When we believe in ourselves, so does the customer.
One of the biggest keys to success is confidence. The key to confidence is preparation.
This is a mantra I live by. For me, personally, self-confidence helps me bridge the gap from can't to can. And clearly, it's not just me. Read a memoir by a sports personality, a business leader, an activist, or anyone else who has made a tangible difference in the world, and one of the biggest lessons you come away with is about the importance of self-belief, and confidence.
We build confidence through success. Think of a moment when you said to yourself, “I nailed it!” Now try to remember what the days that followed that moment were like. If you're anything like me, you existed in a sphere of light where all your skills were switched on and you probably took on bigger challenges and mightier projects than you otherwise would have.
Contrast that with a fail. Sometimes, it doesn't even need to be a big fail. It can be a rude putdown, badly delivered feedback, or a client who went out of their way to make you feel ill-equipped. It shakes you. That sphere of light disappears. You walk through the world with your shoulders hunched in. You make yourself smaller - you don't take chances, you play safe, and you don't put your hand up.
In remote sales, and especially when doing a product demo, confidence and the projection of confidence are key to closing deals. During the demo, your sales rep must "give your prospect confidence" in the solution. They must gain their trust, and confidence, in your product. How do they do that when their own self-confidence is shaken? When they don't believe that they have what it takes to "nail it"?
Take a moment to observe your sales reps. Are they relying on rote learning of product features and scripts? That's a bit like studying for a tough exam. The trouble is, that approach has limited applicability. It just about works in exams when you're interacting with a question paper with zero personality, in a room with zero distractions. Does that sound even remotely like a demo?
Demo confidence needs a different set of skills and different series of steps to get our people there. It calls for support for the right tools, for processes that enable them to do their best, for training, coaching, and for practice.
It sounds like more work than it is, to be honest. It all boils down to small changes in culture, process, tools and training. And you're probably doing parts of this already.
Creating an ecosystem of confidence.
This is where culture comes in. If people in your organization get criticized for failure, that is going to keep them playing small. Criticism doesn't have to be sharp or cutting, to be effective. In fact, no one is ever motivated after an evisceration. Tough love doesn't work. Respect does. As does intention.
Baking these into the company culture takes a certain self-awareness by the leader (you!). Don't expect yourself to be superhuman, and don't expect to do it alone. Talk to someone who modeled it for you, and ask them to mentor you. Attend training on conflict resolution and constructive feedback and tough conversations. The more you prepare, the better prepared you'll be when situations arise. Yes, of course, plural.
Build constructive feedback into your processes. There’s a whole office outside of your sales team. These people make great candidates for A/B testing and confidence-building feedback. Encourage your sales reps to practice with them, and listen to what they have to say. You could also set up a time with the leaders in your company. The feedback your CTO gives to the sales reps will have a different bent than the feedback your product manager gives. Getting well-rounded feedback from the leadership is key to learning how to handle objections. Also, getting them to practice with your bigwigs, takes the edge off when they have to do product demos with prospective bigwigs!
Support sales reps through training and coaching
Make training a two-way process. Let your sales reps feed into training their difficult scenarios, objections, fails and wins, and let them demand from training the latest in effective communication tools and trends.
Selling is a highly complex skill and like many other highly complex skills, it helps to have these procedures in your repertoire. Just like an aircraft pilot or a surgeon have procedures at their disposal; so too, should sales reps. Create best practices and SOPs and encourage mock demos that let the new reps see the top reps in action. Once they see something at work, it transforms from a dead document into a potential lifeline.
Create documentation: The top 20 objections (and their responses), the most common questions (and their answers), the needs of different buyer personas, and so on. Depending on your training bandwidth and tools available, you could also turn these into micro-learning opportunities that use spaced repetition to keep your team fluent.
Use a buddy system (if your budget allows this). Shadowing your strongest sellers is a great way for your newbies to learn by immersion. It may take them a tad longer to hit the ground running, but they'll have much stronger outcomes, especially when compared to those fresh out of training.
Baking in product knowledge
There is no substitute for product knowledge. True confidence comes from knowing that the client can ask you anything, and you'll know how to respond (or know how to find the right information quickly). The more hands-on experience your sales reps have with the tool, the more they'll know not just the features and solutions, but how to sell these solutions. An enthusiastic sales rep who believes in their product is the best way to grow that confidence in the prospects' minds!
How you design the sales onboarding process makes a huge difference here. The sales training needs to be as interactive and hands-on as possible, allowing the sales reps to both learn and practice on the tools and then practice mock demos. Build in A/B testing within the training and coaching modules to allow new sales reps to try out their own ideas in a safe space, where they can get feedback, and find their own voice.
In the real world, there are limits to how much a sales rep can learn by using a tool - they may not have the data they need to perform operations, they may not understand the use case enough, they may not have deep enough domain knowledge to understand the various processes and how your tool fits in (and improves those).
This brings me to…
Using the right tools
My clients use SmartCue extensively in training their sales reps on their tools. Some even use SmartCue to build train-the-trainer modules for their tools, for their new clients. Why? Because SmartCue gives users the ability to interact with the tool in question, in a guided manner. You see, SmartCue cues the user in context - based on wherever the mouse pointer is. Trainers use this feature to feed trainees in-context information about the feature, what they can click next, and so on. Reps get to play out various solutions for different use cases, industries and even buyer personas.
In fact, I have a client that has built out their demo library using SmartCue, and their training team now leverages that to give brand new reps effective practice time on the tools!
Of course, SmartCue is a great tool to have in a demo. It works as a second brain - cueing your sales rep for all the key information in context, allowing them to go into demos without a script. This means the sales rep gets to focus on being present in the room, instead of worrying about whether they remember the script perfectly or not! Moreover, it also gives them the flexibility to go off-script entirely when the prospect wants to explore a particular feature. As long as that feature is covered in another demo that is linked to SmartCue, the cues will be there. Moreover, when the sales rep returns to the topic they were covering before this diversion, SmartCue will cue them in exactly where they left off, so there is never any danger of your brand new sales rep missing out on a key feature or functionality of the solution.
The result? A sales rep who comes across as knowledgeable, calm and confident. No flustering, no stumbling, no sweat. A calm demo, even when the prospect asked questions that were 'out of the syllabus and changed the order of the demo, and maybe even asked to rush through parts of it.
Now that is how you boost a sales rep's confidence.
There will always be those sales reps who aren't cut out for the job. There's not much you can do for them, no matter how supportive your work environment is, or how great your training, processes and tools are. But for the majority of young people who join you, these actions will reap huge rewards.
People leave their bosses. They also leave toxic workplaces. Unfortunately, there are plenty of those. By creating a nurturing, supportive environment, you're also creating another reason for them to stay. Sales will always be hard, and it will always be demanding. But it doesn't need to be ugly, or harmful.
In my experience, people always recognise the intent. When you create a space where talent is nurtured, mistakes are meant to learn from and feedback is a positive thing, you're creating loyalists who will walk beside you. Especially in today's market, that's a beautiful thing.