With an extensive product range and over 88 local salespeople, SMC Corporation are well known as the leaders in pneumatic technology and experts in automation control. The company is always looking at new innovations not only in terms of products, but also in its approach to business. It is no wonder that SMC has been voted as one of the most innovative global companies by leading business magazine, Forbes for three consecutive years.
SMC realised that it couldn’t solely rely on the strength of its product portfolio to meet the continued growth and profitability expectations set by its parent company in Japan, nor could it totally rely on its brand recognition and global presence to sustain its market position.
The ANZ leadership team looked beyond these obvious competitive advantages and identified a critical focus area that many brands overlook: its people.
SMC wanted to cultivate a positive sales culture and provide the sales team with the skills and confidence necessary to become true business consultants to their customers.
The Counseller Salesperson (CSP), a Wilson Learning Worldwide Program, was seen as the ideal solution. Hazel Stewart from Innovate Learn, a Wilson Learning Worldwide Distributor, explained that CSP develops consultative and strategic capabilities. Salespeople gain skills that enable them to have business conversations and talk at all levels of the customer organisations.
Salespeople evolve from simply making transactions and selling products to helping identify and solve real business problems which often results in larger, more profitable, solution-focused business deals.
SMC took a “best practice” approach and identified several Sales and Regional Managers who were accredited to deliver CSP within SMC. This enabled them to integrate SMC systems, processes and language into the learning and deliver the program in a way that truly connected with their sales teams.
Hazel commented that “when CSP is coached, reinforced and supported by sales managers, it quickly becomes part of the client’s culture and provides a consistent customer experience.”
“We encourage our client organisations to take responsibility for embedding the new skills within their sales teams. When managers have an in-depth understanding of CSP skills and methodology, together with coaching skills, there is an average of 41% improvement in sales performance.” [i]
For SMC, the goal was clear. Salespeople were each asked to acquire new customers and develop deeper relationships to expand sales opportunities within existing customer accounts. They needed to gain more expansive knowledge about their customers’ business and clarity on its critical success factors. They also needed to uncover ‘what keeps the customer awake at night.’ The ability for SMC salespeople to go beyond exploring needs to an in-depth discovery around how a SMC customer creates value for its own customers would enable SMC to add real value and help their customers to generate business growth.
According to William Lebihan, Head of Field Sales at SMC Corporation “everyone likes to think that their product is the best, but in truth customers often “buy” the salesperson first and the product offering second. We work to create opportunities where customers changed allegiances and became SMC customers as a result of our salepeoples’ behaviours – not every customer interaction has to end in a sale.”
Four months after attending the initial CSP training, a portion of the sales team participated in an ‘Impact Evaluation’ to measure the effectiveness of the training program. They each selected a recent sale and measurement indicators showed that 45% of this sales revenue could be attributed to the skills gained from CSP.
Furthermore, 77% of participants said that CSP had resulted in a significant positive change in their overall behaviour.
The sales team reported that their biggest improvements were in their ability to establish deeper levels of trust and credibility.
According to Hazel, sales training helps to build confidence and the results achieved by SMC underpins this statement. “While some salespeople might have great product knowledge and technical expertise, they don’t necessarily have the confidence or a sales approach that resonates with a buyer. Sales training helps to transition good salespeople into great salespeople” she comments.
“Training and development has become an integral part of our sales culture, especially now that we have been forced to adapt to virtual selling. We have seen our people and our sales grow, and we look forward to a continued partnership with Innovate Learn” concludes William.