Strengths-Based Selling (And Why Sheep Make Baah-d Salespeople)

Congratulations!  You've just hired someone onto your sales team.  Over the next few weeks/months/years, you will teach your company's recipe for making the perfect sale and all the  qualities of an ideal salesperson.  Just follow closely along with your company's series of streamlined sales steps, and your salesperson is guaranteed to succeed.  Or, are they? The tried and (not so) true approach to selling assumes that all “good” salespeople are cut from the same cloth and that a company's success lies in the careful repetition of proven patterns.

Take Kay Jewelers, for example, the largest jewelry retailer in North America—and slipping!  Kay sales people from California to Maine follow an identical training program based on mastering Sterling Incorporated's strict selling strategies and acquiring technical expertise through the Diamond Council of America.

Yet, Kay's sales are starting to slide and employee turnover is flying high.  Why?  Maybe it's the new kid in town—the strengths revolution—which exposes the myth of the “perfect” sales person and turns the tables on traditional training programs by smashing the sales records of every company to take it on.

Bestselling books like Now, Discover Your Strengths, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and Strengths Based Selling by Tony Rutigliano and Brian Brim signal a step forward in selling psychology as companies start to realize that it is their salespeople's uniqueness, not their ability to follow the fold, that will help contemporary organizations survive—and conquer—in these turbulent economic times.

Clifton's Strengths Finder assessment allows individuals to pinpoint their 5 signature strengths, based on the theory that focusing on one's weaknesses limits a person's growth, while applying one's strengths opens the door to endless upward potential.

According to Strengths Finder research, an individual's talents and strengths come naturally to him or her, while skill and knowledge can be acquired through repetition and practice.  Strengths based selling is about becoming a skilled salesperson through knowing and practicing one's strengths, not following an organization's one-size-fits-all formula. There is no one right way to sell.

Strengths based selling flies in the face of most conventional sales approaches, especially because of its emphasis on team selling.  In addition to monetary rewards like commissions and bonuses, many traditional managers motivate their sales teams with competition.

A strengths based model, on the other hand, promotes sales alliances instead of feuds and aims to partner individuals with contrasting strengths in order to maximize sales potential.

To shift towards a strengths based selling model, the first thing a company must do is assess each of its sales people's strengths. When the members of your sales team begin to focus on enhancing and building upon their strengths, you can look for an improvement in prospecting, cold calling skills, negotiating and closing, solidified client relationships and vendor partnerships, and higher customer loyalty.

Meanwhile, regular review is mandatory—not a problem for most sales people familiar with traditional performance systems.  While employee reviews in a traditional sales company tend to focus on where a sales person is going wrong, the review process in a strengths based system centers on a sales person's successes—and how to create more, making it an enjoyable process for manager and employee.

For even bigger results, sales teams can utilize strengths based development to rewire their entire organizational structure.

I have experience coaching sales teams and businesses trying to survive—and thrive—in a volatile economy. My coaching helps sales teams discover their top 5 strengths then applies their strengths to:

  • Prospecting—utilize your company's strengths to overcome call reluctance push into new territory
  • Assessing Opportunity and Identifying Solutions-recognize buying signals, buying cycle and knowing when to walk away
  • Building Champions-create strong emotional relationships with gatekeepers and constituency
  • Negotiating and Closing-how to build commitment, get to win-win-win, and don’t leave money on the table
  • Team Sales-building a strengths savvy team approach to sales can help meet the customers needs
  • Engaging Customers-how to leverage strengths to turn rationally satisfied customers to emotionally expansive relationships with customers
  • Engaged Sales Force-sales managers want to keep on the cutting edge how to keep their sales force optimistic (which sale 56% more than pessimistic sales people) and fully engaged.

And remember, a company, unlike an individual, is likely to have all 34 strengths at hand; the key to making strengths based selling work company-wide is to use each of these 34 strengths strategically and flexibly, keeping in mind the Gallup maxim, “There is no one right way to sell.”

The most successful sales teams are collections of varying talents, not flocks of sales sheep bleating the same script.

Are you ready for your sales team to join the strengths revolution?

Bring me to your Forum Day or organization to turn your sales team's strengths into higher profitable sales.

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