Many concepts discussed in book and classrooms appear viable until they are proven not to work in business situations. An engineering student spends weeks learning to make stress-strain calculations to simulate real-world conditions. Many disillusioned graduates learn in the field that this approach is seldom used because the results don’t reflect reality. On the job, you make an educated guess during the design phase, build a test unit, subject it to stress and strain, and reinforce components that fail. Having said that, we would like to suggest a road map for implementing the Customer Focused Selling sales process.
The difference between education and training is practice. In our workshops, true skill transfer takes place during role playing. When closing our workshops, we make a point of acknowledging that the attendees and coaches expended significant effort, but that all we had accomplished was training. Senior executives hire us because they want to implement a sales process. Training is an event during which skills are imparted. The expression “use it or lose it” could have been created to describe the crossroads traditional sellers face on completing one of our workshops. Changing selling habits that have been ingrained for 5, 10, 15, or more years is a daunting challenge.
When successfully implemented, the sales process becomes part of the culture of the adopting company and ultimately shapes the customers’ experience. Implementation of the process requires extensive effort on the part of Sales and Marketing, but also requires involvement and support by senior executives, ideally up to the chief executive officer, to realize its full potential. Marketing programs, brochures, Web sites, and product development, to name a few areas, should change to align with the new concepts and approaches that Customer Focused Selling introduces. The potential reward for companies successfully implementing a sales process is enormous, but we’d be setting unrealistic expectations if we told you it was easy. We have both had occasions where we turned down business because a lack of management support virtually assured that it would have been “drive-by” training.