Archive for the ‘Innovation’


Battling the 57%: From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank

Don’t be put off by the title. This might not be what you expect.  And sometimes that’s the point.

There is a lot of nuance behind the 57% statistic – the CEB research that says buyers are 57% through their purchase cycle before they contact a supplier – and there are things you should do before, during, and after, the 57% point, if indeed this applies to your business.  (I promise I will get to the romance shortly.)

I think it is important to reflect on what the 57% really means and the limit of its impact. It is getting a little out of control. (I have organized a webinar on March 25 to dispute/clarify/de-bunk/resolve a few of the myths.)  What is obvious is that you want to be in a position where you can educate the customer before they get to the 57% point. But let’s say that your buyer has indeed progressed 57% through their buying process before they contact you.  What do you do?

If the buyer is 57% through the cycle, then they will most likely have a preference for someone. If it is you then you might have a short sales cycle. Perhaps their search has been truly unbiased and you are now part of a short-list. But if their preference is for a competitor, you will need to change the criteria they have used to get this far.  Redefining customers’ purchase criteria is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor.  In the TAS methodology we refer to this a Flanking Strategy – and that gets me to a story I read in the December 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review.

From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank.

Pfizer launched Viagra (the erectile dysfunction drug) in April 1998, with a record 600,000 prescriptions in that month alone at a price of $10 per dose. Pfizer created an entirely new market on the basis of one key criterion of purchase: efficacy. The drug got the job done! By 2001 annual sales had reached $1.5 billion.

Not long after that Cialis entered the market. Whereas Viagra was effective for four to five hours, Cialis lasted up to 36 hours, making it potentially much more convenient for customers to use.

At the time, the key criteria that physicians considered when prescribing were efficacy and safety with a combined relative importance of 70%. Duration had a relative importance of 10%.

The marketing team behind Cialis decided to emphasize the benefits of duration—being able to choose a time for intimacy in a 36-hour window, and set the price higher than Viagra to underscore its superiority.  The new criterion of purchase – marketed as romance and intimacy rather than sex – caught on. A BusinessWeek article reporting on an early positioning study stated, “Viagra users who had been informed of the attributes of both drugs were given a stack of objects and asked to sort them into two groups, one for Viagra and the other for Cialis. Red lace teddies, stiletto-heeled shoes, and champagne glasses were assigned to Viagra, while fluffy bathrobes and down pillows belonged to Cialis. In 2012 Cialis passed Viagra’s $1.9 billion in annual sales, with duration supplanting efficacy as the key criterion of purchase.

Flanking – redefining customers’ purchase criteria – is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor; you will undoubtedly have a powerful competitor if you truly only enter the deal 57% of the way through the process. To flank successfully you need something to flank to (i.e. your competitive UBV that the customer cares about) and someone to flank with (i.e. a supporter with the buyer’s organization who will help you navigate the last 43%).

I will discuss this and ways to avoid the 57% trap altogether on the webinar. I would love if you can join the conversation.

 

 

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Unpacking Sales Velocity

When Henry called me yesterday he asked a really interesting question. ”Why is it”, he said, “that everyone feels that the start of the year is the only time that they should look to build their pipeline?”

Henry works for a software UX design company that we partner with. His company plays a huge role in designing Dealmaker to be really, really, easy to use.  They do spectacular work. If you are a Dealmaker user you will know what I mean.

Henry’s question was prompted by the fact that over the last month (i.e. since the start of the year) his company has been inundated with requests from customers looking for his help.  They want him to design new websites, upgrade the UI of their applications, and design new marketing campaigns to attract new sales opportunities.

What’s really great about Henry is that over the time that we have been working together he has assimilated much of the sales methodology that we embed in Dealmaker and has immersed himself in the personas of the sales person and sales manager.

His follow up question was “Anyway, why is it that they are fixated on pipeline, adding more and more deals that they then don’t qualify properly or follow a proper sales process?  Shouldn’t they be thinking about each of the four Sales Velocity levers?”  I have to tell you, I just sat back and chuckled to myself.  I just love the fact that in the process of getting to understand the very best UX for Dealmaker, Henry now automatically thinks about the things that we all want our sellers to think about every day.

