As we discussed in another article “Companies Expect a Lot from Their Sales People”, the fact is that most people, and therefore most salespeople, simply can’t do all those things discussed therein. This is one reason why we instinctively think of different qualitative “levels” of salespeople. The stereotypical retail clerk, for example, rarely needs anything more than the ability to read a price, run a cash register and make change, (or use a scanner, which eliminates the need for at least one of those skills). And if they get any training at all, it’s in how to smile.
By the same token, the company that improves on this model by, for example, providing product training, will generally see higher sales compared to its competitors as a result. So, there is a revenue payoff for improving sales skills; although it may not necessarily result in increased profitability if you account for the cost of training.
A higher calibre salesperson, though, may have had in-depth training in product features and benefits, and may even have received training in how to ask questions, or how to solve particular technical problems, or handle large accounts. Investing in these skills can provide an incredibly positive return for the company, as well as for the salesperson, if the person stays on the job – a big “if.”
But the more training that is provided, generally, the better. This applies as you add more sophisticated skills development to the point where a good salesperson – who knows how to manage his time, how to upsell, how to uncover needs, how to solve problems, how to unhook competition, how to control a bid, how to raise prices, how to handle objections and close, how to deal with difficult customers, how to network, and how to manage his accounts and his territory effectively – can be a true money-maker for the company, and for himself.
The implication of needing all these skills is that such salespeople generally aren’t born, they’re made. This is because few of these skills are innate. Beyond gregariousness, which is overrated, and perhaps “presentability” (which is also over-rated,) few usable skills arrive with most inexperienced sales candidates. So right off the bat, most salespeople need a lot of training.
But today’s selling environment, with the enormous number of choices available for consumers and industrial buyers alike, demands a higher level of sales skills than ever just for the salesperson to be able to get the prospect’s attention and interest. Ironically, though, this same number of choices and open markets that drives prices down leaving less margin available for the very training that would enable the salesperson to be successful.
In other words, for most companies, while competition has created the need for better salespeople, it has driven prices down to the point where training and supporting them is unaffordable.