Category Archives for "Customer focus"

Why can’t we build better sales managers? (Part 2)

Last week, I opened with the idea that we have sales management wrong.

Fundamentally, this is because we aren’t thinking/working from the customer interaction backward.

So, let’s talk about that customer for a moment.

According to research published by Demandbase (2018), B2B buyers said that the top five most important variables in making a buying decision are:

  • Deployment time/ease of use (77%)
  • Features/functionality (72%)
  • Solved a pain point (71%)
  • Reviews (65%)
  • Sales team demonstrated knowledge of our company and insights into our problems (64%)

Additionally, they also said that the top 5 winning differentiators of successful sellers are:

  • Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs
  • The timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries
  • Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape
  • Provided informational content that was easy to consume
  • Provided higher-quality content
  • (Note: 76% of all buyers wanted content to be tailored to their company)

Compare that with CSO Insight’s (2018) list of what buyers want from their sellers:

  • Understand me. Know my business.
  • Demonstrate excellent communication skills.
  • Focus on post-sale.
  • Give me insights and perspective.

Some pretty clear patterns emerge.

First, buyers are very focused on getting the kind of clarity that sellers don’t always have. When you add in the data point from Accenture (2018) that buyers are over halfway (57%) through their buying process before they even engage a seller, the narrative is pretty clear that sellers are either (a) not equipped and/or (b) not skilled enough to provide any value when customers often need the most clarity – defining what the heck is actually wrong/blocking their progress.

Second, buyers want to be the center of attention. In other words: no off-the-shelf content, off-the-shelf support, etc. You and I both know that they don’t care about your other customers. They don’t have the bandwidth for that kind of hypothesizing. They want EVERYTHING tailored to their reality – and their speed of life.

Third, buyers want their sellers to engage and support their business before AND after the sales process. In one of the more fascinating bits of the CSO Insights research, 90% of all buyers would be willing to engage sellers earlier if the business challenge was:

  • New for the buyer (34.1%)
  • Perceived as risky for the organization (21.1%)
  • Perceived as risky for the buyer themselves (19.1%)
  • Complex (e.g. impacted several departments) (16.2%)

I think this particular insight is incredibly important because none of those scenarios are limited to just “buying something.” They are all deep, intense, resource-dependent opportunities for a seller (and her team) to engage early and stay engaged long after the buying decision. But far too often, sellers are not successfully empowered for this kind of relationship.

So, what does this all mean to our discussion on the idea of sales management? I don’t know about you, but when I ask people to define the three most important priorities that sales managers must deliver, they are not:

  • Make sure your sellers provide clarity earlier in the buying process
  • Make sure your sellers tailor everything for their buyers
  • Make sure your sellers are empowered to engage and support buyers before and after the sales process

You can argue that Marketing and other functions are supposed to step up here, but if you have ever been a sales manager, you know exactly how hard it is to get consistent support from the other functions in these areas.

Then, when you add how much time it takes to actually do all of this – while also doing all of the other things that Sales Managers have to do (see last week’s blog for more) – and we are right back to my idea that we have sales management wrong. They simply don’t have enough time, if they are doing these three things at all.

What’s the bottom line here? I believe with all of my heart that a sales manager who can successfully do all three of our customer-centric priorities will make sure that the sales team hits its numbers. We just have to figure out how to make that happen (which I will explore next week.)

In the meantime, please share your ideas on (a) whether you see the problem that same way that I do and (b) what you would do about it.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

P.S. Here are the links to the research that I referenced – Demandbase and CSO Insights.

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Sales enablement best practices, #2 – Integrating the solution

In last week’s blog, I talked about how important it is to anchor sales enablement to the buyer’s problem-solving journey. This is vital because:

  • If there is no problem to solve, there is no sale
  • Not every buyer journey ends with a decision to buy from you
  • Even after the purchase, there is a tremendous amount of work to do as part of the “journey”
  • It shifts our focus to serving, not selling

This week, I want to continue talking about another not-so-common thing that makes sales enablement thrive. And in particular, how you link selling content, tools, and behaviors.

People will roll out a new marketing message, or implement a new technology, or even train everyone on a new skill – but there will rarely be an integrated, architected strategy.

How often do sales people complain that they have to do training, while also learn a new tool, while also having to mix in the latest marketing message to their customer communications?

They complain because they do not see it as helping them. Don’t they know we are just trying to help? (Insert sarcastic chuckle here.)

Let’s sideline the question of whether or not those elements are even needed (assume that they all are). The impact of so many “random acts of enablement” is poor execution. Period. It’s no wonder that quota attainment will go down when we don’t “do” sales enablement correctly.