I have written about the Sales Velocity Equation before.  At its heart it says that there are really only four levers that you can pull to impact how much you sell in a given timeframe.  These are (i) the number of deals, (ii) the average deal value, (iii) the win rate, and (iv) the sales cycle.  When you take this to heart, you can see that it is not all about more leads, more calls, or even more opportunities.  Some times it is about increasing your average deal size by understanding the value of what you can provide in context of the customer’s business problem. When mapping your sales process to the customer’s buying process you can often take some control of the sales cycle.  Win rates generally increase when you bring insights to the customer that lead to your UBV (Unique Business Value).

Each of the levers impact how much you sell, and you should care about each of them equally.

If I get time over the next week or so I will write about how you can increase how much you sell by working with each of the four Sales Velocity levers, but for now I will just point you at this Slideshare that unpacks Sales Velocity for you a little bit.

Sales Velocity Equation

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Why Big Data for Sales fails

The Big Data hype worries me. A lot. Particularly as it pertains to sales analytics. When it comes to understanding the inflection points that should be the determinants of behavior change to improve sales performance, we don’t suffer from an information deficit, we suffer from an insight deficit. Big data is perceived by some as the answer to the question. The problem however is that we often don’t know the question.

It is true that where we are today is a direct consequence of our past actions. You might therefore assume that a singular focus on finding correlations between historical data and results is the panacea to predicting future sales performance or performance hurdles. The difficulty however is that without applying context and experience there is a grave danger of mistaking correlation for causality, being blinded by a seemingly strong linkage between data and results without understanding the true causal factor.

Here’s an example. In some of our customers we have seen a direct correlation between the early identification of budget (allocated to a related project) as the most important indicator of sales success. But when we look at the data for others, budget seems to be less of a factor. When we looked beneath the data to understand the reason for this we uncovered an interesting fact. Early identification of budget is an important factor more often in a situation where the solution being offered could be classified as a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to a ‘must have’. This applies most frequently when the solution makes something better instead of fixing something that’s broken. Context and an experiential compass are important heuristics to apply to divine the meaningful from the obvious. Don’t let the data fool you.

Every day sales managers are struggling to find the answers to make their sales team more effective.  Often remote from their sellers, and relying on weekly calls and reports from their CRM systems, these managers find it difficult to identify, interpret and influence the important factors that predict sales success or failure. Sales managers are battling to discover whether their sales teams are doing the right things at the right time to positively impact their sales performance. The volume of data is overwhelming and the insight is missing.

Sales managers can’t manage what they can’t see, and sometimes, even if they can see the data, they don’t know how to find and interpret the most relevant metrics that influence future performance. They grapple to extract pertinent insights that tell them the absolute truth about their sales business – today, and into the future.  It’s just to hard interpret the data. And it gets worse.  Even if they can find and analyze the data to derive the pertinent insights, the resource required to prescribe effective coaching or curative actions for each sales person, in a consistent and informed way, is overwhelming. But Big Data, as currently being prescribed, is not the answer.

According to a recent Infochimps survey most big data projects fail. According to this recent study, even though 81% of companies have Analytics projects as one of their top priorities, 55% of these projects do not finish.  And while we all know that IT projects are not always successful, Big Data / Analytics projects will fail 30% more often.

The most common reason for failure is inaccurate scope.  People try to boil the ocean, and assume that more data is better.  Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case.  Now that technological advances have made it possible to accumulate colossal amounts of data at an ever-increasing rate, it has become almost axiomatic that the answer to everything in in the data.  But in fact it is not.  Companies are making BIG bets on BIG data alone without any qualitative assessment that applies deep domain expertise. That has the potential to lead to BIG decisions being made with BIG confidence that is sadly misplaced. BIG Mistake.

