Oh the promise of training. It is so tantalizing. We’ll put a group of people into a classroom, share some secrets, give them a powerful workbook and…wah lah…peak performance! Sure, it may cost half-a-day to a full day out of the field, but the payoff…oh the payoff.
Of course we know this is completely unrealistic, but it seems that so many still fall for the siren song of the quick fix, the magic pill.
The desire for the quick fix manifests itself in myriad ways. Whether it’s trying to find the right interview questions, implement the perfect campaign or even try to find the perfect strategy. The reality is (and this can’t come as a surprise) that there are no quick fixes, and the more you try the greater the likelihood that you thrust yourself further towards commoditization.
There are two schools of growth for small and mid-market B2B’s:
- The traditional school where one throws a broad message and waits for people to find them. This is the school that most seeks the quick fix – and, frankly, in the 90s and 00s you could get away with such an approach.
- The new school that realizes the key to growth requires focus, discipline and a philosophy of value creation through every touchpoint. The school understands that the customer has control today, and that their job is to provide insights that influence how their customers and prospects view their businesses and their problems.
With few exceptions, the second school is the only viable approach for the next 10 – 20 years; and success requires hard work, no shortcuts. Succeeding in the new school requires a fundamentally different approach to selling than most companies utilize.
Bestselling authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, highlight the challenge in a December article in the Harvard Business Review, Dismantling the Sales Machine. Dixon and Adamson, who wrote The Challenger Sale, highlight the fundamental flaw in the vast majority of sales processes and approaches – the focus on efficiency and compliance.
“In our research at CEB, we have found that the very approaches that made the sales machine so effective, now make selling harder.” The authors fix: “Leaders must embrace a flexible approach to selling driven by sales reps’ reliance on insight and judgment.”
The article highlights the central goal for all sales organizations:
In a judgment-oriented sales organization, the climate is similar to what you’d find in other groups of highly skilled knowledge workers: Managers serve as coaches rather than enforcers; the workforce self-manages to large extent; and the group is measured on long-term outcomes rather than short-term compliance and protocols.
The key here is that there is no shortcut to insight and judgment. There are three cornerstones of success:
- It requires effort from reps to develop the business acumen required, and to develop the skills required for today’s complex selling environments.
- The sales management function – especially in SMEs – must step up to the mantle of sales leadership. This requires a focus on teaching and coaching. It is incumbent that SMEs develop their sales reps – at all levels of experience.
- The marketing function must step up to enhance the quantity and quality of the lead generation, nurturing and conversion process. They must step in with a true service level agreement (SLA) that puts them side-by-side in terms of accountability to meeting organizational growth objectives.
The goal of creating predictable, sustainable and scalable revenue growth is a bold one. Few organizations ever accomplish it over the mid- or long-terms.
The reason for this failure has nothing to do with size or scale. Rather it’s about discipline and commitment. It’s about creating a clear strategy, and then focusing on executing and aligning, executing and aligning, and repeat. The commitment to these three prongs is half the battle.