Point of View Selling: Your Questions Answered

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“Point of View Selling” is a new approach to selling. It is so new, in fact, that we often field many questions about it.

A primary question is, “What does it take to deploy a Point of View Selling Approach?” Forum executive consultant, my colleague Michael Collins, recently answered this question in a guest blog post for American Society for Training & Development (ASTD).

Along with Siemens’ sales program executive, Adrian Logan, I recently presented a webinar on Point of View Selling during which we ran out of time to answer the audience’ many questions. Adrian and I will use this blog post to answer them:

Any recommendations for migrating from a 30 day revenue cycle to POV timeline? – Janet

Jeff Baker: Any sales leader introducing POV Selling can manage the slight disruption to the traditional selling cadence and manage the minor impacts to their revenue cycles, provided changes are introduced gradually. This is because POV Selling is focused on creating new revenue opportunities (of which even the customer was unaware prior to the sales call). Hence, POV Selling should not siphon off or cannabilize any of the revenue opportunities normally uncovered in the current selling process, and should in fact create a net increase to revenue. Secondly, although POV Selling will demand some time taken from traditional sales activities, I think that the total number of sales people engaged in POV Selling and the total time these individuals spend in POV Selling activities will have a minor impact on overall revenue. As the sales people become more competent with POV Selling, and build a pipeline of ideas and opportunities, sales leaders can feel more confident shifting more selling time from traditional pursuit strategies to a POV Selling strategy.

Please explain again the skill set needed. – Jerrund

Jeff Baker:

Forum determined through our research that the critical Point of View Selling Skills consist of 7 distinct skills/behaviors which we group into these 3 major practice areas:

1) Develop a Point of View asks the sales person to call on his or her knowledge of the customer’s business and industry, the organizational capabilities, and their own ideas and experiences in order to generate insight for a customer about how to capture new business value. Skills include suspending solution selling during the development of a POV, and developing a method for the customer to test the validity of the POV.

2) Provoke Interest is a high-impact engagement strategy in which the salesperson initiates an educational conversation with the customer, provokes new thinking, and guides the conversation towards assessing the significance of the idea and whether it is worthwhile to explore further. Specific skills include telling an impact story using an illustration and prescribed narrative structure, and advancing a point of view through inquiry and advocacy.

3) Catalyze Decisions addresses the underlying reasons why so many customers fail to make a decision on supplier proposals they have requested, or opt for the lowest-price proposal. High value but complex solutions often require decisions about elements customers may not understand well. The successful salesperson guides the customer to develop a framework for the decision before the salesperson presents a detailed proposal. By jointly creating a decision framework the salesperson and the buyer move the decision forward, together. Skills taught include engaging the right stakeholders, generating viable alternatives, and framing the decision.

Forum’s 2-day POV Selling training program builds skills in all of these areas. Salespeople leave the program with a draft POV which they can then further refine using the skills and tools from the program, and can test with one or two “friendly” customers before they take it to market. Forum also offers a ½-day Sales Manager Coaching program for POV Selling.

Where does “POV” Selling fit into the Forum sales offering? Is POV selling different that the typical consultative selling, or just represent a highly effective command of consultative selling skills? – Bob Z.

Jeff Baker: POV Selling is a separate Forum offering from Consultative Skills and teaches different and more advanced selling skills. POV Selling requires that sales people have mastered the basics of consultative skills, especially building rapport, questioning, confirming, and handling objections. We see POV selling as distinct from consultative selling in the following important ways:

“It is also a question of re-educating the customer to have a different expectation from the supplier?” – Elaine

Jeff Baker: Agreed. There is much customer re-education in point of view selling. This can happen on the fly by the sales person’s new behavior. Right from the start the sales person is “re-educating” the customer to understand that this will not be a typical “consultative” sales call, but rather a meeting in which the sales person will teach something new and valuable to the customer, and jointly determine if and how it should be further considered.

Do POV Selling assume that the sales person is starting with a higher top-level decision maker than with traditional selling approach? – Kristine

Jeff Baker: Yes, POV Selling is focused on senior level decision-makers which have access to or can create a budget. Because the ideas put forward in POV Selling are high value and have strategic impact this generally requires engagement with more senior level decision-makers. Now, one strategy a seller may take is to enlist the support of more junior level decision-makers in the customer organization, especially if she has strong, existing relationships. A POV sales person can work with the junior people to gather more data about the business, the concerns and focus of the senior decision-makers, and to test ideas. Ultimately, though, the POV sales person must make the call directly on the senior level customers and cannot rely on her junior level allies to carry the POV ideas forward effectively

Do you need thought leadership strategists to “wrangle” the sales force and adjust the sales process? – Garrison

Adrian Logan: Not sure I understand what you mean by “wrangle,” but the thought leadership strategists do need to be able to gain a higher level of internal commitment and collaboration from many quarters (and not just sales). This is because are proposing a POV, as opposed to responding to an ITT, which means there is no tangible “Value of opportunity” figure to be quoted (e.g. they cannot say, “the client has a budget of $100,000 for this.”)

