Miller Heiman Blog

Making Customers More Predictable

I thought for sure that deal would close last month!
 
How many times have you heard one of your salespeople say that? Customers can be some of the most unpredictable people you’ll ever meet. Just when you think they’re ready to make a decision, you discover they’re three steps behind you in the sales process.
 
Just last week, I was with a Miller Heiman client looking to use a disciplined approach to funnel management to improve the predictability of their forecasts. They understood the basics: Assess each sales opportunity to determine what stage it is at and then use the funnel to forecast quarterly revenue.
 
I went to the white board and wrote a question that caught them off guard. I knew it would, because it’s one of the most common mistakes otherwise disciplined sales organizations make. Here’s what I wrote:
 
What steps do your customers need to take to progress the opportunity through the funnel?
 
Predictably, there were a few blank looks, so I elaborated. Every buying situation is somewhat unique to the customer, right? Heads nodded. And the customer is the sole judge of when they move from, say, the awareness phase to the solution identification phase, right? More heads nodded. And your selling phases are mapped to the customer’s buying cycle, right? There were murmurs of phrases like “of course it is.” So I asked:
 
Then what does the customer need to do to move the opportunity from one phase of the buying cycle to the next?
 
As I mentioned, the meeting last week was a common one. I usually get answers that range from “the salesperson makes that determination” to “it’s a judgment call” to “I don’t know. We just sell.” This client was no different.
 
We spent the next 45 minutes discussing the importance of understanding the customer’s decision dynamic – how they will make this decision this time across all Buying Influences – and how to take this into account when progressing opportunities through the funnel.
 
I love this discussion because although the first part of it can be uncomfortable – nobody likes to be put on the spot – the second part is a lot of fun. Executive faces light up like kids at Christmas when they realize there really is an approach to forecasting that doesn’t rely on the gut instincts and political machinations of their sales team.
 
Once the excitement dies down a bit, I usually get asked what to do about strategic accounts. The solution is no different. The funnel works the same way whether selling a new solution to a new customer or cross-selling or upselling into existing accounts. An opportunity tied to a strategic account is still an opportunity needing a solid strategy and a realistic close date. Sales professionals who work with key accounts must still track and manage the opportunities that result from their ongoing relationship building within the account.
 
 
Make sure you watch the latest webinar from the MHI Research Institute. Learn the key differentiator between a “sales rep” and a “sales professional.” Use the insights to change how your sales force works.

Posted by: Tim Call | Executive Vice President of Sales
Posted: 9/1/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


More On Performance Accountability – The Sales Manager’s View

Let us take a look at the phrase “performance accountability.”

According to Business Dictionary, performance is defined as “the accomplishment of a given task measured against preset known standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed.” It is a result to be measured. Accountability, on the other hand, is a virtue. It’s the willingness to accept responsibility. Accountability is a key ingredient for achieving the expected performance goals. Accountability across the sales force ensures that the sales force’s energy is focused on executing the strategy successfully; that the right actions are in place to become world class.

Performance Accountability—a behavior of world-class sales managers
The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identified three individual behaviors that drive World-Class Sales Performance. One of them is performance accountability. In my earlier post, we discussed performance accountability for a sales professional. Today, we discuss what performance accountability means for sales managers. One example is that in an average month, frontline sales managers (FSMs) spend adequate time coaching each individual on their sales team. The data shows a significant difference between world class and all respondents, a consistent trend over the last four years. Now, what does performance accountability look like for a frontline sales manager?

Accountability for leveraging salespeople’s full potential
Due to their span of control, FSMs have the biggest leverage effect in any sales organization. This is where sales execution happens – or not. How they lead their teams and how they coach each individual account for the big performance difference between world-class and all respondents. Their coaching capabilities separate the wheat from the chaff. Furthermore, performance accountability for coaching begins at the early stages of an account or territory plan and at the early stages of an opportunity. This is where the FSM’s coaching capabilities have the biggest impact on the salesperson’s performance, because that’s where the course is set for success.

