In the competitive world of sales, success isn’t stumbled upon—it’s crafted, honed, and perfected much like the journey of a top athlete in the realm of sports. This comparison might initially seem far-fetched to some, but upon closer examination, the parallels between excelling in sales and succeeding in top-level sports are strikingly clear. Both arenas require relentless practice, a dedicated coach to guide and refine techniques, and an unwavering commitment to improving performance despite the absence of immediate results. While we wrote before on sales as a team sport, this article focuses more on the individual. It explores the compelling reasons why sales can be compared to top sport and why understanding this analogy is crucial for those looking to excel in their sales careers.

The Importance of Practice

In top-level sports, the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” This mantra is equally applicable to sales. Just as athletes spend countless hours perfecting their skills, sales professionals must also dedicate themselves to mastering the art of selling. This involves not just understanding the product or service but also developing the ability to read the buying readiness of potential clients, navigate to next objectives, and help the customer to buy. Just like in sports, the practice in sales is continuous, aimed at refining and improving every aspect of the sales process. Having a customer agnostic sales process, that aligns with the buying readiness of the customer, gives you a big advantage creating clarity on what to practice.

The Role of a Coach

The Role of a Coach

Behind every successful athlete is a coach who has guided, mentored, and pushed them to achieve their best. Similarly, in sales, having a mentor or coach can significantly impact a sales professional’s growth and success. A good sales coach provides invaluable feedback, helping to identify areas for improvement and adjust strategies as necessary. They offer an outside perspective that can highlight blind spots and open up new avenues for development that the salesperson might not have considered. Unfortunately, very often, sales managers don’t take up the role as coach because they lack time, because they were never trained to coach or simply lack the capability. On top of that, they hardly get questions from their manager on the coaching results, but get daily or weekly questions on the numbers.

The Challenge of Immediate Results

As sales is percieved as a number game, sales people are biased towards immediate results. One of the biggest challenges both athletes and sales professionals face is exactly this expectation of immediate results. In sports, the impact of a new training regimen or technique might not be evident in the short term. Likewise, in sales, efforts to improve practices or implement new strategies do not always lead to instant success. This delay in seeing results can be discouraging, but it is a critical phase where the foundational elements for future success are laid down.

Traditional Training vs. Continuous Improvement

This expectation of instant gratification is where traditional sales training often falls short. Traditional methods may provide a foundational knowledge of sales techniques and processes, but they fail to account for the individual’s need for continuous improvement and adaptation. Just as athletes must constantly evolve to stay competitive, sales professionals must also continually refine their approach to stay ahead in a dynamic market. Implementing next practices and integrating feedback from a coach are crucial steps that move the needle towards achieving commercial excellence.


The challenge every Sales or HR leader faces when enhancing the effectiveness of their sales teams 

In the ever-changing landscape of sales and marketing, VPs of Sales and HR Directors are continuously seeking ways to enhance the effectiveness of their teams. The key to this lies not just in skill-building but in nurturing broader capabilities. It’s time to consider a shift towards a capability-based Sales Academy, an approach that promises to revolutionize how your sales team operates. 

Why are traditional skill based Sales Academies failing and What can you do about it? 

A critical limitation of traditional skill-based training is its narrow focus, often misaligned with the dynamic roles of sales professionals. In a capability-based Sales Academy, the focus extends to developing comprehensive capabilities that are vital in today’s market. These include discovering untapped potential for pipeline building, developing robust account strategies, and identifying accounts with the highest potential for up- and cross-selling. These are not mere skills; they are strategic capabilities that empower sales professionals to navigate complex market dynamics and drive sustainable growth. 

The traditional approach to sales training is often a short-lived boost in specific skills, that do not cater to the evolving nature of the sales environment. Market trends shift, customer preferences change, and products evolve – a scenario where only continuous learning and adaptability can ensure success. A capability-focused Sales Academy fosters this environment of continuous growth, ensuring your sales force remains agile, innovative, and ahead of the curve

Moreover, the transformation from a skill-based to a capability-based training paradigm requires active management engagement. This involves identifying growth areas, integrating real-world applications, and creating opportunities for teams to apply new capabilities in strategic planning and execution. Such involvement not only underscores the training process but also demonstrates a commitment to nurturing a high-potential sales force

Implementing a capability-based Sales Academy is more than just a shift in training methodology; it’s a strategic investment in your organization’s future. By focusing on capabilities like untapped pipeline potential discovery, account strategy development, and targeted up- and cross-selling, you’re equipping your sales team not just to meet targets but to exceed them innovatively and consistently. 

