What new hire salespeople want to know

In the blog post ‘Sales Enablement’ from September 22, 2009 the salestrainingdrivers.com author looks at what new hire sales people want to know:

“How do you enable the sales team?

Millions of Internet pages are dedicated to the subject of sales coaching and sales training. Have you conducted an Internet search for it lately?

With all that content available, it’s amazing that sales teams have any trouble hitting their performance goals. Have you ever thought about it from a salesperson’s shoes? Think about it: there are many different resources available for salespeople on how to close, how to manage time, how to ask questions, how to manage a territory, and how to stay motivated.

Yet, despite all this, the next evolution in selling is upon us, and it requires all salespeople to conduct a thorough review […]. If salespeople aren’t actively embracing this evolution, they will be passed by.

[…]

New hire salespeople want to know:

  • what are my expectations?
  • what are the goals?
  • what does success look like?
  • what is in it for me?
  • what do I need to do?

[…]”

I would add:

The author goes on to speak about…

“[…] each salesperson’s ability to fully customize their own selling system to the needs of the clients and their territory. Seasoned sales pros of today have a deep command of the basics, and they’ve come up with something that is uniquely their own over time. […]”

The first part reminds me of the extend to which this kind of knowledge is geography specific as well as specific for industry verticals and client needs. In a global enterprise Sales Enablement knowledge needs to be organized by all this concurrently. Does your organization have an information architecture that allows that?

The second part shows the reality of people having their own unique ways of doing things. Hence, gathering tribal knowledge / best practices from peers can only go so far… as Gerhard Gschwandtner points out in his blog post ‘Is Sales Enablement just Lipstick on a Knowledge Management Pig?’:

“I read, “Clone top performers.” Excuse me! Why not promise, “Clone your Swiss bank account”?”

Using the Buying Process to Provide Contextually Relevant Content

On December 14, 2009 Christian Maurer wrote the blog post ‘Using the Buying Process to Provide Contextually Relevant Content’:

“In his post “It is time to think about creating an enterprise context” Matthias Roebel clearly shows that the definition of a stable enterprise context makes information exchange and management more effective. Sharing information is only effective if the shared information can easily be found by others when needed. An enterprise context to me is thus a multidimensional information space, allowing relevant information to be found from various points of view tied to the day in a life scenario of a sales person.

For sales enablement systems, it is of particular importance that the customer view is considered when structuring this information space. As I explained in my last post on this blog (The Need to Understand the Context, B2B Sales People are Operating in) one of the key customer views to be included is the customer’s buying process.

This recommendation is based on the recognition that Buyer/Seller relationships are changing. By staying with the sales process as the structuring element, these important changes might be missed or discovered too late.

Scott Santucci from Forester research in a recent post confirmed this fact of changing relationships. He writes:

“Buyer/Seller relationships are stratifying right before our eyes into a new caste system of strategic, value-added vendors on the one end and undifferentiated, commodity-type suppliers on the other.”

He suggests a

“…new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcome”.

is needed.

In this post, I want to discuss how using steps in the customer’s buying process as one dimension to structure and access content is key to this new selling model.

What are the major steps in a customer’s buying process?

Activities to be carried out by the customers in the buying process might vary according to the size and type of organization. However the fundamental decisions to be made for advancing in the buying process remain the same. Structuring content according to what decision it actually supports, seems therefore a more robust concept. On a high level, there are 3 fundamental decision points:

The buyer:

  1. has to come to the insight that a status quo is no longer tolerable if the business should prosper and a more detailed investigation is needed.
  2. concludes that the ‘cost of the problem’ outweighs the ‘cost of solutions’ than can be bought
  3. decides to buy from the seller offering the best ‘perceived future in use value’ compared to the to be paid ‘cash value’

There are usually minor decision points in between these major milestones. But for the illustration of how to structure content along the customer’s buying process, the granularity of the 3 major milestones appears to be sufficient.

