Increase Revenues Faster Through Sales Transformation
Updated: Jan 18
Sales Transformation takes B2B sales capability from good to great and should be part of a Go To Market strategy. Is it worth it, why do it, how does it work, and what is involved?
Selling is not selling.
When the sales growth strategy button is pushed and new products and services are launched sales teams should be equipped with the necessary tools, sales skills and resilient mindset that supplement their product knowledge.
Unfortunately, I see that sales capability is not considered extensively enough when companies change direction or new products/services are introduced. This applies to agile start-ups as well as established enterprises. At board level a sales team is seen as an engine that can sell anything to any market as 'selling is selling'. In reality, new products, new features and selling to new markets require dramatically different sales skills sets such as :
initial prospect engagement,
To keep it simple, most account managers are into building relationships and collaboration. Yet, pure salespeople are totally focused on closing that first deal and onboarding the new customer. Tasking a well established account manager with reaching out and winning new prospective customers is like asking the Marketing team to go out and sell; it will not achieve the desired results. Instead, achieving a sales growth strategy requires the considered alignment of sales capability with growth objectives. It's as critical part of a Go To Market plan as customer experience, frictionless buying and pricing. The alignment process is called Sales Transformation. When done well, revenues and ultimately, profits will start to flow faster whilst acquisition costs are reduced.
Things have changed.
There was a time when most sales leaders recruited, trained, and motivated salespeople following a well-rehearsed track of:
hiring candidates with a sales personality,
providing on the job training,
driving activity levels (key performance indicators),
motivating the team,
After a salesperson had successfully sold company products to new customers for a period, a promotion to become account manager was on the cards. Further down the line the need for salespeople reduced and replaced by hiring experienced account managers to look after the company’s customer base. Markets were stable and customers saw salespeople as experts in their field who presented innovative solutions helping them make their businesses more profitable. For salespeople it was relatively easy to arrange a meeting with decision makers.
Today, sales leaders struggle to maintain and improve sales team productivity. Markets, organisations, and external environmental factors change more rapidly than ever. Growth strategies evolve and customers are better informed.
Many customers now prefer digital interaction. Purchase budgets are getting tighter, decision making processes are getting more complex and, according to Gartner research, more difficult for buyers. Alternative products and services are easily available at the click of a mouse by almost anyone in an organisation. Buyers find themselves having to navigate through more internal opinions and experts than ever before. As a result of this key tasks like requirements building and supplier selection has become very complex.
The relentless pressure on revenues this month or quarter, new customer acquisition, account development and rescuing key accounts in danger of losing, means sales leaders' focus is fixed on the here and now rather than on the future.
The simple sales KPIs from the past (outreach calls, discovery meetings and value/number of quotations have been replaced with 24 critical ones according to HubSpot, the leading CRM provider. Here are just 4: emails, sales cycle length, net promotor score and upsell rates.
Sales training is often limited to product knowledge delivered through e-learning. It drives the cost of onboarding new sales staff down and advanced face to face sales skills training has just not been practical in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. It is likely that e-learning will gain ground faster. There is not simply enough time to develop hands-on sales skills.
It is perhaps not surprising that, when new products and services are launched and the sales growth strategy button is pushed, sales teams are simply not equipped well enough with the necessary advanced sales skills and resilient mindset that supplement their product knowledge that enables them to rapidly capture market share. In addition, sales enablement tools like lead capture tools and CRMs or even simple demonstration kits are not up to scratch or simply don’t exist. According to Netimperative 26% of companies questioned, cite a lack of product information as key reason for failed B2B product launches. I feel sorry for the sales teams who are tasked with selling these new products. Not only their motivation and resolve are likely to be tested beyond acceptable levels, their professional credibility is also at stake which could affect their sales career for ever.
For effective revenue growth, organisations must have a sales capability that is 100% aligned to their growth strategy. Sales Transformation delivers this by translating vision into reality with, planning, direction, and structured execution.
The backbone of sales success consists of measurable sales processes and sales methodologies finely tuned to chosen target markets. As a result, sales skills, knowledge, sales enablement tools, and sales behaviours are focused on achieving company growth objectives.
Sales Transformation delivers through 3 distinct phases. Baselining, Training and Coaching. It is underpinned by the agreed sales process, sales methodology and sales enablement tools like CRM, 121 performance meetings, incentivisation and great sales presentation kits.
