I often find myself waxing lyrical to my kids about the shape of the technology landscape when I was their age. And more importantly, just how far technology has come in such a short time. I was reminded of this today when I saw the headlines that the iPhone is 10 years old. That is quite remarkable. How can it only be 10 years old? It’s been around forever hasn’t it? I even get heart palpitations should I not be able to immediately locate mine! How the heck did we ever successfully navigate through a day before the smartphone existed? After all, 10 years ago is only 2007… the pace of progress is insane.
by Dr. David Kirk - Chief Revenue Officer, CloudApps
The answer of course is that we had no trouble navigating through the day, we just did things differently. And by differently we most likely achieved less in the time we had available to us. The global population is developing a shoulder stoop from constant phone gazing for a good reason. The productivity apps available on these smart devices touch every part of our lives; home, social, work, pleasure, you name it – there’s an app for it.
Not only has technology exploded in the last few years, but so has content. For pretty much any question you dare to dream up, there is a YouTube video showing you the answer. If video is not your medium of choice, then you can be darn sure there is a handy blog post that achieves the same result.
This pace of change has indeed had a profound effect on how we operate as individuals and the choices we make.
Let’s pause for a moment and think about the age-old profession of sales. I can reach back to Xerox in the 1960s (when incidentally the last dinosaur was just exiting the planet) and find the origins of most modern sales methodologies. The end of the printer patent enjoyed by Xerox for years and the alarming dip in their market share saw them give birth to solution selling. A sales approach that was so successful, it was quickly packaged up and sold on to others.
Since this time there have been various flavours rooted in these same principles – SPIN, TAS, Sandler to name but a few … but wind forward some 50+ years and none of them represent the seismic shift in how people think and behave today.
Our sales methods have simply failed to keep pace with our buyer’s habits and are strangling our chances of success.
The old model where the buyer would talk to the sales rep to learn about the products and services on offer – which allowed the sales rep to control the conversation and engage in value based sales techniques - simply doesn’t happen in the same way.
The buyer is miles further forward than this. They have already researched your product offerings online. They know all about what you have to offer and how it stacks up against your competitors from the research they have conducted. They have used the online community to score you and rate how good you really are – keeping your marketing machine honest.
So, by the time the buyer engages with your sales rep – the poor old rep better be ready to know how to extend the discussion beyond the plethora of information the buyer has already consumed.
This is only the start of the nightmare for the modern-day sales rep. The pace of change of materials and messaging around not only their own product but that of their competitors is frightening.
In days gone by reps were trained on products that changed slowly, supported by marketing websites that promoted these products with messages that changed at most every 6 months. The advent of modern technology makes it easy for marketing to turn on a dime. If yesterday’s message didn’t resonate, it can be changed today. A bewildering place for a sales rep to operate.
Let’s get back to the prospect. Not only are they better informed, but they have developed the attention span of a gnat. If the sales rep is not able to immediately add value to the discussion, articulate the hard benefits and points of differentiation faster than a speeding Porsche, the prospect has moved on.
To highlight this point, HubSpot did some research that showed that leads which were responded to within 5 minutes of hitting the business were 9 times more likely to convert than any left beyond that initial period. Time indeed waits for no man.
So, what chance for our modern-day sales machine? Let’s focus for a moment on the attributes needed to be successful in this harsh environment.
1. Focus on high-value sales behaviours:
It is paramount that we shift our thinking to driving high-value sales behaviours. The old-style approach of activity based selling no longer cuts the mustard. The thought that I should motivate my reps to simply make more calls, as more effort equals better results, is frankly lazy sales leadership. If you are stuck in this world, then you are indeed truly stuck. We need to focus on motivating more of the high-value sales behaviours - but what do we really mean by that?
Think about the difference in these two outcomes:
- I made a call (low value sales behaviour)
- I made a call, during the golden calling hour when we know connect rates are higher. The call lasted longer than 10 minutes. I connected with a senior title. This is the 10th such call I have made this week (high value sales behaviour)
The second obviously describes an outcome that is far more likely to deliver positive results than the first (which probably resulted in the rep leaving a voicemail at best). If your measure of success is 80 calls per day, then think about how you can transform your team to focus on fewer, higher quality calls.
2. Speed of coaching is key:
The HubSpot example of 5 minutes is extreme, but the general consensus is that the vendor with the fastest (high-quality) response will quickly endear themselves to the prospect and dramatically increase their chances of success.
Wind forward to our hapless sales rep, waiting to the end of the week (or worse still month) to get a few precious hours with their sales manager for a combination of derision and coaching. This model is too late. The technology exists, so why wouldn’t you want to guide the rep as they work? Coach them to follow the winning path by taking the right next action immediately. Waiting a week or more for that precious coaching to take place means you have already missed the boat against your competitors.
3. Become data-driven:
This for me should probably be at the top of your priority list. If you are not yet driven by data, by absolute undisputed fact, then you are already descending into a world of hurt.
Track and instrument every single part of your sales process. Learn where the bottlenecks are and eliminate them fast. Uncover the careless behaviours that have crept into your team’s daily habits and focus on reversing them.
Monitor and understand the habits of your top performers. You will struggle to get more from them, but you can apply their habits to the core of your team to drive some staggering results.
A 5% performance increase yields over 70% more revenue when compared to a 5% shift in top performers productivity
Source: Sales Executive Council
4. Tune your sales process – it's a living, breathing, evolving beast:
Under no circumstances believe that you can stand still. Your sales process is no longer rigid, think of it as an ever-evolving beast.
The market landscape is changing rapidly, your products and services are evolving at speed. Your competitor’s products and services are evolving at speed.
Only by instrumenting your sales process and embarking on a constant process of refinement in your approach will you stay ahead of the field.
These are 4 of the core areas for consideration – but the underlying premise is simple. Strip away the fancy titles given to everything and the requirement exposed is as stark as this:
- You need to find out what is actually happening across your sales process (both good and bad)
- You need to do more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff
- You need to analyse the results of the changes you have made, learn from the actions of your top performers and fine tune your approach to match
And you need to do it fast … simple, right?