A word or two on sales coverage models

 

 

Isolated Earth -  Elements of this Image Furnished by NASA

In a recent conversation with a CEO of a large service organization I was asked which sales model I believed was most effective in generating improved sales results.  A popular question these days.  Everyone who is responsible for generating revenue has asked this question at least once.  The answer however, lies with your buyer.

In a vacuum there is no one single, silver bullet to drive sales results.  The most popular sales coverage models include:

  1. Generalists – sell everything
  2. Specialists – sell usually one, perhaps two products
  3. Verticals – sell to specific industries; professional services, restaurants, manufacturing, etc
  4. Revenue – sell by revenue size of client; SMB, mid-market, enterprise
  5. Employee size – sell by number of employees; payroll companies often use this coverage model
  6. Account-based – assigned specific accounts/companies to sell or cross-sell

In addition to this mix of options, a head of sales must consider whether a field sales organization or inside sales team is most effective.  Again, the decision here should be informed by the company’s buyer’s journey.  Many products and services once believed could only be sold via an in-person interaction are now sold over the phone.  Taking this a step further, we also know – thanks to Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Intuit, and others – that self-fulfillment is not just possible, but preferred by many consumers.  The ability to do-it-yourself is highly appealing.

Gaining an understanding of how your buyer makes decisions is the first step to determining which model is best for your business.  Listen to your buyers and then align a sales process that helps lead the buyer through his or her journey.  That’s the answer to which model works best.

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To Sell or Not to Sell?

USP concept
Hand with marker is drawing USP concept on the transparent white board.

Selling isn’t about winning or losing.  It’s not about money, trips, plaques, or prizes.  Selling is not an easy job, nor should it be a job to kill time until the “real thing” appears.   It’s not a set of activities, calls, presentations, or ratios.

Selling is about helping others.  Helping others solve problems and improving lives in the process.  Simply put, to sell is to make something, or someone better.  If what you’re offering for sale doesn’t provide some improvement over the status quo you have no sale.  The key is to understand your buyer well enough to know exactly how your product or service will improve their life or business.

People know when they’re being sold.  They also know when they feel they’ve been helped.  Seek first to understand before being understood is a good way to approach helping others.  Set out to help others and the sales will follow.

Reverse Prospecting: Your Buyer’s Looking For You

 

Reverse

Understanding your buyer’s journey is the first step to delivering explosive growth results.  The age of the buyer has arrived and the seller no longer is in control.  Buyers today are prospecting more than sales people.  How?  By scouring the internet and leveraging social channels to learn and make decisions.  In fact, if you’re the seller, you’ve become the passenger on this purchasing trip.  So make yourself comfortable, stay observant, and most of all have fun on the trip.

Your buyers know more about what they need than ever before.  There was a time (and it goes further and further back each day) when the buyer had to rely on a sales person to identify his problem and present a solution…the seller’s solution.  Not any more.  Have a runny nose and sore lower back?  A quick trip to the website WebMD can provide you with information on what may be going on with you.  You need to put in a new garbage disposal?  There are hundreds of how-to videos on YouTube that provide step-by-step instructions that take a job that previously required a plumber and turned it into a DIY project.

We have all become addicted to information.  In fact, more than 80% of 18 – 44 year olds say the first thing they do in the morning, immediately after opening their eyes, is to check their phones.  Information.  We want lots of it, all the time.

Buyers have this access to information and are using it more and more.  They Google, Facebook, YouTube, Tweet, and ask their LinkedIn groups for information, recommendations, and ideas.  If you’re a seller without a social selling strategy you’re already trailing the pack.  And if you think your product or service is too complex to promote via social channels think again.  General Electric has hundreds of videos on YouTube on MRI equipment, jet turbines, and lighting.  Toll Brothers, a national builder of custom homes, provides a website that allows someone to design and build their dream home and see it!  Buyers are not just using the internet to shop for shoes, sweaters, or books.

Having a social presence isn’t enough. You can’t set up a Facebook or LinkedIn page and check off the box and say its done.  You have to be active…engaged.  You have to create content, share content, weigh in on content others have shared.  This is where your buyers are looking for you.  Your paradigm must shift.  Buyers are now conducting a form of reverse prospecting.  They’re looking for you…you just don’t know it.  So if you’re a seller, and you’re not visible in the areas your buyers are looking for you, you simply won’t be found.

So get started.  Take it slow.  Don’t try to boil the ocean in a day.  A retweet here, a LinkedIn post there, a blog here, are all activities to get you on the road to being found by your buyer.

Culture is Much More Than a Free Lunch

Hoagie

Culture is a popular topic.  By itself, Google shows more than 1.6 billion results for the word culture.  Narrow your search to include the word “company” with culture and you’ll find 84M results.  Yes, culture is all the rage.  Read any corporate website, literature, or social posts and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.  Every company claims to have the best culture.  A culture of winning.  A culture that rewards performance.  A culture that resembles a family.  A culture that encourages innovation.  Are any of these really culture?