Buy-in is key
As with other change management projects, buy-in by all stakeholders reduces the risk of sales transformation failure and increases the likelihood of outstanding success.
Best Practice Buy-In:
communicate the WHY, clearly. People get on board more if they know the reason ‘why’.
identify what motivates each stake holder and use it throughout the sales transformation.
tell the truth whenever possible, even if it is what stakeholders do not want to hear. The idea for change needs 'selling'.
make clear how stakeholders contribute to the sales transformation's success.
communicate progress relentlessly. Recognition of even the smallest step forward, motivates salespeople.
stick to the brief, remaining consistent without losing sight of the overall objectives.
Every sales professional has a unique set of sales skills. It is that unique blend that makes them successful in their role. Many studies have been conducted to identify the key traits for sales success. Steve Martin evidenced based conclusions in Harvard Business Review is a good example. Achievement orientation and natural curiosity are relevant traits in a pure sales role. Sales traits can also be identified and measured using personality profile tools. There are well documented tools like Myers Briggs or the sales DISC profile
When I support a company with Sales Transformation we tend to use personality traits sales success factors but complement this with two additional observable and measurable competencies critical to sales success:
1. Sales skills
2. Sales knowledge
An example of a sales skill is the ability to ask probing questions about a prospect's buying motivation. This can be observed in real live sales interactions with prospective buyers and scored on a competency-based matrix.
A sales knowledge example is product expertise. I observe this competency during live sales presentations or demos and score this on a matrix.
The data gathered from the above exercises, can now be plotted, and measured against the competency levels and sales personalities traits required for sales and revenue growth.
sample of a competency-based baselining tool related to fact finding prospect's needs.
Gap analysis follows and will facilitate decisions about training, coaching and role suitability.
The talented, natural salesperson does exist, yet they are a very, rare breed. The good news is most of us have it in us to learn and be highly effective salespeople. Convincing others of our ideas is, in essence, selling. I believe that effective selling is based on understanding and adapting to the way others prefer to communicate and buy. By building on this idea and improving the associated skills, I observe drastically improve confidence, productivity and ultimately, sales revenues.
Remote and E learning have their place, especially in the current climate. Often easily scalable and cost effective, these are well suited to pure knowledge transfer such as product, compliance, and market knowledge.
Yet, when it comes to learning sales skills, I recommend starting with classroom training in small groups of up to 8, where short lectures style sessions are mixed discussing case studies and structured roleplays. Content, style, and delivery will need to reflect the growth strategy to ensure alignment.
Unblocking limiting beliefs
In athletes and salespeople alike, personal belief plays a critical part reaching top performance. Sales coaching is designed to maximise individual sales potential. It unblocks the limiting beliefs that hinder top performance. Examples are ‘fear of failure’, ‘fear of rejection’ or ‘imposter syndrome’. In the case of ‘fear of rejection’ some salespeople are reluctant to speak to a cold lead or worse, do not ask for the deal at the end of the sales process.
Transformational sales coaching addresses these mental blockers and nurtures the ' always on' approach to selling, spotting, and acting on the smallest spark of a sales opportunity.
In the context of sales transformation, coaching is also used to consolidate knowledge and skills first learned during sales training. I recommend using real-life activities and sales opportunities the salesperson is working on as the subject matter for coaching conversations. This approach engages salespeople more and accelerates the closing of deals, generating revenues faster. It also boosts sales confidence in the 'new' way of working.
More than a piece of paper
Only the absolute best salespeople need less than a piece of paper and a pencil to get their ideas across and convince a prospect to buy. Yet, most need a lot more than that. Sales enablement tools help salespeople to generate revenues. Here is a list starting with the key ones first:
sales training and feedback
fact find questions,
simple lead capture interface,
When the right sales enablement tools are 100% aligned with the overall growth strategy, they do what they supposed to do best; help creating more sales opportunities, accelerating the sales process, and increasing revenues.
Bringing it all together
'Selling is not selling'. Tasking account managers to sell new products into new customers when the sales growth button is pressed, requires investment into a fully aligned sales engine by developing sales skills, knowledge, and sales enablement tools. When done well, revenues will flow faster whilst acquisition costs are reduced.
I have been supporting business with all aspects of Sales Transformation since 2012 after a rewarding career in sales leadership roles. If your business is pressing the growth button, we would be delighted to help you getting the revenue results. Feel free to get in touch for an initial conversation.