Sales alert: millennials are here

Millennials and Sales

Millennials and Sales

Millennials, born between 1982 and 1993, are 80 million strong. In 2015 Millennials passed Generation X to make up the largest share of the workforce.  In 2020 they will be nearly half of the workforce.

Some important facts about Millennials as reported by the Council of Economic Advisors are:

  • Millennials are now the largest most diverse generation in the U.S. population.
  • Millennials have been shaped by technology.
  • Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work.
  • Investments in human capital are likely to have a substantial payoff for Millennials.

What does this mean for Sales?

  • Take a second look. Whether you are talking about recruiting, selection, onboarding, training or compensation, it is will worth the time to consider whether your processes are in tune with the experiences and expectations of a cohort that will comprise an increasing percentage of your sales force.  The danger is doing too little, too late to optimize the potential of an entire generation of sales people.
  • Leverage the spirit of collaboration.  The day of the lone wolf salesperson is coming to a close.  Today, selling is becoming a team sport. The good news is while competitive Millennials like working in teams, so leverage that mindset. Millennials will embrace team selling – leveraging institutional resources and helping one another out.  Additionally, when working as individuals, it’s important for sales managers to show Millennials how their work ties back to the sales team’s overall performance and the company as a whole.
  • Optimize the power of technology.  Although it is a myth that every Millennial was given a smart phone at birth, there is some truth in the fiction – back in 2000 I recall a colleague’s 6-year old grandchild had one at the top of Santa’s list for that past Christmas.

Increasingly Sales is being impacted by the digital revolution.  Customers have more information about the products, predictive analytics have taken the guesswork out of determining who is a potential buyer and automated sales management tools are cheaper, better and more pervasive than ever.

Millennials want to be judged on the quality of their work product. They believe they can work from anyplace by leveraging technology. So leverage their knowledge and interest in the power of technology.

  • Invest in training.  Education and training have been part of their experience since day one. Continuous learning is important to Millennials.  They want to enhance their skills – technical, interpersonal, and professional.  If you don’t provide it, they will find someone that will. The investment is easy to justify since in market after market, buyers are experiencing disruptive changes that impact how they buy.  This means your sales team needs to change how they sell and sales training needs to move to the center stage.

A spotlight has been placed on Millennials in the workforce because of their sheer numbers. While many of their expectations may be similar to others, there are special considerations to keep front-of-mind. The good news is they care about purpose, are high energy and view feedback as a developmental opportunity.

Every year Beloit College distributes a report to its faculty sharing the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering the college. Looking at the reports it’s easy to see why the Millennial mindset differs from others in the workplace. For them the Soviet Union never existed and “google” has always been a verb.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales training – it’s time to play beat the clock

sales trainingOne important core question presently circulating among those who care about sales training is: What percentage of sales training ought to be done in the classroom vs. some form of guided self instruction? The obvious secondary question is what goes where – that is, what should be done in the classroom vs. what should be assigned to some form of guided self-study.

There is an underlying principle that helps guide this decision process – only do in the classroom that training that can uniquely be done in the classroom – that is training requiring practice and feedback.  What does this look like?

Let’s over simplify a bit and divide all the possible content into two bins labeled – knowledge and sales skill.  Examples of knowledge would include knowledge related to: product, marketplace, company background and sales best practices.

Sales skills on the other hand are all about the ability to integrate and apply that information in the real world.  The distinction is all about knowing vs. doing.  Think about it … many know the principles behind shooting the 3-pointer in basketball.  But far fewer, like the Splash Brothers in Oakland, have mastered it.

An example in the world of sales training of the distinction would be: one could learn the sales best practices for handling objections in an online course.  Then learn to apply and execute those best practices in a classroom using role-plays customized to portray a typical customer.  Or, when a new product is launched one could learn all the features and related information about the new product in a customized e-book and then learn to plan and execute sales calls on targeted customers in a classroom where practice and feedback in maximized.

So as to the “what goes where” question, the short answer is knowledge training can be done outside the classroom but sales skills training is best done in the classroom because the quality of the practice and feedback need to be optimized.  But what about the percentage question?  When using the blended approach what does the time split look like?

If you answer that question with regard to the traditional sales content areas like call execution, account strategy, and negotiation, then a rough percentage split would be 50-50.  Historically, using classroom training only, we did two-day programs in each of the aforementioned content areas.  Now using a blended approach we have reduced the classroom time to one day.

