About Pascal Persyn

Pascal supports organisations in delivering commercial excellence in the areas of Sales Enablement, Content Strategy and Buyer Journey Enablement. His pet projects are about helping companies overcome challenges due to the empowered customer and thus evolving into buyer-aligned organisations. His executive experience in private, VC-backed and public companies enables doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Don’t hesitate to contact Pascal for expert advice: pascal@perpetos.com


BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Time) has been used by salespeople to qualify opportunities for several decades. I still come across it to this day, even as part of the lead management process between sales and marketing. But the tool is no longer as relevant as it once was, especially for complex buying processes. Now, why is that? And is there an alternative that works today?

Budget

We know that buyers use the internet to find information. This means they only tend to involve salespeople later in the process. By that time, they’ll have already formed a clear opinion, and are just seeking confirmation before actually making a buying decision. But there’s a lot of information available, and much of it can be conflicting. The role of the salesperson has therefore shifted to influencing the customer in a way that validates their information.

This requires commercial insights into the customer situation. Business acumen will help the salesperson find solutions for possibly latent requirements, for which the budget (Bant) mostly isn’t known or allocated yet. In short: taking budget allocation into account means your salespeople are joining the buying process too late. And that results in a lower hit rate and tighter margins.

Authority

Validation based on the authority (bAnt) to make a decision was intended to ‘not waste any time’. It would help sales to not sell to people who couldn’t make a purchase. Unfortunately, most B2B decisions aren’t taken by one person these days. Buying decisions have evolved into being a consensus which also takes users’ opinions into account. I can give examples of customer situations where there are more than ten people in a meeting. Each one can veto a decision, but also not be prepared to advocate a supplier until a consensus is reached.

Need

Focusing on people who already have a problem (the need in baNt) sounds logical. Like a great way to increase a salesperson’s productivity. But the reality is quite different. Research shows that up to 60% of opportunities ultimately disappear without the customer buying anything or changing supplier. We see this on a daily basis with our customers. And it was also the outcome of a survey we took together with Vlerick Business School.

Salespeople need to increase the customer’s willingness to change more now than ever. They need to convince the buyer to change, rather than convincing them to choose us. Because a customer isn’t open to hearing this message if they’re not planning to change. This is why traditional prospection methods are becoming less effective. The message and how it’s conveyed no longer correspond with the customer’s expectation.

Time

In light of the above, qualification based on when the decision is made (the time in banT) has become irrelevant. These days it comes down to marketing and sales doing the right thing at the right time with the right message, to facilitate the customer’s buying process. So the question’s no longer about when the customer’s going to make a decision, but about how willing they are to change. Sales needs to combine the answer to this question with the potential, to decide when to engage with what message. It’s also their task to keep marketing informed. Because marketing can help influence the customer with digital interactions, increasing the probability of a sale for the lowest possible cost.

Conclusion: from BANT to JIT

BANT doesn’t work anymore.
The concept of just-in-time has been around for quite a while in logistics. And now we also need to become just-in-time salespeople. By qualifying the potential and the role of contacts, sales can do the right thing at the right time with the right message.

Thanks to the digital revolution, marketing also has a major role to play. Depending on the size, complexity and importance of our products and services in the perception of the customer, we need to find the right balance between digital marketing touchpoints and sales interactions.

Look at the solution in our eBook

Download our eBook to find out what process your salespeople need to follow to keep improving results.


In his blogpost on sales productivity and competency, The Value Shift CEO Dave Fitzgerald, discusses the most important reasons for the ongoing decline of quota attainment. In analysing results with our prospects and customers, we find overwhelming evidence that lack of knowledge and experience are the challenges to overcome.

Let’s have a look at the numbers first. CSO’s yearly study on quota attainment shows a growing problem. The number of companies achieving their revenue plans has decreased.

productivity01

The number of salespeople making quota is even worse and has declined to 58.1%, according to Jim Dickie at CSO Insights.

For over 25 years people have been looking at sales productivity as the combination of efficiency and effectiveness of their activities. This has been reiterated in a Miller Heiman blogpost from 2014.

 

productivity02

Although that definition of the productivity challenge might have been useful to create awareness in the sales community, it has not had the impact of actually improving results. For far too long the discussion has been dominated by sales training and methodology companies linking this challenge to a need for more training and for cloning the practices of top performers. This has spurred an annual spend of $24 billion in sales training, in the US alone, according to ASTD.

