Are You Setting Your Sales Team Up to Fail?
As we all know, sales leaders have been seeing increased pressure from the C-suite for some time now. Cut costs, find greater efficiencies, scale the team, and so forth and so on. You’ve heard them all before. And these changes are for good reason – today’s economic environment requires us to do more with less, innovate faster, and be more responsive to the ever-changing buying environment. But, let’s be clear: these attributes are no longer competitive advantages – they are table stakes.
Just as with any shift in business, as our battle wounds heal and as we analyze the data, it turns out we may have been applying pressure at the wrong point.
Here’s an example: executives have been (and mostly still are) focused on achieving business growth through driving top-line revenues and cutting costs. This results in investing in more tools or people to help close more deals. Or alternatively, eliminating technologies or cutting heads to balance the P&L. But as Scott Santucci from Forrester Research states in one of his recent posts – when asked, “Are you satisfied that your sales force is getting your company to its strategic objectives,” a resounding 39 out of 40 CEOs said NO.
While that fact is impactful in and of itself, when Forrester dug deeper, the driving factor for this lies not in a lack of talent, the drive to sell more or finding costs to cut, but in the “inability for the selling system to adapt quickly enough to accommodate the changing business strategy.”
As a CEO, that’s a scary thought!
What is a Selling System?
Before we continue, let’s define what the selling system is. In simplest terms, a selling system can be defined by three things:
- The audience you’re speaking/selling to = your customers
- Those who are communicating your value to your customers = your sellers
- The support functions to enable the sellers to sell = your organization
While this may seem simple at first, how you manage your selling system (and changes therein) is critically important to the ultimate success (or failure) of your company.
For example, what does your company do to drive growth? It’s probably some combination of:
- Introducing new products
- Implementing new sales processes
- Expanding into new markets
- Deploying new technologies (CRM, Marketing Automation, etc.)
- Changing territory and compensation plans
- Investing in sales training
- And the list goes on…
Each of these significantly affects the selling system and the flow of information among the players. If you don’t manage and optimize the system for these communications and rollouts, you know the result. Absolute CHAOS for your sellers!
To support this thought, take a look at a recent infographic we did that addresses some of the challenges of a seller.
YOU ARE SETTING YOUR SELLERS UP TO FAIL.
Take the introduction of a new product, as an example. New content is created, new selling approaches are introduced, new incentive programs are rolled out, and a number of other investments are made to support the product launch and enable sales. Each person responsible for each supporting element makes sure they get their information to sellers so they can share it with customers, right?
But how does the new information, tools, or process actually get to your Sellers? And more importantly, how does that translate to a customer need? Without context to each other, the selling system breaks down.
And if you’re like our customers, this isn’t their only sales initiative. Right after this product launch, there’s another one coming. Add to that the other initiatives set to drive growth and your selling system becomes the critical factor in your success.
Scott references Symantec President & CEO, Steve Bennett’s comments in his post that I think help illustrate this point:
“On our go-to-market strategy what I would say simply, we had talented people everywhere in the world really working hard but that our system doesn't work, or probably better said we don't have a system. Our process, our technology, the tools we have, our knowledge management, our salesforce is not empowered and freed up to sell.” - Steve Bennett, Symantec President and CEO – January 23, 2013, Q3 Earnings and Strategy Direction Conference Call.
So first ask yourself, do you have a selling system in place? And then -- is that system able to adapt to changing business strategies?
The Qvidian team looks forward to further exploring this topic – so share your thoughts below! Or better yet, if you’re attending Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum next week, stop by and tell us in person.