But why beat the clock?  Why not just continue to do all the sales training in the classroom?  What are the reasons to shift to a blended approach?  Three three reasons that stand out:

  • Less time out of the field.  If you consider salespeople engaged in complex B2B sales and you start listing the barriers to conducting comprehensive sales training, the concern about time out of the field bubbles to the top.  This concern is mainly about lost opportunity.  The larger the sales team, the greater the concern.
  • Lower sales training cost.  As an example let’s assume a company that has elected to use an outside training provider.  The typical cost for an outside trainer from a top training provider for one day is usually around $3,000.  The per-head cost varies but it’s probably around $400-$500 per day.  These numbers start to add up with sales teams over a 100 salespeople.  Any top sales training provider should be able to provide one-day of self-study based training for the knowledge component of the blended training at a fraction of that cost.
  • More engaging classroom training.  How many salespeople really enjoy sitting through a day of sales training where the day consists of an instructor running through their standard 50 PowerPoint slide deck?  Yet even today that is not an uncommon experience if the day is about knowledge transfer.  On the other hand, if the knowledge transfer happens by some guided self-study approach, then the classroom training can be limited to practice and feedback using more engaging training designs such as customized sales simulations.

Salespeople today must know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency then in days of yesteryear.  Companies simply cannot do what needs to be done if all the sales training is conducted in the classroom.  They will run out of time and money before they ever get started.  Today the price for that failure is staggering.  There has to be a better way and fortunately there is.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales training: it isn’t about – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Sales Training Investment

Sales Training Investment

It is also not about the elapsed time since you last did it.  The strategic  “it” in this case is the decision about whether you should make an investment in sales training.

If  you traveled back in time and drop in on some of the conversations about sales training, you might hear: “We are not knocking the ball out of the park but things are okay plus we have a lot of other things going on so let’s think about that sales training thing next year” or “We just did some training three or four years ago – trained our entire sales team.”

It’s also true if you tune in with your other ear, you might pick up on comments such as:  “Say, we have Thursday afternoon free at the national sales meeting why don’t we just fill that slot with some sales training” or “ I just got a call from a training company, why don’t we just try them out in our southern region – we’ll probably get something out of it.”

Fast forward to the present – can you hear those same voices?  Our experience says absolutely.  But the really bad news is due to the present day competitive environment and the disruption in the markets, the negative consequences of those ideas are far greater.

The notion that one can develop and sustain a superior sales team in today’s buying environment without taking a more aggressive and forward looking perspective on when to invest in sales training and what that sales training needs to accomplish is at the very least questionable.  The sales training discussion needs to be updated and reframed.

So, asking if something is broken or asking when was the last time we did it are not the right questions. What is the right question for determining if a sales training investment is appropriate?

We suggest you ask yourself: Is there a change occurring either internally or externally that requires your sales team to adapt and adjust their sales skills to continue to sell effectively?  Let’s explore three examples of such a change.      

  • Go-to-market strategy.  Recently we were talking with a client that determined it was necessary to shift from being a low-cost provider to a value-added provider if they were to remain competitive. To execute this shift a number of changes needed to be considered ranging from the sales compensation package to the territory design to market segments – and the skill set of the sales team.

Most sales reps cannot easily move from selling on price to selling on value without some substantial help.  Hence considering an investment in sales training is clearly warranted.

It is a safe bet that many new product launches fail to deliver the expected results because the investment in improving the sales team’s ability to sell the new product is inadequate.

  • Disruptive market changes Companies in a number of markets are going through transformational changes in what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.  The medical sales industry is a striking example.  If you are selling in the hospital market, winning is now about selling both the clinical and economic value of your product and you cannot just sell to the doctors, you also have to sell to Value Analysis Committees comprised of people who will never directly use the product.

If buyers change how they buy, sellers need to change how they sell and training needs to help.

There is an added benefit of reframing the need for sales training as a response to a strategic change.  It enables a company to not only determine when an investment is warranted, it also helps you to define exactly what the sales training ought to look like.  Case in point, the nature and content of the most effective sales training for the above noted examples would be significantly different.

It is unlikely that sales training will ever develop a better track record unless we do a better job determining the strategic reason why we are doing the training in the first place.  The need must be clearly defined and it must be a need that matters.    