Accountability for team performance
As FSMs are accountable for the performance of their team members, they are also accountable for their contribution to the sales organization. By insisting on the regular and natural use of the customer-management strategies, FSMs are the filter that ensures forecast accuracy and funnel confidence. That requires the FSMs to work solely with the implemented CRM/SFA systems and stay away from shadow systems that can compromise data quality. If an organization wants to improve their CRM data quality, the FSMs and the sales leaders have to walk their talk first. This is where leadership is required, and it makes all the difference between top performance and mediocrity.  

FSM Professionalism
World-class FSMs are professionals to the core. They practice hard to become better leaders, better coaches and better business managers. They ask their team members and their own managers to provide feedback on their leadership and coaching style to leverage their own potential. They have the courage to take risks – always with the goal of enabling their team members to deliver their best performance. Performance accountability also means collaboration: Pros share their own best practices. They engage team members to share their best practices and they take every opportunity to learn from others. Last but not least, they are well respected among the sales management and leadership teams.
Looking for more interesting data on World-Class Sales Performance?
  
Make sure you watch the latest webinar from the MHI Research Institute. Learn the key differentiator between a “sales rep” and a “sales professional.” Use the insights to change how your sales force works.

Posted by: Tamara Schenk | Research Director
Posted: 8/27/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


The Power of Now

Recall the times you traveled with your parents in the back seat of their car somewhere in the mountains. It is vacation time and you brought your favorite book. You could not wait to find out how the story ends and you eagerly continued reading while your parents kept driving over narrow and bending roads. After a short while you felt sick. If you were lucky, you gave up reading quickly enough or your parents went for a halt. And that was it with reading in a moving car.

Now, think about today. You are deeply immersed working on an important customer proposal on your digital tool—for example, your tablet. In the background you hear a beep every other minute, indicating that you got an email, SMS, voicemail, market alert or a message from your social network. For me, the feeling of riding in the back seat of my parents’ car comes back, except I am driving on the data highway and there is nobody stopping the high-speed data ride for me. Today’s data highway keeps growing every day, with a staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes. This is 2.5 times 10 with ten zeroes, resulting in a doubling of data every two years. I call this the terror of now.

How can I make this a meaningful ride? Disconnect from all the external sources while doing creative work? Read emails only at certain times during the day? I believe we need to take one step back and recalibrate our value system. We need to assign the quality of our human interaction significantly more importance over a potential timely response. This means we must give ourselves permission to not sign-up for all newsfeeds, delete social media messages, and leave emails unanswered for a day. Instead, invest time in a phone call and talk about a valuable topic with a colleague or plan a mutually beneficial client visit. This way, you will find time during a workday for creative and rewarding work. Work life becomes fulfilling. Use weekends for nonwork-related fun and family activities, thereby recharging your energy levels. Let’s reclaim the power of now.

Our customers ride the data highway, too. They avail themselves of the freely and widely available data by searching the Web and gathering relevant information that helps them to move beyond the 50 percent mark in their buying process. This means vendors have been evaluated and preselected, specifications defined, and expectations formulated. We as business-to-business sales professionals get contacted and are typically asked via email to provide our information in a predefined evaluation form. This leaves little room for creativity and with me feeling that my offering has been reduced to a commodity, similar to performing a hotel room search through Booking.com.

Today, we are too busy compressing the past and the future into instant action. Where is the wisdom we learned in elementary school? Learn from the past. Live in the present. Plan for the future. What will you discover if you asked your customers to share their past thinking that led them to the evaluation form? Asking for anecdotal background will help you to emotionally align with your clients’ thinking process and allows you to contribute your own experiences that will lead to a mutual understanding while generating some bonding along the process. Finally, brainstorming about the state of the future makes the whole interaction highly rewarding and satisfying for all involved.

We need to increase the amount of direct human interaction and, by doing so, increase the level of quality and the amount of value added. Let’s get the fun back at work. Let’s put the power back into the now!
 
