The layer cake of sales knowledge

How does the sales team leader maximize his diverse team? What tools or knowledge is needed to give the team what is needed and how much?

The first step is to understand a bit about sales mentality. People who enter sales are cut from a certain cloth. They are outgoing, not afraid to have no said to them by prospects all day long, etc. I’ll take heat for this, but sales people can be lazy by nature. That is, they only want to do as much work as they have to in order to be successful. Sales people want to display their sales & closing skills. They figure they can call upon subject matter experts (SME’s); they do not want to BE that subject matter expert.

Let’s use the analogy of knowledge on a subject as a layer cake. From the top down, each layer in the cake is representative of deeper knowledge on a subject. That is, the deeper you cut down into the cake, the deeper level of knowledge and/or expertise you are accessing. This analogy works well in the technical support or help desk model. Level One (layer one on the cake) is general knowledge. Level Two support is more in depth, and so forth such that by the time you are at Level Four, you are accessing deep technical knowledge or support.

In our analogy of the layer cake, sales people only ever want to know the icing. Sales people believe that they only need a relatively thin layer of knowledge on a subject to be successful. As noted above, sales people do not want or need to have deep knowledge about the products or services they are selling. Does it help to have deep knowledge? Sure it does, but it is not necessarily crucial to their chances of success as a sales person (it might be to the nuclear reactor sales person).

If you need proof of this, just wander into the back of a sales training class at almost any company. You’ll notice that some of the participants are dozing, some are counting dots on the ceiling, some are texting, and oh yes, a few are actually paying attention. If you want to see a sales persons eyes glaze over, just start going deep technical on them. Again, sales people will find the technical resources they need to accomplish a sale; they do not generally feel that they need to be that resource.

So if we accept that sales people only want to know icing, then what specifically do they need to know? They need the Six Credos of Sales Force Expertise (I sometimes refer to these as “Francischetti’s Rules of Sales”, but that would be wholly self-aggrandizing. Also, I will spare everyone from having to try to pronounce and spell that last name!). The icing that sales teams want/need to know is the following:

• What is it we are trying to sell? – a feature/function product/service overview
• Why is it important? – particularly from a customer perspective. You have to understand the customer value and answer the question “why should they care”.
• Why our solution? – articulating the competitive differentiation and competitive knock-offs.
• What are the triggers? – what are the key words, phrases, needs, or pain points that the prospect is outlining that indicates that they are a candidate for one or more of the solutions?
• Who you gonna call? – knowing the various sales support resources to help with the deep questions or details that will help close the sale.
• How can I make money selling this? – for themselves and for the company. It’s no secret that sales people are money oriented (no-one can decompose a sales plan faster than a sales person to find the quickest route to money) so it is important to have a clear and compelling compensation plan. When your sales team is exceeding its sales goals, the company is realizing its sales goals.

Now, let’s get back to that sales manager scratching his/her head to determine how to level set and get the most out of the disparate/diverse team of sales individuals at hand. By providing his/her team with the icing layer of knowledge about the products and services as defined by the answers to the six credos above, he/she will have enabled a successful sales team from a group of individuals of varying capabilities.

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Categories: Sales & Marketing