With organizations facing an ever-evolving (and uncertain) future, it can be difficult for sales leaders to draw a bead on the best focus areas to ensure success. Should they be developing talent? Investing in the latest technology? Widening the net to search for new customers, or nurturing their long-term clients?
No matter what, sales transformation is a strategic endeavor. Miller Heiman Group CEO Byron Matthews recently spoke to a standing-room-only Dreamforce crowd at the global Sales Enablement Soiree. “The Future Four,” a shortlist of focus areas sales leaders must address, was front and center as he challenged the audience to push themselves when pondering the future.
The Future Four: A Vision for Sales Transformation
1) Reimagine sales roles as value engineers. Today’s buyers expect their sellers to step up and provide thought leadership, perspective and insights to solve problems and make purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, this kind of sales capability is not increasing sufficiently to meet buyer need. In the recent CSO Insights Buyer Preferences Study, only 23 percent of buyers said they consider salespeople as a top three resource for solving business problems.
Sellers who rely on product expertise are seen as less effective and are invited to buying cycles later. Instead, sales organizations have to engineer value and evolve (not replace) their solutions-selling approach by helping buyers reframe success, anticipate issues and expand options.
2) Evolve the team with next generation talent. CSO Insights’ 2018 Sales Talent Study confirms that most sales leaders (85 percent) do not believe their current sales teams will be able to universally make this shift to value engineers. Yet with most organizations seeing a more-than 20 percent annual staff change due to growth and attrition, there is ample opportunity to imbue fresh views through new talent. The key is to hire to a new profile beyond traditional, people-oriented or EQ attributes.
The profile for today’s value engineer is likely to include IQ-type traits such as learning agility, resourcefulness and analytical skills as the true differentiators. As a result, we are seeing many more STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) find their way into sales careers.
3) Mature and codify the way you sell. Of course, you can’t just hire new people, STEM graduates or no, and tell them to become value engineers. There is a clear need to re-examine your sales framework to ensure it aligns with evolving buyer expectations. This includes:
- Sales skills (surfacing explicit and implicit needs, social selling, negotiating, resolving concerns)
- Sales methodology (how the organization sells via call management, opportunity management and account management)
- Sales process (the steps and sequence of sales actions)
4) Leverage digital enablement tools to expand selling time. The final consideration is ensuring that sellers are appropriately equipped, empowered and engaged. One of the most debilitating challenges sales organizations face is creating more time for their sellers to sell; otherwise, the first three areas mentioned above end up as merely an academic exercise.
Technology can be a double-edged sword in this search for time. While CRM promises productivity through collaboration, CSO Insights’ 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study confirms that CRM implementations often suffer from data issues, a lack of confidence and incomplete adoption. As a result, organizations are adding more tools to their sales tech stacks to meet specific needs (on average, 10 tools with an additional four on the way), rather a comprehensive option. But ultimately, the future of CRM, CRM 4.0, evolves to a more integrated hub of seller-oriented and AI-enhanced applications.
The magnitude of Byron’s recommendations is apparent. Perhaps you’ve been reflecting on your own strategies for sales transformation. Are your sellers engineering value, or just recycling their product knowledge? Is your organization looking to enhance the overall pool of sales talent by hiring new types of sellers? If organizations continue to tweak tactics rather than fundamentally evolve sales systems, there is a real risk of buyers leaving them behind.