What contents will help the buyer to reach a decision?

Some people might see a deontological problem by the seller “pushing” the buyer over the first decision point. It is however legitimate for the seller to help the buyer already to come to the conclusion that the frustration with the status quo is no longer tolerable; provided it is done with the right mindset: Helping customers to get better outcomes for their business. What kind of content is then needed to help the customer in a non manipulative way to come to this conclusion?

Geoffrey James’ blog post “Neil Rackham: Sales is a Research Job” provides some guidance. In there, he cites Neil Rackham’s second rule for sales research being:

“Prospective customers do not value information about products; instead they value information about the industry and the customer’s competition, providing it is current and up-to-date”.

Standard “Corporate Literature” produced by the seller’s organization will thus hardly be what is needed to reach the first milestone in the customer’s buying process. Imagine yourself in the situation trying to assess the importance of a problem and you do not yet know whether you need a solution and if so, whether it could be bought somewhere. Now ask yourself how you would react to a salesperson rattling down a laundry list of features and if you are lucky maybe even a few benefits You would consider the seller’s pitch as being annoying because it is totally irrelevant to the decision you need to make.

Industry or analyst reports creating awareness about the problem the seller can address are a better suiting tactic. This also means that not all contents in Sales Enablement systems are produced by the seller’s organization. Making such reports available in a Sales Enablement system, linked to this early phase of the buying process, reduces the time sales people spend to research for such content and insures that the best suited content for that phase is used.

After reaching the first milestone, the co-creation of value between seller and buyer takes place. In this phase “educational” content, helping the customer to define the specific cost of the pain (e.g. if I do nothing, my sales continue to lag behind those of my strongest competitor by 1M$ per month) and showing how the seller’s solution can address the problem is to be provided (e.g. canned webinars, white papers etc.) The aim of this content is to help the customer to evaluate whether the cost of the pain outweighs the typical investment in a solution to solve the problem.

Considering this milestone is very relevant. Research shows that 20% of forecasted deals end up with ‘no decision’ (i.e. nothing at all is bought). I consider ignoring this second milestone as a root cause for this phenomenon.

This second milestone also allows for the distinction between value-added vendors and commodity type suppliers. The latter typically start their selling process only when the customer has reached the conclusion that solutions providing a positive return compared to the cost of the problem can be bought on the market.

To help the customer with the final selection of the seller with the highest impact on a business outcome, product literature sometimes helps, success stories and ROI calculations are other content to be used.

Conclusion

Using the customer’s buying process as an additional mean to structure the content to be provided within a Sales Enablement systems can be looked at as one of the “manageable projects” Scott Santucci suggests to address the strategic challenges of being successful in the “new caste system”.

References:

It is time to think about creating an enterprise context (Matthias Roebel)

The Need to Understand the Context, B2B Sales People are Operating in (Christian Maurer)

Its been a while why and what’s going on with sales enablement these days (Scott Santucci)

Neil Rackham: Sales is a Research Job (Geoffrey James)”

 

As a buyer, do you prefer a sales person who talks about your purchase in the context of your use case or one who assumes that the product is right for you just because of your physical proximity?

On December 21, 2009 Lee Levitt wrote the blog post ‘Open for Business or Hoping for Business?’ in which he basically makes the case for investments in Sales Enablement in 2010:

“[…] 2010 is promising to be a challenging year even as the economy slowly improves. Few analysts are expecting a return to robust growth anytime soon; those organizations that wait for calm waters and steady winds in this market will find themselves left on the beach.

The winners in 2010 will continue to hone their market definition, development and selling processes. Market leaders are:

  • Defining markets more narrowly
  • Prioritizing opportunities more systematically
  • Building deeper intelligence about individual organizations
  • Targeting marketing and sales assets more precisely
  • Analyzing the interim and final results more carefully


Measure What You Manage

The net effect of this work is two-fold. First, these organizations are finding higher ROI on their marketing and sales investments. While not all investments provide equal and high returns, the increased inspection of the process and results provides better and faster opportunities to modify and improve. Secondly, the organizations conducting this level of analysis and management are outdistancing their peers. Simply put, the right sales resource delivering the right sales conversation to the right prospect at the right time is vastly more compelling than a rep reading from a script or dragging a prospect through the corporate presentation.