Make sure you watch the latest webinar from the MHI Research Institute. Learn the key differentiator between a “sales rep” and a “sales professional.” Use the insights to change how your sales force works.

Posted by: Klaus Leutbecher | Sales Vice President
Posted: 8/25/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


Defining Sales Functions And Programs – How to Define Your Charter

Now, since we have defined vision mission and purpose (check out my recent post, “Defining Sales Functions and Programs - Why You Need Vision, Mission, Purpose First,” here), we have to be more specific. Based on your target audience (sales roles, sales manager roles, channel partners, etc.), motto, objectives, strategies and tactics, your specific services and your metrics have to be defined. As a sales leader, you must make sure your sales functions complete these charters. Also, make sure they connect the dots between the different charters to set a foundation for effective collaboration. Let’s look at your five steps to complete your charter. These steps build on the first three steps discussed in my earlier post.

Create an inspiring tag line to address your target audience
A tag line should capture your vision. Especially in times of transformation, change and adoption programs, those tag lines shouldn’t be underestimated. They influence how people will feel about your function, initiative or program. An example for sales enablement and/or sales training could be, Let’s change from “I have to sell a product” to “I love to solve my customer’s problems.” Then integrate vision, mission and purpose as discussed in my previous post.

Define goal and objectives
The goal is closely related to the vision. It captures what has to be achieved, e.g., “We implement sales enablement and collaboration platforms for the sales force” or “We want to provide a state-of-the-art CRM system that drives collaboration and effectiveness.” Goals do not have to be strictly measurable or tangible. Instead, objectives have to be tangible and measurable. Several objectives can lead to your goal. An example could be, “The CRM collaboration platform will go live August 1 for selected users; migration will be completed by October 30.” Another objective could be to “Implement interactive playbooks until September; decrease salespeople’s search time by 20 percent.”

Define strategies and create a phased approach
This section is about how to bring the vision alive. A strategy refers to a plan of action that is designed to achieve the defined objectives. Detailing the strategies, the activities have to be derived from, and connected to, the expected outcomes that have to be achieved. Capture all activities necessary to achieve the objectives. If you are going to implement sales technology or new enablement services, make sure there is an adoption activity included. Think about the salespeople you provide services for. Finally, organize the activities on a timeline and create a roadmap.

Define your services and offerings
Your services and offerings are what’s visible to your defined target audience, the different roles within the sales force and channels. Your services are what people use and how they will perceive your function. Those services may include sales enablement content, interactive playbooks, different training services, a collaboration platform, a performance-management framework, or a coaching guideline for sales managers. Define what is provided for which target audience.

Define how to measure success
Last but not least, define how to measure success. Those metrics depend on what’s included in your charter. If there are services to be implemented for the first time, milestones will be very important for you. If services are already in place, their effectiveness and their impact on sales performance are what matters. Finally, how efficiently are these services produced? Make sure to cover all dimensions adequately.


Now, put it all together. Begin with your target audience; inflate vision, mission and purpose from the previous post, add the topics that we discussed here – and create a compelling charter. It will become your go-to resource for any kind of internal selling, communication, change and adoption situation.

Make sure you watch the latest webinar from the MHI Research Institute. Learn the key differentiator between a “sales rep” and a “sales professional.” Use the insights to change how your sales force works.


Posted by: Tamara Schenk | Research Director

Posted: 8/19/2014 4:14:58 PM by | with 0 comments


Defining Sales Functions And Programs - Why You Need Vision, Mission, Purpose First

Fitness, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is defined as “the quality or state of being fit.” That’s a general guideline, but what does it mean to you? It depends on your context. Are you a professional decathlete or a weekend trail runner?

Defining functions and programs the right way is key to success for both you as the sales leader and your sales functions as leader. Definitions create value only if they are adjusted to your organization’s specific context and challenges. Developing a big picture on vision, mission, purpose and core values is the first step in creating a meaningful charter for each of your sales functions. The purpose of such a charter is to support you in various internal selling and adoption situations with consistent messages that tell a compelling story.

