A list of 10 business trends that will drive success (according to Forbes magazine contributor Ian Altman) includes four that, if correct, will impact the traits of your next generation of salespeople.
Keep these four attributes in mind during hiring and training so your sales teams can adapt to the changing needs of customers.
1 Community Builder. Top companies build communities that encourage long-term brand loyalty. And, nothing builds communities better than in-person and live interactions with customers.
The powersports industry has been a leader in this area. Many of those selling performance side-by-sides, jet skis and snowmobiles are enthusiasts and they’re “rubbing shoulders” at various events with others who share their passion.
Finding ways to get our salespeople more connected with customers may just require a change of focus. Instead of having the large annual open house, consider smaller product-specific events targeted toward individual groups, like tractor, mower and chainsaw service seminars.
Have your sales staff interact with customers during these events and put emphasis on training and showcasing new products. Segment your Facebook efforts to these same groups, so they only see posts that pertain to products they own. (Here’s a link explaining how to set up Facebook community groups: http://bit.ly/RLDFacebookGroups. It is highly recommended that you have a group administer approve posts before they go live.).
2 Teacher. Buyers aren’t always buying but they are always learning, so we need to expand who we target.
Many of our rural lifestyle customers don’t have equipment experience, so it’s important for your staff to educate them about the safe use of products, both from an ethical and liability standpoint. It’s also important that the education process continue after the point of sale.
As customers become more comfortable with their machine, they’ll see more possibilities for using it and be potential purchasers of additional attachments. Require salespeople to maintain after-sales contact with the goal of being viewed as a valuable educational resource by customers.
3 Problem Solver. The days of features and benefits selling may be over and salespeople should focus on the customer’s unique needs. Highlight the solutions your dealership can offer. Carry this through to your marketing messages as well.
Keep in mind that your customers can get information about equipment on your website, but they can’t figure out how your solution fits their needs. Many have already read product specifications online before entering the store. If they’re given that same information again when they arrive, the sales staff missed the point. Problem solving with products we offer should become the focus of the sales process. Along the same lines, finding out your customer’s problems can only happen with interaction. Product evangelism won’t attract customers, but asking questions and active listening will.
If you rely on your suppliers to train your sales staff, they might think that product sermons influence customers. Consider focusing on customer interaction education, which may come from your own people, as you’ll soon see.
4 Staff Trainer. The last trait is about developing your organization. Innovative companies are moving toward social learning to connect their employees and develop internal talents. Social learning is the process of teaching through peer interaction. Having your top people train others can be a welcome change from online courses.
Cultivating trainers among your staff members also sends the message that you value their skills. Support mentoring that utilizes the internal expertise from your own people who have superior communication abilities.
Innovative dealerships are realizing the changing face of selling in the digital age. Your long-term growth may come from a focus on customer needs and communication, not from pushing your products.