Let’s bury the past and analyse the current situation to come up with strategies that actually work in today’s competitive selling environment. Almost everybody agrees that customers are more informed and no longer accept being sold to.

So what has changed?

Sales has been able to cover up their lack of customer knowledge by explaining the features and benefits of their offering preferably supported by demos. The customer settled for that way of interaction with sales as they had no alternative. Yet in today’s market, people are able to educate themselves on these subjects without the support of a sales rep. This has led to revealing the ‘real’ problems confronted by sales teams.

The ability to add value in the sales conversation is the most important factor as proven by CSO Insights research, with 82% of senior executives indicating that content was a significant driver to their buying decision.

This has led to an increase of content production in the recent years and some vendors and analysts claiming that content marketing is taking over from sales.

Yet the 2015 B2B buyers study by SiriusDecisions proves that this has not solved the problem and is based on a misconception. The study reveals that there is an almost 50-50 divide between “digital” and sales interactions. These numbers are almost independent of the buying cycle complexity and the stage in the buying cycle as shown in figure 3. This kills a second misconception – a sales person is forced by the buyer to be involved only at the end of the buying cycle. So let’s stop using the CEB number indicating that 57% of the buying cycle is already done before salespeople are involved. The name of the game is meaningful conversations. Whether the conversation occurs via human interaction or non-human engagement, it’s valid as long as it’s relevant to the answers a buyer is looking for throughout the buying cycle.

productivityCDoes that mean that investing in sales content and training are no longer effective?  On the contrary both are more important than ever as it is more difficult to train sales people on business knowledge and industry expertise than it is to train them on product related knowledge. This calls for additional conversational selling skills as well.

What is all of this telling us as to how to overcome the sales productivity challenge?

Sales leaders need to initiate strategies to increase the salesperson’s ability to add value to the buyer/seller conversation. This is proven by the low rates sales teams are experiencing converting leads to decisions. In fact 60% of opportunities lead to a ‘no decision’ according to another study by CSO insights.

Investing in “efficiency” technologies and processes to have more conversations, albeit the same “bad/poor” conversations that are producing low conversion rates today, isn’t going to increase your productivity as much as investing in strategies focused on “effectiveness”.

productivity04Here’s an updated graph from Dave Fitzgerald’s post reflecting today’s B2B competitive selling environment:
Results – can be number of wins, revenue sold, quota attainment, (your choice)
Competency – the ability to do something well
Experience – skill or knowledge that you get by doing something
Knowledge – information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience

Time to implement a solution that works

Our analysis shows over and over that sales with more experience are by far the majority of top quota carriers. They have had the time to learn and improve their competence. So the solution has to have an impact on the ramp up time as well as the length of their tenure. During that time we need to improve knowledge sharing combined with a culture of continuous improvement. This will create the shortest time to experience, adaptive to changes in the marketplace.

In other words the solution needs to create a continuous stream of knowledge and experience sharing to improve the productivity of the entire team. So ask yourself the following 5 questions:

  • Is my sales process enabling sales management to coach people on doing the right thing at the right time?
  • Do we have content that is adapted to each phase of the buying cycle AND adapted to the different people (Buyer Persona) involved?
  • Are you re- packaging marketing content for conversational use by the sales team?
  • What is management actively doing to create a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous improvement?
  • Is our sales training continuous, snackable and integrating skills, attitude and company specific messaging?

 

productivityEThe figures, also based on a CSO insights study, are both aspirational and motivating to boost initiatives based on the 5 aforementioned questions. Talk to one of our experts and get custom and actionable input.


Commercial excellence is knowing your customers so well that you fully understand them as well as their surroundings. This allows your company to anticipate their needs and expectations via sales and marketing communication by telling the right thing at the right time and showing them the impact and value of what you have to offer.

Promoting your company or merely listening and asking questions no longer suffices to achieve commercial success. Buyers increasingly expect the right information at the right time. A number of elements are important in this regard.

Really know your customer

This includes aligning your activities to your customer’s expectations. Any contact with your company, personal or online, needs to contain the right message aligned to their willingness to buy. You can accelerate the sales process considerably by meeting their expectations with every contact.

In terms of results

It’s not about what your service or product can do, but about its value to your customer. How does it impact their organisation, what specific results can they expect?

