The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) recently
published a whitepaper on "Selling
with Competence: How Sales Teams Succeed." In that whitepaper,
the authors discuss recent trends and research in the sales
In order to determine what salespeople need to learn, we must first
determine what they need to know. No longer are product knowledge,
persuasiveness, and persistence enough.
To truly understand what successful sales team members need to know
and do, ASTD asked them.
ASTD Research surveyed 210 sales trainers and 179 salespeople
during the summer of 2007. Overwhelmingly, respondents said that
they value sales training and believe it to be very or extremely
When asked about the skills required to be successful in their
jobs, survey respondents indicated these top five:
- Asking effective or productive questions of customers
- Becoming a better listener
- Selling with the customer's best interest in mind
- Making ethical decisions
- Leveraging sales approaches that are adaptable from one situation to the next.
Respondents were also asked what kind of knowledge is required to
be successful in their jobs. Valuable knowledge areas include:
- Customer requirements and potential uses of the product or service
- Product knowledge
- Company knowledge (of the selling company)
- Knowledge about competitor companies.
Accenture research found that although 146 of 244 executives from
six countries said that the sales team plays the most prominent
role in their company's long- and short-term success, 41 percent of
managers and executives from more than 2,500 sales organizations
said that their salespeople are performing below expectations
(Nightingale Conant/Andy Miller).
ASTD advocates a new approach, one in which
the sales development and training needs of sales teams are
viewed through a strategic and holistic lens. To be successful,
this approach requires the alignment of all aspects of talent
management, skills development, and sales process execution.
Revenue goals must be aligned with business outcomes and
business processes that are deliberately designed to allow
salespeople to develop productive customer relationships and
deliver appropriate solutions. Further, salespeople must be
equipped and empowered to make decisions that benefit both the
buying and selling organizations, and sales managers must be
given both the time and the training to coach and develop their