Welding & Gases Today | Q4 2020

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Selling on the Phone in the “New Normal” BY JAY SPIELVOGEL, VENATOR SALES GROUP, LLC


Jay Spielvogel is CEO of Venator Sales Group, a sales consulting and training firm specializing in boosting Welding and Gas distribution sales performance. Contact him at: Jay@venatorsalesgroup. com.

58 • Fall 2020

am a face-to-face type of salesperson” “I don’t do well on the phone vs. physically meeting with people” “I like to press the flesh and sell in-person” Sound familiar? These are common responses to management when salespeople are asked why they fail to leverage the phone for selling. As a response to virtual selling during the pandemic, webinars and articles abound, presenting tips and tricks for even the most seasoned salespeople on how to sell in the virtual world. “Be energetic; ask how they are impacted by COVID; use video when engaging and clean up before getting on the call.” This is all great advice, but are we ignoring a deeper issue? Selling over the phone requires a comfort level with asking questions, listening actively, and, most of all, engaging in honest dialogue. Compare this to the face-to-face meeting, where the salesperson is a guest walking around the operational facility, asking technical questions, gathering information, and presenting. There is a safety-net provided by the walk-in visit that disappears when a salesperson is forced to fully engage on the phone without all the props and distractions. In spite of an incredible amount of investment in sales training, most salespeople are still defaulting to their old habits, where they schedule a site visit to collect technical needs, bring their subject matter experts in to educate on solutions, and present proposals. This common sales approach lacks any qualification steps, including drilling down into the business drivers, inquiring about, and getting access to, key stakeholders, clarifying budget allocation process and remediating roadblocks.

HAS THE PANDEMIC CAUSED A NEW ISSUE OR SIMPLY EXPOSED AN EXISTING ONE? The answer to this question becomes obvious when reviewing opportunities that were carried into 2020 from the prior year. If you dig deep into the deals that were “stalled by COVID,” the stark reality is that most were in distress for months prior to the onset of the pandemic. Before the shutdown, the “business tide” was so high that there was no time or need to dig deep past the dollar value and close dates for each opportunity. Now that business has slowed down, sales managers across the globe are beginning to look at the opportunity pipeline with a more observant eye for what is real and what is wishful thinking. It is only now that we are seeing these deep-rooted pre-pandemic issues, including a total lack of alignment with the real decision makers, next steps, budget, and timeline. Since the phone is a much less forgiving medium, and less comfortable than face-to-face selling, we need to retrain even the most seasoned relationship sellers on how to engage at a deeper level. Most salespeople see themselves as engaging when they are simply educating, presenting, and proposing. However, there must be a deeper connection with the prospect. Juxtapose this with the way VP or C-level team members approach selling when asked to join a salesperson on a call. For the most part, they are not detail-oriented and are not to be relied upon for the proposal and pricing follow-up. What they are good at is engaging with prospects, especially when asked to make a phone call on behalf of the salesperson. So, what is their superpower? They are amazing at sharing stories, drawing the prospect