Increase in sales success for SmartSearch

A formula for success

Even in today’s highly informed L&D environment there is still a wide selection of training events which follow a traditional teaching method. Tutors impart their knowledge, participants are inspired - awash with information and ideas - and then it’s back to business as usual.

Knowing ‘what’ good looks like is a great start, but how can it be emulated, embedded and sustained to improve skills for the long-term, increase sales success, give a good return on investment and a change in behaviour which underpins the growth strategy of your business? SmartSearch were determined to have answers to these questions when looking for their sales training provider. 

Following an initial review of their sales operation, SmartSearch outlined three main objectives for the focus of the training:

● Devote more time, effort and resources to larger sales.

● Have better management reporting in terms of forecast and pipeline.

● Make a more effective sales team.

Armed with a clear view of what they wanted in terms of both methodology and business outcomes, SmartSearch turned to options for a supplier. SmartSearch work primarily with regulated businesses including top Accountancy and Law firms to provide client verification tools such as Anti Money Laundering information. Their sales can be long and complex in nature and involve decision making teams where individuals are at different stages in the decision making process and have varying stakes in the outcome.

To achieve the best from their client relationships, SmartSearch aimed to find a sales training programme which focussed on the buying process rather than the sales process. Martin comments: “Like Huthwaite, I believe that in terms of high value sales, the dynamic has shifted from the seller to the buyer. In this age they have so much information at hand, they are better equipped and more informed than ever before. We need to match our sales cycle with the buying cycle to really understand their view of the world.

Setting up for an increase in sales success

As part of the change process, SmartSearch undertook Training Needs Analysis (TNA) with Huthwaite so that perceptions and reality were in line and to ensure that the skills development which followed was relevant and focussed.

The sales team had members with varying levels of experience so it was important that the skills would deliver value to all participants. “Using the SPIN® model ensured the training was applicable to everyone taking part, from the MD down. There was a real willingness to learn from all involved.” says Martin.

Sustainable skills improvement inevitably includes crucial classroom training and this project was no exception. But what Huthwaite has found is that to achieve long-term incease in sales success and behaviour change, participants require longer-term support. Our research tells us that optimum skills improvement results from a cycle of:

● Plan

● Practise

● Feedback

● Review

This cycle isn’t restricted to the face-to-face training, and can take the form of pre-course online learning modules and post course online refreshers. Ideally the learning is also supported by concentrated coaching for the 12 weeks after the training event to fully embed skills.

The team have taken to the SPIN® approach whole-heartedly. “Now we are really getting into the head of the buyer and can understand the client’s needs in much more detail than before. We are able to uncover exactly what is at the heart of an individual problem and demonstrate exactly how we can make the pain go away. Many clients are not aware of all the consequences and issues arising from their current practices and being able to demonstrate how we can help improve their situation at the right time and to the right people has dramatically improved our sales outcomes. We can demonstrate the potential return on investing in our products. We are moving our clients away from a desire for ‘faster horses’ and helping them to see the benefits of a ‘modern vehicle’.” Martin confirms.


Return on SPIN® investment?

The investment from SmartSearch is paying dividends and figures are lookingRevenue graph.JPG great - Martin expands: “We have seen a 50% increase in the total number of pieces of contracted business since our training earlier this year. We are currently running at around 123% of target. Last year at this time it was 80% - overall we have a 43% increase in revenue.

SmartSearch have identified two main reasons for the increase in sales:

● Less experienced staff are now securing larger more valuable deals.

● Advancing and closing deals has improved in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Martin confirms: “Having a common sales language and sales skills integrated into the sales process and sales reporting means that we can measure progress against Huthwaite’s model. Each piece of business in the pipeline is being assessed using the SPIN® practice so that we know incrementally how the sale is progressing and can act accordingly.

Evidence of this can be seen in pre and post course sales call analysis.

Successful call_diagram.JPG

Ultimately, by using the SPIN® technique, we look for improvement in the key behaviours which correlate with success:

● Uncovering clear wants and desires from the customer – Explicit Needs.

● And then matching each Explicit Need with a true Benefit statement to demonstrate how we can meet their requirements.

● And finally, obtaining commitment from the buyer to move the sale forward – the Advance.

The results of the pre and post course sales analysis data from SmartSearch indicate a tangible improvement in key skills.

Explicit Needs and Benefits_graph.JPG

Looking forward

Coaching is proving to be an asset worth retaining. Gareth Allen, Operations Director, who is largely responsible for coaching the SmartSearch sales team gives his view: “There is no doubt that coaching has a marked impact on embedding skills. Having additional training in coaching SPIN® has given us the extra knowledge and confidence to drive the changes in behaviour that support our business goals. The regular reinforcement material from Huthwaite aids our effort and gives us all the nudge we need to keep focussed.

The way in which SmartSearch have embraced the SPIN® methodology and wider ethos is extremely gratifying.” says Lee Cumberbatch, Account Manager at Huthwaite International, “what has made this project a pleasure to work on is the recognition by Martin and Gareth that it needs a hands-on approach and full backing prior to, during and after the training intervention. Continuous reinforcement and review with each seller allows them to refine the skills and keep developing the effectiveness of the sales team.

Their marketing support and tools are further evidence of their commitment. All the elements of SPIN® and the Huthwaite Buying Cycle have been incorporated to the benefit of the sellers and clients alike.

Martin concludes: “We are seeing growth in all areas of the business and the return on investment has easily paid for itself already. As the business expands, we are looking into a train the trainer option and providing training for our sales support staff too.