As we navigate a market that demands more agility and strategic foresight than ever before, the need for a capable and forward-thinking sales force is paramount. For VPs of Sales and HR Directors, championing a capability-based Sales Academy is not just an innovative step forward; it’s an essential strategy for staying competitive and driving long-term success. By investing in these broader capabilities, you’re paving the way for a more dynamic, proactive, and high-performing sales team. 

Does it still make sense to present the sales process as a linear multi-step progression? And if not, how can we organize sales to handle today’s complex reality? 

During the industrial revolution in the 19th century, industrialists tried to streamline and standardise factory production into linear processes as much as possible – thinking that this would help them to manage their activities, predict the outcome of each step in the production process, and so ensure a consistent level of quality.  

We still view the sales process today largely in the same linear way as the industrialists did back in the 19th century. We get a sales lead in, qualify it, have a discovery meeting, exert our influence in the offer phase, and do whatever it takes to close the deal.  

We often assess our salespeople’s productivity according to this linear logic: we count the number of appointments, offers and conversion rate for these offers, and then we try to optimize this process as much as possible. The leading salesperson in the organization is usually the benchmark in this assessment, with the lesser gods needing to mould themselves into their image.  

Increasing complexity  

Organizing sales according to this linear representation works to a certain extent – the complexity of the sales process can be manageable if you share exactly the same sales dynamic in all deals, and only have to deal with one type of stakeholder, with a similar order size each time…  

But the reality is completely different and much more complex for most salespeople:  

  • Most salespeople are responsible for different products and serve different vertical markets
  • The number of stakeholders who make or influence decisions is growing all the time. The most recent research speaks of 5 to 20 stakeholders, depending on the size and complexity of activities
  • The various decision-makers and influencers are rarely or never all in the same mental phase in the buying journey. Some of them will not yet see the benefits of your product, while others might have been wanting it for a long time already. Each stakeholder will have travelled part of the buying journey from the perspective of their own responsibilities, and considered the impact of your product on their department

This alone can result in overwhelming complexity already, which makes it difficult for individual salespeople to handle. Every element in this complicated matrix of products, industries, stakeholders and buying phases demands a different sales conversation. Also bear in mind that each salesperson is working on multiple deals at the same time. 

Linear internal processes  

The linear approach is unfortunately still the most common, and it’s often cemented in rigid processes and CRM systems. It’s a recipe for failure. A typical example is a salesperson having a conversation with a prospect who knows exactly what they want but does not have the authority to make a decision. A CRM often cannot handle this complexity.  

The classic picture of suspect – prospect – discovery – solution – object handling – closing has often been updated and aligned with a typical buying process for complex sales, but even here, salespeople are often forced into a linear framework of ‘required steps to follow’.

Even in complex sales, salespeople are often forced into a linear framework of necessary steps to follow

The typical marketing approach, where prospects go through a funnel from awareness to decision, may be useful for content marketing and digital customer journeys, but it is too simplistic to represent the complexity of the actual buying journey, and certainly not suitable for tracing buying readiness. Is someone who downloads your eBook interested in buying your product? Maybe. But just as often they do this out of personal interest. 

Adapting to the unique buying journey  

It’s clear that every buying journey is unique, and classic sales models cannot adequately capture this reality. Every decision-maker has taken their own path, and it’s difficult for a linear process to provide an answer to that. As a salesperson, you are constantly entering into the customer’s buying journey at different moments. Forcing an internal, linear process on the customer’s mental process is therefore useless. 

Marketing Funnel
As a salesperson, you are constantly breaking into the customer’s buying journey at different moments. This cannot be represented in a linear way

Take the example of a couple entering an electronics store to look for a new TV. The tech geek in the couple will likely be quickly convinced about the latest features on the new 8K HD device. The more price-conscious half of the couple may wonder whether a new purchase is even necessary. As a salesperson, you need to adapt to each buyer’s mental phase. You probably won’t be able to bluff the price-conscious half of the couple with features (decision). Nor will you have to point out to the tech geek the necessity for a new TV (awareness).  

What salespeople need today, to be able to handle complexity, is an adaptive model that allows them to be agile and adapt to every situation. The salesperson’s main task is therefore to detect the customer’s mental state and buying readiness. If they can do this, it’s important that they respond to that mental state by doing the right thing at the right time. Developing sales people is one of the main responsibilities for sales leaders. Making sure sales people can report on the real situations in every deal in a very pragmatic but structured way is needed to enable steering and coaching. A classic multi-step process greatly restricts this and makes business reviews too time consuming, with a lot of irrelevant storytelling, and without the expected outcome.

