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.
If you have a question about how to align your entire company around a powerful sales culture, click on “Ask The eCoach“.
We are committed to your professional success.
Author of Action Selling
DON’T LOOK NOW, BUT YOUR SALES CULTURE GAP IS GROWING
Every 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.
In short, it is far more important today that both your sales team and your service teams know how to add a level of value that the internet cannot. You’ll need to train your teams to do this—and to do it consistently. In other words, sales training is no longer enough; you must train your support people, too. Never forget that these employees typically interact with customers more often than salespeople do.
Your work force must be able to differentiate your products in the mind of the customer. That is the only thing that will keep you out of the commodity business. If you don’t have a way for everyone to learn how to do this, you’ll inevitably wind up with a deep and wide sales culture gap. Solving this problem is not only profitable, it’s critical to survival.
Download a free copy of my new white paper that describes this critical issue in more detail.
Want a Great Sales Culture? Fill This Gap.
Action Selling in Action
Supply Chain Services of Stillwater, Minn., sells barcode scanning and printing equipment to the manufacturing and warehousing industries. Chief operating officer Dave Green and CEO Chip Emery originally went looking for sales training for their sales force. Then they decided to expand training to everyone in the company. Here, in Green’s words, is their story:
“To hit the growth goals we were aiming at, we felt that we needed a culture change. We wanted to develop a sales language that we all could speak. We decided to train our sales team on Action Selling and to include everyone else in the Action Selling CRP training program—sales, administration, technicians, marketing, and even our CFO. We expected to get a 20 percent lift in sales. We actually got more like 60 percent our first year following training.”
“Action Selling and CRP training have boosted the sales confidence of everyone in our company. Imagine an employee who is 20-something years old meeting with the CEO of a half-billion-dollar company and having the confidence to recommend what that CEO should do. We win just about every deal when we team up and use what we’ve learned from the training.”
“It’s a pretty radical idea to train everyone in a company to be effective at selling. But so is growing a company by 60 percent per year.”
For information about how to make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling CRP at (800) 232-3485.
Get a free copy of my new white paper on the critical issue of aligning your sales and support teams. Want a Great Sales Culture? Fill This Gap.