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

 

 

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Sales training myopia of tech start-ups

Sales Training and Start-ups

Sales Training and Start-ups

Why do some start-ups make it and some don’t?

As one might suspect, given the staggering number of start-ups formed every year, there is no shortage of information on critical success factors. Some common ones are:  Timing, working capital, and the leadership team.  In addition, the ability to develop and sustain a viable growth plan is seen as one of the more difficult and tricky success factors.  If you attempt to grow too quickly you end up being stretch too thinly – grow too slowly and you miss the window of opportunity.

Now all this seems fair enough.  However, since we are in the sales training business we were particularly interested in what was being said about creating innovative sales training and developing a superior sales team. The good news was no one said it was a bad idea.  The bad news was nobody was talking about it.  Sales training was not on the radar screen. Now, there was attention to marketing plans and getting the sales reps smart about the product – but not to sales skill training.

It could be that a more comprehensive review would have produced a different story in regard to sales training … however; I suspect that is probably wishful thinking.

So given that we think sales training deserves consideration for a seat at the table, we thought it would be useful as a first step to review some of the reasons why technology start-ups often do not place a high priority on sales training and fallacy behind those reasons.  Let’s take a look:

1. Why build one when you can buy one.  In many start-up lots of things are going on simultaneously and the major commitment is all about launching and marketing the “product.”  So yes, a sales force is needed but it seems a lot easier just to go out and hire some high performing reps from other companies in your market – after all “selling is selling” as they say.

We agree, the “buy one” idea has a certain short-term seductive appeal, but it also has numerous long-term pitfalls.  First, the old notion about selling is selling has proven again and again not to be so true when you are engaged in a complex sale.  For example, if you are a start-up in the medical device market and you “buy” your reps from those that are available from the pharmaceutical industry, the myth of selling is selling will quickly be unmasked.

2. The mirage created by early-adaptors.  The early adaptor story was first told in a compelling fashion in Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 book – Crossing the Chasm. The message is as important today as it was in 1991 and it is a partial answer as to why sales training may not an initial high priority in many technology start-ups.

Early adopters buy a new product very early in their life cycle. They easily imagine and appreciate the benefits of a new technology. Early adopters do not rely on well-established proof in making these buying decisions instead they count on their intuition and vision for getting it right. It is fair to say they buy products that are new and exciting – you don’t have to do that much selling with early adopters, so there’s not a big need for sales training.

But then comes the chasm period – early-adopters have been exhausted and the mainstream market is waiting to see if the product really is one that can deliver sufficient value.  Now you do need a skilled sales force.

The trap is doing too little, too late in terms of sales training.  It takes time to develop a skilled sales team and the momentum can easily be lost before the sales team can effectively sell to the mainstream market.

3. Underestimating the competitive threat Sometimes a company comes up with a truly superior product as compared to all the other competitors.  There is always the “killer product” scenario like the Xerox copier vs. the mimeo machine.  But this is not a common occurrence.

If you are in the great but not killer product situation there are two common traps.  In one case your new product is superior but the competition has one that is “good enough.”

The second problem is a time warp issue.  Unfortunately,  in many cases it is very difficult to maintain a competitive advantage by product alone for any sustained period of time due to global competition and advanced manufacturing technologies.  Today a competitor is likely to launch a product that is just as good or better than yours, in half the time of yesteryear – plus it is likely to be cheaper.

The lesson learned is you need a sales team that cannot only sell value but also add value.

Unfortunately all too often when a start-up launches its first product, the product fails to produce the anticipated sales success.  One reason is the investment in developing the skills of the sales team to sell the new product is simply not commensurate with the commitment and innovation of the rest of the launch effort.

This omission constitutes a strategic missing link. Even an extraordinary new product will not sell itself beyond early adopters. The sales team needs not only comprehensive product knowledge, they also need to fine-tune their sales skills, adapting them to customer requirements related to the new product. The more innovative the new product – the truer this proposition.

Most companies take the first step and provide their sales team with technical training about the new product. But talking about the characteristics of a product and selling the value of the new product are two very different things.  Perhaps, in the end, it would be a safer bet for start-ups to train then launch versus launch then train.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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How to optimize your sales training investment

Sales Training Investment

Sales Training Investment

How much money are companies spending on sales training? And is it enough to worry about whether or not one is optimizing the investment?