Companies that claim their culture is all about family might actually be telling the truth.  But whose family are they comparing their culture to?  The Brady Bunch?  The Partridge Family?  The Adaams Family?  The Simpsons? The Bundy’s?  You see, it’s important to understand what family the culture is most emulating.  A family culture in a vacuum may in fact not be the family you’re most comfortable with.

What about companies that say they have a culture of innovation?  Few companies operate like Apple where they publicly say they “inspire innovation” and actually deliver it.  Most use innovation as a platitude…sounds goods, makes an impression.  Yet innovation by itself isn’t what makes the culture innovative.  A deep level of curiousity that permeates the company coupled with the passion and desire to learn and fail is the culture.  Innovation is simply an output of a culture that inspires ideas, dreams, and invention.  A culture that is built upon a foundational trust between its employees and management is a company that will grow through reinvention because the trust exists to take risks, learn, fail, adjust and succeed.  There can’t be success without failure.

So why do so many companies promote their culture, and who cares?  Should you?

Forget about free lunches, ping-pong tables, fitness centers, and bring-your-dog-to-work programs.  That’s not culture.  Those items are simply perks, benefits, lures to help attract talent.  Dig deeper to understand the culture.  What’s the turnover rate – voluntary and involuntary?  How much training and development is provided annually to each employee – time and dollars spent?  How visible is the leadership team in the trenches?  Not how many lunches do the leaders provide, or how many town halls they give, but how often are they involved in the day-to-day running of the business and interacting with customers?

Culture is deep.  It’s how a company is wired and ultimately its employees.  Nothing is given for free.  The folks I’ve talked to who work for Google, Apple, or HubSpot love working there, yet when you ask them why you’ll never hear because of the great hoagies or the free teeth whitening.  No.  Instead you’ll hear things like “I love working with really smart people”, or “I thrive in a hyper-competitive organization”. Dig deep when exploring culture.  Don’t settle for what’s sold on the surface…the freebies…because in life there are no free lunches.

Be a Tour Guide Instead of a Sales Person

 

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In 2015 I took my first trip to Yellowstone National Park.  To be honest it wasn’t my first choice, but it was solidly in my dad’s bucket list and so we made it a “guys” trip.  Three generations of DeRosa’s (father, son, grandson) traveling to where the buffalo roam, to see exploding geysers, breath-taking views, and to take in the simple beauty of the land.

Of course, the sales and marketing geek inside of me looks for every opportunity to observe, study, and ponder how each experience plays into how people make buying decisions.  Yes, even at Yellowstone I was on the prowl for insights into how sales people can better connect with the buyers journey.  Our Yellowstone tour guide unknowingly provided a powerful example in navigating the changing scenery of the buyers journey.  But first a little context…

If you’re in Sales, or any position charged with hitting a revenue number, you’ve got to sell.  You need to find buyers, and you need to sell them.  Sell them as much as you can, as quickly as you can, to reach your number, celebrate briefly and move on to the next.  Right?

WRONG!

Buyers have become increasingly sophisticated whether buying a pair of shoes, or selecting a payroll provider, or choosing Tom Ford over Hugo Boss.  If you think selling hard, and selling fast is your best chance of success you may want to consider a different career.  Today’s buyer wants to be courted.  They want to feel special. They want to feel important.  They want to believe the option they have chosen is the best option for their need.  Notice I didn’t say the buyer wants to have confidence in the solution you sold them.  No.  They are not to be sold.  They are doing the buyer.  They want you to be their tour guide.

I watched as Kylie, our tour guide welcomed us to a small group tour setting out to see Yellowstone in all its majesty.  Her welcome was warm and genuine.  She was quick to point out the creature comforts we probably would need for this journey.  Blankets, water, soft drinks, snacks, distance between rest stops.  She had anticipated our questions and addressed them before they were asked.

As we started our journey from the Grand Teton’s into Yellowstone, Kylie provided a history of both parks in a way that only a master-storyteller could do.  Her story was highly engaging, edge of your seat, filled with suspense.  She educated us on the wildlife ecosystem and how everything was interconnected.  I’m embarrassed to say I probably learned everything I know about biology and the circle of life from this tour.  Up to this point in my life I hadn’t taken time to think about how life and nature were interconnected. She led us on this journey of enlightenment through her personal passion for the landscape and wildlife within these two parks. It was amazing. In fact, so much so, that we embarked on a second tour a couple of days later with a different focus, in a different part of the park.

I’ve often thought about my experience on this Yellowstone tour.  I’ve thought about how I was educated in a way that allowed me to fully grasp the concept of a wildlife ecosystem.  I think about how my interests in conservation have since grown as a direct result of this new knowledge.  I ponder the impact personal passion has on the transfer of knowledge.  I do believe that if Kylie simply read a script, or ran through the motions, I would have left Yellowstone feeling quite different…less connected.  Her passion created questions of my own.  Her stories have become remarkable memories for me, my father, and my son.

