When you contact a company to inquire about their product or service, who do you expect to get on the other end of a phone, chat or email line?
It’s a simple answer: an expert whom you can trust.
You want someone who is going to anticipate your needs, have certain, knowledgeable answers to your questions about the company’s product, and if at all possible have some understanding of you as a customer (or minimally the ability to listen and understand what your needs may be). When any of these points fall short, you’re less satisfied with your customer experience.
Turning this around, you can easily surmise that anyone your sales force contacts will expect no less—which is why a continuing education of a sales force should have “trustworthy experts” as its goal.
What makes a salesperson an expert?
First, the sales rep should fully understand the product or service the company is offering. There should be few questions posed by a prospect that the rep cannot answer fully.
Second, the salesperson should know everything about his or her own company and the way it operates, or at the least know how to immediately access this information. This includes the company’s pricing, discount schedules and delivery methods. It also helps to have data such as awards the company has won, customer satisfaction rates and market penetration.
It will be discovered that the more expert a sales rep is on his or her product, the higher the closing ratio. This factor alone can mean the difference between win or lose.
A finer point of skill is the volume of information a sales rep gives a prospect, especially in a phone call or live contact. A prospect could be easily overwhelmed by unnecessary data, or that prospect may have already researched the product or service and may very well not need a whole rundown on it. This is a matter of maintaining good interaction with a prospect and being able to gauge which and how much information to put into that conversation, and how much to leave out or provide later.
Know Your Prospect and Industry
Another point of almost equal importance is a clear and communicable understanding of the prospect, their company and their industry. Given that the sales rep is an expert about his or her offering, knowledge of the prospect raises the level of prospect trust for the rep. Understanding of the prospect also means an understanding of the prospect’s various issues and problems.
That understanding of course begins with a considerable knowledge of the prospect’s overall industry. Then taking that extra step of learning about the prospect’s individual company will be a serious advantage.
A key factor in understanding your prospects is knowing their specific and industry-wide buying patterns—on which your sales process should be based. This is another important factor of the sales rep’s expertise, and in the prospect’s trust of the salesperson.
Honesty and Integrity
Once again returning to our opening question of what would you expect when inquiring about a product or service, you will also find that you want someone who is going to be honest with you. If they don’t know the answer to something, they tell you so and then find out. They don’t make promises that their product or service cannot fulfill. They don’t promise pricing or discounts that they cannot deliver on. They don’t unfairly knock the competition, and are factual when comparing their product to others.
Throughout the years a relatively few—but notoriously dishonest—salespeople have helped create an almost innate distrust of sales reps. This came about because these salespeople made various untrue promises “just to close the sale.” A sales rep who does not do this is therefore many times a refreshing delight to a prospect and will win trust every time.
So to sum up, what are the factors that make for a trustworthy, expert sales force?
- expertise about their own company and its offerings,
- considerable knowledge of the prospect’s industry and the prospect company itself,
- and last but certainly not least honesty and integrity.
These should be the primary focuses of continuing sales rep education.
See our other articles on creating an expert and trustworthy sales force.