Companies invest a lot of money in developing content that supports sales, but often see no return on their investment. The reason for this is that the sales organization does not use the developed content, or isn’t using it enough. So what’s going on?  

The impact of content usage and, by extension, sales enablement has been demonstrated many times before. According to figures from Miller Heiman Group in 2019, organizations without sales enablement achieve average win rates of 42.5%, while organizations with sales enablement achieve an average win rate of 49.0%, a huge 15.3% increase. 

Sales content is not marketing content  

Content plays a crucial role in different phases of the buying cycle. It can accelerate the sales process and significantly reduce sales costs. But what exactly do we mean by sales content?  

Typical sales funnel

Content for: 

  • onboarding when launching new products or services
  • important announcements with regard to the sales strategy
  • preparing for customer contact moments
  • during the contact moment
  • follow-up after the contact moment
  • training and coaching salespeople

Apparently, it turns out that salespeople don’t find enough of this kind of content in the materials produced by marketing departments. The reason for this comes from the purpose that marketing content serves, i.e. to influence the market based on its own strengths, and to lead as many interested parties as possible through the famous marketing funnel, with little variation in the message – ‘one-to-many communication’ – as quickly as possible, from awareness to buying intent.  

Content that is developed for this purpose has some specific characteristics:  

  • the customer searches for and discovers the content under their own initiative (inbound marketing) 
  • the content reaches the customer online or via an automated process (outbound marketing)
  • the effectiveness of the content is measured using KPIs such as clicks, reading time or number of shares
  • the ultimate goal of the content is to generate Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)

From funnel to unique journey  

Many organizations still believe the MQL simply needs handing over to the salesperson who then just has an easy tap-in to score the goal. The customer has already passed through the entire marketing funnel, so all sales has to do is cash in on the marketing effort.  

But this belief is – of course – misguided. The idea that a customer will dutifully go through a content funnel, and immediately be willing to buy at the end of that journey, is not the case in practice. Content is consumed for various reasons in this marketing funnel, and there are sure to be interested parties for your product, but people also download your ebook out of curiosity, or scroll through your website, to ultimately discover it’s not what they’re looking for. So who says your MQL has the required budget, or can make a decision or even influence it?  

The marketing funnel in no way helps to predict the customer’s buying intent or willingness to buy. And it tells us little about which phase in the buying journey the customer finds themselves. The buying journey is therefore anything but linear, and it’s unique for each customer. When the salesperson starts working with an MQL, they always intervene at a different moment in the buying journey. And that requires specific content.

Sales content that works  

It’s impossible for the marketing content mentioned above to satisfy the non-linear need. After all, marketing content is fundamentally different from sales content. The latter needs to support a salesperson before, during and after sales conversations. The customer does not consume it directly; they access it through personal interaction with the salesperson.  

To increase the use of content in sales and so improve sales productivity, make sure your sales content has these characteristics:  

  • Snackable: short and powerful, simple to use and easy to understand
  • Accessible and quickly findable, so salespeople can spend more time selling and less time searching for content
  • Adapted to the customer’s mental stage in the buying journey
  • Interactive: inviting participation and interaction
  • Just in time: supportive for the salesperson in every phase – from preparing for the customer conversation, to interactions with the customer, and in the follow-up process
  • Focused on action: usable, helpful and encouraging action.  

Are you ready to get to work on your sales content strategy? Let us know!

In our conversations with CEOs and sales and marketing directors, we keep hearing the same comment – that fewer and fewer salespeople are meeting their targets. And further investigation has made the reason for this very clear: salespeople have insufficient knowledge of their customers and the market, and are lacking some of the specific competencies required in today’s marketplace. 

Various research has shown that revenue and sales quotas are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. For example, one study by Sales Insights Lab in 2021 demonstrated that only 24.3% of salespeople were managing to exceed their sales quota. So is there a problem with salespeople’s productivity?  

Much depends on how we present sales productivity, because the concept is very often seen as a combination of efficiency and effectiveness.  

Sales Productivity

And this presentation is a good reflection of traditional sales training, where the main aim is to clone top salespeople’s behaviour into the DNA for other salespeople. According to figures from the Association for Talent Development, the US alone spends $24 billion per year on this.  

But this approach has a disappointing outcome. Fewer and fewer salespeople are achieving their quotas, and fewer and fewer companies are achieving their revenue targets. So the main challenge is no longer effectiveness, but a lack of knowledge about the customer and an inability to link any available knowledge to products and services.  

What has changed? 

