There is no substitute for training, and managed behaviour change, for harnessing natural sales ability and turning it into sales excellence.

First, you need to select an approach that will work for your company and its products or services. Second, you must train your salespeople and ensure they implement the strategy and tools consistently and effectively. And, thirdly, you must embed the new approach throughout your organisation. This final step is crucial, because there will be problems if your salespeople follow a strategy that the rest of the company hasn’t caught up with – especially in areas such as manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

CRM systems can take you part of the way there: allowing everyone involved at the prospect and customer touch points to see where you are up to, who your contacts are and how your forecast is looking. But no CRM system is, on its own, much help in relating your persuasive sales skills to the process you are trying to direct. An effective sales-support toolbox will comprise tools that add true leverage to your salespeople’s newly sharpened performance. These applications will present and interpret data that supports the sales persuasion process – for example, information about your customers’ businesses, their needs of all kinds, what they’ve told you in the course of your conversations and the business cases you can build as a result.

How will they help? Well, for example, you can use competitive analysis tools to identify the buying criteria each customer is likely to apply in judging you against key competitors. This can help you to identify and influence the key decision-makers within a complex, extended sale. Similarly, call planners and mapping tools can help you to move everyone in the buyer’s organisation towards the decision you want. And all of it can be linked to whatever CRM you use.

Of course, tools are only as good as the people who use them. But whatever the strengths and weaknesses of each salesperson, flexible support is now available to improve their efficiency, help them avoid common traps throughout the sale and, as a result, help your company to sell more.