Highest market price

A customer-oriented organisation strives for the highest market price for its products and services, but at the lowest cost from the customer’s perspective. This has a positive impact on your cost of sales and enables you to get results twice as fast.

How can you achieve this? You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your product developers and officers have a good understanding of the importance of your products and services to the customer?
  • Do they know how the customer will work differently and what improvements will be accomplished?
  • Are all persons involved aware of how your strengths will contribute to a better result?
  • Can you say whether your products or services will give a better result than those of your competitors?
  • Do your customers recognise the link between your strengths and their accomplishments?

Becoming a customer-oriented organisation

Not every industry has noticed crucial changes in customer behaviour yet. Determine to what extent your customer target groups are already part of the experience economy. To what extent do they also use the Internet and social media to inform themselves? If this is the case, follow these four steps to achieve a more customer-oriented approach:

  • Ensure that your market is segmented on the basis of equal needs and reasons for purchase so that your sales messages can be used on a wider scale and are at the same time aligned in detail to each segment’s unique character. Take into account the possibly progressive character when doing so.
  • Map the obstacles preventing your employees from embracing new ways of working as well as possible motivating factors to change work patterns.
  • What current processes and KPIs obstruct a more customer-oriented approach?
  • Develop and implement a change project taking into account all of the aboveTake special care to implement the required changes on a human scale and to clearly communicate the benefits for each person involved so as to stimulate willingness to change.

Watch video: Filip Goos, Managing Director at Cheops, explains how they implemented Commercial Excellence (in Dutch)

 


The age of the customer demands a different approach

The combination of technological changes in the internet, mobility and social media has changed the way customers buy. Knowing your customers better than they know themselves and engaging with them in a buyer-aligned way is the only sustainable competitive advantage moving forward.

Research by Forrester shows that 74% of executive buyers, once they commit to making a change, will go with the company that’s able to help create the buying vision. Industries already heavily impacted by this change have come to the conclusion that sales has changed from a push to a pull strategy. Sales now has to facilitate the buying process based on the strengths of its offering and the impact it will deliver for the customer. So a lot of companies are re-evaluating their current sales and marketing approach. And it’s no surprise that they tend to have some common questions:

  • Is my current sales process adapted to the age of the customer?
  • All vendors tell me their sales method is aligned to the buyer journey. How do I know if this is true? How do I choose the right one?

Critically important questions

Answer the questions correctly and you’ll be able to deliver the results shown in a recent study by the Sales Management Association. They found a 28% higher growth rate for companies using a buyer journey-based sales methodology, along with lower sales costs and improved margins.

But get the answers wrong and you’ll have the opposite:

  • Worse relationships with prospects and customers. You’ll even alienate them.
  • Less power. No influence over the customer buying proces
  • Lower hit rate, higher sales costs, fewer leads, less revenue, decreased margins

Below you’ll find the three most critical evaluation criteria when selecting a sales process/methodology.

1. Pseudo buyer alignment versus real buyer alignment

You can typically recognise companies offering a Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Process by the following:

      • They translate the buyer process into a sales process. So first they analyse a customer buying process and then superimpose a second process that has the corresponding sales process steps to take for every step of the buying process. They claim that because the steps of the sales process are aligned with the steps of the buying process, they have a buyer-aligned sales process.
      • It is a linear process that is identical for all opportunities.

This is not only wrong, but so theoretical and complex that the sales force find it impossible to implement with a high adoption rate. Consider a simple analogy: in the spring we plant seeds to align our farming activities with the season. But planting seeds does not mean that therefore it’s spring. You have to monitor the seasons and align the farming activities accordingly. You don’t monitor the farming activities and then deduce that the season is aligned.

When salespeople follow a Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Sales Process they make the same fatal assumption. They assume that since they executed this step of the buyer-aligned sales process, the customer will now move to the next stage of the buying process. Can you see how this is completely wrong? Their reference points are the steps of the buyer-aligned sales process, instead of those of the customer buying process.

The second problem with this approach is that the Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Sales Process is a sequential set of steps:

      • You take a step
      • Finish it
      • Check box
      • Done
      • Next step

In contrast, the buying process is neither linear nor sequential. It is a dynamic and iterative process, which means that the customer goes back and forth within each stage of the buying process. So even if your sales process includes customer milestone checkpoints when passing from one stage to the next, it still doesn’t work in reality. Because the customer may say one thing one day and then something else another day. How many times have you had a meeting where the customer was enthusiastic about something you said but then changed their mind at the next meeting. Why? It’s very simple. Customers do not live in isolated worlds. After your meeting they talk to peers, they go on the internet, they talk to colleagues. This influences or even completely changes their opinion.

