By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the things that makes great sales leaders great, is their ability to delicately balance various and at time juxtaposing dynamics in sales. One of the more subtle but potentially very impactful of these is in achieving structured change and improvement in the way their organizations and individual sales people sell in changing environments. Specifically the need to do the right things through the sales cycle, and – executing those actions well.
The challenge is to strike the balance between doing the right things and doing those things consistently better.
Organizations should be striving to create an environment and process that evolves with the demands of the market, which by definition means a continuous evolution in the way buyers buy, and the way sellers sell. This does not mean daily or weekly changes, nor does it imply dramatic change, but over the course of time, say over 12 – 24 months there will be clear differences and movements in your buyers’ expectations, at times even the buyers themselves, and in the way your product is sold and how your sales reps interact with the market. This in turn means the way you need to sell, the “right things’ you need to do and execute to win sales, will also change.
While this change or evolution is desirable and good, it does impact the other side of the scale, the “doing things better” side. Just as you begin to make progress on one skill set, or element of the sales process, change happens, making improvement a challenge, although not impossible. The reality is that improving sales skills is not an overnight process like many try to pretend, as a result it is entirely possible that just as you gain competence and confidence in a given skill, the market will require that you change, and acquire additional skills which will take time to learn and master. Starting the cycle over again. This is why the difficulty in achieving a balance between doing the right thing and doing it better.
Companies deal with this in a number of ways. Some choose to adopt core practices, and then spend time ensuring that their teams are improving their execution over time. The up side, better execution, the downside, the skill is no longer relevant or revenue generating. For an example of this, just look at the experience of those in industries moving to managed services from a previous product or similar sale, look at IT or print as an example. IT players spent years perfecting the break fix sales or solution sales, when everything changed, from the buyer to the way they sell to that buyer.
Others will send individual sales reps to different programs provided by different third parties. Some have told me that this allows for different ideas, and these will be shared among their team. Interesting concept, I have yet to see it implemented well, and usually leads to many inconsistencies as a result of disparate inputs, certainly makes it hard to have a cohesive process.
One company I know invites a motivational speaker each year, their goal is to “pump up the troops, provide a little magic, and set them loose”. While this may be fun, a 60 minute “motivational” presentation at a kick-off meeting, is a lot like cotton candy, sweet, fun, little nutritional value, and does not last much beyond the sugar high; it gets some laughs, some one-liners you can throw around the rest of the year, but does little get people to think, and does not ensure adoption of newly required skills. Without adoption, there is neither improvement nor change, especially for adults who already have day jobs. A consistent focus on adoption leveraging practice and a follow-through process, including a series of hands on sessions extended over a period of months, as we do with our programs, will drive adoption, which results in a change in how people sell. Once you get them to implement, then you can work on helping them do it better, but again, shifts in market expectations. But the reality still remains that just as they do it better they may be required to change.
One thing we do with our clients is to shift the focus of the sale, getting them to look at and focus on the buyer’s objective over other things, such as solutions. The challenge in focusing on solely on solutions, is it leads to sales people running around the country side, where everyone they run in to looks like a problem that is right for their solution.
Many buyers have much greater clarity about where they want to go, their objective, than how they want to get there, the solution. By changing the focus of the sale, you not only get deeper and better engagement, but you can adopt a specific interview style and process that drives engagement around the buyer’s objectives. This creates a sort of “pull-through” effect, as the markets and individual client’s objectives evolve and change, so does the way you sell, and meet those newly evolving requirements.
Beyond the many benefits of putting their objectives in the bulls-eye, it allows organizations to create a real balance between getting your teams to sell the right way, while allowing them to execute better before introducing new ways to sell.
What’s in Your Pipeline?