By Barrett Riddleberger
Cable sales professionals today find themselves in a new era in which legacy brands face competition from small, nimble carriers seeking to incrementally increase market share. The future may level the playing field between the two.
Take it from Joel Deuterman, CEO the Erie, PA-based firm, Velocity Networks, whose company is having success with rapidly-evolving technology. “Small ISP’s can now offer a fiber-to-the-home product and be competitive,” says Deuterman. “VoIP and IPTV are also game changers where cable is concerned. As a small provider, using fiber, I can now sell a solid voice/video/data offering that wasn’t possible a few years ago,” he said.
So whether you’re defending your share of the market as a major carrier or using a fiber optic product, the sales prescription now comes down to two key points:
1) Relying on your brand name is not enough; Buyers know they have more options.
2) Quota-focused models are no longer effective; The sale is more complex today.
Brand Opens the Door…Then What?
Traditionally, salespeople often attempt to sell largely on brand—especially if theirs is the biggest. It’s true that a legacy name can certainly get you in the door, but it’s no longer the case that it will win the bid.
For instance, in the case of business-class cable, you’re no longer selling cable or even bandwidth. Today, you’re selling business improvement. Sales reps must be able to think like business consultants whose value is their creative problem-solving ability and collaboration with customers in order to thrive in this competitive environment. And when it comes to home sales, you have to be prepared for an increasingly fickle consumer—particularly in the case of millennials, whose preferences for Internet TV are redefining media consumption by the minute.
Brand loyalty is still strong, but today the savvy sales professionals are no longer leading with product features. They’re asking questions, listening and addressing the buyer’s concerns. What you offer may be the same as the competition, but the manner in which you position your solution and sell it will set it apart.
Quotas Are a Tool—Not a Sales Process
A sales quota will always be a valid tool for forecasting and measuring results, but it should no longer be the focus of the sales process. Instead, an activity-focused process will get you further.
A sports analogy can be useful here. An effective football coach probably wouldn’t say, “We need more touchdowns!” Instead, he might say, “We need to work on pass blocking in short yardage situations to gain a first down.” In other words, focus on the activities that drive results. Good sales leaders don’t complain; rather, they coach with comments to their sales reps like the following: “Ask the five qualifying questions before presenting to ensure you don’t waste time with someone who does not fit our target market.”
Recruiting the Right Candidates
With constantly emerging technology and new competition, those who want to be successful need to sharpen their sales game. Competitive cable sales reps must engage buyers in value-focused conversations, listen accurately and offer services that match customer demand.
For sales leaders and HR professionals, start by expanding job descriptions with specific expectations. Emphasize requirements that relate to the day-to-day work. For example, an outside sales rep might need to prospect for new customers. The expectation for that line in the job description might say, “make 25 target calls per day” or “set eight appointments per week.”
Whether you work for a large or small cable company, ask yourself, “Is our sales team riding on yesterday’s success or preparing itself for the future?”
(Barrett Riddleberger is founder and CEO of xPotential Selling Inc. and specializes in professional selling, analyzing sales performance issues of medium to large organizations and assessing sales capacities in individuals. He has authored the book “Blueprint of a Sales Champion: How to Recruit, Refine, and Retain Top Sales Performers” and is a weekly contributor to Inc.com. His firm’s advice has been used by Cornell University’s online campus, eCornell, Coldwell Banker, Time Warner Cable Business Class and The Babcock and Wilcox Company. For more, please visit www.xpotentialselling.com.)