Recent research by SiriusDecisions shows that 71% of customer decision criteria and their buyer journey are influenced by online information. Sales reps need to be able to see how their customer has evolved since the last meeting. Contrast this with a salesperson who follows the pseudo buyer-aligned linear sales process: “I did step A of the process, so now I need to do step B?” But who says so? Who says that because your step is executed that the customer also evolved? And if so, who says the customer didn’t change their mind or wasn’t influenced by others since your last contact? Your sales force needs to be focused on the customer buying process and adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Therefore, implementing the sales steps in your CRM won’t help, even if they are aligned with a generic buying process. Your salespeople will focus on those sales steps and lose track of the buying process. What you need to do is to implement the buying process stages and tools to continuously monitor buying readiness.

Check: ask your vendor to show and explain their sales process and a screenshot of a CRM implementation.
If you see sales stages and/or a linear process, you know you have a Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Process. 

2. Company buyer journey versus individual buying readiness

As we learned in the previous point, it is critical to detect the buying stages and align activities accordingly. Not the other way around. That being said, there is another dimension to this that makes this even more critical. Each member of the decision making unit (DMU) is going through the buyer journey at their own pace, dynamically and iteratively. Each person is influenced in many ways and could potentially be involved in another stage of the buying process.

Misalignment of the sales activity with individual buying readiness will result in a longer sales cycle and a lower win probability. So there’s no need to explain why you need to install a process that enables you to monitor individual buying readiness and/or alignment of the DMU. Implementing a company buyer journey doesn’t help because it doesn’t exist. Every company has a unique buyer journey, with stages that include:

      • Definition of requirements
      • Evaluation of vendors
      • Short list of vendors
      • Negotiation with short list

As you can see, these stages are very high level and company-based. They don’t allow you to monitor individual buying readiness, which means your sales force won’t be able to individually align and influence DMU members. We have seen many initiatives from top management stall because people lower down in the organisation were not aligned in their buying readiness. Identifying these individual misalignments and having the right sales and marketing activity to resolve these friction points is key to winning deals.

Check: does your sales methodology spontaneously talk about the importance of individual alignment? Ask to see the sales process.
If it has general buying stages you won’t be able to focus your sales on aligning DMU members.

3. Is your sales process multicultural?

There is a big difference between European companies and US-based companies. Most sales methodologies developed in the US fail in implementation in European and global companies. The US has a ‘hero culture’, where the CEO, VP Sales and people delivering results are considered heroes. This has a totally different impact on the way sales reacts to or views top-down implementations and rule-based ways of working. In Europe, the fact that top management says something can actually have the opposite effect on salespeople.

Here’s a simple test to define the culture: count how many salespeople are using individual spreadsheets – a feature of the hero culture. The methodologies of US-based companies are developed using this hero paradigm. So in all the intricacies of the method you buy, you will find all kinds of resistance to adopting it from your sales force.

Check: is your methodology based on multicultural diversity?
If not, be prepared for resistance.

These three requirements are crucial if you want to implement a process that will truly align your sales with the new buyer and be adopted and used by the team.


As long as too many salespeople continue to make the following three mistakes, your sales costs will be too high. A higher conversion rate and a higher margin on your deals can be achieved by avoiding the following errors:

1. Incomplete needs analysis

Unfortunately, this is a classic mistake: questions are limited to what is required for drawing up an offer. This results in conversations that do not offer any added value, neither for the customer nor for the potential supplier. The customer gets an offer based on a rather superficial diagnosis, but not necessarily a good solution to his/her problem.

A number of additional questions help to better map the context:

  • Who else is involved?
  • By when should you be able to use the solution? (this is a customer-oriented version of the question “when will you decide?”)
  • What do you wish to achieve?
  • What is the ideal solution for you?
  • To what extent do your colleagues share this view?
  • How will you make sure that the best decision is made?

2. Making too many price offers too soon

The seller continues to push the customer. The seller had not made sufficient inquiries into the context and then explained what the ideal solution would be from his/her own perspective; now the time has come to try to prove these claims through an offer. Whether or not the customer has already made up his/her mind does not seem to matter.

