Why your non-sales people won’t sell

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If the words ‘Its not my job to sell” or  “I don’t do sales” come up whenever the idea of offering customers other products and services gets banded around the team, read on. 

I have been engaged to work with one of my old clients over the next few months to deliver an improvement in what they like to call ‘sales through service’. They want to increase the number of services their existing customers buy and they want to obtain more referrals from their loyal customers. Historically this has been met with resistance from team members and delivered limited results.
The idea that ANY employee is not responsible for sales is a myth that costs small businesses thousands from their bottom line.  Everyone who deals with customers, needs to have their ‘antennas up’ to opportunities for increasing revenue. It should be talked about in recruitment , in job descriptions, performance reviews and every staff meeting.
I don’t believe that training people to cross-sell, creating scripts, setting targets, listening in to calls and all the other ‘tactics’ you could use to encourage or drive more sales will make a sustained difference. 

The reason I am willing to stand by that statement is that there is nothing in the mechanics or ‘doing’ of selling that is difficult. Most people are able to use a phone and have conversations (and if they cant why did you employ them?). The real problem here is what goes on in the heads of your team when you ask them to do it. Solve this and the whole thing becomes effortless. 

Specifically, I think there are three key blocks to commercial customer conversations

  1. Understanding the product / customer dynamic – if your teams don’t understand your customers challenges and how your products solve them, the conversation is going to be stilted and awkward. Do all your team members truly understand the benefits to customers of what you sell or do and, equally importantly, why your company is the best to do it? This understanding makes selling much easier.
  2. The depth of the customer relationship – My parents told me not to talk to strangers and to only speak when I am spoken to. That piece of parental hard coding resides in many of us and affects our actions at a subconscious level. The truth is it can feel very difficult engaging in conversations with people we don’t really know. Most of these interactions take place over the phone (so the non-verbal communication cues are missing)  which further exacerbates the challenge. The team need to get comfortable with the idea of asking questions and being curious about their customers, like they would with their friends.
  3. Sales grounding – In my book Sleeping Tiger Revolution I point at the key leverage point for improving someones performance is the ability to understand their grounding in relation to the task they are asked to perform. There is no area of business where this is more apparent than in sales . Most people carry a negative story about what sales is and how salespeople are. This is at the heart of why there is resistance to engaging in any conversation that feels remotely ‘salesy’.