And that’s the part in which you have to be deeply involved, because it’s about bridging the gap between business strategy and sales execution. Today we cover part 1 - vision, mission, purpose. A follow-up post will cover goals and objectives, strategies, and the function’s services and metrics.

Step 1: The vision describes the desired future state
It describes WHERE you want to be, and what you want to achieve on a high level. To develop, for instance, a sales enablement vision, the organization’s vision has to be mapped to both sales and sales enablement. Visions for sales forces often have to do with transformation from product selling to outcome selling. If so, your vision can describe, for example, being the leading internal function that drives the transformation toward outcome selling as well as productivity to create more customer value in complex buying environments. It’s of course different if sales’ vision is to build partner channels. Key to creating a meaningful vision is to work precisely from the top down. You cannot put the cart before the horse.

Step 2: The mission is about the current state leading to the future state
A mission defines HOW you will get to where you want to be. An example for sales ops could be defining and executing a sales operations framework to provide a compelling and integrated value-creation process from prospect to contract, easy to use and powered by technology. An example for a sales enablement mission could be defining and executing a cross-functional enablement framework to provide integrated services that are tailored to an outcome-oriented sales approach, powered by an enablement platform.

Step 3: Purpose and core values
The purpose answers the question WHY a certain sales function exists. A purpose can be that sales enablement orchestrates the various sources of knowledge to create integrated enablement services, tailored to each stage and each level of the customer’s journey. A purpose for sales ops could be to build the skeleton of the sales organization.

Core values show how you and your teams will behave along the journey to achieve the vision. This area depends on your organization’s culture. There are three core values you will always need in a world-class sales organization – collaboration, accountability and leadership.

Don’t underestimate these three steps. If these fundamentals are not defined properly, you and your functional leaders will need much more time to sell every single initiative internally. Be ready to provide answers to questions that are related to vision, mission, purpose and values. Invest your time wisely, and develop vision, mission and purpose for your core sales functions!
Watch for the next post, where we’ll talk about the second part of your sales functions’ charters – goals and objectives, strategies and tactics, and services and metrics.
 
Make sure you watch the latest webinar from the MHI Research Institute. Learn the key differentiator between a “sales rep” and a “sales professional.” Use the insights to change how your sales force works.

Posted by: Tamara Schenk | Research Director
Posted: 8/18/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


The Role of Sales in Building a B2B Brand

With the launch of the new brand of MHI Global (bringing together the powerhouse brands of AchieveGlobal, Miller Heiman, Huthwaite, Impact Learning Systems and Channel Enablers), it got me thinking about the role that Sales plays to truly make a difference in the market. I ran through ideas surrounding PR, social, Web, blogs, sales scripts, emails, and videos, and I always came back to, How do I get this to stick with my intended audience?
 
When you think about the idea of “living the brand” or “understanding the brand” or “creating an emotional connection,” you have to think about what sticks, right? So how do you get the new brand to stick or resonate or connect—and quickly? Good question, but no easy answer.
 
One possibility is that you have to think about not just your prospective customers but also your existing customers. Don’t forget about those customers you worked with in the past because when you change as an organization, there can be a real opportunity to re-engage with past clients. And when it comes to customer management, you have to leverage your sales organization. Who better to own that touchpoint than your customer-facing teams? Specifically, your sales teams. Our sales teams, while one of many channels of communications that our marketing team relies on to deliver the message to the market, might be the most important one.
 
This leads me to another possible answer: brand messaging via the sales team.
 
There are a ton of ways to communicate the brand messages – unique value prop, new identity treatments, and positioning statement. But what will make the greatest impact on your customer and potential customer base? Branding is about a CONNECTION – emotional, if we are so lucky.
 
In a B2B complex, service-oriented business, you can’t just go to market with a new brand with pretty pictures and brand-promise messages. When creating those pictures and messages, you have to confirm all of that with your sales teams because they own the true emotional connection with customers. They would know how to make something like a new brand stick. What if you went to market without being aligned with the sales teams? I’m willing to make a bet the results wouldn’t be as good.
 