When the offer has been sent, there are three possibilities. Everything turns out all right and the deal is settled shortly afterwards. A less positive outcome is also possible: you lose control of the customer because he/she no longer has any reason to keep in touch once everything has been written down. Now your competitors can further influence your prospect.

Or you end up in a situation where you keep on making new versions of offers. This is not good for the sales costs and causes the customer to doubt. The seller thinks the customer has changed his/her mind once again. The customer, in turn, thinks the seller falls short because he/she always has to propose changes.

These deals are easily identifiable by the following two situations:

  • The decision date is delayed once or several times
  • Several offers are made for the same opportunity. This can also be measured quite easily

3. Not providing the customer with what he/she really needs

Imagine yourself going to the doctor, who immediately gives you a prescription because you’re the tenth patient that day who has come to see him with a runny nose. This makes a diagnosis superfluous, or does it? You wouldn’t accept this from a doctor, but many salespeople still behave like all-knowing oracles. They concentrate on what they want to sell to the customer and only hear what they want to hear.

This creates an area of tension between the seller and the customer which usually results in the seller continuing to talk, trying to convince the customer and discussing technical details. But does the customer feel understood? In this context, it is crucial to imagine yourself in the customer’s situation. In other words, are you prepared to put yourself in the customer’s place?

This can be avoided by really listening to the customer, interacting with them, trying to fully understand their context, taking the appropriate sales actions in the purchase phase, talking to the right people from the customer, giving advice and ensuring follow-up of customers who are not yet ready to buy by the marketing or inside sales department.


We received this e-mail from Michael Hebda, Director of Marketing North America at MEGA International. Perpetos trained Mega’s Sales teams globally. We implemented a Buyer-Aligned sales process that enables Sales reps to align their approach with the customer’s buying cycle. We like to thank Mike greatly for his willingness to have us share an example of the impact of this change.

Pascal,

I wanted to share a quick story with you. David was on the phone with a prospect the other day and the gentleman was pressuring David for a demo.

The prospect pushed further by telling David that he already had demos scheduled with two of our competitors, and wanted to see MEGA’s as well. David engaged the gentleman in a conversation about expectations, executive support, etc., and determined the prospect was between 6 and 8 o’clock on the buying clock.

When David summarized the scenario for the prospect by saying that we first wanted to get an understanding of the CIO’s goals, discuss specific pains, short- and long-term goals, etc., the gentleman had an epiphany …
He told David “You’re right. Moving forward at this stage, with none of the necessary information in place, would be a waste of time. I’m going to cancel the other two demos and re-approach this initiative correctly.”

I thought it was worth sharing that David used Buyer-Aligned Selling methods to establish himself as a trusted advisor, and did it so well that the prospect canceled competitor demos.

Talk soon,  MEGA new logo
Mike

 

Are you looking for a new Sales Processes?
Are you looking for a new Sales process to find a (new) way to reduce your cost of sales, stop margin erosion or better align your approach with the customer’s buying cycle? Or maybe you’re simply no longer happy with your process in place?

Choosing the wrong Sales process can have some unwanted consequences and a high impact on team performance.

  • So which selection criteria are important?
  • And how can you be sure that the selected process will be just right for your business?

At Perpetos, we have been implementing sales processes for many years. This first-hand experience has helped us establish a hands-on checklist of seven characteristics of a sales process guaranteed to work. We typically see the success rate of Sales people increase by at least 22% at our customers. Download your Ebook to learn more


Every day we’re being confronted with increasing sales costs and margins under greater and greater pressure. In this blog, we explain why this is happening and look at the solution in detail.

Increasing sales costs and greater pressure on margins are usually the result of inadequate or non-existent internal sales training and supervision. There are also a few die-hard habits that many companies and sales reps cling on to which can cause even bigger problems for sales performance.

Directors will already be familiar with the changed buying behaviour and understand the impact it has on their sales and marketing organisation. The fact that up to 75% of decision-making criteria are influenced online means it’s important for us to allow sales to start a dialogue with customers at different times and with different messages.

If sales is forced to wait until customers are ‘ready-to-buy’ or in the quotation stage before they spring into action, it’s impossible to sell customer value, so:

  • Margins continue to fall
  • Products and services are experienced as commodities

This habit comes from:

  • Managers being mainly interested in the time frame that deals are agreed in
  • Sales who think it’s a waste of time to enter into a buying process early, and prefer to wait for ready-to-buy leads from marketing
  • Sales who are willing to start the buying process early and influence the customer, but don’t have the necessary skills and messages to appeal to customers in this early stage

The solution: do the right thing at the right time with the right person
Management behaviour and how to direct sales teams is crucial here, although that’s a separate topic just in itself. But how can we arm sales to face these new challenges?

