Seeing the whole elephant

I live in an industry that is crowded with debate.

Cold calling is dead.

Cold calling is very much alive.

Social selling is everything.

Social selling is a fad.

THESE people are legit sales experts.

THOSE people are sales frauds.

And the debates go on…

And frankly, it’s all just one, big elephant.

You remember the old story, right? The story about a group of blind men who are trying to describe an elephant – each one with his own interpretation? The moral of the story was that they were all correct. And they were still wrong.

This is exactly what we see in sales.

What is vitally important in B2B is literally worthless in B2C.

What is absolutely necessary in enterprise sales isn’t even wanted in start-ups.

What is ignored in hi-tech is critical for everyone else.

Have you noticed this as well?

And maybe it’s because I have worked with so many different kinds of companies and industries, but if we are truly going to see the whole elephant as it is, I think there are some key ideas that have to be recognized.

First, there is problem complexity. What the local carpenter has to do to sell is different than what the multi-national building contractor has to do to sell. But most companies don’t have a very good way of defining how that complexity works – let alone how to most effectively change their approach to navigate the complexity of their customers’ problems. I’ve given a LOT of thought to this topic, so much that I co-wrote a short eBook on this topic. You can download it for free at:

Second, there is market maturity. And by maturity, I am referring to the classic S-curve model of early adoption through to decline. In other words, what innovators like Apple and Samsung have to do to sell is different than what mature companies like Shell and Coca-Cola have to do to sell – and avoid decline. The value of innovation is critical here. We over-simplify our strategies to “find a need.” It’s rather quite ineffective. Too many sellers don’t fully understand how to shift their strategy as their innovation reaches the top of the S-curve. Nor do their companies.

Third, there are market dynamics (economy, competitors, social change, etc.). It’s really a subset of the market S-curve, but I’m specifically pointing to the resources involved in bringing the strategy to life. The value of brand strength and market position are often underestimated in this regard. The resources that Chrysler and Walmart have to use to sell is different than what Tesla and Amazon have to use to sell. What works for the biggest, most popular names is only a fraction of what is needed for everyone else. This means that without the right logo on your business card, you will need many more resources – just to get access to the right buyers. And that doesn’t address the resources required to actually close business.

Fourth, there is the ability to execute – on both sides. Frankly, I believe that this is the great neutralizer. The ability to execute can literally erase all of the previous points in one stroke. And this is especially true when we include our customers. On one hand, we may not be able to execute within the context of their reality. Shame on us. On the other hand, no matter how good we are, our customer may not be able to execute either. They literally cannot activate the value we promised. Shame on us again for not seeing that.

When you look at your company, what do you see?

Does it help you:

  • change your sales approach to effectively navigate your customer’s problems – no matter how complex?
  • adjust your overall sales strategy to maximize what your innovation provides (or doesn’t provide any longer)?
  • select the right sales resources to harness (or overcome) your brand positioning in the market to get access to the right buyers?
  • ensure that execution is both possible and on schedule to deliver the value you promise?

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and each point can be expanded to become its own blog.

More importantly, each topic can define an expert – but don’t assume that just because you have expertise in one sales reality that the other realities aren’t legitimate.

The elephant is much bigger than you think.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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