As a revenue leader it is important to have a true passion for what you do.  It’s not enough to be a VP of Sales.  Kylie could have been a tour operator for a double-decker bus in Manhattan, but it wouldn’t have served her passion.  You’ve got to have passion for what it is you’re selling.  What is the ultimate purpose for what you do, what your product does, what improvement it makes in the buyers life.  Too many people are occupying positions for a paycheck, not really believing in what it is they are selling.  We’ve all done it.  The problem is, your buyers can spot a scripted seller miles away and today they vote with their shoes by either walking toward you or walking away.

View yourself as your buyer’s tour guide.  Anticipate their questions and provide answers before they ask.  Make the journey as comfortable as possible.  Be warm, be kind, be generous with your time.  Study and learn…I mean really learn about what it is you’re selling.  If you can’t get excited or enthused about it find a new product to sell.  Your goal is to help your buyer through this journey at their pace, not yours. Be the best sales tour guide you can be.

Strive For Mastery, Not Perfection

obi-wan-kenobi

Recently I was having a conversation with a long-time mentor, coach, and friend.  I was sharing my thoughts on a new endeavor and happened to mention that I was “trying to perfect” the thing I was working on, before attempting to market it.  My mentor stopped me in my tracks and said, “Not perfect.  Don’t focus on perfect, you’ll never get there.  Focus on mastery.  You want to be a master.  No one is perfect, nor will anyone ever become perfect.  But you can become a master.”

While certainly a profound statement, it wasn’t the first time I had heard this.  In fact, I recently went back and re-read one of my favorite books by Seth Godin, Linchpin. For Seth fans, you’ll know that he strongly believes in creating remarkable experiences.  In Linchpin he talks about being an artist.  Making your work, art…and art by definition isn’t perfect.  Some of the most valued art in the world is not “perfect”, instead it was created by a master, and even loved for its flaws.

Mastery is an ongoing journey while perfection suggests you’ve arrived, you’ve made it, you’re done.  What lies after perfection?  What’s left to learn?  What’s left to develop? What’s left to explore?  What’s left to invent?  The world is a timeless collection of things and events that simply prove perfection isn’t possible.  Instead, the world is changing, evolving, reinventing every day, minute, and second.

So with that, I will begin reframe my perspective to focus on mastery rather than perfection.  By accepting mastery as my goal versus perfection, it empowers me to accept life’s fact that there’s always something new to learn and invent.  Will you join me on the journey to mastery?

3 Quick Ways to Know if Your Team is Sales Enabled

Detective

You’ve got a great product, competitive pricing, and best-in-class service. Your revenue numbers should be exploding and new recruits should be beating your door down for the chance to work with you. But none of that is happening. Revenue is flat, turnover is higher than average, and your sales team can’t seem to provide accurate forecasting that you can depend on. So what’s wrong?

For the moment we’re going to focus on your sales efforts and put Marketing to the side. You seem to have many positives in your direction but progress is alluding you and your team. Start by probing into these 3 areas of your Sales team:

  1. Education. Knowledge is only powerful if the owner knows how to apply it. What’s your philosophy on learning? Do you run your team through sales training and consider it a box checked off? How much self-educating and self-development is taking place? Are you encouraging your team to expand their horizons beyond what you’re providing them? What actions are you taking to facilitate or develop a learning culture? Without continuous education and learning your team is at a disadvantage.
  2. Resources. How well equipped are your sales people? The best warriors need weapons. A sharpshooter can’t perform without bullets, nor can a drummer play without sticks. Your sales people need tools. They need resources. Resources could include a killer website, an eBook, a webinar, or podcast. No matter what the product or service is that you’re providing, your team needs tools. It’s been reported that the average B2B buyer consumes 6 pieces of content before making their purchase. The days of a handshake and charismatic smile winning the deal are over. In the “age of the buyer” the demands are much greater for tangible value.
  3. Application. Simply having the knowledge along with great tools still isn’t enough. Direction on how to apply that knowledge and those tools is critical. This is where the true “enablement” piece of Sales Enablement happens. Navy Seals aren’t great just because they are educated on warfare tactics and have great weapons. Seals are awesome warriors because they are taught how to use their knowledge and resources available to win the fight. The same is true in Sales. Great content and an impressive presentation are meaningless if the sales person doesn’t know how to present them. Are you providing application training?

To create a winning Sales team requires great talent, an executable strategy, clear tactics, knowledge, tools, and application training. Pulling all these pieces together is called Sales Enablement. If you’re struggling to hit your number step back and ask yourself, “What am I doing to enable my team to win?” If you don’t have a clear answer to all 3 areas above start there and begin developing them.