The second issue is lack of business context.  Without the right business context it is hard to know what questions to ask – so in that case any answer should do – but of course that doesn’t work.  It is understandable though that if there is a separation between the people with the business knowledge and the people with the analytics tools – then success is unlikely.  Sales people need to be at the center of any sales analytics project.  It cannot be a disconnected project owned by the business analysts or the operations team.

The third point is really an extension of the second.  If you don’t have business expertise, domain knowledge, experience and a ‘nose’ for what’s right then you can’t apply any human qualitative input – and that makes it hard to connect the dots.

The most common challenges according to the study are Time and Tools.  Now if the tools are hard, and the scope is wrong, then you will of course need a lot of time.  We don’t believe it needs to be that way.

The leading sales organizations we have seen are not just using reports, or big-data centric analytics. They are combining targeted smart sales analytics, strengthened with embedded sales methodology knowledge and experience. In the best of cases they are using intelligent automated systems to help expose the relevant sales metrics, gain actionable insights from the data, and provide automated coaching advice to accelerate sales cycles, increase the health of their pipeline and align and motivate their sales teams.

And they are realizing significant business benefits:

  1. Increased performance of the sales team based on more informed sales management and more knowledgeable sales coaching
  2. Improved sales productivity for individual sellers with automated coaching and visualization of results for greater alignment and motivation
  3. Accelerate sales velocity by measurement and analysis of win rate, sales cycle, deal size and pipeline health to reduce risk and take advantage of opportunities

I will follow-up this post with a set of recommendations on how you might approach sales analytics or big data projects – but I’d welcome your thoughts on this.  Right now, there is a lot of time and money being spent in this area and most of it is wasted.  It doesn’t have to be this way. The life of the sales manager is hard enough.

 

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Realtime (Honest) Feedback on your Sales Proposals?

As you may know I published my most recent book – Account Planning in Salesforce - earlier this year. I am always nervous when I am launching a book.  I put a lot of myself into it and, even with a topic like Account Planning, I find that my writing always seems to become infused with my values, my opinions and my beliefs.  I really just don’t know any other way and I wanted the readers to get value from the book. I want them to feel that the time they spent reading it was worthwhile.

So, as you can imagine, when Account Planning in Salesforce went to #1 Bestseller in its segment on Amazon I was really pleased.  And the reviews were pretty good too – even the ones from people I don’t know!

But what I did not realize was that as people read the book on their Kindle devices, they were highlighting the passages of text that resonated with them. Meanwhile, the elves in the background at Amazon are continually collating and analyzing the highlighted areas and can provide a summary of what people care about. (See below the top 5 highlighted passages – I am really thrilled with the one that came in at #1.)

These insights are hugely valuable to me and I plan to use what I have learned from Amazon’s analysis in a webinar I am delivering on Account Planning in Salesforce for 2014 later this month.

But also this whole process got me thinking,  what if …

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this for all sales proposals, PowerPoint presentations or marketing collateral?  It would be like having someone watch your customers as they read through your documents; highlighting, underlining, adding ? and X marks, circling paragraphs of interest or drawing lines through parts that they disagreed with.  Then you’d really know what they really think. (Scary? Maybe!)

At The TAS Group, we do a lot of micro-analysis on the effectiveness of our digital marketing, and of course that is really helpful in making sure that we are presenting the messages and content that add most value to our customers.  But we can’t micro-analyze on a personal emotional level … but thoughts are percolating here …

In the meantime, here are the Top 5 Most Highlighted passages from Account Planning in Salesforce.  (If you are interested, in an upcoming webinar, I will be discussing these comments and other issues that I think we should all be caring about as we plan for 2014).

Top 5 Most Highlighted

1

The impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. 

2

You need to be a specialist and expert in the business, strategy and market of those few customers with whom you are working. 

3

Research for Insight. Integrate for Velocity. Focus for Impact. 