If I were in a B2C environment, I think I might be able to limp along and make it work.
 
In a B2B complex environment – no way. 
 
Not in this day and age.
 
Not if you want it to stick.
 
When this type of merger and rebranding of products takes place, you also have to take a look at the products. You cannot build and maintain a strong brand without the business fundamentals in place. We need to look at things like revenue, lifetime value, customer’s interest and acceptance, pricing, implementations, etc. How do you go about getting that information?
 
Talk to your sales teams. Ask:
  • What have we sold? Is it really what was implemented or was it just something on the contract?
  • Is it working? Is it scalable? Is it successful?
  • Would you sell it again, and again and again?
  • How hard is it to sell? How long did it take to close the deal?
 Some of that information can be found in the numbers but—maybe more importantly—it can be found talking to your sales teams. Your sales teams understand the reality of how a customer will accept change, and they are a rich source of insight for marketers tasked with creating the value messages that will resonate with the customer.
 
As a marketer, I wish I could say that successful branding is always a product of brilliant marketing efforts. It’s not. Even though branding may be the domain of marketing, it can never be successful without an aligned sales organization behind it.

Posted by: Brian Vail | Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing
Posted: 8/13/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


Performance Accountability – A Behavior of World-Class Sales Performers

If a taxi driver provides you with excellent service, then you are a lucky person. In the event your taxi driver also helps you out with coins that were part of his tip just to make sure you can pick up a baggage cart and catch your flight – then you have a taxi driver who cared more about the customer’s outcome than about his own. That’s one aspect of performance accountability.

Performance accountability—a behavior of World-Class Sales Performers
The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identified three individual behaviors that drive World-Class Sales Performance. One of them is performance accountability. World-class sales organizations set themselves apart in many ways. One example of performance accountability is their ability to align their sales-performance metrics with their business objectives. It sounds obvious, but our data show – in a consistent way over the last four years - that this is a very significant differentiator between World Class and All Respondents. Now, how does performance accountability look like for a salesperson? Let’s look at a few criteria.

Accountability for customers’ success
First and foremost, World-Class Sales Performers hold themselves accountable for their customers’ success. They know that the customers’ success is the foundation of their own success. They own the customer’s value that was part of their solution. They do everything they can to make sure the expected value is achieved or overachieved. World-Class Sales Performers hold themselves accountable along the entire customer journey. There is no walking away after a deal is closed, just as the taxi driver didn’t walk away.

Accountability for Own Performance
World-Class Sales Performers are focused on results. They don’t accept excuses. They know that focus and energy create movement, and they use their time wisely. They hold themselves accountable to the standards and expectations set by their frontline sales manager (FSM). They recognize that their FSM relies on timely and accurate business updates. They deliver on forecast commitments and maintain current and accurate funnel data. That’s why they are always prepared for opportunity reviews.

Professionalism
World-Class Sales Performers are professionals to the core. They show up every day. They practice hard. They always try to become better. And they demand continuous coaching from their sales manager to leverage their full potential. They are committed to mastering various sales techniques; they are courageous, creative, and they take risks - even in the face of fear. They reflect their practice all the time, and they learn even when they lose. Even if they lose the deal, they gain experience. Last but not least, they collaborate: They share best practices, they love to learn from others, and they are well respected by other world-class sales professionals.
Looking for more interesting data on World-Class Sales Performance?

 
Posted: 8/11/2014 6:00:00 AM by Tamara Schenk | with 0 comments


Why Being a B2B Buyer Is Different – Consumerization Is a Poor Comparison

When buying a personal laptop, you know what you want, your budget, and your brand preferences. Then you do your online research to come up with a short list. Your best options get compared and you make a decision, placing the order online. That’s consumerization in the IT space. Reflect on how you bought your first laptop and compare with how you do it now. Figuring out what you needed was maybe a time consuming process, often with iterations and mistakes. But having done it more than once, with more information available online, you now know where to go and who to trust when making your decision.