  • Train sales to detect and facilitate the entire buying process
  • Implement a sales process that allows your team to document opportunities based on the customer’s willingness to buy (buying process) – and embed this in the CRM
  • Document messages for each product-market combination, and teach sales to use these messages at the right time in their comfort zone using ‘how to sell’ training with role plays

The buying process in figure 1 shows the complete customer journey. Whether it’s for existing or new customers determines how sales deals with it.

For existing customers, sales mainly need to convey ‘why customers need to stay’ – combined with behaviour that we label as ‘account development’ rather than ‘account management’. With existing relationships, detailed knowledge of the customer and their environment provides a great opportunity for increasing the value perception, and so embedding the relationship more deeply.

For non-customers, the first question is: ‘Has the customer already decided to change?’ Has the customer not decided to change yet? Then it’s best to base your messages and interactions on breaking the status quo, and so increasing the willingness to change. Customers aren’t usually aware of what improvements are possible. Or the customer thinks the risks that come with the change look too big. Or they’re not familiar enough with exactly what’s required.

These ‘why change’ messages assume the customer’s point of view and are the best way of developing prospects. And this is where the biggest challenge is identified in terms of sales performance. Various studies and analyses of our customers show that up to 60% of opportunities simply disappear from the forecast without any decision being made by the customer. The biggest competitor isn’t another supplier, but the customers themselves simply not deciding to buy anything. So messages about how good your company and its solutions are, or the extra benefits that you can offer, won’t help stimulate the buying process.

Has the customer already decided to buy? Then the next question is of course: who should I buy what from, and how much for? Sales responds to this with messages that underline why the customer should choose them. These ‘why us’ messages are most effective at this point in time. Most companies and a large proportion of sales reps score quite to very highly in this area.

Figure 2 shows when these three types of messages are most effective from a sales perspective

In summary, we therefore need to enable sales to convey three different types of messages convincingly according to the situation and depending on the product-market combination:

  • Why change
  • Why choose us
  • Why stay with us

How much do your sales convey these three sets of messages? And to what extent can they discuss them with the customer at the right time? You can compare your sales performance and customer orientation with best in class companies in the Sales Performance Benchmark


When it comes to training, businesses generally prefer to leave it to HR. And the same goes for training evaluation. So there’s a good opportunity here for HR to increase its impact on business operations. This typically takes place in the form of evaluations to determine training requirements, and then evaluating if the training is achieving its intended goal with employees performing better.

Pitfalls of conventional evaluation after training
Unfortunately, this latter form of evaluation is all too rare. Many HR professionals are happy to evaluate the training itself, usually by measuring participant satisfaction. But while trainer and content do of course still need to be evaluated by participants, this isn’t the most important thing.

Real evaluation can only take place weeks and sometimes even months later: Have the salespeople permanently changed the way they work? Can they put newly-acquired competencies into practice? Are they performing better?

Get more from your training budget: measuring ROI
Not measuring the impact on business puts training budgets under pressure. Businesses rightly need to question the usefulness of training, especially when salespeople are taken out of the field and so have less time to actually make deals. But the benefit of training is sometimes limited to briefly boosting employee motivation, which then ebbs away again just as quickly. The impact of training isn’t just the responsibility of HR and the training course itself, however.

Turning training into a continuous learning process – integrated in the work environment – enables your people to learn skills and behaviour that they benefit from permanently. A number of familiar but insufficiently-used techniques for this include:

  • The 70-20-10 rule, where only 10% of time invested is for training, with 20% specifically linked to coaching that accompanies the training, and 70% for support in the workplace;
  • Allow direct managers to follow the training too, so they’re also familiar with all the content and can provide better coaching. Depending on the training content and corporate culture, they can either join the employee session or organise a separate one;
  • Snackable learning – not to be confused with e-learning. This involves short, interactive sessions (nuggets) that are made available to salespeople via their smartphone or tablet, and can help reinforce and embed the training content, while always being available as a refresher when specific situations arise. Think of it as an interactive ‘How do I …?’ YouTube clip;
  • Convert customer expectations and business objectives into specific behaviour and competencies that can form the basis for working out personal development plans.