4

Remember, customers don’t need you to learn about your product: they can get all of the information they need from the Internet. They don’t need you to recommend solutions: they can get that from their peers. Your opportunity is to help them shape their needs, identify or suggest initiatives, and then to figure out how you can apply your solutions to those initiatives. If you don’t know how to do that you should look for outside assistance. 

5

The cost of new customer acquisition is 500% that of customer retention. Increasing customer retention by 2% equates to decreasing costs by 10%. Reducing customer defections by 5% can increase profitability by up to 125% (depending on industry). (Source: Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy)

If there were particular parts of the book that you enjoyed I’d love to hear from you.  If you have not read it you can get an extract here.

 

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10 Things Every Sales Manager Should Know About Sales Performance (Infographic)

Thanks to our friends over at Work.com for helping us with this infographic.

10 Things Every Sales Manager Should Know

 

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The data in this infographic is based largely on the Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study.

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When is your Win Rate not your Win Rate?

It seems pretty simple at first, but calculating your Win Rate is not as straightforward as it might appear. In most cases sellers will think about their Win Rate as the number of wins as a percentage of the number of opportunities that were pursued. But that doesn’t tell the full story.

Let’s say I am working the four deals listed here.

  • Deal A: $20,000
  • Deal B: $10,000
  • Deal C: $40,000
  • Deal D: $30,000

Scenario 1:

In this case the results of the four sales cycles are as follows:

  • Deal A: $20,000 – WIN
  • Deal B: $10,000 – WIN
  • Deal C: $40,000 – LOSS
  • Deal D: $30,000 – LOSS

I win Deal A and Deal B, and lose Deal C and Deal D.  Win two. Lose two.  That may be viewed as a 50% Unit Win Rate.

However, when we add the values of the deals, we get a different result.  The aggregate of A and B is $30,000, where C and D together to a value of $70,000.  On a value basis this translates to Value Win Rate of 30%.

If you look at your pipeline as a predictor of future revenue, using your win rate, as factor of value, then you should consider the difference between Unit Win Rate and Value Win Rate.

 

Scenario 2:

But while deals of a similar profile generally follow a similar sales cycle, it is rarely the case that a group of opportunities will all start and finish at the same time.  Time itself is the added dimension.

In this scenario, only three of the four deals close in the time period we are measuring.

  • Deal A: $20,000 – WIN
  • Deal B: $10,000 – WIN
  • Deal C: $40,000 – OPEN
  • Deal D: $30,000 – LOSS

Once again I win Deal A and Deal B, and lose Deal D, but the sale cycle for Deal C has not yet come to a conclusion – or, as is equally likely, I have actually lost Deal C, but have not recorded it as lost, or I just have not realized that I have lost it.

With two wins and one loss, you could argue that the Unit Win Rate is 66%. Following this logic, the Value Win Rate would be 50%, as the total of A and B is $30,000 and the value of D is $30,000.

But what about Deal C?  Can I ignore the fact that I have been expending resources on this deal that has yet not be completed?  I think not.

Whichever path you take to measure Win Rate, you need to do so with your eyes open, and focus not just on the headline Win Rate number, but what it means to understand the patterns in your business.

At The TAS Group, we have extensively researched how companies measure Win Rate and what this number means to them. Those who use Dealmaker appear to have a much deeper understanding or their win rate and how it plays into their overall sales velocity equation.  In addition we have learned that in addition to the variables that play into the two scenarios outlined above, it is very important to be able to measure win rate from different positions in the pipeline.  We tend to refer to this as Pipeline Conversion Rate; i.e. the conversion to win from stage X in the pipeline.  The value of this approach is a deeper understanding of the value required in each stage of the pipeline to ensure you have adequate coverage to enable you to attain future revenue goals.

As with other sales performance initiatives, the key thing about measuring Win Rate is that by first understanding the questions you want to ask, and applying the appropriate tools to help you uncover the metrics that matter, you can get a clear picture of the problems you have to solve.  That’s always a good place to start.