Almost everyone agrees that customers are much better informed nowadays. And one consequence of this is that customers prefer it when we are less active in trying to sell. They don’t want us to try to convince them, and instead like to make their own minds up. So traditional methods of talking about the company, products and services simply don’t work anymore because customers can find all the information they need on the internet. They used to accept the information we gave them and were happy with that because there was no alternative, but now they can find all the information they need about products and services without any help or intervention from salespeople. 

The fact that customers can now serve themselves with this information also has a significant downside, however. How do they deal with conflicting information and advice? How do they know what is correct or relevant?  

And this is where the opportunity now lies for customer-facing professionals: providing added value, offering useful content, and having meaningful conversations. These are now the most important reasons for customers wanting to engage in dialogue with a salesperson. They expect the salesperson to know their environment and responsibilities, and don’t want to have to bring them up to speed themselves. But they do expect the salesperson to engage in dialogue, share their experiences from other companies, and enhance the buyer’s perspective.  

What has not changed? 

All of this has led to a steep rise in content production over recent years because we want to ensure customers can inform themselves. Some suppliers and analysts even claim that content marketing is taking over from sales. Unfortunately, however, it’s not quite that simple.  

Customers may well be informing themselves more, but content marketing has not solved the problem of declining sales quotas and salespeople productivity. In B2B, digital interactions are just as necessary as personal interactions with sales – as a recent study by Forrester confirms (Sales Enablement: Planning Assumptions 2022, Forrester Research Inc., September 2021). Interactions with customers have only increased recently, e.g. from 16 to 17 between 2017 and 2019, and from 17 to 27 during the pandemic. Customers are seeking out information for themselves, but they still need answers. And this is where the salesperson comes in – because they are still seen as a partner here.

Furthermore: the type of interaction (digital versus personal with the salesperson) is independent of the phase in the buying process. It’s not the case that a salesperson is only forced to join in at the end of the buying cycle. So we need to make sure we interpret the almost mythical figure – that 57% of the buying cycle is completed before a salesperson is involved – from research firm CEB (now Gartner), correctly. As mentioned above, the customer is better informed these days. So their decision criteria have typically already become more influenced.  

A salesperson with the right knowledge can therefore engage in dialogue with the customer and avoid this pitfall. It’s all about having meaningful conversations. And it’s not relevant whether these conversations take place through personal interaction or indirect communications – as long as the buyer finds answers in every phase of the buying cycle. Again: content marketing is essential, just like sales. And one cannot do without the other in complex B2B environments. 

And what about training?  

Traditional sales training has become outdated, just like the focus on quotas based on efficiency and effectiveness. What we need today, more than ever before, is more focus on sharing knowledge and experiences (see graph). 

Our advice to sales managers is therefore to enable salespeople to share useful information with customers during sales conversations, and to introduce a common language in your training that encourages team selling and experience sharing. Customer-facing professionals want to be able to have meaningful conversations that are relevant to the context and the customer’s phase in the buying cycle. ‘Just in time’ is the key phrase here. We are therefore seeing increased benefits in training that teaches competencies which allow salespeople to introduce contextually relevant cases, from themselves or at least from their environment. 

Increasing sales productivity again 

Our analyses consistently show that salespeople who possess the right knowledge, skills and tools are more likely to meet their quotas. This clearly falls under the realm of sales enablement, a continuous process of giving your customer-facing employees the knowledge, skills and tools they need. 

Figures from Miller Heiman Group from 2019 support this claim (see graph below), and they show the impact of sales enablement in their 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study. Organizations without sales enablement achieve a win rate of 42.5%, 3.9% lower than the average (46.4%). Organizations with sales enablement achieve an average win rate of 49.0%, a huge 15.3% increase. 

Win Rates for Forecast Deals

Win Rates for Forecast Deals

Creating an environment like this in your organization can therefore significantly improve your sales results. But how do you do that? First and foremost, you need a company culture that encourages continuous learning and improvement. Additionally, it’s also best to make relevant content available in bite-sized pieces, easily accessible, and with clear instructions on when and with whom to use it.  

In other words, the solution lies in continuously sharing knowledge and experiences to improve the productivity of salespeople and the entire sales team.  

To find out more, get in touch with one of our experts who will be happy to provide you with specifically tailored and actionable input. Book your appointment today. 

Want to learn more? Download our eBook:

Who are the hunters and farmers in your sales team? Or do other characteristics determine the DNA of your salespeople? If you want to improve your team’s sales performance, you need to know their DNA. 

The classic way to look at salespeople is the dichotomy between hunters and farmers. In a nutshell, this is the difference between salespeople who acquire customers and who maintain customer relationships. 