This, as they say, is the easy part.  The answer to the first question is a lot; the answer to the second question is – yes.  Companies spend a hefty amount of money – so yes, it is worth worrying about.  As reported in a research report by Sales Performance International – “In the United States alone, industry estimates for corporate expenditures on sales training and performance improvement are more than 5 billion dollars annually.”

There are several avenues to attack the question: How do you optimize your sales training investment?  Perhaps the one that has received the most attention relates to treating sales training as a “process not an event.”  Inherent here is the point that what is done before and after sales training to position and reinforce it is as important as the sales training itself.

No question about the merit of that point – it’s a big deal.  If you are still parachuting in on Friday afternoon of the national sales meeting and doing sales training with no plans for coaching, then you are totally wasting versus optimizing your investment.

A second, less talked about but equally important, consideration for optimizing the investment relates to how the sales training is designed in the first place.  Most companies organize their training in terms of “content topics” like – account strategy, negotiation, or call execution.  And, vendors design their offerings using that same organizing structure.  When we first founded Sales Momentum we followed the crowd. We designed a separate program for each of these topics, too.

There has got to be a better way

The good news is – there is a better way.  It took us less than a year to realize that we weren’t helping our clients optimize their investment.  At that point we totally changed how we designed our sales training.  We stopped organizing our programs around content topics and started designing around the customer’s business initiative.  For example, one client wanted to move from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution. Another client wanted to shift from being the low cost provider to selling a value-added solution.

If a company, for example, is shifting their go-to-market strategy to be a value-added provider that change impacts all aspects of the sales organization from the territory design to market segments to compensation plans to the skill profile of the sales team.  Since we are discussing sales training let’s just focus on the skill profile.

For such a go-to-market shift to be successful the sales team needs to adapt and adjust their sales skills and the sales training needs to be designed to help them do that.  This means the sales training design needs to be customized from “top to bottom.”  It must incorporate whatever skill sets are relevant to selling in the newly defined market.  This is the exact opposite of defining every training challenge as “pounding a nail” because you have a hammer at hand. 

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Medical sales reps – what do they like most and least about their jobs

Medical device sales reps

Medical device sales reps

Ever wonder what medical sales reps like most about their jobs? MassDevice reported the findings from a survey of more than 1,400 sales reps in the 2016 Best Places to Work in Medical Sales survey.  Take a look at what they found:

  • 72% of those responding were satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Nonetheless, about one-half said they were actively seeking a new job.
  • Medical sales reps report that what they like best about their jobs is their relationships with patients and providers (21%). It was followed by autonomy/flexibility (16%) and ability to make an impact (12%).
  • The sales reps who are least satisfied with their jobs make the least money (6%).
  • When reps were asked to identify the least favorite part of their jobs, 14% of the reps rated management/leadership first followed by money (9%) and travel (8%).
  • And, finally, what makes a company great to work for? The top three reasons were: competitive compensation (66%), emphasis on work-life balance (62%), and strong product line (52%).

You can see some great graphs and charts depicting the survey findings here.

You can read more about medical sales training here – and about medical sales training programs at our Sales Momentum website.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Diagnosing a common sales pitfall – ask then pitch

Sales calls - ask questions

Sales calls – ask questions

Today almost everyone has come around to the idea that “asking questions” is a critical sales skill.  Asking questions is now accepted as a fundamental sales competency.

Questioning is fundamental because it is used in every sales call and is required for developing advanced skills like negotiating and building customer relationships.

Now, it is fair to say the notion about the importance of asking questions is not one of those “hot off the press” ideas.  Back in the day, say 1970’s, my colleague Neil Rackham, who founded Huthwaite, not only emphasized the importance of this skill set, he provided a well-researched model to help people get it right.  The model, of course, was SPIN Selling.

Since in the early years there were not many of us at Huthwaite, I had the opportunity to train 1000s of sales reps in how to use the SPIN Selling model for asking questions.  Because of the sheer number of repetitions, I learned what it took to effectively use the technique of questioning in B2B sales calls.  What do you do or not do in order to leverage the persuasive power of asking questions?