Now imagine yourself working for a large corporation. You are the final decision maker for the company’s new laptop generation. The CFO asks about the impact on cash flow, operating expenses and different “return on” metrics. The CEO wants to see the impact on productivity and the corporate IT board bothers you with a number of guidelines and policies, as well as procurement. Will you be following the same process as you would when buying a personal laptop to make a corporate buying decision? Most likely, no. The context is different, the impacted stakeholders are different, and what you buy is different, too. It’s always a specific but complex buying situation.

Consumer and business buyers – don’t lump them together
People may argue that consumerization makes all buyers the same. Buyers act as human beings. Whatever people learn in one area of their life has an impact on other areas. Your Mac at home is probably what you expect in the company. But for some reason, you won’t get a Mac there.

The buying context is different
The B2B buying situation is determined by the company’s current state, their desired results, their stakeholders, their budgets, etc. Their situational context is specific, even if the situation has common patterns, such as budget optimization challenges or effectiveness and investment challenges. As a buyer, you need to understand what different solutions mean to your area of responsibility in terms of business outcomes.

Many stakeholders – many different concepts
In a private role, you depend on your individual concept for how to fix a problem, how to avoid a risk and how to achieve a goal. In an organization, you are confronted with different challenges. Therefore, your perspective on how to approach those challenges are unique to your B2B role. Furthermore, other impacted stakeholders have their own, often different, concepts in mind, based on their perception of the situation.

Decision dynamic is different
While the buyer’s journey may look the same on a very high level, the decision dynamic is very different, every time. It’s true that consumerization, like our IT example, impacts people’s concepts and expectations regarding services and outcomes. But the decision criteria in a B2B situation will be different and they have to be agreed upon across the entire stakeholder network. There are people with more or less influence and power. Only a very few of them will have skin in the game. Imagine what happens if a key stakeholder with lots of power and influence doesn’t prioritize your specific buying initiative. Let’s assume that all initiatives on the table have great financial impact. In this specific B2B buying situation, decision making becomes political.

As B2B buying is different, so too is B2B sales. Understanding the buyers’ context and concepts, orchestrating their decision dynamic, to provide a value-creating perspective – that’s always unique. That’s why sales professionals exist:- to create value for their customers; to help them achieve their desired results and wins.
 
Posted: 8/6/2014 6:00:00 AM by Tamara Schenk | with 0 comments


Is Your Funnel Shaped Like a Christmas Tree?

How time flies! Four months down the line and it is Christmas time again. When you are in sales, it means tough times ahead. It means getting the crystal balls out again—not to put them on the Christmas tree, but to use them for baselining and budgeting. Right now, the Christmas trees are still growing in the fields, and it is summer and vacation time for most of Europe and the U.S. You may not feel like doing some sales planning for either the short-, medium- or the long-term at the moment. But your boss probably suggested to you prior to leaving for your well-deserved holidays to “take the time at the beach to come up with some inspiring figures and opportunities for the next financial year.” So here you are sitting on the beach with a nice cool drink, doing your homework:

Baselining is about monitoring performance, measuring trends and assessing whether your performance is meeting the requirements. If you consider the current stage of your funnel, and if you are being frankly honest with yourself, it might look more like the shape of a Christmas tree. That is, there are only a few potential opportunities at the top and more deals to work on; plenty are close enough to finalizing so that you feel comfortable you will achieve your quota (thus your bonus is secured!); and the best ones “just” need to be closed at the bottom of the funnel.

In terms of measuring trends, the implication would be that for budgeting purposes, it is necessary to evaluate what the total available market is in terms of existing or new customers. Are there cross-selling opportunities with regard to new or existing products? Is there room for enhancing the way customer relationships are managed? Considering these aspects for the upcoming budget plan would support a sound strategic sales plan. But what about the time from now until year end?