Unfortunately, this dichotomy is a bit outdated, and no longer useful for maximizing your team’s sales potential. Further in this article, I explain why. But let me start by stating how we may look at this in a better way. 

Three important sales competencies  

Research has shown that every sales profile is, to a greater or lesser extent, a combination of three components or competencies. And one such competence is a mix of knowledge, skills, attitudes and convictions.  

These components are:  

  • Account Management: This competency focuses on supporting the customer in the best way. This translates into customer support and taking responsibility to resolve problems quickly and appropriately. Account Management also means coordinating and connecting the right people within the company and the customer. Everything is about service and maintaining existing relationships. 
  • Account Development: This competency includes actively seeking up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Important attributes here are proactivity and thinking with the customer to cover their needs with the available range of products and services as much as possible. Account Development requires that you can extend relationships to colleagues of your relations who may also benefit from a partnership. This allows you to sell other products and services and maximize the share of wallet. 
  • Business Development: The three main characteristics here are building new relationships, empathy for the customer’s business and influencing from trust. This competency is necessary to develop new opportunities within the same company, but also to activate and bring in new customers. 
Sales Profile by team example:
Sales profile by team

Healthy mix  

Every salesperson has a unique blend of the three competencies listed above. Some of the underlying skills can be learned, at least up to the point where the salesperson steps outside their comfort zone too far or when personal beliefs become too much of an obstacle in a business environment. In that respect, it is not strange to speak of the salesperson’s DNA. An obvious example is that you would teach someone who scores very high on account management and has virtually no business development competency skills, to market a new product or focus on new customer acquisition.  

Based on the unique mix of competencies, you can better distribute roles and responsibilities in your team. A balanced distribution ensures a consistent and positive customer experience across all touch points. 

For example, someone with strong account management competencies and little affinity for business development will function best in a commercial support function. Customer Success and inside sales are two typical job titles for such a profile. Someone with strong business development competencies and little affinity for account management will thrive on bringing in new customers, and preferably non-recurring customers. 

Why the hunter – farmer model is no longer adequate 

The dichotomy between hunters and farmers may have been useful as a shortcut, but today’s more complex sales practice requires a much more nuanced view. Today we see sales profiles more as a unique blend of three competencies that every salesperson possesses to a greater or lesser degree. 

Today’s reality brings forth new challenges: 

  • The Internet and social media often lead to better informed customers, but just as often to misinformed customers.  
  • The number of people involved in B2B decisions has increased to an average of 6.8 people and can be as high as 20.  
  • Products and services have become more comprehensive and complex. 
  • Market volatility has never been greater. 
  • The speed of change and evolution continues to increase. 

The best way to deal with this new complexity is to organize sales as a team sport. Make sure all competencies are present in the right dosage so you can offer your customers a consistently positive experience throughout the entire customer journey. 

Better performance based on your team DNA   

The distribution of the three sales profiles across your team is what we call your team DNA. That DNA will have an impact on: 

  • How and who you are hiring, and which competencies you need to reinforce  
  • Which roles you assign to the different people in your team  
  • Which skills and knowledge areas need to be developed  
  • How you compose your customer portfolios. For example, you want to avoid having pure acquisition customers in the same portfolio as retention customers. 
  • How you manage and coach each team member in line with what they like to do and what they want to improve in quickly.

Do you want to maximize the performance and mental fitness of your sales team? Then, first and foremost, you need a certain balance in the available profiles adapted to your goals. An efficient, flexible and balanced team with the right DNA consists of motivated employees who each individually do the right things at the right time, together with the right stakeholders, both internally and with the customer. 

Discover your team DNA  

Do you want to map the DNA of your sales team and use this to improve their performance? You can. At Perpetos, we use a sophisticated audit that we can also link to sales performance. 

For example, in this audit we examine: 

  • The preferences and spontaneous reactions of team members when handling a range of customer situations  
  • Time spent on each type of sales activity
  • Time lost on activities that should not be the responsibility of a sales person 
  • What energizes your sales reps and keeps them mentally fit 
  • To what extent they are satisfied with support from other departments 
  • In some cases, to what extent compensation is perceived as “fair” and in line with expected performance 

We call this our Account Development Audit™. The audit is most effective for companies that derive a significant portion of their revenue from recurring customers and sales. For companies that sell investment goods for example, we have a different audit that is more suited to that typical environment. 

An audit of your sales team is an important step towards making better use of the people available to realize your goals.

Do you want to know more about the possible impact of a DNA analysis of your team?