 

 

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12 Elements of a Great Sales Playbook

The implementation of a sales playbook can be one of the most impactful initiatives for any sales organization. There are two reasons for this tremendous ROI. First, by following some simple guidelines, it can be a remarkably easy initiative to implement, and second, research shows that this results in 33% additional revenue.

We have done hundreds of Sales Playbook deployments with Dealmaker Smart Sales Playbook. Here are the 12 Elements of a great sales playbook that you should use to guide your implementation. 

1. Repeatable Winning Sales Processes

The key word here is ‘repeatable’. When everyone adopts the same sales process, there is a common language that is understood, not just by sales, but by the whole organization.  Recent research shows that while only 60% of sales teams have a sales process that is well defined, and well executed – those who do are 33% more likely to be High Performers*.

2. Customized to the Buying Cycle

Customers buy in lots of different ways; some purchases are guided by a single decision maker, while in other cases there can be a large buying committee. Some issue RFPs (health-warning!), others invite recognized suppliers to discuss their issues,  an increasing number learn in the Social Universe, and just a few remain with the incumbent supplier trading ‘the devil you know’ for potentailly more advanced or competitive solutions. Unless you visualize the journey the customer wants to take, you won’t be with them when they reach their destination.

3. Sales Tools in Context at Each Stage

At each stage of the buying process, salespeople need to employ just the right tools – at the right time to advance the sale to the next stage in the process.  A B2B sale is not a single event. In fact it is a collection of micro-sales events, each crafted to move closer to the eventual goal. Salespeople are busy and often don’t know which tool they need, where to find it or how to use it at the specific point in the micro-sale. Integrating sales tools into the playbook as part of the sales process is the solution.

4. Industry Sales Process Templates

It is widely accepted that tailoring your sales process to the specific needs of an industry will increase your chances for success. Third party industry sales templates are readily available from suppliers who have been tracking and analyzing millions of sales cycles.  That is the catalyst you need to get started.

5. Many Simple and Complex Processes

One playbook or sales process does not fit all.  Sometimes you are pursuing a brand new customer or a very large deal that demands a complex and sophisticated set of ‘plays’ to win the deal.  In other cases, the transaction might be quick,  one that suggests a diffferent rhythm. Your sales playbook should have the requisite intelligence to support that automatically and serve up the right playbook at the right time.

6. Process, Benchmarks and Insight

Benchmarking delivers many advantages for companies looking to improve the performance of their sales organization. Your playbook must capture those benefits, learn from them, and uncover inisghts that help you to drive your sales velocity.  When deploying a playbook, ensure that you have built in a capability that guides you to progress through these stages of evolution for your sales team.

7. Team Visibility for the Sales Manager

Being a front-line sales manager is one of the hardest jobs in sales.  It is also the critical link in sales.  Unless the sales manager has with all the tools he or she needs to easily manage the business, the whole performance of the sales organization suffer.  You need to provide them with the ‘Easy Button’.  Sales playbooks are often designed just with the sales person in mind.  Remember that the sales manager is the critical link.

8. Integrates with CRM System

This one should be a ‘no-brainer’. The playbook must integrate tightly with the CRM system so when the sales person works with an opportunity, the playbook will always be present, just where it needs to be.  That way the playbook (if it is smart enough) can react to the attibutes of the opportunity, like the size of the deal, or the products included in the opportunity record to present the right playbook for that opportunity. Complete integration with your CRM delivers the  optimum experience for the sales person, and provides sales managers with greater flexibility on how they view the data in the context of the rest of the business.  It is important.

9. Informs Sales Forecast Visibility

Salespeople spend about 2.5 hours each week on sales forecasting, and for most companies, the accuracy of sales forecasts leave a lot to be desired. To maximize the impact of your sales playbook on the accuracy of your sales forecast, there are two things to consider. (1) Does the sales playbook incorporate intelligence that objectively monitors the close date of the sale? (2) Does the sales playbook provide the sales manager with insight into deal vulnerabilities and risks in the forecast?