Even with a Christmas tree–shaped funnel, your sales performance will still look OK – even your boss would agree. But what does that mean to you and your sales priorities? You certainly want to focus on those deals that are about to close and get the contracts signed. You’re likely to hit quota with this activity. And though it might be tempting to focus your priorities on projects that are potentially close to closing, in the longer term this would not change the shape of your funnel. You would just shift opportunities down the funnel, which only makes your Christmas tree funnel slimmer without making it disappear. Your next best step would be to spend more time creating and qualifying new opportunities. This would allow you in the short-to-midterm to move more opportunities faster through the funnel. Then focus on covering the bases by managing the opportunities in order to move deals to a close (this will also result in your funnel looking like a funnel).

While looking at the hazy horizon and having blurry sales thoughts, keep in mind the most important activity: the holidays! So enjoy the summer.
 
Posted by: Alexandra Siebert-Herzig
 
Posted: 8/4/2014 6:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments


Enabling Principles To Develop Salespeople’s Adaptive Skills

Let me start by defining a couple of terms that I’ll be using throughout this article.
 
“Principals” provide guidance that are based on an organization’s core values concerning how to deal with different customer situations. Principles require interpretation and adaption to the specific situation. “Rules,” however, are clearly defined statements with almost no space for interpretation. Rules define what and how to do in a certain sequence, given a defined situation.

Demanding, complex buyer networks require adaptive sales professionals

Today’s customers are very demanding and more risk averse than the customer from a few years ago. The number of involved customer stakeholders is growing, and buying processes are more formalized than ever. Decisions are no longer based on features and functions but on financial business-performance criteria. Furthermore, every customer makes every decision differently, every time, which makes every sale different. Sales professionals have to learn, unlearn and relearn very quickly due to those changing buying environments. That covers all areas of knowledge, selling and problem-solving capabilities. Therefore, an adaptive mindset is the prerequisite to remaining successful even in complex environments.

Navigating complexity – principles are key to success

When embedded in a framework, principles, defined as guidelines (see above) and based on core values, such as providing perspectives, can be easily adjusted to those different and complex situations. Rules wouldn’t be flexible enough for complex environments. A customer’s journey has iterations, especially in the early phases. The more customer stakeholders learn, and the more new stakeholders get involved with different concepts, the more likely they will step back and tackle the challenge again from a different perspective. Ideally, a sales professional has provided a more value-creating perspective and caused such iteration. The flexibility of principles combined with the ability of the sales professional to apply those principles fast to new situations is an A-player’s recipe for success.

Enabling principles

Sales principles are focused to create a specific value for customers to help them achieve their goals. In parallel, they help to move deals forward. Sales enablement has to define those principles on how to achieve each stage of the customer’s journey, derived from the sales methodology. As an example, the principle for the awareness phase could be to develop a shared vision of the customer’s desired future state to drive their desired results. There are multiple ways achieve such a shared future vision of success. But the success depends on the customer’s specific context, the stakeholder’s different concepts, and the sales professionals’ decision-dynamic expertise and their adaptive capabilities to adopt principles to a specific situation fast and effectively.

Sales enablement has to build frameworks with enablement modules addressing those principles. The design point, as always, is: customers at the core.

Level 1 is the knowledge foundation. It covers packaging content modules stage per stage in interactive and dynamic playbooks. And it teaches how to use them effectively. Level 2 is the skill foundation—it’s about all relevant selling capabilities, mostly provided as training services. Level 3 makes the difference. It’s about training the sales professional’s adaptive capabilities based on the provided knowledge and methods. Training to create impact has to be an ongoing, consistent practice in order to achieve world-class performance. It has to be reinforced with a connected coaching practice by the frontline sales managers.

Level 3 training—“selling simulation” would be the better word—is about practicing business awareness in different conversations with different stakeholder types at different stages in different situations but in a safe environment.

Enabling and sharpening adaptive skills is the missing piece in sales enablement that equips sales professionals to play in the Premier League, to deliver significant results in today’s complex and fast-changing buying environments.
 

Posted: 7/30/2014 6:00:00 AM by Tamara Schenk | with 0 comments


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