Had a fascinating chat recently with the lead for a multi-billion dollar firm’s sales performance improvement initiatives. It’s their firm’s number one business growth strategy for 2013. His biggest challenge? Where to start.
It’s tempting to offer up a recipe for optimizing the productivity of a B2B sales team. Not convinced there is one. There are too many moving parts, and too many influencing contexts. Having said that, there are some keys. So, rather than a recipe, let’s consider the ingredients. In no particular order:
BUYER-FOCUSED SALES STRATEGY
High performing B2B sales teams focus on the buyer outcomes they deliver, not the product features they have. They don’t demo features early in the sales process, they prove their capability to deliver an outcome late in the process.
VALUE-CREATING BUYER EXPERIENCES
High performing sales teams consistently create exceptional value for buyers, often unexpectedly. They make it worth the buyer’s time to spend time comparing notes. Where the craftsmanship of selling is most honed, the buyer experiences are most value-creating.
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS OF BUYERS’ PRESSURES
Context matters. High performing B2B sales teams take the time to understand the pressures their target buyers are under that their offerings might relieve. Context before contact. From a buyer’s perspective, high performing sales teams aren’t pressuring; they’re pressure relieving.
Behind the scenes, analytics reveal and improve the effectiveness of sales practices. High performing sales teams know how much impact they’re having with buyers, in what roles, how consistently, when, with how much effort, and how quickly. They can see the cause-effect connections between sales practices and buyer impacts. They know how the scope, persistence, discipline, and timeliness of sales efforts is affecting the buyer impacts they’re achieving. They’re using ‘big data’ and ‘little data’ to make efforts count. Continuously.
IT’S PERSONAL FOR THE PERSONNEL
On the front-lines, Reps are empowered. They have what they need to succeed. Including metrics as feedback that lets them be personally accountable for the efforts they’re investing and the Return on Effort they’re achieving. They get help they need when unexpected things happen or they’re not certain what to do. They’re like a Flat Army.
Sales training matters. On high performing B2B sales teams, Reps have learned and honed selling skills that consistently progress target buyers. The most skilled of such Reps handle uncertainty with aplomb. Give them an unexpected turn of events, and they instinctively handle it like a pro.
While a sale is an event, winning a sale is a process. High performing teams use a structured process to winning sales. It enables disciplined execution to the day-to-day chaos of interacting with strangers. It allows progress to be detected, over time, knowing it takes time to understand buyers’ needs and earn their trust.
High performing B2B sales teams are learning, continuously, and doing so in short learning cycles. They’re able to get a fast read on the effectiveness of their practices. They fix mistakes, fast; they adapt, at speed, with certainty. They’re adjusting week-to-week little things that can make a big difference. They’re eliminating little mistakes long before such mistakes can compound into big problems. They’re the opposite of fragile : AntiFragile.
Sales teams that have baked these ingredients into their operations know it’s a tasty bouillabaisse for productivity.
Pass the napkin. Hold the garlic.