10. Motivational and Visual

There are only two reasons why an individual does not complete a task.  Either they do not have the competence, or they are not motivated enough  to do it.  Think about that – these are the only two reasons.  Your sales playbook should improve competence and increase motivation.  The competence piece is easily understood.

Motivation is a little more challenging. A study on What Motivates Sales People shows that, perhaps surprisingly for some, compensation is not the primary motivator. ‘Making Progress of Winning’ is ranked by sales people as the main reason they get up in the morning. To entice adoption of the sales playbook (rather than force compliance) your sales playbook needs to provide true value for the sales person – resolve that reward/effort equation, so that the salesperson gets more back from the playbook that they put into it.

11. Social and Collaborative

As B2B companies rely more heavily on social collaboration tools, some of the biggest gainers are going to be salespeople. Sales people who are the leaders in their organization are using social tools such as Chatter in Salesfore to improve collaboration in their own sales teams. Leading sales playbooks help by letting everyone ‘follow’ the plays, contributes to the conversation, and collaborate on the deal. The B2B world is constantly becoming more social and collaborative and you should ensure that your sales playbook accommodates this advancement.

12. Mobile and Cloud

Time is precious, and the sales person’s time is incredibly precious, both to them and to the sales organization looking to maximize the performance of their key quota-bearers.  Since so much of a sales person’s time is spent moving between A and B and back again, they should be equipped with the mobility to connect to their sales playbook allowing them to be responsive, productive, collaborative and consistent at any time, wherever they are. In other applications, mobile and cloud capabilities are being leveraged to facilitate access anywhere, anytime.  It must be the same with your sales playbook. Unless mobile and cloud are core elements of your sales playbook plan, the initiative could face severe challenges in a very short term.

 

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20 Facts about Sales Performance

At The TAS Group, we just recently completed a global study of sales performance.  The full report will probably be available by late April.  If you want a copy email me ddaly (at) the tasgroup (dot) com.

The statistics are pretty revealing – so I thought I would share them with you now.

  1. 33% of sales people made quota in the last reporting period

  2. Only 52% of sales people say they can access the key players for a sale

  3. 39% of sales professionals say they are not able to effectively uncover customer problems, and

  4. 35% struggle with designing customer focused solutions

  5. 59% of sales close as originally forecasted

  6. Sales forecast accuracy jumps to 76% when sales methodology is applied well

  7. When the Sales function contributes to company strategy, quota attainment is 15% higher than when Sales is not involved

  8. Quota attainment is 25% higher when Sales and Marketing are aligned, and

  9. Win Rate is 15% higher when Sales and Marketing work well together

  10. 59% of sales reps are good at opportunity qualification

  11. 32% of sales professionals do not develop competitive strategies for their opportunities

  12. When competitive positioning is part of a company’s sales strategy, revenue increases by 30%

  13. 44% of reps are able to maximize the value of a sales opportunity

  14. Only 36% can maximize the value of their key accounts

  15. Salesforce.com has the highest % of CRM users with adoption > 50%

  16. TAS has the highest % of methodology users with adoption > 50% (We are very happy about this!)

  17. When methodology is integrated with CRM sales teams are 35% more likely to achieve average quota over 75% (As you know this has been my mantra for a long time!)

  18. The #1 reason why sales methodology is not used is that only some people use it.

  19. 60% of companies use a defined sales process

  20. Companies are 33% more likely to achieve average quota over 75% if they use a sales process.

We have analyzed all the data that we gathered – and it was a lot – and some of the insights are fascinating.  We are looking forward to getting this finished and published to share.

As I mentioned above – If you want a copy email me ddaly (at) the tasgroup (dot) com.

 

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Account Planning for everyone (who uses Salesforce)

Regular readers will know that I am passionate about combining sales methodology with technology to make life easier for sales people.  One of the areas where I have seen lots of wasted time has been in Account Planning and Management.  So, I decided to do something about it and I’m excited to  let you know that my new book Account Planning in Salesforce is now available at your favorite online store. You can get an extract here, and buy the book here.  It should be less than $10 (I’m trying to make it very affordable) and proceeds go to Peter Gabriel’s WITNESS charity.

