It is tougher than ever for sales teams to cut through the clutter and differentiate with prospects. But who can blame them? Sales teams can’t find the right resources, so they spend less time selling than hunting for resources, which means lost opportunities – leading to overall poor sales performance. The facts regarding the buying environment and sales execution are startling:
Here are three new rules of sales execution to give you a fresh approach to stop enabling the poor behavior and start executing.
Rule 1: Conversations, Not Collateral
Organizations have been enabling sales teams with collateral and sales tools to the point of burdening them with too much information. There is a multitude of sales and marketing collateral loaded into sales portals or intranet sites, and countless hours are spent creating, editing, and producing this content. This approach is flawed not only in that it is not aligned with current selling situations and disconnected from daily reality, but also becomes incredibly difficult to know if sales teams have even used the content, and how effective it really is.
The shift needs to focus on the desired business outcome. Effective salespeople not only understand the buyer’s marketplace and business issues, but also help them envision solving their problems using their products and services. They get stalled deals moving, present greater value and are able to seamlessly sell new products or cross-sell existing product sets.
Enabling your sales teams with content won’t guarantee they are having these valuable conversations with prospects.
Sales knowledge is much more than a stack of data sheets or four-color glossy brochures. This goes well beyond what companies are packing into their sales portals today.
Rule 2: Expertise Beats Product Knowledge
Buyers buy from the vendor who understands their business and the challenges they face the best, and who delivers a clear vision of how to solve them. Often, a great deal of time is spent trying to communicate value and differentiation of a product or service, and a number of salespeople don’t see how other reps do this or what they are using and doing to win deals.
No matter how much time marketers and product managers spend with salespeople and customers, they just don’t see enough of what happens at the moments of truth – how buyers are receiving and responding to the messages the sales team delivers. Just look how fast the competitive landscape, the needs of the marketplace, and the product portfolios change. A top-down approach will never keep up.
Sales teams ignore 90% of the “selling collateral” that is provided to them.4
Through trial and error, your salespeople learn something new every day about what works and what doesn’t. In this changed buying environment, it’s critical that your sales and marketing teams collaborate to unlock this treasure. It’s about capturing feedback on what works and doesn’t work, and using that feedback to continuously improve the base of knowledge.
Rule 3: Proven Plays
One thing that sets top salespeople apart from the rest of the pack is that they will never “wing it.” Top reps do the same set of things that have helped them win similar deals in the past. You might say these top performers have a set of repeatable playbooks in their head that have been developed and adapted through years of experience in front of customers.
Average or low performers typically think they are not hitting it out of the park because they just need more at-bats. The problem is they can’t swing the bat like top performers. Often companies roll out a new sales methodology believing that is the missing link to improving sales performance.
A methodology alone won’t move the needle.
We want more top performers, so we spend thousands of dollars on sales training events with the hope that methodology and training will give our reps the knowledge, skills, attitude and structure to become stars.
But it doesn’t work. Studies show that the average salesperson forgets 87% of what they learn in sales training within 30 days.5 The rep gets back to the office, puts the training binder on the shelf, reverts to old habits, and continues to follow the path of least resistance. A sales methodology or process is essential but they usually don’t have the impact they could because there’s no practical way to follow them. A methodology tells you why to do something, but it doesn’t tell you what to do in a specific situation, when to do it, or how to do it.
No amount of training is going to enable a sales rep to be ready to handle every selling situation he or she will encounter.
In order to empower sales to achieve their revenue goals companies need to equip sales teams differently so they can execute effectively. We can’t keep expecting a different outcome when using the same old approaches. It’s time we made new rules to sell by.
Amanda Wilson is Director of Product Marketing & Programs at Qvidian, the innovator in sales execution solutions.
1Sales Benchmark Index
5Corporate Executive Board