The company focused on providing practical, hands-on, engineering consulting to small manufacturing firms. The prospect decision makers were company owners and founders, who generally knew their company’s operation extremely well and to a fine level of detail. Thus, the salespeople were technically proficient engineers who also delivered the consulting.
For many years sales had been stagnant at an unacceptably low level, and were not even close to supporting the significant growth in size and geographic coverage to which the company was committed. In addition, the costs associated with sales were orders of magnitude higher than expected, thus having a major impact on profitability. Despite having a significant price advantage compared to most of its competitors, only one out of every four proposals resulted in a contract. Even those that did close were taking 7-9 months from first contact to contract signing, often requiring multiple revisions of the proposal and a large number of sales meetings.
The sales training that had been conducted had not made any difference in the sales totals or effectiveness.
Frontier Associates (FAI) was engaged to help accomplish the following goals, using the existing sales force of consulting engineers:
- Produce a significant and sustainable growth in sales.
- Reduce the cost of each sale.
Based on interviews and observations, we believed that the engineering salespeople were selling as engineers rather than as effective salespeople. They approached each sales situation as an engineering problem to be solved. They first gathered data and understood the problem. Then they proposed “the correct solution” to the customer. Because they considered themselves “the experts”, there was resentment and frustration when the customer did not immediately accept what (to the engineer) was the obviously right approach.
The engineer salespeople needed to shift their view of sales to a collaborative process with the prospect, based on relationship and shared expertise, in addition to receiving training and coaching in practical skills to support this new view.
We conducted our Conversational Sales® Training Program, consisting of five morning sessions on Conversational Sales® principles, with practical exercises and real sales calls in the afternoon.
To provoke their interest and participation, two promises were made the first day: By the end of the Program, if they fully participated;
- They would be dramatically more effective as salespeople.
- They would consider sales fun.
Of the two promises, there was general disbelief by the participants that the “fun” promise could ever be kept. Since this promise was so outrageous to them, almost all fully participated, just to see what would happen.
Within two months after the completion of the first course, sales began to significantly increase, a trend which continued for many years thereafter.
The closing ratio increased from 25% to 75%. Lead times dropped from 7-9 months to 2-4 months. On average, one version of the written proposal was sufficient to close a sale instead of multiple revisions.
Most significantly, almost all course participants reported that (much to their surprise), the sales process was now relaxing and fun, and they felt competent and skilled at it.