Selling is hard, and it can often feel like your sales team is running against gale force winds. It’s no wonder sales reps use weather and sporting metaphors to describe the selling environment. For many sellers, it seems like the “perfect storm” of outcomes-focused buyers and low-cost competitors. Frontline managers sweat their forecasts all the way to the “finish line.” Successful sellers go down in history as “rainmakers.”
In this environment, sales reps have reached the upper limits of what they’re able to do to engage attention-challenged buyers.
In an effort to just get out ahead, companies have spent the better part of the last fifteen years automating the front office with new technologies – unleashing waves of new methodologies, processes, and investments in reporting and forecasting. Technology-savvy CMOs and CIOs have turned to front-office automation as their solution – their new rocket-fuel if you will. Low-tech vendors are criticized for running a ‘foot-race’ toward obsolescence.
Yet, several billions of dollars in enterprise IT spending later, we still can’t accurately measure the revenue power of a sales organization – the measure of their seller readiness and effectiveness. Management is pointing to dark clouds and the seemingly intractable problem of speeding sales.
So, what did everyone miss?
Companies, both purposefully and accidentally, have missed some useful and obvious truths. This short-sightedness also applies to sales consultants and training or learning tools vendors. All of whom have implemented or offered otherwise great technology for sales enablement. In order of importance, the truths of the revenue race are:
The race for revenue is not a sprint, but a marathon
No matter how long the race, the only winning outcome is a delighted customer. By preparing for a dash, companies have built sales management and organizations for the short distance instead of the long-term outcome – customer lifetime value. Readiness cannot happen with a one-time event such as a training course. Every process and tool for skills development should be designed and implemented with the longer term in mind.
Sales is a team sport
It’s best to think of the race for revenue as a bicycle road race, where the riders work in tandem to support the overall success of their team. To sell today, organizations find themselves needing to pull in and draft as necessary experts in different functions. These may be technical experts, solution sellers, customer success managers, customer marketing experts and in some cases even product managers. Then if that wasn’t enough, the selling team must also orchestrate their efforts to create the perfect symphony for the customer.
Environments are dynamic and ever-changing
Much like a marathon, the course, the countryside and indeed the weather are constantly changing. The rules are also contextual to those changes and therefore often elusive. For example, new competitors may emerge, customer and internal teams may re-organize, training philosophies and best practices may evolve or change. So how do you create an enduring enablement framework and programs that adapt no matter what is required at any given moment?
The lifetime of a seller, like the life of an athlete, has a beginning, an end and most importantly, a middle. Then you must consider various lifecycles are intersecting with other lifecycles – the buyer lifecycle, the company lifecycle, the manager’s lifecycle, and product lifecycles. Without a way to address the intersections of these life cycles, organizational strategy, front-line management, training and enablement efforts will typically fail.
Technology is not absolute
Technology should not target a single capability at a single point in time, but rather a set of capabilities used on a continuum, over time focused on higher order business outcomes. This then mandates that technology focuses on usable data and insight. That’s why emerging technologies like artificial intelligence or machine learning can be leveraged for interesting applications like sentiment analysis, but all of these need to be looked at in the context of continual sales readiness as a business initiative.
Looking at your customers’, partners’ and sellers’ needs now and what they might be in the future, and asking how and where your company should invest in their success will change how you approach sales readiness and enablement. Looking at sales readiness with a longer-term focus on building customer and partner-centric sales relationships is key to preparing your team to run the long marathon that is selling.