The war for talent is raging. On top of that, B2B buying behavior is changing dramatically. Commercial teams have a hard time finding answers to these ongoing challenges. The changing environment has a serious impact on sales functions, responsibilities and competencies. What your sales team needs now is new skills. Even more than that, it needs a program that enables your team to continuously develop and hone its competencies, through an effective learning method. At Perpetos, we call this your Sales Academy.  

We can think of at least five reasons why your team needs its own Sales Academy: 

  1. Consistent training: A Sales Academy will provide your team with consistent commercial training, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. This will help to deliver a consistent and positive customer experience in all the touch points with your organization. In turn, this will lead to improved sales effectiveness and better results. 
  1. Customized training: By developing your own Sales Academy, you can customize learning according to the specific needs and performance priorities of your company. This requires a company-specific integration between individual competence gaps, business performance gaps, team interactions, effective messaging that engages customers, and new ways of working. This can include messaging about specific products and services, that are most effective and translated into your sales teams’ reality. 
  1. Increased sales: Sales is not that different from athletics. Training and mental fitness are key for a top performance. By providing your commercial team with the tools they need to succeed, you can improve their ability to close deals, improve customer loyalty and maximize revenue for your business. 
  1. Improved customer experience: Well-trained people in today’s reality understand how people buy and are also better equipped to do their job. By understanding the different phases of the customer journey and knowing how to adjust messaging accordingly, your sales team will be able to influence buyers more successfully and build stronger relationships. 
  1. Increased employee retention: Providing continuous learning opportunities will help to improve employee satisfaction and retention. But just as important is a commercial academy to groom sales talent and facilitate internal job mobility, from a technical role into sales and moving on to key account management. All this requires is a well thought out training strategy with competencies linked to learning modules, which allow people to grow in their career and be guided with Just In Time learning.  

Signing up for a Sales Academy in your B2B organization means that you are serious about installing a culture of continuous improvement, and that you want to stimulate peer-to-peer learning.

People uplift each other when they are challenged. They acquire new competencies and are being reminded about the things they know but no longer apply. After all, the hardest thing to achieve is closing the gap between knowing and doing. 

The digital landscape has profoundly changed the buyer journey. Today, customers go online to find answers. But does this mean that the salesperson is no longer necessary? Not at all. The magic word here is relevance. In addition, sales reps need to find the right balance between digital and personal touch points throughout the customer journey. 

We’ve all read it before. According to one study, customers have already completed 57% of their customer journey before the first appointment with a salesperson. According to another study, even 70% of that customer journey has already been completed. No wonder it’s so hard to get an appointment, you might think. 

Relevant touch points

And yet, many of those so-called studies on the customer journey draw the wrong conclusion. Not surprisingly so, if you look at who publishes or sponsors the research. Very often they are providers of marketing automation solutions who would love to have all those salespeople replaced by their content marketing platform. If only it were that simple.  

What those studies do expose are symptoms of another phenomenon, namely that customers no longer accept being bombarded with irrelevant company presentations or product pitches. What customers do expect however, are relevant touch points tailored to the buying phase the customer is in. This applies to both digital and physical interactions. 

An earlier study by SiriusDecisions, now part of Forrester, proves this statement. Their figures show that prospects are willing to interact with salespeople at any stage of the customer journey, regardless of the complexity of the product. The prerequisite is that the salesperson can detect the right buying stage and align the conversation accordingly. 

Providing value

This obviously requires a different approach. Now, the focus is increasingly shifting from push to pull communication. In other words, sales reps will need to put less effort into arguing and persuading, but focus more on dialogue and bringing new insights.  

In addition, as a sales professional, you are expected to know your customer’s background. Asking about your customer’s challenges is therefore pointless. After all, the customer doesn’t have time to train salespeople on the challenges of their job and their industry.   

A relevant contact does not necessarily imply knowing the customer’s exact priorities. What is important here is to deliver a message that is recognizable to the customer’s industry. That is enough to start a dialogue. Once your client feels that there is value in it for him, those priorities will come forward naturally.

Tools that help you stay in touch  

Based on dialogue, the customer and salesperson can decide together whether a follow-up action or further contact is needed. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical appointment. As a salesperson, you can also keep the relationship warm by offering valuable, relevant content. That’s why a good collaboration with the marketing team is recommended. They can offer you the tools you need to keep the contact with the customer going.  

