Everyone knows that buyers today are behaving differently now, thanks to easy access of information via the Web. The problem is that while buyers are changing, sellers have struggled to keep up.
I was pleased to review a new book that doesn’t dodge the core issue: change. In Selling Vision: The X→XY→Y selling Formula for Driving Results, authors Lou Schachter and Rick Cheatham propose that you can’t change how organizations sell unless you change from the current stage (X) to a blended current/future state (XY), and finally get to the desired future state (Y).
That’s refreshing considering that I continue to see posts and books about quick and “surefire” ways to transform selling. There’s nothing quick and easy about changing how people work with customers, or each other. Of their recommendations, my personal favorite is: “Examine these transformations from the customer’s perspective and how their changing buying patterns suggest a particular way of focusing selling activities.”
Here are five questions I asked the authors about their book, in an email interview. Enjoy.
1. What do you want readers to learn by reading this book?
Organizations fail to realize the gains they expect from transformational change because they expect salespeople to move from selling the old (X) to the new (Y) too quickly. They don’t plan for the critical phase of doing both the old (X) and new (Y) that we call XY. For sales forces this has two impacts, one that they need to build their organizational changes around selling both old and new simultaneously, during a long transition period. And, second, that their salespeople can be more successful by applying this approach to change in their own sales and helping their customers accelerate their own changes from X to Y.
2. In the past few years, what is the biggest change in buyer behavior, and why is the sales profession struggling to adapt?
One big change in buying behavior in the past several years that has been much covered is that salespeople no longer provide information and that solutions have become commoditized. What Selling Vision describes is the next wave, where customers seek salespeople who can help them navigate their own changing marketplace.
3. What does the X>XY>Y selling methodology mean? How was it developed?
In the simplest terms, X is how or what you sell currently and Y is how or what you’ll need to sell in the future. XY is a phase of organizational change that takes advantage of adjacencies and people’s change response to more effectively get to Y, compared to only planning for Y, which often alienates both your salespeople and your customers.
Taking an XY approach becomes a sales methodology when you realize that many major sales are related to a customer’s own change initiatives. Top sellers today help their customers navigate their own organizational change difficulties and can do so even more effectively using the XY model.
This framework was developed through our work with leading Fortune 500 companies many of whom are experiencing massive changes. Additionally, we’ve conducted ongoing research with sales leaders and executive buyers for over a decade.
4. To effectively sell to today’s buyers, what is the most important attribute of the ideal sales professional?
While the behaviors that lead to success vary by company, business acumen is the fundamental missing skill that we see again and again. In today’s sales environment, the salesperson has to be able to sell to the business results the customer expects, and the only way to do that – or to have a sales conversation with an executive – is to have sufficient business acumen to speak in the buyer’s language.
5. Can you give an example of a sales organization that has been able to transform itself, and has the results to prove it?
Adobe has executed an incredibly public and successful XY transformation. They announced their intentions to shift from perpetual licenses to a SaaS model in 2011, stayed the course and discontinued their boxed software in 2013 even as they experienced short term financial pain, today their financial performance is back on track and their stock price is at record highs.
About the Authors
Lou Schachter and Rick Cheatham lead the sales practice at BTS, a global professional services firm supporting world leading businesses. They are the co-authors of SELLING VISION: The X→XY→Y Formula for Driving Results by Selling Change (McGraw-Hill; hardcover; March 11, 2016).