As a buyer, which would you prefer – a sales person who talks about your purchase in the context of your use case or one who assumes that his or her product is right for you just because of your physical proximity?

We’ve all been there – we’ve been in both buying and selling situations in which everybody clicks and the process goes smoothly and quickly to the benefit of both parties. We’ve also suffered through situations in which it’s clear to almost everybody that the conversation is going nowhere.

Some marketing and sales executives have told me that they have chosen not to undertake this work because the underlying data is not available or that the process development and management appears difficult. They’re partially correct – the data is not easily available and the work is hard. This is what separates the leaders from everyone else. The leaders have chosen to take on this work and they are already enjoying the results.

Approximately a dozen technology companies have deeply invested in this work. Another couple of dozen are in some stage of investigation and implementation. These companies will be rewarded with higher top line revenue growth, profitability and customer satisfaction.

What Will be Different?

I’ll leave you with a challenge – what will you do to improve the efficacy of your marketing and sales activities in 2010? Do you still believe that what you did in 2008 and 2009 will work in 2010? What are you willing to do differently in 2010 to improve your results?”

See the full blog post and leave your comments here.

Job opening – Sr. Manager, Tech Development & Sales Enablement

Old! Outdated!

Title: Sr. Manager, Tech Development & Sales Enablement
Location: Basking Ridge, Nj
Company: Avaya
Posted: 2009-12-22
Category: Program/Project Management
Job Title: Sr. Manager, Tech Development & Sales Enablement
Business Group: Global Sales
Job Category: Sales and Marketing (Indiv. Contributors)
State/City (US): NJ – Basking Ridge
Country: United States

Job Description

A senior level expert that supports large engagements and knowledge transfer at the Area or Operation level. Provide technical expertise, leadership, opportunity development and business level consultation throughout the sales process for assigned opportunities. Assists and/or leads with identification and documentation of customer business needs and proposing company products and services to meet those needs and desired customer business outcomes. Identifies, assesses and technically leads opportunities in medium-to-large enterprises in assigned geographies or industry sectors. Role is distinguished from other technical sales roles by combining in-depth technical expertise with consultative, industry and/or commercial/financial selling skills and experience across a broad geography. Highly credible, articulate and adept at demonstrating how Avaya’s partners, products and professional services will solve customer’s unique business needs. Education: Typically requires BS/BA (EE/CS) or equivalent. Industry certifications: Possesses Avaya ACS & ACE and one or more advanced industry/vendor certifications. Having relevant credentials in Call Center management, application development or related areas is desirable. Experience: 10+ years related experience. Deep Avaya product experience or applicable experience in competitor’s Unified Communications or Contact Center offerings is required. Has experience with very large scale and complex communication system architectures, applications, customers, partners and implementations. Competitive product experience and multiple Vertical markets solutions planning, Implementation and Operational background is required. Experienced in selling and positioning of Avaya products and solutions in a high touch, large enterprise consultative selling environment required. Formal IT consulting experience is desirable.

Sales Enablement: Knowledge Management for Sales and Marketing to enable global collaboration

Sales Enablement: Knowledge Management for Sales and Marketing to enable global collaboration – for the International Conference on Knowledge Management (ICKM 2009)

“In this paper, several core team members of BizSphere line out the main challenge of information overload that the organization sees for enterprises in the 21st century. Applying the problem of the explosion of unstructured information and therefore decline of information relevance to Sales and Marketing, this paper describes the discipline of Sales Enablement. In the second part, BizSphere’s approach to Sales Enablement is further discussed with main stress on how to structure information using proper meta-information management (Information Space), keeping track of content production using inventory methods as well as enabling applications to generate documents for its users. For this conference most relevant, two components of BizSphere’s knowledge management concepts are discussed: managing contacts in the information space and connecting them with unified communication.”