Some examples where the marketing team can help you: 

    • Background information and descriptions that help you empathize with the different roles and markets where you want to build and maintain relationships 
    • Clear value propositions that demonstrate the link between customer challenges and aspirations and the products and services you offer  
    • Relevant content, such as case studies, ebooks or research results, which allows you to communicate digitally in a relevant way in between your face-to-face contacts with customers  
    • A digital preference center, where you can link content to customer profiles and topics, and which is customizable by the customer  
    • A CRM where you can easily start linking relevant content to a contact that has not been added to the system 

    Don’t believe the hype  

    No appointment? No panic. There are ways other than physical contact to keep the relationship with the customer warm. Despite what many ominous studies tell you, the salesperson remains relevant, and at every stage of the buying cycle. So, don’t believe the hype. Do try to stay relevant and engage with the customer. With the right marketing tools, that task will become much easier. Good luck!

    Many of today’s interactions take place via automated, CRM or CX management tools, which often don’t tap into the full customer potential. There’s still immense value to be had from our ‘human touchpoints’ – our moments of personal contact, which are often the only way to clearly see if your offer matches customer expectations. But it goes further than this. These moments can actively influence the customer vision and develop new potential. Customer-centric conversations are also the topic of one of our ongoing client programs, in which we’re teaching these techniques to 30 teams throughout EMEA. Over the space of three months, we’re preparing our client’s in-house and external sales teams for these challenges.  

    Human interaction is still incredibly valuable for assessing your customer’s potential and influencing their decisions – something we sometimes forget in today’s hectic world with so much focus on data. Conversations with your customer are the ideal opportunity to find out whether they can clearly see the benefits of your solution and how they will help their organization. After all, what you think you can give doesn’t always match up to what the customer is trying to buy.  

    Buyer alignment + sales effectiveness  

    Exposing this value to the customer at the right time and influencing their potential are critical for continued growth. So ask yourself whether the customer can see the value you bring, and if you can use it to accelerate their sales cycle – the intersection between buyer alignment (where your sales process aligns with the buyer journey) and sales effectiveness. Successfully combining these two aspects creates real value.  

    Value selling  

    It’s also the exact combination that we’re working on in our upskilling process for 30 teams, where value selling is still a critical component. And that’s why we – together with our client – are developing this further on a new messaging framework, and helping to convert this value and messaging in the workplace. Ready to use and available for their teams. 

    In the beginning of February, we launched a successful kick-off event for an EMEA program deployment with 30 teams. Our aim: to bring the customer to the heart of the organization.

    During the event, we worked with the customer to get up to speed with proactive selling. 6 Perpetos people on stage, a high-energy event, and an exceptionally motivated audience. We’re grateful for having realized another success.

    Implementation & results

    Since COVID, Perpetos has proven to be a global boutique for implementing commercial excellence. Yet, we are humble and grateful for being able to co-pilot critical programs for international and global organizations. Our boutique size, our proven methodology, and our team of field experts formed the winning combination of this event.

    Implementation is key in everything we do. Supported by tools and technology, we implement change at a speed that allows our participants to pick up the message fast and make it their second nature. On top of that, we value authenticity, and respect cultural differences, while still ensuring our one way of selling.

    Pascal Persyn, CEO of Perpetos comments:

    We always want to bridge the gap between our advisory position – providing knowledge – and the practicalities of implementation. In other words: we want to see results too.

    Motivation is key

    According to Pascal Persyn, the willingness to change and the motivation to overcome the inevitable hurdles are critical.

    The question is not whether we can prevent these hurdles, but whether we are ready to deal with them when they occur. That’s one of the reasons why experience in the field is a must.

    Stay tuned for more!

    All together, we experienced a vibrant kick-off event and we are ready to meet more teams all over EMEA. No doubt, sales and implementing commercial excellence are team sports. 

    In our next blog post, we will go more in depth on how we brought 30 teams up to speed with the art of proactive selling.

    Today, investing in learning and development is a must. But does it actually pay off? Far too often, training is just a box-ticking exercise and knowledge is quickly forgotten. So, how do you build an effective learning journey, one that embeds knowledge into your organization, and that drives a change in behavior and mindset?

    2 rules of thumb before you start

    When we map out an effective learning journey, we always consider the following rules of thumb:

    1. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve: up to 90% of new tools and concepts get forgotten after a workshop or training.
    2. The 70-20-10 rule, or the balance between the different modes of learning:
      • 70% = on-the-job learning
      • 20% = social learning by working together, coaching and mentoring
      • 10% = learning from courses and workshops

    3 stages in a learning journey

    1. Train

    Trainings and workshops are only one stage of the learning journey. For optimal effect, we work with various techniques in this stage, such as breakout sessions, self-paced learning and role-playing. These techniques make knowledge more digestible.

