The art of selling has changed dramatically since the rise of the Internet. With the ability to find literally any type of information with a few clicks of a mouse, buyers are now able to conduct all their own research online long before they contact a sales rep. In fact, up to 77% of buyers say they don’t even talk to a sales rep until they are more than half-way through the sales cycle.
This has fundamentally changed the way sales people now engage with those buyers. Emailing brochures and talking about features and benefits won’t cut it any longer. The successful sales reps are those that talk to the buyer in terms of business outcomes. They need to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the buyer’s industry, market challenges, and business strategy. Then they must present a compelling proposal that details how their solution will deliver concrete business results that support that strategy.
This metamorphosis of the sales person’s role has been one of the biggest challenges that senior leadership has faced in many organizations. When a company’s sales force is not on the same page as the company’s senior management team, the gap between the two invariably puts the entire enterprise out of alignment.
The phenomenon of a disconnect between a sales force and executives was documented by a noted sales-focused consulting firm, which surveyed more than 700 sales professionals and senior executives and determined the disconnect stems from gaps between the perceptions, attitudes, and information flows between executives and sales reps. Because, while we are expecting our sales reps to take a business outcome approach to their sales efforts, at the same time, we’re not doing a very good job of communicating our own internal business goals and strategy to these same reps.
The assessment asked respondents — executives, middle managers, and sale reps from companies of all sizes in a variety of industries — to answer a series of questions about how well their companies’ strategic directions inform five critical elements of their sales approaches:
- Their target customers
- The sales tasks generated by those customers’ buying journeys
- The type of sales people best suited to perform those tasks
- How the firm organizes its sales and other go-to-market efforts
- The cross-functional interactions required to sell and deliver value to customers
The survey results showed that while executives feel they have a high level of understanding of their companies’ strategic priorities, the sales reps — who aren’t typically in the planning meetings, on the conference calls, or roaming the halls with the people crafting strategy — said they did not.
The importance of gaining internal alignment between your executive team and your sales force cannot be understated. A leading business training firm recently reported that based upon research of 410 companies across 8 industries, highly aligned companies grow 58% faster and are 72% more profitable while significantly outperforming their unaligned peers in terms of:
- Retaining customers 2.23-to-1
- Satisfying customers 3.2-to-1
- Effectively leading 8.71-to-1
- Engaging employees 16.8-to-1
As the leader of the sales team, there are steps that you can take to ensure your team is properly aligned with your corporate goals and objectives. These steps include:
- Get your team involved in the annual strategic planning process. Allow them to lend their insight to the discussions.
- Make sure that you have clear, open communication plans for the entire company. Every department should be on the same page.
- Identify the high-impact sales activities that align with your company’s goals and establish a way to track those activities on an individual basis.
- Make sure the entire company is involved in the sales process. Everyone should know the names of your top customers and your competition. Everyone should be able to explain your company’s value proposition and exactly what products and/or services you offer.
- Ask the sales team to provide you with regular feedback on what they’re seeing in the market – are new industry developments going to impact the corporate strategy? The sales people are often the first to identify the change. Make sure they know their input is valuable.
Executing on these steps takes time. Its tempting to postpone the exercise to focus on immediate action. Make more sales calls! Hold more meetings! Send more proposals! But as sales leaders, we can’t expect our reps to sell to business outcomes that align with the buyer’s corporate strategy when they don’t have a clear understanding of their own. Taking the time to go through this process will help ensure that everyone responsible for generating sales – whether directly or indirectly – has a clear understanding of your organizations’ priorities and corporate strategy. Armed with this foundation, your reps will be in a much stronger position to out-perform your competition.
Ken Scaturro is the Chief Revenue Officer for Yorktel. He has over 25 years of experience providing high-tech services and solutions to Government and Commercial clients in a global environment. Ken is responsible for creating synergies and growth throughout Yorktel, while ensuring positive business outcomes and customer success. Prior to Yorktel, Ken was the Vice President of Sales for Condeco. He joined Condeco via the acquisition of myVRM where he was President.