Here are some important basic ideas for mastering the skill of asking questions and one particular pitfall that limits the positive impact of asking questions.  First some practical points about asking question:

  • It’s more important than ever.  The importance of some skills come and go – that is not the case with asking questions. The ability to ask questions effectively is more important than ever.  For example, it is very difficult to execute what the folks talk about in the Challenger Sales model without being highly skilled in asking questions.
  • It’s fundamental, but not simple.  Because something is fundamental does not mean that it is simple to master and asking questions is a good example.  It requires a lot of practice and feedback to become truly skilled in integrating questions into your sales calls. 
  • It requires pre-call planning.  True.  It is very difficult to execute an effective questioning strategy during a sales call without spending some pre-call planning time crafting the questioning strategy and some key questions.  The key is not just to ask questions but instead to ask the right questions at the right time – smart questions.

Common Pitfall

On the road to mastering questioning there are a number of pitfalls. One of the most common and troubling is what we will label – ask then pitch.  It looks like this:

  • The sales call starts out fine with the sales rep asking questions to find out information about the customer.

         Once some basic information is obtained …

  • The sales rep goes into their standard product pitch.  No more questions are asked while presenting the product.

What’s wrong with this picture?

  • Your presentation is not fine-tuned to the customer’s reactions because you don’t ask questions about the customer’s reactions.
  • By not asking any questions once you start talking about the product, you are no longer engaging the customer in a conversation – you are doing all the talking.
  • It’s easy for the customer to exit the call with the impression that you are not interested in finding out in-depth information about their perception of the value of what you have presented.

The key walk-away is that questions can and should be used for more than just finding out information.  For example, questions can help: determine priorities, clarify value, and build support.  They can be used to deliver a compelling presentation of your solution customized to the specific needs of each customer.

It would be easy if you could just memorize a standard script for talking about your product and use it again and again.  Unfortunately what constitutes value for each customer is different, so a standards product pitch never hits the center of the target – and in some cases it doesn’t hit the target at all!

For these reasons and others, questions can and should be used through out the sales call to continuously engage the customer in a business conversation adapted to their needs and interests.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Don’t lose sales you should win – connect the dots

Winning sales – connect the dots

Often a sale is lost even when the solution is a good fit because the salesperson fails to make the connection between the solution and the customer needs.  The seller gets Step 1 right – they develop a good understanding of the customer’s needs.  They also provide a good description of the solution so Step 2 is okay.  But they leave it to customer to connect the dots as to how the solution can effectively address the needs.

The remedy?  Sales people must take Step 3 by verifying that the customer perceives the connection between what they need and what is being proposed. It is particularly important in major sales where the need structure is multi-layered and the solution has multiple components.

Sometimes there is a more fundamental mistake – all the dots are not there.  The seller fails to delineate a comprehensive picture of all the business outcomes the solution can impact.

Even a small improvement can make a huge difference in sales won vs. lost. Perceived value really matters.  Let’s take a look at a simple framework salespeople can use to generate a comprehensive picture of the business outcomes for which their solution could bring value to the customer.

The most common benefit is cost reduction. It’s simple … if the client pays x now, but will be paying x-y, the cost savings are simple math.  But that’s not the only source of cost savings.  Companies can achieve cost savings through cost displacement and cost avoidance. Unfortunately, cost displacement and cost avoidance are less frequently discussed.

  • Cost savings arise fromcost displacement when current expense items are eliminated because of the proposed solutions. Some common areas of cost displacement are: reducing the number of people needed to perform a task, reducing manufacturing time, reducing processing time, and eliminating capital equipment currently in place.
  • A second source of cost savings arise from avoiding future expenses because of the proposed solution. This isn’t the same as cost displacement. Cost avoidance occurs because the proposed solution enables the company to expand their capabilities without adding resources. Like cost displacement, cost avoidance payoffs often come in terms of people, time, or equipment.

An additional set of benefits derives from the other side of the balance sheet – they stem from increasing revenues as a result of gaining operating efficiencies.  Some ways in which companies can increase revenues through operating more efficiently are: increasing the number of sales by processing more orders faster, reducing the number of orders lost to the competition by improving customer retention, expediting new pricing announcements, and improving customer service.

This is a story of customer focus and the importance of Value Maximization. Often in major sales there is a misalignment between the value you have proposed and the value perceived by the customer.  This is particularly telling because you may lose a sale for a reason that is totally within your control to avoid.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Evolution of sales strategy

Sales Strategy - Stop, Pause, Reassess

Sales Strategy – Stop, Pause, Reassess

A sales manager recently finished sales strategy reviews for the top 20 accounts in her geography. She told me, “Let’s not talk about the quality of the sales strategies – some were great and some not so much. I expected that. What I didn’t expect were the stories about how the sales reps executed their sales strategies.”