Harsh words about Sales 2.0

The following quotes have not been written by myself. I found these different statements regarding Sales 2.0 in discussions on LinkedIn. I’m leaving out the names of the people who wrote them as I didn’t ask for their permission to put them on a blog.

The first one actually was in response to me saying that the emergence of what is called “Sales 2.0” (which puts the buyer in the driver’s seat) does not really help to fix the broken relationship between Marketing and Sales but maybe having both departments report to the same person would:

“I did not know what Sales 2.0 was so I read the below on some website:

Sales 2.0 brings together customer-focused methodologies and productivity-enhancing technologies that transform selling from an art to a science. Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI and superior performance.

OK, That does not address the relationship between sales and marketing.

As far as Sales 2.0 goes, I think I’ll stick to making friends, helping others, and providing as much value as possible. It’s simple and it WORKS.”

The following two quotes were responding to someone’s question what Sales 2.0 really is:

“Sales 2.0 is many things. It is a book written by people with big company experience who do not really understand the needs of medium size companies. It is the justification for marketers who like to say “Cold Calling is Dead” (because they don’t actually understand how it works or have never been provided with the right service). Finally, it is an umbrella under which otherwise rational marketing executives exist while they pacify senior management with apparently low-cost solutions that provide output that is far inferior to more appropriate, more expensive solutions.

Some years ago, and issue of ZD Market Intelligence contained the following quote: “Many tech marketing departments are mere arrays of disparate tasks and uncoordinated contractors. These firms ignore the basics, like positioning statements. Many of these groups deceive themselves because either they have won some award for a tiny part of the marketing mix, or, not thanks to their efforts, the company’s overall success in the market to which they sell is increasing.” Harsh words. True words.

The more things change the more things stay the same.”

Next person, same discussion:

“Sales 2.0 reflects the seachange of how today’s customer wants to be approached and sold to. Cold calling is totally dead. It is an utter waste of time. Research, social media cred, word of mouth, learning seminars, etc are way better use of mktg and sales dollar. Example… 4 months ago, I was cold calling businesses trying to get info, contact info, and then get past the screening. Hours and hours, days and days. I switched to specific strategies on LinkedIn and Facebook, and I made contact immediately — within hours, with total strangers. Sales 2.0 is becoming the de facto way to do business.”

Sales Enablement bloggers on Knowledge and Context

On December 1, 2009 Matthias Roebel from MING Labs wrote the following post entitled “It is time to think about creating an enterprise context”:

“Hang on a second! Could the following be happening? By implementing an enterprise social network a company is solving all its Sales Enablement Challenges? Well, I doubt it.

No question, it is extremely important for every company to leverage the social networking and interaction technologies available today. They actually might encourage employees to share knowledge and to connect with each other more easily. However, if a social networking strategy is implemented without addressing some fundamental content management and communications problems within the enterprise, it won’t be successful in the long run.

“Facebook doesn’t have your friends. It has facts about your friends. Google is at its best when it gives you links to links, not the information itself,” says Seth Godin in his recent blog post “Getting Meta“. Technology can just be an enabler, not the solution to existing fundamental problems – social software makes no exception here.

Why is that? Just imagine an international school, where students from all over the world are gathering. All of them are speaking different mother tongues – a lingua franca like English is missing however. Now offer to this crowd of students the possibility to network. What you’ll see happening is them networking within their language silos. Just like on Facebook or LinkedIn: Nobody is having friends he can’t communicate with – like in the real world.

