” Six Questions to An Expert ”  by Marco Rasi.

1) Within the huge offer of methods and techniques, there are thousands of bloggers, articles, books and consultant firms. Unavoidably there are though different and even opposite theories about sales. What’s your advice for a salesman who would like a support in order to improve? How to find his way in this wide offer?

A) My best advice is if possible a salesperson should begin his or her sales career working for a company that believes in training and has strong sales development curriculum. As a part of this, this salesperson should seek out coaching to get critical feedback and develop self-coaching skills.

I fervently believe that it has never been more important for companies everywhere to insist on a sales team development program to be tailored for their precise needs and requirements: One that is designed to fulfil their total needs, and suits their industry, their culture, and their different selling roles – to be clear, there is no “one size fits all” solution – no “silver bullet”. This provides a fantastic base and along with that the salesperson should be a student of sales and read the latest books that match his or her type of sales and philosophy of working with customers.  Also join sales force social networks to get lots of input and experiment with approaches that feel right and work for him or her.

2) What is the best advice you can give to a young man who wants to start a career as a professional seller? And for “experts ”, what is the skill/attitude that you have seen too much neglected by the salesmen you met in your career?

A) Let’s begin by thinking about sales roles: There are effectively three “stages” of a sales cycle, which requires us to recognize that there are actually three identifiable sales functions – or as I prefer to refer to them, “Sales Phases” i.e. Phase One: lead generation/prospect attraction.Phase Two: prospect conversion/closing the deal, and finally, Phase Three: client/customer retention and development.

We then need to think about the skills needed in each of our phases, because they are completely disparate: For example, when you are working in Phase One, logically you need to be skilled at cold-calling, or email marketing, or referral selling. Most social media pro-activity is also focused on creating incremental opportunities – and you will not learn any of these skills from any sales methodology program that I have ever seen.

During Phase Two, if we follow the “traditional” sales/buying cycle path, we need to qualify the opportunity, create a solution that precisely fits our prospect’s requirements, present that solution, negotiate, and close. That all sounds rather simplistic and we all understand that complex sales can be far more … well complex. Here most sales methodologies come into their own.

Finally, Phase Three, this is the phase where most companies are weakest, preferring to concentrate most of their resources on Phase One: The ability to first build and then develop a strong customer base, which promotes strong two-way loyalty, and is founded on a totally symbiotic philosophy is what differentiates highly successful companies from the also-rans – and for also-rans, read much less profitable.

My advice therefore, is for salesmen and women to ensure that they develop their skills in all three “phases” if they really want to become top 5% players.

When thinking about the skills or attitudes which have become neglected or overlooked recently, I believe there is now far too much reliance on social media: It is true that the sales space has witnessed more changes in the past five years than in the previous fifty, but that doesn’t mean we must discard everything we used to do in the past – some principles and values still hold true, and at the end of the day, people still buy from people.

Social media is indeed a very powerful weapon, but it is only one weapon we should have in our armoury: In order to succeed today, we still need to focus on a very simple formula: Attitude + Skills + Process + Knowledge – social media is merely part of the process element.

3) We are a community of sales professionals in Italy, every day in the field on all markets. We see that on sale in Italy there are many offer training, coaching, team building, but little if anything about culture (books, qualified training publications) on sales techniques, that of day by day. Why do you think in English-speaking countries there is a lot more to offer of sales culture rather than in Italy? How to recover the gap?  

A) Some English speaking countries are highly entrepreneurial and sales fits into that mentality.  Contests such as this raise awareness, leverage social media, form relationships with firm you admire.

It is true that English is the language of the internet, and the internet is now the most powerful communications medium that exists. However, the reality is that around 80% of sales professionals around the globe do not speak English, so therefore, we the training companies and coaches must speak to them in their language. At JFA (Jonathan Farrington & Associates) we are developing a network of global partners, who will deliver JFA programs and solutions in the native tongue of each country.