As I hope you would have come to expect, this is not a theoretical book – but is practical and marries methodology with technology to make effective account planning accessible to all sales professionals who care about taking care of their customer while they go about selling to them.  But this post is not meant to be a promo for the book.  I was very fortunate to have a number of people who are a lot smarter than me review the book while it was a work in progress, and I want to share some of their comments here – as I think they point to the many challenges that sellers face when seeking to maximize revenue from their major customers.

This is Account Planning that works – because it is fully integrated with salesforce.com. There has never been a time where customer focus has been more important.  As broad marketing becomes irrelevant, sales professionals need to treat their current customers as their marketplace; consider what the marketplace needs and then deliver true value.

My friend Matt Dixon, co-author of The Challenger Sale, was kind enough to review the work in progress.  Apart from commenting that this is the only business book that he has ever seen that quoted lyrics from Metallica! (more about that later), Matt’s take was that “[the book] grounds its recommendations in the context of modern B2B sales, where customers armed with massive amount of information and advice can afford to engage sales people later and later in the purchase decision … there are no short-cuts to getting this right.”  Matt knows this better than most I think.

When Bob Thompson of Customerthink read the book, he hit the nail on the head.  He was kind enough to provide this quote for me.  “All too often Account Planning is a once-a-year effort that gathers dust on the shelf. Use Donal Daly’s ACCOUNT PLANNING in SALESFORCE to help transform this critical activity into a usable, customer-centric approach to growing loyal relationships all year long.” I thank you Bob.  There is a recognition from those who know how it really works, that there are many hours wasted on developing account plans that are never used. (By the way, if you’re not familiar with Customerthink, you should go and have a look.  Bob curates some wonderful insights on his site.

Matt Cox over at HP told me that from his perspective “Account Planning is a core sales skill that requires a disciplined approach and ongoing care and maintenance.”  and of course he is right. When I spoke to Peter Jofriet, who runs Sales Excellence at Honeywell, he said that “account planning must live and breathe as part of how you run your business. It needs to become part of your culture, and should be integrated into your overall business cadence.”  This is a really critical observation. Account planning can be the new marketing for your large accounts.  If you are hoping that your marketing department is going to help you penetrate that key customer, then you’re likely headed for disappointment. Ask Peter, he knows. And he had nice things to say about the book as well.  I thank you Peter!

More than half of the sales professionals that I have spoken to acknowledge that they are not maximizing revenue in their accounts. Sales reps are leaving money on the table and they are not serving their customers well.  I am trying to help them solve those problems. This book, based on interaction with hundreds of sellers and their customers, describes how high-performing rockstar sales reps are successful at maximizing value in their strategic accounts, both for themselves and for their customers.

You can read more insights from some of the others who supported me along the way here. I am deeply honored by the caliber of people who were interested enough to share their thoughts.

And about those Metallica lyrics …

Account Planning is not always the most riveting subject, so a book about account planning isn’t guaranteed to be a page turner! Well, I tried to make it as consumable and enjoyable a read as possible.  I feel pretty confident in saying that this is probably the first and only book on account planning that includes a playlist to help you hum along as you develop your plan.  You will find songs here that you know (from the Beatles, Metallica and U2), some you may have forgotten (anyone remember Rose Royce?) and probably some new songs that you will not have heard before. I borrowed from the lyrics of these musical muses to illucidate some of the points I was trying to make.  Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters refers to Trust – and in Account Planning, it is true; without trust, nothing else matters.  I hope the playlist adds to your enjoyment when (if) you read the book.  I know it lessened the load when I was writing it.

Account Planning is a tremendously important endeavor. It drives revenue, increases customer satisfaction, aligns your organization, and provides incredibly gratifying moments when you can see the impact of your work – both for the customer, and for your company. I hope this book accelerates your journey. More info here.

Thank you.

 

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The Challenger Sale Debate – Is it missing the point?

