In the first part of this topic, I wrote about the challenging economic times and suggested that Sales 2.0 can help.
Due to intense changes in technology, demographics, communications and the world economy, the age of collaboration is upon us. [If there is any doubt about the maelstrom that is today’s world economy, read what the San Francisco Chronicle has to say about the total collapse of Bear Stearns on Friday March 14. And you will undoubtedly have noticed that the Euro/USD$ rate has moved from 1.54 (at the time of the last post – 10 days ago) to 1.58 today. We’re truly inside a tornado.] Change is ever present in how products are created, promoted, sold and consumed. Accompanying this change are far reaching challenges and opportunities – and sales professionals would be well advised to assess how Sales 2.0 can help meet the challenges and mine the opportunities.
Of the 4 factors (knowledge, expertise, organizational velocity, and work rate) impact your sales velocity I discussed how Sales 2.0 can help with the knowledge piece in the first post. Here, I will deal with Expertise and get back to Organization al Velocity later. How hard you work – is up to you!
Expertise: The debate of sales as art or science has been raging for as long as we’ve been out their struggling to make numbers. Many surveys and benchmark studies have been completed (get a copy of the TAS Index report, view Sales Benchmark Index – World Class 100, or look at the findings of CSO Insights’ reports), and the results are in. Unquestionably, sales professionals improve their selling skills, enhance their expertise, and improve sales results by learning from the best practice of others. [Full disclosure – The TAS Group is in the business of making money from helping companies do this.] Returns such as 17% revenue improvement as commonplace, and all commentators agree on the fact that if you learn to be more expert, you can be more effective.
So what, big deal, it’s a bit obvious right? Well not always. Very few sales organizations rail against the intellectual argument that applying structured methodologies or processes make sense. The problem for proponents of such approaches has not been competition from alternative solutions, but one of opposition. "It’s just too hard to train everyone." "I can’t afford to take my sales team out of the field." And even when companies get over these obstacles, it’s well known in the industry that sustained adoption of the new learned expertise is very poor. Beyond the Hawthorne Effect – the temporary behavior change, after, say, a sales training program – consistent application of core teachings is very rare. In fact, some commentators would suggest that just 13% of sales organizations are successful at maintaining solid adoption behaviors.
Why is that? If revenue grows by 17% – then shouldn’t everyone just get with the program? Seems to make sense, right? However, in this fast moving Sales 2.0 world – where everything needs to be ‘right-here’, ‘right-now’ and just ‘right-for-me’ (hey, I can even get my own personalized M&Ms), traditional approaches just don’t cut it anymore, unless they’re accompanied by tools that in the first instance make it easy to ‘consume’ new expertise, then make it easy to ‘sustain’ expertise and then makes it easy to ‘reinforce’ expertise; though I don’t like the negative connotations of the ‘reinforce’ word – it’s a bit like subjugating the sales person to some greater being.
The sales professional has been poorly served by technology up to now. CRM/SFA systems are broadly disliked by sales – because they fail to answer the "What’s in it for me?" question for the sales person – and are perceived (sometimes unfairly) as only being of benefit to company management. What’s needed is a technical solution that is so well designed (from the perspective of the sales person) that it entices adoption, rather than impose another onerous task for the sales person. It need to be fun to use, should be smart enough to understand the context of where the sales person is in the sales cycle – planning or executing, qualifying or closing, developing new business or working a key account; it needs to consumable in bite-size chunks, and delivered in whatever medium the sales person needs – classroom, audio, video, over the web, or on their iPod; and it needs to be completely integrated with other systems the sales person uses so that there is no redundancy or duplicate data entry; there is nothing more frustrating than having to enter the same data into different systems – it just takes away from selling time.
Sales 2.0 systems can help in a big way in delivering these solutions – and all of the technology needed is available today. The result is not just expertise, but applied expertise that is honed experientially – learning by doing – the way we learned to walk and talk, such that the requisite skills become as much a part of the sales person’s competencies, as the ability to open a Word document, or Excel spreadsheet. The more you use it, the more you learn, the more it becomes part of your DNA.
The result is greater sustained proficiency – and that means better sales results, and that’s a good thing. The alternative is continuing to do the same thing as before and expect different results, and we know that’s the definition of madness.
I will get back to this in a few days and deal with the third part of this equation that we constantly trying to resolve – organizational velocity – because it’s not all just about the sales person, but the overall velocity of the sales organization.
Be careful out there – be good to yourself, and your customer.