June 13, 2013
Selling is more of a science than an art.
Even the most abstract mish-mash of colors can be called art. An abstract approach to a sales call, much like a haphazard approach to science, can blow up in your face.
A successful sales call requires a consistent methodical approach fraught with careful planning, timeless execution and personal chemistry with the customer.
But even the best laid plans can go awry, which is why much of a sales call can rely on an often overlooked but seldom undervalued personal trait: Trust.
“When the customer trusts, then everything you have to say about the product, the dealership, yourself, support services will help push to a close,” says Campbell Freightliner Dealer Principal Scott Campbell.
One of the keys to building a customer’s trust is how you convey product knowledge and how your products can help their business.
That knowledge should be gathered before you ever set foot in the dealership, says Bill Thomas, manager of sales and soft products training for the Mack Trucks Academy.
“Pre-call planning…involves understanding as much as possible about the customer’s business, industry, application, issues and challenges, accomplishments and failures and even knowing about the customer’s customers before the first meeting,” he says. “We encourage Mack sales professionals to then use all of that information to plan and execute an effective sales call.”
Thomas says the best sales calls are concise and to the point, suggesting that the days of the two-hour chit-chat laden sales pitch are likely over.
“The customer today does not have time to chat about the weather or (their) golf game,” he says. “He or she is running a business to make a profit and the sales person must come to the call prepared to ask questions that help identify root issues so they may develop a solution that truly delivers value to the customer.”
Another step in building trust, and another basic element of a sales call, is an effective needs analysis — something Bruce Mochrie, manager, Volvo product and industry training, says is the most important part of a sales call.
“Understanding the customer’s needs and being able to deliver solutions to those needs,” he says.
Ray Addison II, Manager – Marketing Communications for Daimler’s Aftermarket Parts Marketing, agrees.
“Listening and understanding the customer’s needs,” he says of the most important part of a sales call. “Only then can you offer solutions to their problems.”
Aside from a natural aptitude to ask for the order, a successful salesperson will need some level of training and product education.
Campbell says his sales staffers undergo training upwards of a dozen times per year, and all sales staff are Freightliner Certified, requiring a commitment to extensive online courses and testing.
Aside from Freightliner-specific training, Campbell hosts key vendors and hands-on training as opportunities arise.
“OEM vendors also come into the dealership and provide product updates as well as Freightliner Ride and Drives and other training throughout the year,” he says.
Mack establishes annual training requirements before dealer sales professionals can qualify for sales incentives, and its annual Walk the Bulldog is a highly competitive annual event in which Mack sales professionals demonstrate their understanding of Mack’s core markets and products and how the Mack total solution delivers value to the customer.
Mack Trucks Academy is a resource for hands-on training on Mack products, offering e-learning and on-site classroom instruction and is tailored specific to each dealership’s needs.
Outside of formal brand-specific training, Thomas says continuous sales skill development is critical.
“Like professional athletes who constantly train and practice the fundamentals of their sport or position, sales professionals benefit from training the fundamentals of the sales process, aka ‘sharpening the saw’ as Stephen Covey writes in his book, ‘The 7-Habits of Highly Effective People,’” he says.
“There are thousands of sales training suppliers in the market today, but the best trainers help sales people re-focus on the fundamentals of prospecting and pre-call planning, analyzing the customer’s needs, applying their products and services to solve the customer’s problems and then follow-up and follow-through after the sale.”
In February, Mochrie says Volvo installed a new hire training process designed to educate new sales staff on the Volvo brand and its product suite.
“The new hire curriculum, we’ve found, has been a good way to get new sales staff up to speed and give them the ability to be more effective and accurate about the information they’re providing to customers,” he says.
The program can take between five and 12 months to complete and currently has about 50 enrollees.
Virtually all of Volvo’s sales training material is developed in-house, which Mochrie says is well received.
“Dealers seem more appreciative of content developed internally,” he says, noting that the material is Volvo-specific and developed around the company’s products.
In an effort to continue training, this year the Swedish-based truck-maker held a dealer sales meeting and invited sales staff from across North America.
“During the event we had a series of classes and presented materials on fuel efficiency, safety, alternative fuels, new products,” Mochrie says.
Sales staff were provided iPads with new apps intended to provide product information and help prove the value of Volvo products to the customer.
“It was an intense two-week event,” he adds. “We had several hundred salesmen attend.”
Also, some of the best training comes in the form of practical experience.
“Some of the best salespersons have had some kind of service related background in the industry,” Addison adds.