The sales process will no doubt need to be adjusted. I’d refer you to the slide we showed in the webinar from the Harvard research. Traditional process and CRM systems follow the upper route whereas POV the lower one.

Jeff Baker: To add to Adrian’s comments, I know “wrangle” as a US expression used by cowboys for herding or driving cattle. So, yes, you do need a thought leadership strategist to “wrangle” or to teach your sales team how to sell in this new way. It requires new skills and some changes in the selling process, as we briefly covered in the webinar. The thought leadership strategist could come from any number of roles, including a senior sales person, a sales manager, or marketing executive. The key attribute of the strategist is the ability to develop novel and compelling insights to take to senior level decision makers in your target markets. Keep in mind the strategist, or anyone developing new insights for customers, needs both extra time and resources to do this effectively.

When an organization implements a shift away from traditional selling and toward “Thought Leadership as Sales Strategy,” what implications does this shift have for the composition of the sales force? What shifts take place in the kinds of skills and abilities that become more important – which ones take on a higher priority, which skills and abilities become less of a priority? What changes take place in the importance of deep technical knowledge about the products/services that are being offered? How about the change that take place in the importance of deep “industry knowledge” about sectors in which customers/prospects are likely to be found?

What are the biggest HR challenges that arise with the shift to solutions selling and the use of “Thought Leadership as Sales Strategy”? – Bob Y.

Adrian Logan:

1. Skills/abilities of Salesforce – Several people asked similar question, so this is clearly important. The understanding of how a business/organization works, both internally but especially in its external environment, is more important. So, I’d be looking for knowledge such as strategy, finance, marketing, economics (external forces especially), skills such as educating/presenting to senior decision-makers, getting internal buy-in, creative thinking and personality traits such as confidence, determination, high levels of intelligence (both traditional and emotional). I’m less concerned about technical knowledge of our solutions. In fact, a deep technical knowledge could be a handicap if the seller reverts to it frequently as it’s their comfort zone.

2. How will this affect the composition of the salesforce? We may be describing a different type from the consultative salesperson, not in totality but certainly in key traits, so the traditional route from transactional to consultative to POV may not be simply a case of “sell more and you’ll climb the greasy pole of the sales hierarchy.”

3. Deep technical knowledge – As I said before, possibly a handicap at worst, at best useful but not high on my list.

4. Industry knowledge – More important, but courtesy of the internet, info is easier to come by. The hard stuff is developing insights from all that info and then developing a POV.

5. HR challenges – Finding these people, either within or outside the organization; retaining them (especially if they are continually battling with internal resources / traditional “sell the product” mentality); rewarding them and finally offering them meaningful career prospects. In other words, the HR challenges are pretty much the same as with all talented people, but with the added spice that these people could be your real rainmakers and therefore losing one may have greater impact than, say, losing a consultative seller.

Jeff Baker: I add the following to Adrian’s answers:

Skills/abilities of Salesforce – I fully agree with Adrian that business acumen is crucial. That is, understanding how businesses operate, how they make money, how strategy guides investment decisions, and so forth.

How will this affect the composition of the salesforce? Key skills? Key skills required for point of view selling include the ability to teach the customer something novel about their business, and to help the customer evaluate whether or not this new idea is worth pursuing. This also requires the confidence and skill to push or challenge the customer to seriously consider the new idea. Finally, I think that for most sales forces that have been selling effectively using a consultative or solutions methods, only about 20% of the sales team should move to point of view selling. In cases where the chief sales executive decides to shift the entire sales strategy to point of view selling it will require an all out change management effort that addresses not only the new skills for sales people but every aspect of the sales organization.

Technical industry knowledge – I think deep knowledge here is crucial provided it is focused outwardly on creating specific value for a customer. Deep technical and industry knowledge are important foundation for breakthrough thinking.

HR Challenges – I suggest HR professionals rethink their models for sales recruiting and establishing sales career paths as it pertains to thought leadership or point of view selling. The talent for POV selling won’t necessarily come up through traditional selling jobs, and viable candidates may not even think of themselves as “salespeople” in the traditional sense of product sales. For new HR development ideas look at how consulting firms recruit and develop partner level talent, because these kinds of organizations have been using thought leadership selling for decades.

And as we focused on the webinar, sales leaders also need to rethink how they recruit, develop, and manage sales people using POV Selling and the new sales process itself.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeffrey Baker
Jeffrey Baker, vice president for sales force effectiveness, directs research efforts, new product development, and market positioning for The Forum Corporation. Jeffrey's focus on customer-centric selling comes from a career in selling and leading sales teams, managing customer care operations, and consulting to leaders of commercial sales and marketing organizations.

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