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How to change behaviour to underpin the growth strategy of your business

Increasing sales success

Even in today’s highly informed L&D environment there is still a wide selection of training events which follow a traditional teaching method. Tutors impart their knowledge, participants are inspired – awash with information and ideas – and then it’s back to business as usual.

Knowing ‘what’ good looks like is a great start, but how can it be emulated, embedded and sustained to improve skills for the long-term, give a good return on training investment and a change in behaviour which underpins the growth strategy of your business? SmartSearch were determined to have answers to these questions when looking for their sales training provider. “We didn’t want a chalk and talk approach where skills would be lost quickly post training and sellers could revert back to their previous methods”, explains “We wanted to invest in skills improvement that lasts.

Following an initial review of their sales operation, SmartSearch outlined three main objectives for the focus of the training:

  • Devote more time, effort and resources to larger sales.
  • Have better management reporting in terms of forecast and pipeline.
  • Make a more effective sales team.

Armed with a clear view of what they wanted in terms of both methodology and business outcomes, SmartSearch turned to options for a supplier. SmartSearch work primarily with regulated businesses including top Accountancy and Law firms to provide client verification tools such as Anti Money Laundering information.

Their sales can be long and complex in nature and involve decision making teams where individuals are at different stages in the decision making process and have varying stakes in the outcome.

To achieve the best from their client relationships, SmartSearch aimed to find a sales training programme which focussed on the buying process rather than the sales process. Martin comments: “Like Huthwaite, I believe that in terms of high value sales, the dynamic has shifted from the seller to the buyer. In this age they have so much information at hand, they are better equipped and more informed than ever before. We need to match our sales cycle with the buying cycle to really understand their view of the world.

Setting Up For Success As part of the change process, SmartSearch undertook Training Needs Analysis (TNA) with Huthwaite so that perceptions and reality were in line and to ensure that the skills development which followed was relevant and focussed.

The sales team had members with varying levels of experience so it was important that the skills would deliver value to all participants. “Using the SPIN® model ensured the training was applicable to everyone taking part, from the MD down. There was a real willingness to learn from all involved.” says Martin.

Sustainable skills improvement inevitably includes crucial classroom training and this project was no exception. But what Huthwaite have found is that to achieve long-term behaviour change participants require longer-term support. Our research tells us that optimum skills improvement results from a cycle of:

  • Plan
  • Practise
  • Feedback
  • Review

This cycle isn’t restricted to the face-to-face training, and can take the form of pre-course online learning modules and post course online refreshers. Ideally the learning is also supported by concentrated coaching for the 12 weeks after the training event to fully embed skills.

The team have taken to the SPIN® approach whole-heartedly. “Now we are really getting into the head of the buyer and can understand the client’s needs in much more detail than before. We are able to uncover exactly what is at the heart of an individual problem and demonstrate exactly how we can make the pain go away. Many clients are not aware of all the consequences and issues arising from their current practices and being able to demonstrate how we can help improve their situation at the right time and to the right people has dramatically improved our sales outcomes. We can demonstrate the potential return on investing in our products. We are moving our clients away from a desire for ‘faster horses’ and helping them to see the benefits of a ‘modern vehicle’.” Martin confirms.

Return on SPIN® Investment? The investment from SmartSearch is paying dividends and figures are looking great – Martin expands: “We have seen a 50% increase in the total number of pieces of contracted business since our training earlier this year.”

We are currently running at around 123% of target. Last year at this time it was 80% – overall we have a 43% increase in revenue.”

SmartSearch have identified two main reasons for the increase in sales:

Less experienced staff are now securing larger more valuable deals Advancing and closing deals has improved in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Martin confirms: “Having a common sales language and sales skills integrated into the sales process and sales reporting means that we can measure progress against Huthwaite’s model. Each piece of business in the pipeline is being assessed using the SPIN® practice so that we know incrementally how the sale is progressing and can act accordingly.”

Evidence of this can be seen in pre and post course sales call analysis (View PDF version to see results). Ultimately, by using the SPIN® technique, we look for improvement in the key behaviours which correlate with success:

  • Uncovering clear wants and desires from the customer – Explicit Needs.
  • And then matching each Explicit Need with a true Benefit statement to demonstrate how we can meet their requirements.
  • And finally, obtaining commitment from the buyer to move the sale forward – the Advance.

The results of the pre and post course sales analysis data from SmartSearch indicate a tangible improvement in key skills.

View PDF version below to read the full case study and results

View PDF version
Related download

Seven companies share their ROI stories and how they improved performance, changed behaviour and transformed fortunes.  This report is important reading for anyone evaluating their company's sales performance and / or considering a skills improvement programme.

Further reading

Coaching for business performance improvement
By Huthwaite International | November 23, 2014

How elearning is facilitating me-learning
By Tony Hughes | May 12, 2016

How to be persuasive
By David Freedman | September 6, 2017