It’s incredibly powerful to have a common sales vocabulary within your company. In fact, alongside revenue growth and onboarding consistency, many of the companies we’ve talked to about sales training have cited a common vocabulary as a key objective.
What do I mean by “sales vocabulary?” It’s a standard set of terminology used to describe everyday customer situations, sales strategies and approaches. Having a common sales vocabulary allows your team to have deeper conversations around selling that lead to better execution.
In this article, I’ll discuss the steps sales teams can take toward speaking the same language about sales to establish a better baseline of execution.
Get Your Team on the Same Page with a Common Vocabulary
For many companies, formalizing sales execution is difficult because sellers come from different backgrounds with different levels of training that used different methodologies. Veteran salespeople bring old habits with them, newer reps often lack formal sales training altogether, and everybody inherits tactics from the managers who’ve trained them. With that variety and inconsistency, how do you get your sales force on the same page in the way they think about sales?
We recently heard from a large company that is rolling out our Modern Sales Foundations training program around this topic. Part of this company’s rollout includes having regular team meetings to discuss the concepts and approaches taught in the program. In addition to simply reinforcing the material in the program, their discussions have expanded into a broader range of sales topics which they’ve never talked about as a group previously. They’re now discussing about complex customer situations, common barriers, buyer point-of-view, and much more. Our client feels strongly that they would have never had these conversations without the framework and the common sales vocabulary for doing so.
A framework to apply a common sales vocabulary makes it possible to have effective and enlightening conversations around selling that gets a sales team on the same page. To combat the challenge of establishing one language across a team, make sure the vocabulary is buyer-centric, adaptive, and used throughout the organization.
Align Your Sales Vocabulary with Your Buyers
Think about selling from your buyers’ perspective. This may sound obvious, but a lot of everyday sales behavior suggests that it’s not. The first key step to creating a working sales vocabulary across your team is to align terminology with your buyers’ viewpoint and buying process.
A healthy 21st-century sales environment revolves around the reality that sellers only sell something when a buyer buys it. Buyers won’t buy so that a salesperson can hit quota, and they won’t buy because a salesperson uses a certain tactic. With that in mind, don’t build a sales vocabulary using terminology that evokes “selling at” buyers. Instead, enable the buyers to buy.
Some examples of buyer-centric language choices from Modern Sales Foundations include resolving concerns rather than overcoming objections, gaining commitment instead of closing, and conducting customer value reviews rather than business reviews. Reframing everyday customer interactions from the standpoint of the buyer enables a mindset shift that benefits the entire team, not to mention your customers.
Make Your Sales Vocabulary Adaptive
An important component of a common sales vocabulary is that it must be adaptive – to different sales roles, different backgrounds, different markets, different geographies, and even different styles of selling. Ironically, one of the biggest misconceptions companies have about sales training is that it is restrictive and forces a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, establishing a good sales vocabulary through training should create a framework but not specific scripts that restrict sellers.
A big part of making these frameworks function is utilizing easy-to-apply models, which may include acronyms. Sure, acronyms are nerdy. But many of the best business strategies and sales approaches utilize acronyms because they make complex ideas easy to remember. A good sales vocabulary needs to deliver exactly that.
If your company sells through a variety of roles – business development, pipeline management, and account management for example – you want to find consistency in sales methods but need to be able to adapt models and execution for the specifics required of each role. Establish common themes and sales philosophies that are universal, but be sure that they apply to all stages of the sales process and the roles that execute them.
Build a Culture Around Better Sales Execution
In addition to being buyer-centric and adaptive, a common sales vocabulary for your team is only effective when it’s actually used. Sales training isn’t just for new hires. A strong sales culture needs to be the “way we do things around here,” as my colleague Mike Kunkle often says. And, as you can imagine, that doesn’t start with the people who just walked in the door.
Front-line sales managers are critical in leading by example and setting clear expectations for all salespeople on the team. If you’re going to have meaningful conversations about improving sales performance, buy-in from managers is key.
As I alluded to earlier, a common sales vocabulary is universal and widely known. Veterans need to take part in it as well. The good news is that, despite what many companies fear, even these old dogs can learn new tricks. In fact, veteran sales reps often take kindly to developmental opportunities, assuming they feel like they can be a part of it, and it adds value for them.
Beyond traditional sales roles, a common sales vocabulary should be part of the culture of other departments who support customers and enable sales as well – customer service, marketing, product management, and others. If your sales team is more intentional about how it executes everyday customer interactions, those same approaches should be consistent in other departments.
Strike Up Better Sales Conversations
The enlightening conversations around selling aren’t effective without a common sales vocabulary, and establishing that language is made possible with a framework to apply.
Is your sales team truly thinking about how to execute better? Or is it simply going through the motions, managing pipeline opportunities, and taking the wins and losses. While it’s important to stay plugged into opportunities, wins and losses, be sure that you also have a common way of talking about actually selling that helps build a stronger baseline and foundation for execution across the team.