by Alex Lockey
Bonus Material: Sales Telephone Interview Questions
Over the last few years a leading provider used the following strategies to grow from just a handful of clients to a pipeline of 200 engaged employers for apprenticeships provision.
Today, I’m going to show you exactly how they did it.
Grab my checklist below so you can get all your ducks in order.
Then, use these methods to grow your provision!
Growing provision since the reforms has been tough, in parts. It forced a lot of apprenticeship training providers to reevaluate their sales processes and the type of sales professional they needed to win employer clients.
Gone were the day of ‘bums on seats’ and along came higher expectations.
Today, we’re shining the light on a Commercial Director’s strategy in a large provider who overhauled their sales function with great results.
Here’s what that looks like:
It takes time to build, but if you focus on getting the fundamentals right, the rest falls into place.
There are ten steps they focused on:
Step 1: Get the right people doing the right things, outsource parts of the process and have a blended team where each person is enabled to play to their strengths
Step 2: Have robust hiring processes, don’t settle for second best and hold out for the right people.
Step 3: Tackle outdated ideas about sales people and what they do by opening up lines of communication with the rest of the business and redefining robust processes.
Step 4: Build a culture where sales team members consider their own personal brand
Step 5: Develop cast iron SLAs both internally and externally.
Step 6: Create a sales processes that put HR and L&D partners first.
Step 7: Implement multi-channel marketing that creates actionable leads.
Step 8: Outsource parts of the sales process you don’t want to do internally and leverage suppliers to cleanse data.
Step 9: Make it easy on your target decision maker by educating and supporting them to make the best decision for their organisation.
Develop a small and very close knit team where trust, mutual respect and integrity is key with clear vision. They created a harmonious team environment where each addition to the team enhanced rather than diluted any individuals effectiveness.
Crucially, everyone held core sales skills and everyone understood the full process.
What they did well was to make sure they had unique specialisms seeded throughout the team. This allowed specialists to challenge and develop other team members not as strong in their specialism.
Specialisms include things like;
Everyone brought something to the party and could swoop in to help when needed.
Hiring is key to getting the right people. They looked for up to several months to hire the right person into a sales role.
If the team is small, each team member should bring something to the table and be a power player.
Their mantra was that you can teach skills and knowledge, but you can’t teach behaviours. They looked for key traits such as integrity, passion, motivation and charisma. They brought people in who were likeable but challenging.
The decision makers and processes in levy paying organisations can be multi-layered. Sales professionals need to be believable, similarly organised and highly presentable to hold their own at C-suite level.
Like lots of training providers, sales teams come with a label. Over time, it was important to reverse the negative perceptions of the sales team and their processes to become a leading team in the business.
How did they do this?
Simply by asking. Lots of conversations and networking within the business. It turns out that non-sales folk in a provider typically think the following:
So, they embarked on a process of making marginal gains, in all areas where small percentage improvements added up over time to become better across the board.
Here are some of things they did to combat the perceptions above:
These factors combined to give the business more decision making capability, complete transparency, clear pipeline and removed any blame culture.
As part of addressing sales team perception, individual sales team members were encouraged to embrace their own personal brand internally through increasing standards of professionalism, from attitude to dress code.
They created job titles to focus on their relationships focused approach. They used terms like partnerships and relationships to reflect the service they provide.
Simply, create the fastest turnaround time on internal and external communications. The sales team gave everyone a 24 hour turnaround guarantee.
That’s not all. They always called first. No emails disappearing into the ether.
They called first. Followed up with another call and voicemail. Then moved to email on the third follow up.
They created a Roadmap aimed at determining a series of milestones that contained EVERYTHING that needed to be done from lead conversion through to starts and beyond.
You guessed it - this has a 100% audit trail and was filled with SMART targets. They reverse engineered the desired SLA for employers and tagged responsible stakeholders into the process, ensuring everyone was aware of who was responsible for what and when.
So many training providers follow traditional marketing which goes like this:
They tackled things a different way. They ran problem focused mini-campaigns to segments of their target employers. They took time to understand their buyer personas and focused on the biggest problems and how to meet their needs.
Then, they leveraged good content marketing such as;
They ensured all the channels were used effectively and budgets were closely monitored against ROI. They also believed you have to give value to get value and cemented themselves as thought leaders.
Outsourcing some of the sales process such as marketing, social media campaigns, telesales or telemarketing has been common practise in the sector. This Commercial Director felt it was important to outsource parts of the process to a high quality supplier BUT with conditions so that they could concentrate on key areas internally.
Rather than burning through a list of data, they leveraged the service to target people who had interacted with their marketing thereby creating a warmer call.
Their secondary mission was to cleanse the data set, performing research alongside the appointment booking attempt or vacancy generation. This meant that their data became one of their strongest assets week-on-week, improving the efficacy of their content marketing and conversion rates of calls. A flywheel if you will.
This moved sales conversion from 1-in-5 to 1-in-2 prospects who raised their hand.
They created their process to educate first, and win business second. This led to them winning business from PLC accounts where incumbent providers had held the business for multiple years.
The goal was to win the relationship, not starts. People buy people and brings back around to the first steps in the process. The sales teams goals were to help HR and L&D professionals navigate through their levy choices.
They delivered stakeholder education sessions at all levels in organisations to manage the perception of apprenticeships. Delivering on behalf of L&D or HR gave them kudos and, for them, it provided another audit step on the project.
This led to outstanding learner and employer satisfaction (90-95%) for this stage of the customer journeys.
Get the right people on the bus.
First things first, with the economy the way it is, you need to be working with the right people.
If anything in this article takes your interest or you have questions, reach out and let's talk. We can hook you up with top sales strategic consultancy, help you to hire to A-Player(s), or just chew the fat on how to make the most of what you have to hand.
Look out for our articles coming soon on what good marketing looks like.
We can hold your hand to build you the teams and processes you need to grow.
We get results. This might mean you outsource all of it to us, or we give you the tools you need and move on. In reality, it’s usually a mix of both.
What you need to succeed:
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