where the effectiveness of the salesperson in handling a complex selling process is key
Companies selling business-to-business solutions are daily bombarded with offers to improve their sales efficiency. New sales training, psychometric analysis of salespeople, methods of maximising face-to- face selling time, target account selling methodology and so on - a plethora of ways to help the sales force sell better. All may help and generally money spent on sales training is well spent but in the main the promise is undelivered. What is taught soon gets forgotten and any productivity improvement is transient.
What is radically new about this approach which was developed by US consulting firm, Results Now! to improving sales effectiveness is that it reveals what is already working for your company and enables you to formulate a unique selling process for your company that is optimised for success. Only those activities and sales efforts that really work will be used and used fully.
Here’s what three Sales VPs of US software companies have said about the Results Now! study:
“The report showed exactly what we had to do”
“Pointed up the tactics we needed to focus on”
“Implementing universally the sales tactics that were proven to have worked for us enabled us to double our overall win rates”
No company can afford to operate sub-optimally in sales. But the evidence that they do so is widespread. The tell-tale signs are., among others, an increasing proportion of forecasted sales lost to competition, high turnover of sales people, falling revenue per head, decreasing market share.
How should companies avoid getting in to this uncompetitive position which if unchecked will lead to free fall disaster? If you are in this state already how can it be corrected? Using the benchmarking methodologies developed by Results Now! it is possible to get your sales force working at optimum effectiveness relatively quickly.
All other things being equal, in business-to-business selling (where the sales person doing it right is typically a critical success factor), the organisation with the most effective sales force will win.
Every company needs to audit their selling methods from time to time to make sure that they are working at peak efficiency. What worked in the eighties may not work now. Even an apparently effective sales organisation’s performance may be well below what it could be. Danger signs are:
· increasing number of sales lost to competitors
· sales cycle lengthening
· falling revenue per sales person.
If what your sales people do is the main determinant of your sales success, the degree to which your sales machine is working effectively will be a critical success factor for your company’s health and, possibly, its survival. The smart thing to do therefore is to move ahead of the competitors by ensuring that your sales organisation is operating as productively as possible
As a rule, some salesmen selling software and services business-to-business outperform the majority. Why? Are they more intelligent? More gifted? Do they work harder? The answer is probably a bit of all these things. But experience shows that even average sales people can win more if they perform certain tactics more frequently. Unfortunately, despite what the sales trainers say, there’s no text book or sales training technique panacea that states what these tactics and activities are. What works for one company may not work for another. The winning tactics for any particular company can, however, be determined by a study.
The Results Now! approach goes concentrates on the sales process and not on the sales people themselves. It identifies the selling process used by your sales people and quantifies it. The objective of the analysis will be to discover which selling tactics are actually used by your sales people, how often they are used and correlates this data with successful outcomes. The results of the analysis show convincingly which sales activities should be used to give you the best chance of winning every time.
Analysing a minimum of 100 accounts forecast to be closed by your sales people (these sales situations will have resulted in a win, loss or a ‘no decision’) will show the tactics that have been used and the frequency of use.
For example, in one company, it was found that when sales people used the tactic of taking senior people from prospect organisations to visit their company headquarters, there was a win rate of 70%. Yet this tactic was used in only 20% of named sales opportunities that were worked and forecast to be closed within the next 3 months.
Another tactic-driven issue revolves around the question “Is X competitor our biggest threat or is no-decision the main enemy?” Tactics can be designed against a specific competitor but if there are more losses to “no decision”, a different set of tactics may need to be used in the sales process.
A higher Win Rate
Once you know what the optimised sales process for your company looks like it is easy to persuade all sales people to adopt it. The number of closed accounts will go up because your sales people will increase their use of those selling tactics proven to be the most successful.
Shorter ramp -up time for new sales people
New sales people will be encouraged learn and use the effective selling tactics from the beginning; they will understand which tactics to emphasise over others and how to perform them.
Better management insight
You will have obtained a baseline selling cycle and measurement points with win rates to use for forecasting, coaching and tracking performance improvements.. You can provide management support to the sales person for those tactics that work and discourage those that do not.
What is required?
A list of all the accounts forecasted by your sales people over the last 3 or 6 months. 100 is about the minimum to get significant results. We will need to interview each sales person to discuss each forecasted account in detail. About half an hour per account should be planned.
The objective of this separate exercise is to learn about the buyers’ perceptions of all the vendors they considered initially and the reasons for their selection. We seek to discover how these views altered as their selection process continued from the ‘long list’ through the ‘medium list’ to a ‘short list’ and final choice. Patterns typically emerge that will point management to appropriate corrective action.
Each interview is based around five points: pain/problems with the existing situation that led to the decision to install a (new) product and the looked for improvements: positioning (which vendors they considered as potential solutions and why they chose to evaluate them): proof ( how did each vendor go about proving the value of their proposition and how did buyers rate the product against their own criteria): pricing and packaging and, finally, product (what were the buyers’ experiences of seeing the products demonstrated or trialling them).
The results of the BCA will give you critical, objective information about how you and your competitors perform as seen through the customers eyes. Some issues will present themselves as obvious candidates for action; other information will suggest areas for more investigation and internal discussions on your part.
Example: one company discovered that there was a marked difference in their success depending on which function (end user or IT department) led the evaluation. This was because IT had preconceived ideas about the company’s product architecture, which they tended to regard as old-fashioned, whilst end users cared mainly about functionality and did not worry too much about architecture. This finding led the company to think hard about investing too much effort in prospect situations that were IT-dominated unless they could bring the end users into the decision process more strongly. It also suggested to them that their marketing communications might be more effectively directed towards end users rather than IT.
The SCA will identify the tactics actually being used by your sales people and their success rate. It will highlight a number of ways in which you could make quick, practical changes to your selling process to enhance the likelihood of success.
We present the report to you and, if required, will take part in a workshop with your key sales managers to explore the results and discuss how the winning tactics can be adopted by all the sales people.
The BCA will raise issues that will have implications, not only about improving your sales tactics, but for marketing, communications, and/or product development.
For example, suppose a pattern were to emerge that your company was consistently being eliminated early on in the selection process on the basis of buyers’ perceptions about poor support or, at the demonstration stage, because of perceptions about product functionality/performance.
Curiously, despite the obvious benefits, this kind of study is still rarely done in the UK Few companies therefore have taken the trouble to find out how their sales people sell, what works for them, how their customers buy. Armed with this intelligence an organisation can then optimise their selling activities. It is essential to undertake this study, incidentally, before any sales force automation project is embarked upon.
A company that undertakes this exercise will know what they have to do to increase their win rates over their competition. They will be in better shape than their competitors and move forward faster. Their competition may not survive unless they too sell smarter, not harder.
gfa Sales Improvement
44 (0)1608 66 37 52