An Interview with David Varner, Author of The Sales Checklist™

By Selling Power Editors

Selling Power (SP): From your perspective, training so many salespeople, what is the number one problem they have – and how do you help them address it?

David: Far and away, the number one problem facing salespeople is that most do not have an actual sales process to follow.

I know, “Not true! We have a sales process…”

Want proof that you do not have a process? Pass out a case study of a critical, active sale where the outcome is in doubt. Ask everyone in the sales team to provide the next step to move it forward. How many answers would you get? This level of variation in execution makes it extremely difficult for a salesperson to maximize their potential or receive coaching.

This is not acceptable with any other department within an organization. Why is it acceptable in sales? I don’t believe it should be.

SP: Where do you see sales training going in the next three to five years?

David: The two most compelling changes impacting sales training are, first, the use of data to enable informed sales decisions and, second, the increase in the use of virtual training.

Increased use of data. We all see the impact of not having data to enable informed sales decisions every day. The average closing rate across all industries is approximately 25 percent. This equates to a 75 percent failure or defect rate. Sales leaders and company executives are beginning to understand that, not only is that not acceptable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By definition, a process systematically eliminates variation in execution, defects, and waste.

Increase in virtual training. Organizations are rethinking the traditional facilitated sales training that requires the sales team to be out of the field for multiple days. It’s increasingly difficult for sales leaders to justify multi-day, facilitated sales training – even more so with the current travel situation. Not only is it expensive, but a two-day workshop means the team is out of the field for four days. This, combined with the challenge to show a meaningful correlation between the training and the results, makes this increasingly more difficult to justify.

Virtual training is addressing this concern. The training can be delivered in the length of a typical sales meeting. The key, however, is that the training must be easy to use, simple to coach, and produce immediate results.

SP: Why is it still so vital for companies to train salespeople – even after they’ve been in selling for years? In other words: In what way does the company benefit?

David: Every profession has ongoing training. Selling is a wonderful profession; it’s my profession and all I’ve ever wanted to do. Whether it’s pilots, doctors, lawyers, or accountants, they all require ongoing training. Why? Professionals need to not only stay up to date on what’s new; they also need to ensure they continue to reinforce the basics. As a profession, selling is no different.

SP: When a sale fails to close, what is the very next step a salesperson should take?

David: First of all, if someone is following an actual sales process, there is always visibility that an order is at risk – always. We should never be surprised by a loss or a “no decision.”

When a sale fails to close, the salesperson and his or her manager should do a loss review. Identifying the root cause of the failure is key – just as is done with a failure in any other department within the organization. Once this is identified, the salesperson should receive coaching and then review his or her other active sales to determine additional deals that are at risk; whatever caused the loss (or no decision) is very likely impacting other sales the person is pursuing. Additionally, the manager can identify gaps in execution for his or her entire sales team.

Additionally, there is a benefit to reviewing key wins. Identify what was critical to the win and then use that to coach the sales team.

David is a speaker, author, and the founder of The Millau Group Global, a sales training company focused on providing its clients with simple-to-use solutions that are easy to coach and produce immediate results. Additionally, Millau’s solutions are designed to complement existing sales curriculums.