A WORD FROM DUANE SPARKS
Dear Sales Executive:
Even if your sales force is trained and certified in Action Selling, what is the biggest remaining obstacle to unleashing your company’s full sales potential?
Plenty of research says the most likely answer is that you have a gap in your sales culture—and that gap is getting wider.
What am I talking about? Glad you asked. Let’s talk.
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Author of Action Selling
DON’T LOOK NOW, BUT YOUR SALES CULTURE GAP IS GROWINGEvery business leader wants a productive, efficient, and effective sales organization—one that consistently hits quota. So why do recent studies suggest that two-thirds of sales reps fail to hit quota? Why do 65% of B2B companies tell Aberdeen Research that their #1 challenge is sales productivity? A study by the Harvard Business Review on the problem with sales productivity isolates “sales culture” as the most important criteria determining a highly productive company. HBR’s research further indicates that the #1 factor determining whether a company achieves a high-performing sales culture is the company’s ability to align all customer-contact employees with a common culture based on an effective customer-communications strategy. HBR defines “alignment” as clarity of vision, strategy, and shared behaviors. Without alignment among customer-contact teams, companies cannot avoid a gap in their sales culture. That gap ultimately damages sales productivity. Today, the gap is widening. In fact, I would argue that this is the most important time in the history of selling for the advent of a healthy and effective company-wide sales culture. Some of the best-run companies in America agree with me—and they are doing something about it.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME IN THE HISTORY OF SELLING FOR THE ADVENT OF A HEALTHY COMPANY-WIDE SALES CULTURE.As HBR suggests, the sales culture gap exists because the sales force is singing out of a different hymnal than the company’s other customer-contact teams. I refer to the people on those other teams, collectively, as Customer Relationship Professionals, or CRPs. CRPs work in functions with names like customer service, technical support, marketing, and many others. But, their ultimate job is to forge stronger relationships with customers. Trouble is, almost nobody even tells them that, much less trains them to do their ultimate job effectively. Small wonder there is so little synergy between the sales and support teams. That is the reason there’s a gap. But, why is the gap growing today? Mainly because of the internet. Yes, as everyone can and does tell you (ad infinitum), buyers obviously have access to far more information about products and services, thanks to the internet. But, nobody talks about why and how that fact widens the sales culture gap. Here is my take on the situation:
- Because it is so easy to find out more about a product than anyone ever wanted to know, the days of the company representative as the fount of product knowledge are over. Just knowing some facts about your product isn’t nearly good enough anymore.
- Yet, with an internet-educated buyer, it is more challenging for sales reps or other employees to “add value” to your products and services than in the past. In the B2B world, if you want to hit revenue targets and generate customer loyalty, every employee who comes into contact with your customers must be able to identify creative ways to add value to your products.
- Because buyers know more, the value-add game your customer-contact people are playing is elevated to a higher, tougher level. The value perception is less about facts and more about solutions that are specific to the customer’s situation. Solutions are created when unique customer needs are married with your company’s capability.
- If your sales and service people can’t figure a way to be valuable, why would you keep them on the payroll? With no added value, you’re merely pushing commodities. You could let your website handle commodity transactions, and save a bundle on employee costs.