, and work together as opposed to what I typically see is, well, I'm in sales. If marketing gave us some decent leads, we could sell more, you know, type of thing.
Wei: So I exactly had this, this discussion yesterday with my client and I think. I, I will learn from Karen now. I think it depends. So it's, it really depends on what type of business you have. You know, if you have a let's say consumable business, then I think your marketing will play a very important role in this generation because you have a big client base.
You have chance to interact with your client constantly. So the, good marketing team will always help you to have a very good interaction with the clients, which, and, generate new and good leads for you. However, if you are dealing with high value capital equipment, like 300 K. People are difficult to reach the decision makers. They're difficult to reach and every discussion you have with them, it should be high quality. It should be eye-catching, you know, so it's really difficult for marketing team to generate good leads for you or high-quality leads for you using those broad marketing approach, and there, I think, as I mentioned, a sales with the relevant skillset is really, really important. I think that's really down to sales to generate good sales opportunities. So this is the comment I want to make. Karen: Okay. So always stop beating up the marketing people.
Claire: A final note I like this again from Benjamin Always why! I thought that was a good note to end on. I think that's pretty much all for today. And so thank you for everyone who has, come along. Remember it's always on on demand after the session has finished and we'll get back to some of the comments after the session. We'll also be sharing that link that Karen talks about earlier on with the sales audit that you can do with your team. Also if you like this discussion, then this is all one of the international business development podcast. So you can go to wherever you get your podcast to see like LinkedIn LinkedIn lead generation Getting data from different research areas across the globe and all of that sort of stuff. So thank you so much to Karen and Wei for joining us.
Karen: Thank you. Thank you. My last comment for the road is, remember, my mother always told me when I was a kid, you know, you have two ears and one mouth and you should use 'em in that proportion. And that's the best rule of thumb for sales people.