4) We often speak about emprouvment and enrichment of the salesperson’s qualification, but there are some habits that should be got out. Which are habits of the past that, as time wentby; you removed from your techniques or changed ideas on?

A) Customers are not interested in the product pitch anymore: In fact, they have very little interest in the salesperson, or the salesperson’s company or solutions. What they are interested in – at the beginning of the relationship – is what we, our company and our solutions can do for them. This is because they are not only busy, but also because they are far more educated: They already know about our products and our prices before they meet with us – we therefore have to bring something unique to the table, in order to earn the right to their business. Knowledge is a great differentiating factor: The salesperson that has an in-depth knowledge of their particular industry or sector, can provide inside intelligence for their prospect. Also the ability to identify the prospect’s current commercial objectives – for example, increased market-share or faster time to market, or better client retention. If what we as salespeople can prove that our solution or serves will help our prospect achieve these, then he/she will be more willing to listen to us. Usually, one of these five “Magic” words open doors for us .. “Save” “Gain” “Increase” “Reduce” “Improve”

5) Social networks are opening new fronitiers in business relationships, but both company’stop managers that the best sellers seem to be wary of their use. What will lead us to the sales 3.0? Market, technology, or other?  

A) Yes, social networks are indeed opening new frontiers, but I believe we need to be very circumspect when choosing how and where we get involved: For example, if we merely wish to socialize with friends, colleagues and family, then sites like Facebook are ideal. But unless you are working in B2C (Business to Consumer) then you are not going to find your prospects there. And that is the real key, if you are hoping to win incremental business – find out where your prospects/customers hang out, and spend your time there, rather than trying to be everywhere. Want to know where they are hanging out? Ask them!

6) In the last 80 years, billions of words have been written about how to sell. There are so an “old” and a “new-school”. Sometimes even contrasting in their ideas. In your opinion, is the evolution of selling techniques influenced by new ideas and thoughts or is there just an adaptation to the new tools we have (such as communication, web, CRM), the new market and products/services? Or, last, the buyer’s changing in behaviour (awareness, advanced purchasing process)?

A) I believe the evolution of selling is driven by the changes in markets and how customers buy.  In the “old school” there was limited information, competitors were few and customers depended on salespeople to learn about products.  Many salespeople sold based on product scripts.  The “new school” emerged in the late 1970s when competition increased; customers had more choices and knowledge.  At that time sales shifted to customized solutions that solved business problems and gave sales people a way to combat being commoditized.  A combination of the internet and other emerging technologies, the economy, globalization, significantly more competitors has brought on a new era of selling that sales organization are struggling to adapt to.  In this digital age knowledge is a commodity, customers are self-educating and have taken control of the sales and are as much as 60% through their buying cycle before engaging with sales people.  Beyond customized solutions customers are demanding ideas, insights, and advice in how to configure solutions.  Salespeople must increase their knowledge (industry, business, and customer) and adapt to the customers buying cycle.  In each era of selling the sales conversation is different and selling methodologies evolve along with new tools such as advance sales. A final thought, and message to sales professionals everywhere: In my humble opinion, there has never been a more exciting time to be part of this wonderful profession of ours. It is true we are undergoing a considerable transition but you know, change is inevitable – it is the one constant we can rely on: It cannot be refused or resisted, so we have to accept it, adapt and thrive. There is an abundance of free advice everywhere on the internet these days, and indeed we at Top Sales Associates are playing our part in continually raising the bar in terms of sales excellence: For sales professionals, we have created Top Sales World, and for their managers, Top Sales Management. Finally, in order to recognise and reward the very best in the industry, we created the annual Top Sales Awards Do come and visit us as often as you like!


Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and sales thought leader, who has guided hundreds of companies and more than one hundred thousand frontline salespeople and sales leaders towards optimum performance levels. He is the Senior Partner at Jonathan Farrington & Associates, Chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates, based in London & Paris. You can also catch his popular, award-winning blog here – The JF Blogit

Interview by : Marco Rasi

Photo by neil godding on Unsplash


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