Getting Your Sales Reps to See Themselves as Experts

Oct 01, 2019

By Tracy Wik

In an increasingly complicated world, your sales reps should become subject matter experts. Research sponsored by Jama Software notes that most companies have been bogged down by the complexities of new product releases over the past few years. The solution? Your sales team needs to serve as trail guides to prospects.

Encourage your team members to gain mastery so they can confidently offer expertise during the sales cycle. That way, they can build relationships based on education rather than transactions.

Salespeople who consider themselves experts enjoy more success than those who do not. A 2018 survey by Marc Wayshak Sales Research & Insights revealed that more than half of strong sellers thought of themselves as authorities. Top performers reported feeling like they were treated as specialists—not merely vendors—by customers.

I know a medical device representative who used her background in biology and chemistry to understand how her product saves lives. She furthered her knowledge by reading primary research on clinical trials in the space. Her sales relationships were successful in part because they were educational rather than transactional. She walked the walk and was able to offer her expertise to doctors, presenting herself as a curator of best practices. By cutting the physicians’ learning curves, she became their valued guide.

Developing expertise in your sales reps

Ready to move your sales staff from vendors to authorities? Start with three strategies aimed at building a team of experts:

Screen candidates for motivation and aptitude. You can train anyone on product features. You cannot train someone to own the title of “expert.” Before hiring candidates, assess their personal motivations and habits. Self-reporting tools such as CliftonStrengths and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can indicate who is most apt to rise to the challenge. Invest in analyzing candidates’ potential and desire before you invite them to join your sales team.

Train sellers to pivot the conversation in their favor. Survey your marketplace landscape to discover your customers’ biggest pain points. Make sure your salespeople understand those issues, and task them to become experts in the challenges and solutions across the industry. Your sales reps need to know the context of the industry they serve and be able to speak openly about relevant trends.

Ultimately, you want to create the platform for sellers to lose themselves in becoming go-to experts for the industry. Once that happens, sales conversations feel less like selling and more like building a relationship.

Expect salespeople to broadcast their savvy. Experts must be recognized as experts, and that means they must be seen and heard. Offer team members opportunities to speak at all-staff meetings, launch thought leadership vehicles on social media, and give presentations at national conferences. By giving sellers the freedom to express their unique abilities via visible channels, you will increase their credibility, consistency, and confidence.

Give your salespeople something they can use throughout their careers: the gift of expertise. You’ll attract more talent-forward people itching to showcase and hone their chops. More important, you’ll improve not only your bottom line but also the way your brand appears to the outside world.

About The Author

Tracey Wik is the president of talent and organization effectiveness for GrowthPlay. She has worked with leaders for more than 20 years to help them understand that talent is the most important thing they manage from a business perspective. By applying research-based talent analytics and hard facts, Wik and GrowthPlay help leaders understand the talent they have and figure out how to obtain the talent they need.