How embracing diversity and inclusion in sales creates high performing sales teams
As everyone in the industry knows, ‘sales’ is an umbrella term that encompasses a huge number of different areas of activity. And as these areas are largely governed by a sales team’s own individual process, there’s the possibility for an almost never-ending list of activities that could reasonably be considered to fall under the broad sales umbrella.
When we look at sales like this - as a collective unit that brings together a range of individual, distinct areas - it’s easy to see that there’s no specific set of broad ‘sales skills’ that can help a team deliver a truly end-to-end service. Each activity will require a niche approach; each activity will require a different set of skills to ensure it’s carried out in the most effective and efficient way. And this is where diversity and inclusion in sales becomes such an integral part of successful sales in the future of sales management. It’s critical for leaders to ensure that their team is made up of people with different skills and personalities to cover all bases and fully deliver on the sales strategy:
- Identifying the right segments
The segments that sales teams once targeted may not be the most attractive prospects today and this is something that must be factored in when determining how to build a sales pipeline. As the business landscape has shifted, it has created new opportunities for some, while others have needed to temporarily reduce spending. At times of change especially, identifying and targeting the right segments is crucial, and figuring out these segments is a highly analytical task that requires a specific talent.
Necessary skills: logical thinking, process-oriented approaches, analytical behaviours
- Approaching new prospects
In the sales world of tomorrow, buyers don’t want to be sold to. We are witnessing a notable shift to a ‘self serve’ environment in the buyer decision making process, where buyers are happy to conduct independent research before engaging with a sales rep. Therefore, reps that do approach new prospects need to do so in a way that doesn’t deter, but draws that prospect closer. They must use people-centric techniques that start with the customer, and work back.
Necessary skills: people-centricity, relationship building, understanding emotional needs
- Proposals & value propositions
To develop a proposal that attracts and engages with the right people, at the right time, customer needs must be carved out, understood, and translated into optimal value propositions. This is yet another analytical task that requires a deep understanding of the requirements, behaviours, and expectations of the customer. There is a need to consider a wide variety of data points, and summarise these into a single conclusion.
Necessary skills: asking questions, active listening, conversation structuring
Once customer needs are fully understood, the sales team can begin to develop a personalised pitch that is rooted in these needs. However, the ‘facts and figures’ about the customer must be merged with the prospect’s emotional side. A good pitch is one that is clear, transparent, and practical, and yet also seamlessly engages with the customer’s emotional side to spark a simultaneous logical and sentimental response. It’s here that storytelling in sales also becomes important.
Necessary skills: empathy, storytelling, emotional maturity
If your team negotiates well and lands a big project or a big client, a whole new set of skills will be required to effectively manage the activity. Teams must be able to handle large scale projects - which may include greater levels of complexity and tighter deadlines. Teams also need to communicate clearly and transparently with multiple stakeholders, and work to build, maintain, and nurture new relationships.
Necessary skills: Confidence, understanding of the wider business landscape
In terms of the sales process - whatever that sales process may be - it’s clear to see how diversity is vital. But there are more ways that diversity and inclusion can help sales:1. Addressing customer diversity
It’s not only sales teams that are diverse. Customers are diverse, too. Every customer is different. Every customer has different needs. And every customer expects a personalised approach. So it’s essential to have a diverse team where the most relevant rep can be assigned to the most relevant account. A team that reflects each individual customer segment can help to improve customer loyalty and confidence.2. Driving innovation
Teams must change to meet customer needs in the future of sales. We can’t work as we once did. There is an urgent need to create new processes that align with the external environment, and innovation is key to doing so. Diversity and inclusion must be considered a powerful engine of innovation, driven by input from a variety of sources, each with their own perspective moulded by their experiences and understanding.
A Different Kind of D&I
Diversity and inclusion in sales is often discussed in terms of gender and ethnicity. And while this type of D&I is certainly vital, it’s also important to consider the other kind of diversity and inclusion in sales; the kind that considers diversity in terms of understanding, of experiences, and of skills sets. By working to build and develop a diverse team, leaders can ensure they always have the right person, for the right task.