Stop Enabling and Start Executing: Value-add Conversations

 

Posted By Qvidian | Dec 11, 2013

 

I used to be an enabler. Now I know better.

For many years (more than I like to admit!), I’ve supported B2B sales teams in various roles - as a product manager, account rep, and marketer. For too many of those years, I did what sales asked me to do. Pretty collateral? Yup, I created reams of it. Killer demos? Check. Dutifully, I crafted enticing emails to my sales team alerting them to new materials and tried to get them excited to use them. Then I would practically cry in frustration— because no one read the emails or used the materials. Even worse, I’d get asked just days later for almost the exact piece from a sales rep! I have shown diplomacy good enough to elect me a senator by not screaming into the phone, “READ MY EMAILS!

Then one day, one of my sales reps—let’s call him Tim—lost an important deal that had been forecasted to close. When I asked him what happened, Tim seemed genuinely puzzled: He said he had really “hit it off” with the decision-maker—they were both into cycling and had gone to a Bulls game together. According to Tim, the client team “really liked the product” and had made positive comments during the demos. “Every call went really well,” Tim said. But when I called the decision-maker who shot us down, I got a very different story. Yes, Tim had given “very slick presentations,” the prospect said, “but he didn’t know enough about our business.” Further, Tim “did little to help me understand how his product would solve our company’s problems.” When pressed with questions, Tim “took a long time getting back with answers” and when he did, some of the information was just plain wrong.

Ouch. But it got worse. When I reviewed some of the information Tim had shared with the prospect, I found he had used a two-year-old slide deck with outdated messaging and branding, and a poorly written, inaccurate data sheet that he had “borrowed” from another rep. I can only imagine what his conversations sounded like.

That’s when it hit me. Tim hadn’t approached this sale unprepared—he just had the wrong kind of preparation: wrong expectations, wrong materials, and wrong approach. Tim hadn’t failed. I—and the company—had failed Tim.

After a little research, I felt better and worse all at the same time. While I wasn’t alone with this problem, the data is astounding: The facts regarding the buying environment and sales execution are startling:

  • 60%1 of the buyer’s purchase decision is complete before sales teams interact with a prospect
  • 58%1 of pipeline ends up in “no decision “or stalled deals because sales has not presented value effectively.
  • 59%2 of sales rep time is spent not selling, but instead doing administrative activities or searching for content and resources
  • 50%3 of reps are failing to make quota
  • 90%4 of marketing content is never used in selling

I had to make a mindset shift. To focus on my reps having conversations, NOT just using collateral.

Organizations have been “enabling” sales teams with collateral and sales tools to the point of burdening them with too much information (never mind where they have to find all that content.) There is a multitude of sales and marketing collateral loaded into a sales portal or intranet site, and countless hours spent creating, editing, and producing this content. It becomes incredibly difficult to know if sales teams even used the content, and how effective it really is.

The shift needs to focus on the desired business outcome. Effective sales people:

  • Help buyers envision solving their problems using their products and services
  • Get stalled deals moving again by presenting greater value
  • Sell newly launched or acquired products, and cross-sell unfamiliar products
  • Frame the buyer’s evaluation criteria so that the competitors are at a disadvantage
  • Help the “buyer champion” sell within his or her organization
  • Overcome objections raised by the buyer
  • Respond to the tough questions immediately and with credibility
  • Do all this within three months of being hired rather than seven months

What do all these abilities have in common? A natural, dynamic, give-and-take, back-and-forth, you-and-me approach to selling and communicating value: a conversation.

Enabling your sales teams with content won’t guarantee they are having valuable conversations with prospects. To do this, organizations need to arm sales people with:

From Enablement to Execution

Stay tuned for more posts on how to make the shift from sales enablement to sales execution. In the meantime, would love to hear your comments below on how you’re helping sales have valuable conversations – not just using collateral!

1 Sales Benchmark Index
2 CSO Insights
3 Bridge Group
4 IDC