By Ian Altman, Guest Author

This is the third in a series of posts by Ian Altman on sales training for non-sales staff. It's an important topic for professional services firms. Our research  shows that high growth, high value firms tend to follow the practice. Ian has shared some practical and effective advise. Enjoy…lwf


In previous posts I addressed Sales Training for Non-sales Staff and Keys to Helping Non-sales Staff find Qualified New Business. In this post, I want to address the issue of identifying non-sales talent that might be good candidates to become more involved in the sales process.

Let me start by drawing your attention to the December 1, 2010 Harvard Business Review article “Do You Really Know Who Your Best Salespeople Are?” The article illustrates the importance of consultative selling and how critical it is to success. Though every person in the organization should be conscious of sales, there are some attributes that you may want to seek or cultivate to increase the value of your non-sales staff in the sales and business development process.

Remember, we are not interested in selling things our clients do not need. Instead, we focus on challenges our clients face where we might be able to offer a solution. So be on the lookout for the following characteristics.

  1. Subject Matter Expertise: Clients are most likely to value individuals who have experience in their industry, have solved specific issues, or have valued credentials that might reduce risk for the client. Just saying that you have sharp people is not enough. We need to demonstrate tangible outcomes. Identify staff who have experience producing results.
  2. Active Listeners / Creative Thinkers: In selling situations, most professionals have learned the importance of questions. However, active listening is a art that must be mastered. What we mean by active listening is being fully-engaged with the client and listening for the answers within the answers. We can tell when someone is “half listening” and so can our clients. Once we hear their needs, creativity can get us from concept to cash. Though every project needs people who can just do what they are told, the best contributors to selling situations also have that creative spark to design solutions – but only once we have fully uncovered the needs behind the needs.
  3. Project Management Skills: In order to reach an outcome on a sales opportunity, professionals need to manage a schedule, identify dependent tasks, track action items, and accept and assign responsibility. These are the same types of attributes of effective project managers. Not every project manager can help in sales and business development, but the best closers understand the detail and “risk seeking” required to reach a timely decision with the client – and those skills are shared with good project management.

Take an inventory of these skills in your team. Happily, many (but not all) of these skills can be taught. Notice that I did not mention closing. If your team members have the skills above, closing is something they can easily learn. Good closing is not about pressure, and when properly educated, it becomes an easy part of the process.

What skills do you already have on your team?