Whether you’re in the steel industry, fashion or IT, selling is integral to your company’s success. A good sales team, though, does more than just sell product. Sales roles are customer-facing and interact with prospective customers, too. They’re responsible for bringing in and keeping a steady stream of business. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that your salespeople have the potential for greatness — potential you can use strategically to your advantage.
At our company, the value of a good sales team has come into sharper focus with every passing year. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, there’s an urgency like never before. Businesses must stand out with a unique and clear value proposition. Having a great product is one way to rise above the crowd, but it’s far from the only way — or even the best.
Here are five things your sales team is selling besides product, whether they realize it or not. And if they don’t already, it’s important they begin to ASAP.
1. Your story.
As the first people who speak with potential customers, your salespeople are front-line brand ambassadors for your company. They’re selling your reputation. Even more important, they’re telling the story behind who and what you are, how you got there and where you’re going.
Every brand needs a narrative. Every person on your sales team should know yours and be able to share it with prospective customers. Our salespeople know our company is a family business at heart and that we’ve grown ambitiously by taking on more than just steel. They know our vision and how to convey the message I would send, were I able to jump into sales for a day. I would tell and sell our story with passion, and I know our sales team does it every day.
2. Your culture.
Without a strong culture, it doesn’t matter how good your product is. Just look at how much trouble Uber had when the cultural toxicity behind its cutting-edge software was revealed. Sure, people still use Uber, but it’s a harder sell if you know there’s a hint of ugliness underneath it all. And while some companies think they can hide a bad culture, the rotten truth might be very apparent to customers as they interact with salespeople.
Salespeople, then, also are ambassadors of culture. They should do their best to embody your company’s values and vision. Customers want to feel at ease that things are running peacefully behind the scenes. If they do decide to work with your company, they will interact with your people frequently. In a way, your customers become part of your culture. Selling culture means proving that your business is good from core to skin and allowing each customer to participate in its richness just as your associates do.
Your sales team is on the front line, but its members are far from the only group that counts. Others also need to become advocates as you acquire more business. Customers want to know they’ll be working with trustworthy, capable, friendly people who are experts at what they do and have the fortitude to do it consistently well.
It should be no surprise, then, when prospective customers ask your salespeople about your team.
- Who is making the product, and how?
- Who is in charge? What are their credentials?
- Who will answer the phone if I have a problem?
You could start with the best product in the world and decline just the same if it’s in the hands of bad management or workers who are unhappy or lazy. Your salespeople are selling the strengths of your team as they convince customers your company is reliable. Your team’s talents and skills need to show through to back up your sales force’s claims.
4. Your processes and services.
At our company, it’s not only what we do but how we do it that sets us apart from the competition. We make our customers’ needs the priority and work side-by-side with them to help improve their bottom line. When appropriate, we lend advice. These are just a part of the service we offer — another critical element our sales team is expected to sell.
Salespeople are expected to understand how things work. That means other departments must keep sales in the loop, explaining the nuances of day-to-day operations and describing what customers can expect. Once salespeople are aware of these details, they can work their sales magic. They can confidently pitch the how alongside the what, where and why. In fact, that might be precisely how they’ll land some of your biggest sales.
5. The truth.
Last — but certainly not least — it’s vital that sales teams are honest. Too many teams use fabrications and hyperbole to bring in sales. Their people don’t consider the consequences of these tactics until after the fact. Think about it: If you sell someone a lie, especially in today’s digital age, it will come back to haunt your company. It could be in the form of a bad online review or even a lawsuit.
Keeping sales teams honest also means keeping them updated. Miscommunication could sink a sale faster than almost anything else, especially if the salesperson thinks he or she is selling cake when in reality, it’s pie. If you don’t get it right, you’re in for a world of trouble when that plate is served to the customer.
Value your sales team and equip its members to be masters of sales — capable of pitching all the amazing elements your company has to offer. With this knowledge in play, your business will have a sound foundation on which to keep improving all of the above.
Writer: Aviva Leebow Wolmer