I wasn’t quite sure what she meant – and asked her to tell me more. That’s where it got interesting. She said that during some of the strategy review sessions it felt like some sales reps were pounding a hammer on the pegs, like the child’s toy. “The sales reps were using a “pounding the pegs approach” to executing their sales strategy – whether it fit or not. They never stopped, paused, and reassessed.”

Download free white paper – Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts

That got us thinking. How often do sales managers sit through strategy review sessions like these? Our guess is way too often! Yet, it’s so important salespeople take the time – especially in larger accounts – to stop, pause, and reassess. Not only will it ensure that salespeople don’t continue pursuing the wrong account strategy – it also provides the opportunity to modify their sales strategy based on customer feedback.

In addition, it provides the opportunity to consider the fundamental point that this may just be a chase after a bad piece of business.

What advice should sales managers share with their sales teams during strategy review sessions?

- Today doesn’t mirror yesterday. Companies are changing how they buy due to the disruptive forces at play in the marketplace. What was true yesterday is unlikely to be true today. So if buyers change how they buy, then sellers must adapt and adjust their sales strategies.

- One size doesn’t fit all. Not only are companies changing how they buy, there is not a new standard approach being adopted across companies. Rather, companies are trying to leverage their buying process as a competitive advantage more today than ever before.

- It’s about insights – not information. Due to the digital revolution buyers are likely to engage with selling organizations with more information and later in their decision cycle than in times past. When they do engage, they’re looking for  advisors they trust – not product facilitators. It’s about fresh ideas and insights. This means a sales strategy is always a work in progress.

The key point here is this – the need for sales managers to conduct strategy review sessions with their sales reps has moved to center stage. It is not a nice-to-do. Executing a winning sales strategy in major B2B sales is a very skilled undertaking. Most salespeople need help and sales managers need to provide that help.

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What to learn more about sales strategy? Download our white paper - Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Sales Enablement – don’t put the cart before the horse!

Horse-_amp_-Cart-Woodcut-150x150Over the last several years Sales Enablement has moved to center stage as a topic of attention in the world of sales.  Although the exact definition varies depending on the actor, Sales Enablement is all about creating and delivering the following:  practices, technologies and tools that enable a sales team to improve their performance and productivity.

One can quickly grasp the emerging interest in the topic by noting the number of white papers and blogs on the topic and number of consulting firms that now exist to help companies do a better job getting Sales Enablement right.

Inside organizations, the conversation about Sales Enablement is usually played out in conjunction with doing something about the historical finger pointing between Sales and Marketing.  Because of the transformational changes that are occurring across markets in the buying environment, the misalignment of Sales and Marketing can no longer be ignored and Sales Enablement is a great banner under which to do something about that.

Fair enough.  All the recent interest and money devoted to Sales Enablement seems both timely and appropriate.  Customers are clearly changing how they buy and if customers change how they buy, then sales organizations need to change how they sell.  They need to up their game. And, in today’s market Sales cannot get that job done without help.

If it can be agreed that Sales Enablement is a good idea, then the second set of issues evolve around getting it right. In the past a lot of good ideas related to sales improvement have never made it out of the other end of the tunnel and Sales Enablement is not immunized against such an end.

Although a number of pitfalls await, one that we believe desires particular attention relates to the grand old idea of “not putting the cart before the horse.”

You can’t enable the sales process unless you are abundantly clear as to what the sales process ought to be that you are trying to enable and you cannot answer that question unless you have devoted sufficient time to understanding the buying process.  The quickest way to get lost in the tunnel is to attempt to enable a sales process that is fuzzy, or misaligned or out-of-date with the buying process.  Today, the companies that are built to win are the companies that are built to change and that means what your customers buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it is unlikely to be the same as the last time you looked.

So with that thought in mind, the imperative is to put in place the necessary mechanism to capture the changes in the buying environment. This should be a constant and systematic effort, not a “once in awhile” peek in the window.  Here the sales team, if properly tasked and trained, can provide an early warning mechanism for anticipating and detecting changes in the buying process.  Plus they can contribute suggestions to the sales leadership as to what that realignment ought to look like.

The key walk away is: a starting point for getting sales enablement right is developing an early warning system about what is going on in the buying environment and your sales team is perhaps the best strategic resource for providing that insight.

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