The Missing Driver Of Sales Excellence


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You are busier than you have ever been. You are finalizing plans for 2014. You wonder what initiatives should be part of next year’s plan. You are so internally focused, you might be missing something.

Many of the answers to a sales leader’s execution problems are in the market. This post is focused on how listening to the market accelerates field execution.

Listening to the market has many connotations. Let’s define what it is:

What IS listening to the market—A way to monitor the buying behaviors of your customers that give you a competitive advantage.

What DOES listening to the market do—It ensures you are focused on the market problems of your ideal customers allowing you to sell more effectively.

What does it MEAN to listen to the market—You will make the number in less time, with less effort and outsell the competition.

To understand how sales forces have prioritized this initiative, click here. You will receive the Sales Leaders Listening Tool.

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The Execution Problem You Face

As a VP of Sales, lack of execution drives you crazy. You spend time with one of your ‘A’ player managers and say “if only everybody executed like that?” There are a few reasons why sales teams don’t execute:

  1. No Process—If you don’t give them a process, you can expect sustained execution.
  2. No Coaching—If you don’t have sales management coaching and reinforcing the process, execution fails.
  3. Wrong Process—If you give them a process but it doesn’t reflect reality, they will stop executing. It isn’t effective.

Why You Care

You get paid to make the quarterly number. You are constantly measured against your internal peers. Results still dictate 80% of where you are in the stack rank. You can’t afford to have your team executing the wrong things.

Listening in Disguise

There is nothing more important than understanding your customer’s objectives and obstacles. Knowing what they fear and what is important to them, in their terms. Listening to the market is not having one of the slogans below on a banner. It isn’t enough to mention these phrases in ameeting and then “get back to work”:

  • We are customer centric.
  • The customer is at the heart of everything we do.
  • Customer first.
  • The customer is our lifeblood.

Many organizations talk a good game but they fail to execute. Listening to the market is not done twice per year through market research projects. It is not customer satisfaction scores. Listening to the market is daily discipline. This is the skill that separates sales forces who will make the number from those who don’t. Why? Because they adapt faster than competitors. They are more nimble. They are more in sync with buyer needs.

How To Listen

There are 8 different ways that sales forces listen. To see the complete list, click here. We will explore a couple of them:

#1 Sales Calls—Every sales call is a research call. Every single interaction with a buyer is an opportunity to listen. Yet sales organizations don’t capture all of the lessons. In order to transfer knowledge from one call to the next, you must use a Buying Process Map.

How— A rep has a sales call. They attempt to spot where the buyer is in their journey. They execute the call and listen to the different questions the buyer asks. They immediately transfer the questions from the buyer against what the BPM tells them.

Benefit—A different rep has a call on a similar buyer in another territory. They can use these learnings. The sharing is done via Yammer or Jive or SFDC chatter. It is quick, real time and structured. It is customer focused.

Perhaps these were the questions they thought would be asked. Perhaps they were different. Either way, the rest of the sales force benefits. Marketing benefits as well. They are always looking for real time customer feedback to produce content.

#2 Win/Loss Calls—We are surprised when sales forces don’t utilize some form of win/loss/no decision interviews. This is another pure way to listen to the market.

HowImmediately after a win or loss, the customers/prospect is contacted. It must be done by an objective third party. This could be marketing or sales operations. You could hire a third party. To ensure these interviews are effective, they must be done against your sales process.

Benefit Where did you go the wrong direction and why? What did the competitor do that caused them to gain favor? What changes need to be made to your sales process to reflect learnings? Using this form of listening ensures the sales team doesn’t make the same mistake repeatedly.

How You Should React

To get started:

  1. Download the Listening Tool Guide.
  2. Start by picking three forms of listening.
  3. Assign a different form of listening to three of your Managers for 30 days.
  4. Publish what you learn.
  5. Don’t wait for perfection. Some listening is better than none.

Sales forces that make the number in 2014 will have a natural discipline of listening. They can then react and better serve the needs of their customers. Are you listening to your market?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Sharrers
Matt Sharrers serves as Partner of SBI. Matt works primarily in the Fortune 500 with clients including: Ryder, Integrated Device Technology, Informatica and Danaher. Matt is the author of "Promoted to VP of Sales: The Year 1 Toolkit". His work has been profiled in Sales and Service Excellence, Sales Journal Constitution and Leadership Excellence.


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