If we think back ten years, the iPhone hadn’t been launched, Barack Obama was still a young state senator and the global financial crisis was just around the corner. The world is certainly a different place today.
The world of selling has become a very different place in that time too. Economic uncertainty in the years that have followed the economic crisis has caused buyers across both the commercial and public sectors to cut back their spending and scrutinise purchases in far greater detail. At the same time, technological advancements have brought new global competition to most markets and provided buyers with much more information than ever before. This has had the effect of giving more power to the buyer at every stage of the sales cycle.
But perhaps the greatest change in the sales landscape over the past ten years has been the shift in buyer decision making. Purchase decisions have become exponentially polarised between:
- Low-value commodity purchases that are made by procurement teams and are based on which supplier is offering the best price and terms for the buyer (and typically the lowest margins for selling organisations);
- High-value strategic investment and supplier partnership decisions that are made at the CxO level and are based on external drivers for change and the added value that a supplier can offer (but often involving investment cases and complex sales campaigns for selling organisations).
Selling at a higher level
In this tough selling environment, to sell solutions at a good margin, the sales function needs be at the top of it game. It needs to proactively sell ‘change’ at the senior decision-making level and, hence, it needs to equip its people with the tools and techniques to hold insightful, thought-leading and compelling discussions that actively shape and disrupt the buyer’s thinking at the level where budgets can be created.
For many sales organisations, a systematic shift in the skill-sets, attitudes, behaviours and focus of the sales function is now required to achieve success in developing business and selling at sustainable high margins. Yet, despite the seismic changes in the skills needed for success, most sales training and sales development initiatives are stuck in the past and in desperate need of an overhaul.
At one end of the spectrum, a lot of sales training is “off the shelf” with set ‘methodologies’ for specific disciplines such as ‘deal capture’, ‘key account development’ or for ‘leading a sales meeting’. Although these methodologies can individually add value to the selling process in the right context, hardly any sales development initiatives offer solutions that enable the sale professional to:
- Earn the right to gain time and interest at the CxO level (i.e. sell the meeting).
- Develop high impact content themes for conversations with senior decision makers.
- Manage their attitude and mind-set to maximise their impact at every stage of the sale.
- Make the right commercial and business decisions to optimise the value of the sale.
Addressing these areas are crucial because, although some selling companies have big enough brands to gain an initial meeting with a senior executive, every sales person has to: earn the right to a senior level meeting with a selling agenda; be able to:
- Position themselves and their company as a valuable strategic asset to the senior level prospect; generate real interest in what they have to sell;
- Get sponsorship in the very first meeting for taking at least one new high-value initiative forward with executive sponsorship;
- Gain a commitment to resources from the prospect;
- Warrant a follow-up meeting with the exec to review and ensure progress (on both sides of the newly formed ‘collaborative partnership’)
- Widen out the business development campaign across the key stakeholders in all of the prospect organisations being targeted.
Making it real
A well implemented sales development initiative should instill and embed a structured sales methodology and the right attitude for challenging and influencing senior decision makers’ strategic priorities and articulating opportunities for creating tangible and significant new value. Addressing both skills and attitude will give them the ability to become trusted thought leaders who not only create new high-value sales opportunities, but also to motivate buyers to accelerate the decision making process and contract negotiation by using the client’s own external pressures and business pain points to create urgency as well as an explicit need for change.
By implementing a sales development initiative that equips your people with the skills and gravitas to secure and lead effective meetings with senior decision makers and to effectively lead sales campaigns, business development campaigns and and account development campaign. By augmenting the embedding of a high impact sales methodology with an attitudinal shift that makes the sales people competent in holding high impact conversations at the CxO level, make real gains in countering economic uncertainty and realising a sustainable growth in your sales revenue.
Add to this, a tool-set that gives them the actual content themes for their CxO level conversations; and the use of live scenarios as case studies which encourage participants to make progress in terms of planning and executing high value campaigns as part of a sales development journey; and you will ensure that participants are more engaged and that the impact will be much quicker and much greater.
This deeper, more meaningful and more real approach to sales development will enable account managers, business development professionals and portfolio sales specialists to be far more proactive and ‘joined up’ in how they develop, lead and close high value sales opportunities.