    2. Transfer

    In the next stage, we apply that knowledge to the workplace. Again, we deploy a mix of techniques and formats, such as working with assignments or incorporating learning nuggets.

    3. Sustain

    The most important thing, of course, is that learning not only leads to one-time knowledge accumulation, but also to long-term impact. Through coaching or peer-learning, for example, you not only embed knowledge, but you can also achieve a change in behavior and mindset.

    From our experience in designing learning journeys that really pay off, we’d like to offer some tips & tricks:

    360° Buyer Alignment - Building Trust

    Article 360° Buyer Alignment

    Selling through building trust

    How can you create and build trust, aligned to each step in the buying cycles of those involved?

    The name of the game: provide relevant and value-adding messaging in every customer contact moment.

    It almost sounds like a slogan but today, even more than before, it is the challenge for sales people.

    How do you create trust during brief, and especially during digital, contact moments?

    Building trust

    You can approach trust from many angles. Trust that you deliver what you promise, trust in your competences, or in you as a person or the team, …

    This quickly brings us to the personal connection one makes during (customer) interactions. Why do certain people manage to gain trust faster than others? Or why do you make a personal connection with certain people more easily or more quickly?

    There are various models that provide a framework for gaining insights into someone’s (preferred) behavior and for adapting your behavior and communication to the people you are in contact with (Insights, Social Styles, MBTI, DISC,…). Maximizing trust in today’s market means combining authenticity with the right message at the right time, to accelerate the effect of a good personal connection.

    Over the past decades, neuroscience has explored how to map the parts of the brain that play a role in decision making, which parts light up when different emotions are felt and what connections can be made with trust. It is a fascinating and still evolving scientific discipline.

    One thing we know for sure is that the salesperson who works primarily on the relational aspect is coming under increasing pressure. Time pressure, conflicting priorities and more choice are creating a dynamic where the purely relational is no longer enough to ‘spend time with a salesperson’.

    Sales people who can detect the willingness to buy of the various stakeholders during the buying cycle can add the right relevance and are able to build trust more quickly. They ask themselves questions such as:

    • How do I create trust among all those involved, taking into account the diversity of roles, expectations, personalities, buying cycle phases, etc.?
    • How do I align my interactions, tailor my sales messages and bring value so that stakeholders recognize me as the first person to contact for genuine and relevant answers to their questions.

    Building trust with each stakeholder in a buying cycle is only possible if you can add the right relevance and adapt this to the different personalities and the willingness to buy.

    Reading Tip
    Stephen M.R. Covey’s book “The speed of Trust” is a great book to deepen your understanding of how to build trust quickly.

    Buyer alignment – buyer center coverage

    In the previous sections, we talked about building trust through personal connection and relevance, tailored to the people involved. One of the challenges that every sales person experiences, regardless of whether you work in project-based sales or more recurring sales, is broadening your network with your customers.

    A lot of opportunities are lost or stagnate because of lack of contact with and insight into all the parties involved who influence the decision. Because people now inform themselves more and more via digital means, a large part of the influencing of decisions happens outside the reach of the sales person. This is a major risk if the sales person continues to sell via a ‘sponsor’ instead of managing and developing as many relationships as possible in parallel.

    Let’s take a side step:

    LinkedIn published an article at the end of October 2021: “The Great Reshuffle is Making Selling Hard. Here’s How to Best Adjust.”

    The article indicates that we are in the midst of the “Great Reshuffle” of talent. Globally, job rotations have increased by 28% in the last three months. Corporate director-level job turnover – i.e. the mass of B2B buyers – has risen by 31% globally over the last three months.

    No wonder a recent survey found that 80% of salespeople have delayed or lost a deal because of a change in function within an account. It is difficult to sell to a moving target.

    The blog also rightly highlights the positive side of function or job changes of buyers: this can also be your entry point into a new customer if you had built up a good relationship with the buyer in question.

    When a new buyer comes in, LinkedIn states that the salesperson must align the solution with the customers’ strategic initiatives and demonstrate its value.

    The following paragraphs from the blog reinforce this:

    If you are doing this well, then you can be an asset to a new executive sponsor and help them get up to speed on the critical initiatives your solution supports.

    In this environment, the gap between strategic partners and expendable vendors is growing. The difference is value delivered at the right level and time.

    It also means giving them the tools and training to be effective in virtual selling. After all, nothing builds morale quicker than success. And the right tools and training play a big part in that.

    The LinkedIn article nicely illustrates how job rotation can have a huge impact on the buying process both within sales teams and with buyers. In addition, the blog points to the importance of broadening relationships within a customer to accommodate this and why you can be successful when the right value is delivered at the right time.