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. And we also find overwhelming evidence at our prospects and customers, that a lack of knowledge and experience are major challenges to overcome.

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

productivity01

And the number of salespeople making quota is even worse. It 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.

 

productivity02That definition of the sales productivity challenge might be useful to create awareness in the sales community. But it does not actually improve results. For far too long sales training and methodology companies have dominated the discussion. They tend to link this challenge to a need for more training and for cloning the practices of top performers. Resulting in 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. And come up with strategies that actually work in today’s competitive selling environment. Today, almost everybody agrees that customers are better 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. Customers settled for that way of interaction with sales because they had no alternative. Yet, in today’s market, people are able to educate themselves without the help of a sales rep.

This has revealed the ‘real’ problem of sales teams: the ability to add value in the sales conversation. According to research by CSO Insights, 82% of senior executives indicated that content is a significant driver to their buying decision. As a result, content production increased dramatically in the recent years. And some vendors and analysts are claiming that content marketing is taking over from sales.

What hasn’t changed?

Yet, the 2015 B2B buyers study by SiriusDecisions proves that content marketing hasn’t solved the problem of decreasing quota attainment. And besides that, they reveal 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. So let’s make absolutely clear here, that content marketing is important but doesn’t replace sales.

productivityCIn addition, we need to kill a second misconception, that the buyer is forcing sales reps to enter only at the end of his buying cycle.

Moreover, let’s stop using the CEB number indicating that 57% of the buying cycle is already done before salespeople are involved. What we need are meaningful conversations. No matter if the conversation occurs via human interaction or non-human engagement. And as long as buyers find the answers they are looking for throughout their buying cycle.

Does this mean that investment in sales content and training is no longer effective? On the contrary, both are more important than ever. 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 a sales rep’ ability to add value to the buyer/seller conversation. The low rates that sales teams experience converting leads to decisions clearly prove this. 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, isn’t going to increase sales productivity. Not as long as we don’t work on the quality of those conversations. Better first invest in strategies focused on “effectiveness” to increase conversion. Once that is in place, we can still focus on efficiency.

 

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 more experienced sales 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 impact the ramp up time as well as the length of their tenure. And 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, if we want to improve the productivity of the entire team, the solution needs to create a continuous stream of knowledge and experience sharing. 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 adapted to each phase of the buying cycle AND to the different people (Buyer Persona) involved?
  • Are we 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, 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 means you know your customers so well, that you fully understand them as well as their context. This allows your company to anticipate their needs and expectations. And via sales and marketing to communicate the right thing at the right time, and to show the impact and value of what you have to offer.

To achieve commercial success, it no longer suffices to promote your company. Nor to merely listen and ask questions. Buyers increasingly expect the right information at the right time. And a number of elements are important in this regard.

Commercial Excellence: really know your customer

We need to align activities to the customer’s expectations. Any contact with your company, personal or online, needs to contain the right message aligned to the customer’s readiness 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 the 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. Commercial excellence 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 understand the importance of your products and services to the customer?
  • Do they know how the customer will work differently? And what improvements he will accomplish?
  • 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 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 to buy. 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
  • Map the obstacles preventing your employees from embracing new ways of working. Also map 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 above. Take special care to implement the required changes on a human scale. And 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)

 


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


Solution Selling is very common jargon used in sales organisations. Companies that have introduced this method have gained a competitive advantage as a result of the way in which sales people help customers with their purchases.

This is how you sell solutions:
– Discuss client needs using open questions, creating a vision and a solution together with the client. This gives the seller the greatest possible impact on what the client will ultimately buy.
– The packaging of products and services in such a way that a total solution is created to satisfy client needs. The classic example is Apple with iPod and iTunes in contrast to a normal MP3 player.

Trend reversal: more power for the client

The internet and social media have brought about an important shift in the way people are informed and how they make their purchase decisions. But in the last couple of years we have seen a trend reversal which has undermined the impact of Solution Selling. Now the client has the power. It’s no longer the sales process that counts; the purchasing process (buyer journey) now has the upper hand. Welcome to the Age of the Customer. Client interaction and sales discussions have to be different now to achieve good results.

Not just information, but conversation

You can still achieve a sustainable and competitive advantage in this new era – the Age of the Customer. But now your client knowledge forms the basis for the development of new products and services to satisfy the increased needs of better informed clients. Your marketing and sales don’t provide information so much anymore; instead they provide conversation to improve your client relationships with more engagement. A better experience and the proven impact of your solution will result in a higher margin and lower sales cost.

 

Difference between Solution Selling and Buyer-Aligned Selling

 

SOLUTION SELLINGBUYER-ALIGNED SELLING
What is the starting point?
As a consultant, make it possible to discuss requirements and guide the client in their thought process until the specific solution is bought.Ability to question client beliefs and provide support by completing the picture.
Which process is required?
Your entire sales organisation using a proven sales process. All your activities and measurement systems must chart and improve its effectiveness and application.A dynamic buying process based on customer experience. Enable employees to adapt to the buyer’s phase of purchasing at any moment. Internal processes and measurement systems are designed to match the buying phase.
What’s important?
Ask the right questions to discuss the challenges that can be resolved by the solution you are offering. The strengths must be explicit and demonstrable from the structure of the approach.Empathy with the client situation and use of language specific for the role and sector. This demonstrates an attitude which shows that helping the client is your highest priority.
What knowledge is crucial?
Knowing the relationship between the client’s challenge and the strengths of your products and services.Broad understanding of the client situation: environment, challenges and requirements.
What skills are crucial?
Prospecting, questioning techniques, listening skills, diagnosis and persuasiveness.Social selling, client focus, relationship-building, ability for concrete visualisation of your offer’s value and impact.
What is the relationship between sales and marketing?
Marketing supports sales, and the two are aligned. Marketing ensures that both the client and the seller are informed. Marketing generates leads for sales.Both are integrated and fully designed to match the client’s buying process. As well as generating leads for sales, marketing is also responsible for the conversation with the client and increasing engagement with the client target audience.