The above enables you to put continuous improvement in corporate culture, and business, on the right track. Actively supporting direct managers in the 90% non-training time means HR can help influence the impact. You can then implement any necessary changes depending on the progress made and any obstacles encountered. Research by CSO Insights shows that continuous learning can increase sales performance by 50%.

Customer expectations are changing at an accelerated rate as a result of digitisation. Customers today are better informed than ever before, so they don’t need salespeople to come and inform them about their company or products.

You will find a checklist of the top 10 essential attitudes and skills that today’s better-informed customers expect from your salespeople here


The Empowered Buyer has unleashed a range of new productivity challenges. Sales cycles have become longer and more complex than ever before. This becomes painfully clear in the declining number of sales reps still making quota: only an alarming 57,1% according to CSO Insights. One of the major productivity challenges we see, is complexity in the sales conversation.

Now let’s have a closer look at conversation complexity. Imagine you are a multi-product B2B company and John, one of your sales guys:

  • is selling into FMCG and pharmaceuticals
  • needs insights into each vertical; think of typical challenges, objections and competitive arena’s
  • in each of the verticals, he will be talking to 3 or more profiles, all having different reasons to buy
  • John has to guide each profile through different buying phases, each phase requiring typical answers and types of information
  • and last but not least: he needs to fit all the above with the right products from his portfolio

_________________________

Bottom line: John has a couple of thousands of conversations to manage!

Many companies really do expect their sales teams to familiarise with such inhuman amounts of information. And besides knowledge, don’t forget that reps need the capability to inject just the right content into the conversation at the right time, to the right person.

Now raise digital hands: can we agree that this is a mission impossible? Nobody can learn to handle this type of complexity. Sales reps are no robots switching seamlessly from one situation to the next every hour of the day. It is time we look for alternatives to support sales.

Overcoming the sales learning curve

So what can we do to get John and his colleagues back on track, and stop the year over year quota erosion? Here are 5 problem area’s:

1. 70 % of marketing content remains unused by sales
At the same time, sales reps spend 30 hours per month looking for or creating relevant content, while spending only 22% of their time actively selling. This demands first of all for a system to measure which materials are (not) being used by sales, and when. From there, marketing collateral needs to be aligned with sales conversations

2. Even Messi never stops training. So why would sales?
Traditional training is typically done in bursts of a couple of days a year. Whereas research by the Institute of America shows that 58% of training contents are forgotten within 30 minutes. Another 33% is lost after 48 hours. And by the time that theory has been put into practice, typically 3 weeks later, learning retention has been reduced to 15%. So why not shift to continuous learning by adding content training to their mobile in small nuggets, focused on individual needs? We call this ‘snackable’ learning

3. Over 80% of buyers say vendors don’t understand their issues
Closely related to the previous point, sales training and support collateral are mostly still focused on company solutions and product benefits. Buyers today are hyper connected and empowered via online and social collaboration. They don’t need your sales to explain products and services. But what they do want, is a trusted partner and advisor to help solve critical business issues

4. Most management practices have their own set of ground rules
Most management practices – like engineering or accounting – have their own set of ground rules. Imagine the drama if we took balance sheets away from financial reporting! Yet, sales management doesn’t have any ground rules or common management practice to fall back on. Instead, we are reinventing the wheel. And in many cases, we don’t even have a sales management practice behind

5. The competitive, individual (non collaborative) culture we see in most sales teams
Sales meeting agendas are still driven by business updates and reviews. Let sales become a team sport and turn sales meetings into experience sharing events. Ask marketing to join in and keep sales support materials aligned and up-to-date. You will cultivate an experience sharing culture

It would take us too far in this blog post to draw out answers for all the above. But we have done so in a webinar together with Vlerick Business School. It will take you through the 5 components to support an effective team – in less than an hour! Boost the conversation, and the sales results:

 

 


In HR, it is your role to make sure your sales reps show the capabilities to meet customers’ expectations. But buyer needs are changing all the time, and today’s digitised customers are better informed than ever before. What Sales people traditionally learn in trainings, as well as the capabilities that got them on board years ago, might not be up to standard.

How can you be sure that Sales have what it takes and stay up-to-speed?  

Here is a checklist of the top 10 crucial attitudes and capabilities your Sales need to meet the empowered customer’s expectations

 

 

 

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