Ask yourself this: does your organization integrate how content, tools, and behaviors are improved? In other words, is there:

  • A single decision-making process, with clear veto authority, over what and how selling content, tools, and behaviors get rolled out to the sales force?
  • A single team that oversees the creation of selling content, tools, and behaviors so that they work together as part of a consistent customer experience?
  • A single calendar that covers all selling content, tools, and behavior timelines?
  • A single, unified experience for sellers that goes from sales onboarding to working on the job – without losing credibility along the way?

You can probably see – very quickly – how sales enablement efforts get messed up. People wind up doing/redoing/undoing someone else’s work. One solution will actually work against another. Sales people randomly select what they will support and what they won’t. And ultimately, the customer experience gets lost in the chaos.

Again, assume that everything being rolled out is well-intentioned and needed. And none of it will matter when put together as one solution.

Because that is what the minimum standard of sales enablement is. It’s the COMBINATION of selling content, tools, and behaviors all combined to deliver a great customer experience.

Trying to separate any of these elements is like to trying to build a car with hooking the systems together. The fuel system is meaningless without the ignition system. Which is meaningless without the exhaust system. And so forth.

In other words, the solution is ONLY defined when it is all put together. There is no sales enablement solution that is independent of the other efforts.

So, how does your business “do” sales enablement? Does it integrate everything or roll out as siloed initiatives?

And now, finally, bring in that even bigger question: is your business even creating the right content/tools/behaviors that help the customer’s problem-solving journey?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai


Sales enablement best practices, #1 – Don’t follow the wrong map

I can’t get this idea out of my head…

If you do sales enablement incorrectly, you will hurt your business (CSO Insights 2018 Sales Enablement Report).

Running a successful business is hard enough. But trying to grow it is one of the toughest challenges we can take on.

And if any of us were to find out that our efforts were actually hurting our businesses, we’d be sick.

So, I want to share some of the best practices that I know of for ensuring that your business does sales enablement well.

And while there are certainly some obvious practices that everyone knows (like embedding sales coaching into your culture), I will share the not-so-obvious and not-so-common things that I have seen make a major difference in both short-term and long-term success.

The first one that I will share is this: Don’t follow the wrong map.

If you rely on your GPS as religiously as I do, you probably have a favorite app. And an app that you hate. The app that has earned my disdain did so because it constantly gives me signals to turn AFTER I have passed the off ramp/through the intersection. It’s incredibly frustrating – especially when it adds unwanted and unnecessary time to my journey.

The very same thing can be said about how we define the buyer’s journey.

Unfortunately, many people don’t talk enough about the buyer’s journey. But worse yet, when they do, they define it incorrectly.

Side note: they have already injected bias into the definition because they are calling it a buying journey. The fallacy of that definition is anchored to the customer actually buying something. Yet we all know that many decisions end with no sale. No action at all. Just the continuation of the status quo. That’s not a buying journey.

If you want to truly define the map correctly, it needs to be the buyer’s problem-solving journey.

Dave Brock wrote a recent blog that challenged us to pull out a blank sheet of paper and simply draw how we generate and grow revenue without copying and pasting what we do already (BTW, it’s a great blog and I recommend it highly). Imagine taking the same approach to defining how customers solve their problems – not how they buy.

You will very likely have a different starting point: does the buyer even have a problem?

Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. But don’t assume that they already have a problem because then you will have just injected bias – bias that will create mountains of waste later on.

(Remember: if there is no problem, there is no sale. How many sales people waste time, energy, and resources on pursuing deals that don’t have a problem to solve? It’s like consistently missing your turns on a 30-day journey…)

Stay focused on how a problem gets solved. Define how the customer discovers whether a problem exists, then what they do once a problem is identified, then how it gets prioritized, and so forth.

Then – and this is essential – define how your business can serve at each point of that buyer’s problem-solving journey. And I mean serve – not sell. Think of how to go that extra mile in helping that buyer make a great decision, not simply buy your product/service.

At each stage of the journey, there will be milestones that the buyer needs to get to. Define those milestones, and define what your business can do to help reach each milestone. Notice that I am not saying “define what Sales can do.” I am calling this out because Marketing may need to do something, Finance may need to do something, and so forth. And many functions may actually need to collaborate to deliver that help. I find it very rare that the content, tools, and behaviors of selling are “owned” by just one function.

Mirror moment: If you drew this all out, then compared what you are actually doing today as a side-by-side comparison, what would you see? You may need to pull your leadership team together and do this very exercise. That is, only if revenue growth is a goal.

The bottom line: Growing your revenue is a team sport and requires everyone to align around the buyer’s problem-solving journey.

That’s not just good sales enablement. That’s good business.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai