32% of salespeople won’t achieve quota in 2012, but will a new sales methodology really help?


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32% of salespeople won’t achieve quota in 2012, according to a survey of 197-B2B technology companies in 2012 (source: The Bridge Group).

But will another sales process or sales methodology really help?

Most companies have tried 2-3 of them, but have they helped salespeople sell more? A sales methodology or process may provide better reports to management, and improve the sale team’s efficiency; but right now, do you really need to better forecast poor sales, or does your sales team really need to be more efficient at doing the wrong things?

Instead of efficiency, isn’t it time to improve your sales team’s effectiveness by helping them have better business conversations?

To help you decide, consider the following:

  1. With the proliferation of information and advice on the internet, a customer is already 60% of the way through their buying decision by the time they reach out to a salesperson. As a result, they don’t need a salesperson to efficiently tell them what they already know; instead, they need to know what the information means- they need insight (source: Corporate Executive Board).
  2. The greatest inhibitor to sales growth is the salesperson’s inability to communicate value (source: Sirius Decisions, a sales & marketing consultancy).
  3. Only about 12% of the sales calls add value, according to executives surveyed (source: Forrester).
  4. 28% of sales are won, 14% are lost, and 58% end in no-decision (source: Sales Benchmark Index). So, why waste your time being more efficient on the 14%? Why not instead focus on being more effective at having better business conversations with your biggest competitor, no decision at 58%? There’s 4-times the leverage at converting a no-decision vs. a lost sale!

A great sales methodology/process is like having the most finely tuned car, but if your wheels don’t gain traction with the road, you’re left spinning you’re wheels.

But maybe you think that your sales team is already effective at having business conversations? Well, here’s a quick way to check:

  1. Write down the 3-biggest gaps between what your prospective customers believe, and what they need to believe to buy your product.
  2. Pick one, and ask a few random salespeople how they would conversationally bridge this gap with a potential customer.
  3. Don’t give them time to prepare, since they won’t have time in front of a customer.
  4. And if they lapse into explaining what your product does, then they’ve failed, because they will have flooded the customer with too much information.

The good news is that this information is already in your sales force, because a few members of your sales team are exceeding quota. And if you can zero in on what are the stories your top performers tell, and then put them into a consistent format, then the rest of your team will have the magic to inspire customers to buy.

Even if members of your team don’t deliver these customer insights as stories, but instead through customer conversations, the story format is a simple way to package this information, since stories are easy to recall in the heat of a sales call. Indeed, stories are how humans have been passing down information for the past 100,000 years.

And because these stories are made by salespeople for salespeople, you team won’t feel like you’re imposing another sales methodology/process on them. In fact, unlike other sales training programs that become shelf-ware, you can use the stories that you created the next day with customers.

John Burke, Group Vice President, Oracle Corporation, for example, explains how traditional sales methodologies and sales process efforts haven’t delivered the promise of more sales, because salespeople didn’t know the real stories behind why their customers bought, and how their customers actually used their products.

“Throughout our careers, we have been trained to ask diagnostic questions, deliver value props, and conduct ROI studies. It usually doesn’t work; best case, we can argue with the customer about numbers—purely a left brain exercise, which turns buyers off.”

“Large companies are often very adept at explaining what their products do, but not as adept at explaining how and why their customers use their products. Most companies, Oracle included, have made a great effort to become more customer-focused, and there have been a lot of sales training programs put into place to accomplish that. However, I’ve observed over the years that many of those programs don’t seem to help much, because salespeople don’t often know the real stories behind why their customers bought and how their customers actually use their products.” (Source: How Oracle Uses Storytelling to Sell More, cbsnews.com, April, 2011).

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