Tailored sales training helped a leading international procurement business respond to challenging market conditions by giving its sales force the skills and confidence to drive its new strategy forward.
To overcome tough commercial conditions in its primary market, the African mining industry, a specialist procurement, global supply and logistics services business developed a number of key survival strategies.
These included developing a new online procurement system to provide a unique selling point, gaining ISO accreditation to strengthen the company’s reputation, restructuring its workforce, targeting more business from existing clients, and looking at new markets like the oil and gas sector.
However, a lack of skills and experience within the sales force meant the company was not taking full advantage of these initiatives, with the business development director recognising the need to implement a training programme to solve the problem.
“The mineral industry in general has suffered in recent years and we had to seriously consider how to increase our performance,” he explains. “The aim was to boost their skill set and confidence.”
Vertical Sales’ Cathy Bennett was brought on board because of her company’s tailored approach to training, addressing the specific challenges a business is facing and due to her international business experience. “Although my client’s core mining market had shrunk, there were still good opportunities to capture significant additional business with existing clients from different procurement categories,” she says. “Furthermore, lucrative new opportunities lay in oil and gas. So I worked with them to design a two-day sales course to drive success in these two key areas.”
The training initially focused on building self-belief within the team by celebrating what they did well, before embarking on the learning journey. This covered three key elements:
- Honing the sales story – First, Cathy ensured the sales team could confidently and clearly express the business benefits of using their company, using Simon Sinek’s celebrated Golden Circle approach, based on the understanding that customers buy ‘why you do what you do’ not just ‘what you do’.
- Growing client business – Vertical Sales research identified that only 30% of potential business was being won from existing clients. So she helped the sales team look beyond current client contacts to identify key decision makers in other areas of the business, and understand the triggers that would prompt them to buy. This involved getting the team to map out their clients’ organizations, highlighting target areas and individuals.
- Kick-starting the conversation – Cathy studied potential and existing client activity in the market and their business goals to enable the sales team to take a more informed and engaging approach to making that important initial contact.
“I built in as much opportunity as possible to practice, using a variety of exercises and role-plays to help ensure that the delegates would implement the new skills and approaches once they were back in the business,” Cathy said.
The next level
Once the training was complete, Cathy carried out a post-training programme survey among participants. Together with feedback from senior management, it clearly indicated that the sales team had gained the confidence to change their approach in order to improve their performance.
“The whole sales team agreed or strongly agreed that they felt more capable and confident approaching sales situations having attended the course,” Cathy reports.
So does the company’s business development director consider the programme a success?
“It delivered benefits in two key areas,” he says. “First, the personal approach tailored to each individual salesperson proved highly effective at giving the team the confidence they needed to do the work. Second, the programme developed new skills, including how to approach clients in a more effective way, both on the phone and via email.
“The team now understand, for example, how they need to push deeper within each account beyond their initial contact. Vertical Sales helped to develop key questioning skills that have enabled them to build multi-level client relationships.
“We also put together a short phone presentation for targeting a new market – oil and gas,” he continues. “Cathy approached this in an inclusive way, getting the team to contribute their own ideas and thoughts. It opened people’s minds to the unique selling points, and allowed each person to choose the ones they were confident in presenting. Since the programme, we’ve had several successes and have won clients in the new sector.
“The feedback has been very good. Everyone benefited and had something positive to say, particularly the more talented and experienced salespeople. They are simply more of a team, getting more out of calls and taking them to the next level. For me it was well worth the investment and it would be great to follow it up regularly.”
Start with Why – Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Approach