I was talking recently with a company that has come to understand that their sales team needed to change their approach to ensure that future success matches the past. While they were spot on about how they wanted their sales team to behave, they were, unfortunately, still viewing managing the change through the traditional behavioral/training approach to sales management.
Sales, and to a lesser degree marketing, seem to be the last business disciplines that are viewed through a behavioral lens rather than a systems lens. There still seems to be a belief that simply “teaching” a new, better way will lead to long-term improvements.
As with any process, if the result you desire is consistently not being achieved the issue is rarely behavior. Rather it’s the underlying system that is causing the behavior. You must first adjust or transform the system before any focus on behavior will have meaningful or lasting results.
This concept is hard to grasp for most people, and especially for those that have had success in the past. Organizations that experienced sales success oftentimes still operate from the perspective that their system is fine, so they feel it is okay to focus on behavior.
The problem is that B2B sales has undergone a significant transformation, and the vast majority of approaches have failed to catch up. While I’ve written about these concepts many times, I thought it would be valuable to sum up my experience in a single post. Below I share the trends that make traditional system ineffective, the recipe needed to win the game today and links to previous posts or papers that address each issue specifically.
The 5 Trends That Are Causing Traditional B2B Sales Approaches to Fail
- Decision making authority has moved north. More and more, decision-making authority for even the simplest purchases has moved up in the organization (or to procurement), and away from the people who are experiencing the pain. These role players are often difficult to impossible to connect with directly, and require new approaches for success.
- At the same time, increasingly you have to win low to get the chance to compete high. Much has been made of the research done by Sales Executive Council on The Challenger Sale and the new buyer decision process. What hasn’t garnered as much attention is the research that shows, increasingly, you must build consensus among those lower in the organization to get the opportunity to connect with these new decision makers.
- You’re competing with the entire budget, not just against other competitors. It used to be that I had the best enterprise platform, I just had to compete against other enterprise providers. If I had the best HR solution, I competed against other HR vendors, and so on. Today, you compete against everybody. It’s no longer enough to be the best at what you do, you must be able to demonstrate the overall organizational impact you will have to win budget allocation in the first place.
- The crazy busy customer. Making matters more difficult, your prospects and customers are far, far too busy to be bothered. If you want their attention, you must win it before your sales team engages with them. And when you make a connection, you’ve got about 5 seconds to matter. You better have a clear take, and an idea that matters.
- The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). To top if all off, your prospects and customers no longer need you to get answers to the questions or problems that they’re experiencing. Prospects want on demand access to answers and content, and if you’re not providing it, they will find someone who does.
The 7 Ingredients of A Predictable Growth Sales Process
- Build yourself to compete and win the ZMOT. You’ve developed the content and tools that allow prospects and customers to engage with you, learn and be influenced before they’re ready to engage with your sales team.
- Ensure consistent messaging from beginning to end. Your website, sales tools, collateral, presentations and salespeople are speaking from the same playbook and deliver a clear, consistent and compelling value proposition.
- Implement a defined lead generation and management program. You realize that you can’t fix your salespeople problem without the adequate volume and quantity of leads. You know that the lead generation process begins far earlier in the sales process than before, and you’ve implemented the nurturing processes to create sales ready leads.
- Deliver a compelling commercial teaching point-of-view. You are comfortable challenging your customers and you’re clear about the importance of what you do. You’ve built unique content to support your process and demonstrate your value.
- Free your salespeople to sell. It’s not unusual for salespeople to spend 33% or less of their paid time actually selling. If you’re looking to predictably grow your revenue, your sales team needs to be selling. That means minimizing paperwork, admin, Salesforce.com entry and prospecting.
- Develop tools that allow customers/prospects to experience your message. Presentations don’t influence people, real life experience does. You’ve stopped telling people the value of working with you, and instead you’ve created the sales tools that let them experience it.
- Track and measure. You realize that your gut has little to do with reality. You understand that there’s no point discussing or debating opinions when there are facts and data to rely upon. You embrace that guessing about what’s working in your client acquisition approach is a waste. So, you track and measure consistently. You’ve determined which numbers matter and you let the numbers tell the story.
When these 7 ingredients are present, training works. Before you jump into your next sales meeting, audit your approach and determine if you’re asking your salespeople to create a result your system isn’t designed for.