‘Educate and Facilitate’ was voted by our readers as the fourth most important sales trend in Barrett’s 2012 Sales Trends Report. With the 21st Century ‘selling’ not being about features and benefits anymore what has taken its place? Effective selling is a journey from education to opportunity. To sell something we need to educate in order to facilitate an opportunity. Our buyers determine where on that journey we must join them. Is it a well-informed buyer for whom we simply need facilitate the opportunity they seek? Or is it a novice whom we must help educate in order for an opportunity to be realised? Are they somewhere in between?
Our effectiveness as salespeople is determined by our ability to identify where on the sales journey our buyer is and help guide them to their destination. However creating and developing sales teams who can educate and facilitate is proving to be a greater challenge than many business leaders have anticipated. For years many sales teams were recruited for and trained to be product specialists who could recite product features and benefits. Essentially they were somewhat walking talking brochures. They were not recruited or trained to be educators or facilitators, a very different skills set as you would agree. And yet in today’s information society these new skills are exactly what are required. Smart sales professionals have always known that they need to calibrate where a prospective customer is at before they start offering up products or solutions. They know their role varies along a continuum of education to facilitation. In 2012 and beyond, smart sales leaders know to recruit in and develop their sales teams to be educators and facilitators not product sales people. Their investment in their sales people will result in a whole new skill set including patience, listening, creative problem solving and dealing with ambiguity and complexity.
Customers will come to value the new and improved sales approach because in 2012 the customer, not the product, will be at the heart of the sale and they know the sales person will help them make the right decisions moving forward. Here is the key – as we move into more unsettled times (the sales environment is now changing every 6 – 12 months) customers become more and more risk averse. The most effective way to manage risk is to understand where buyers are on that continuum, just where they are on the knowledge platform. Understanding these two dimensions in the purchasing cycle not only speeds up the process, it gives those salespeople who educate and facilitate an edge. Because they understand the importance of risk management as a competitive advantage that can’t be easily breached by rival’s who continue to push product related features and benefits. Remember everybody lives by selling something. Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au