There has been a lot a debate among the sales training / sales enablement community about The Challenger Sale from CEB’s Sales Executive Council.  Some of it has been cogent and balanced, but unfortunately a lot has been mud-slinging and poorly articulated or uninformed specious commentary that does not reflect well on the sales training industry. Most of the latter type has, probably predictably, come from those who might have good reason to be threatened by the seeming ubiquity or pervasiveness of TCS.  On the other hand, where measured arguments have been put forward, it seems that these originate more often from users, practitioners, or observers who acknowledge the value of TCS while wondering about its place in an overall sales eco-system.

I have read commentary from Linda Richardson, HRChally, Jonathan Farrington, Dave Stein, Tamara Schenk, Solution Selling, and others, and you can look at the links and judge for yourself who is engaging in productive debate, who is posturing to protect their own patch, and who is being downright unprofessional.   Methinks the latter doth protest too much!

Most of the anti-Challenger rhetoric seems to rail primarily against how the Sales Executive Council has presented Challenger to the market, and less about the substance of the TCS model, or the research behind its findings.  Many of the commentators take umbridge at SEC’s positioning of the findings as being new or noteworthy.  “There is nothing new or unique here” is a common cant.  Well, clearly that is not true: Otherwise TCS would not have captured the attention that is has, resonated as strongly with the marketplace, or evoked such a – sometimes vitriolic – response from those who feel threatened by it.

At The TAS Group, we faced similar criticism from some of the traditional sales training players when we introduced Dealmaker to the market.  We presented a view that effective adoption of methodology could only happen when supported by intelligent software and integrated into the daily workflow of the sales professional by combining the application of methodology with usage of the CRM. We were subsequently positioned by our competitors as only focused on technology, and we were questioned by the analysts as how we could maintain deep research in methodology and technology at the same time.  Well, that was six years ago, and the evidence suggests that we were not as misguided as some would have thought.   Now, although not everyone has the depth of technology resources that we do, everyone recognizes the need for software as an integral part of a sales performance system.  And, the advancements we have made in methodology during that time has served our customers very well.

I don’t think TCS is either perfect or a complete sales system, or a one-size-fits-all solution; nor do I believe that the folks at the Sales Executive Council think so either.  (By the way, I am struck by the fact that it is evident that many of those who are criticizing TCS had not spoken to the SEC before they expressed their views.)  A complete sales performance system requires everything from market planning to territory segmentation, account stratification, account management, opportunity management and sales process, all supported by skills and technology.

But TCS has a number of undeniable strengths.  It has done a better job of highlighting the need for greater sales and marketing alignment than many of its forerunners.  (I have written about that problem here, here, here, here, here, and here.)  With a level of clarity all too rarely seen in the industry, it has debunked the myth of the Relationship seller.  Where others represent it as arrogant that a sales person should bring insight, or being able to ‘teach’ the customer as being arrogant, I see it as a customer focused approach, and an acknowledgement that buyers are more informed and therefore the sales person has to prepare much more diligently.  It demands that the sales person work hard to understand their customer and the customer’s industry, and requires a level of intellectual capital that all customers should look for from their suppliers.   In my opinion, any effective sales person should be able to bring insights to her customer of what has worked elsewhere.  I think that is table stakes.

Through its membership community, SEC has an effective petri dish to test its approaches, before unleashing them on the market.  Their heritage in research is a matter of fact – not of opinion. While they still have a way to go, I would have hoped that constructive inclusion, a recognition of how TCS complements other methodologies, would have been the response, but sadly …

More importantly though, the success of Challenger – and it is unquestionably successful – points to a failure of traditional providers, particularly those who focus on sales skills.  The fact that TCS has been so quickly embraced points to a deficiency in the alternatives.  Otherwise why would there be a gap in the market for SEC?

Make no mistake.  SEC has done a remarkable job of positioning TCS in the market, and indeed is using the principles espoused by Dixon and Adamson in their book to effectively challenge the status quo.  Something is working – and the response of the detractors only validates the approach.

 

 

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