Finding a common language

So, in order to make collaboration and knowledge exchange strategies sustainable and successful a common language within the enterprise needs to be established – a lingua franca, an enterprise context. If this is not happening, Sales and Marketing, Communications and Delivery will keep on misunderstanding each other causing a lot of inefficiencies for the company. And they will keep on producing more and more information without actually creating a knowledge base for the company – the social content additionally created by the masses, even would come on top of this information pile.

You may think: This sounds pretty philosophical and far from reality? Let me proof to you the opposite with two examples. The first example is related to the incredible number of different namings for the same type of document. Take a brochure: It may be called brochure or flyer or customer deliverable or, or, or… I’ve seen companies with 500+ different labels for in fact just over 70 types for content items.

The second example is related to the offerings of a company. Times are changing quickly and so are the names of products and solutions. It’s quite normal in an enterprise, that some people are still speaking about a product using its older name while others are using the new name or an abbreviation – such differences are another source for misunderstandings.

“Right now, there’s way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff. Sounds like an opportunity,” Seth Godin also states in “Getting Meta”. And exactly this opportunity enterprises need to explore, if they really want to become serious about a sustainable knowledge strategy for their Sales and Delivery, their Marketing and Communications departments. To overcome their existing challenges in the area of Sales Enablement they need to start creating information about information, in other words: meta data. Organizing this meta data in a controlled framework means setting up a commonly agreed on enterprise context, which describes the macro and the micro structures of the companies in a simple, but effective manner.

Once set up, the company’s knowledge base can grow steadily and even socially without causing additional information overload. Marketing can produce content right on target, and Sales reliably receives the information they need to lead valuable conversations with their customers.”

 

On November 22, 2009 Scott Santucci from blogs.forrester.com/tech_sales_enablement/ wrote the following in his post “It’s Been A While, Why — And What’s Going On With Sales Enablement These Days?”:

“[…] Too often people are focused on very tactical, short-term things to boost sales or improve skills, but a year later have very little to show for that effort. Why?

Enterprise selling is complex, and that complexity creates a paradox […] where making things simple for customers and sales requires you to confront the fact that you have a variety of people in your company who each carry different perspectives of who your customers are; and what needs to be done to solve them.

Declaring you need better sales people (or smarter sales people), or focusing on more activity (more leads, more calls); misses the point entirely.

Your customers have access to more information now […] than they have ever had before in the history of mankind. Preparing your sales people with more product knowledge is not suitable today as you are arming your field with the vary information customers can get themselves.

Buyer/seller relationships are stratifying right before our eyes into a new caste systems of strategic, value-added vendors on the one end; and undifferentiated, commodity-type suppliers on the other. Addressing this issue requires a fundamentally different way to go-to-market than we have had in the past and it means we’ve got to confront the mismatch in our business unit construct and product-centric view points with the new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcomes.

[…] you would be very surprised at the number of your competitors who are building strategic programs right now to address these exact issues. The trick is to first understand this is a holistic problem, and then break it down into a set of manageable projects where you can “fix the plane while it’s flying”.”

 

In response to Scott’s blog post Ken Knickerbocker wrote the following on December 1, 2009:

“Scott stated “you have a variety of people in your company who each carry different perspectives of who your customers are; and what needs to be done to [help] them.”

So true. In your presentation Scott you refer to this as blind men describing an elephant challenge. All the blind men see the elephant differently depending on which part of the animal they happen to be touching.

[…] I’ve begun calling it the Mexico Dilemma. How one defines Mexico is largely dependent on where in Mexico they’ve visited. […]

So it is within any sales system. To someone tasked with ramping new sales people, knowledge management is an essential element in helping new recruits find the material and best practices needed to make a c-level call or position the company’s wide portfolio of products and services in the first meeting with that executive. But the Chief Sales Officer, with a singular focus on closing deals and meeting quarterly objectives, objectives the CFO and Wall Street are counting on, may not place the same emphasis on knowledge management. Instead knowledge management becomes just another SG&A line item to that CSO, one that is easily paired back in tough economic times.”