Author: harry

What are you doing to feed (or starve) your sales force beast?

To explain, let me relate an anecdote:

Recently, an Enterprise Software (ERP) company decided to change their go-to-market strategy for their sales force. Their sales force was organized by geography and solution. Each sales rep had a number of accounts in their region, and they sold to these accounts by “bringing in the bus” – a cadre of solution consultants, product specialists and service professionals – to convince their prospects to buy their software. The focus was on their software not the prospect’s problems.

As is usual with this type of approach, the company had a few excellent sales reps, several mediocre reps and a percentage of reps who never made quota. On average, 20% of the reps generated 80% of the revenue.

Then, the ERP company decided to change their go-to-market strategy, and planned to organize the sales force by industry. While this change to industries was meant to take more of the point of view of customers, a couple of issues immediately emerged:

  • Several reps lost accounts in which they had active relationships (cultivated over months and even years)
  • These same reps were given accounts in which they had no active relationships
  • Reps were expected to sell into industries in which they had little or no experience

Interestingly, only the sales force was re-organized by industry. Although an Industry Marketing team existed, none of the sales support staff – presales, value engineering, professional services, etc. – was re-organized by industry. Sales reps were left to their own devices to find or create collateral, understand current industry trends and employ methodologies to sell successfully with an industry perspective.

The sales force was not Industry-Enabled.

The Result? First, less than 10% of the sales force made their quota the first year under the new re-organization. Second, sales force attrition rose markedly.

Clearly, this is a case of “Starving the Beast”.

How should you feed the Beast? To answer this question, we need to consider the job of a sales rep…

At its heart, the job of a sales rep is to have a business conversation with C-Level executives at the prospect company, discussing:

  • Business, financial and personal pains of the executive
  • Root causes of these pains (with the rep bringing insight as to how and why these pains are occurring)
  • Business solutions (Industry Leading Practices – changes to strategies, KPIs, organizations, processes and systems technology) that relieve the business pains
  • The value the executive will realize by embracing the change proposed by the rep

Note: this approach is focused on the CXO’s problems and point of view – not the sales rep’s products.

A sales rep cannot have this conversation with a C-Level executive without the following 3 Pillars of Enablement:

  1. Sales-ready Assets, including:
    1. Industry playbooks and presentations, including industry messaging, whom to sell to, each stakeholder’s pains/gains, leading industry practices and differentiated solutions to these stakeholder pains
    2. Business case templates for the solution, including KPIs and value maps linking value provided by the solution to the CXO’s pain
    3. How to neutralize competitors
    4. Proof statements such as customer success stories, industry testimonies and industry-focused demonstrations
  2. Sales Techniques, including:
    1. How to prospect and sell in the industry
    2. How to orchestrate a sales cycle built on providing value to customers
    3. How to and which people and assets to employ at each stage of the sales cycle
    4. How to drive to value-based events in the sales cycle
    5. How to neutralize competitors
  3. Personnel and Organizational Development, including regular, updated training focused on:
    1. Industry trends, problems, leading practices and differentiated solutions
    2. Sales methods for industry-based sales cycles
    3. Value realization
    4. Proof statements and how to employ them

By not arming the sales force with these 3 Pillars of Enablement, reps are left to create or search for their own assets, ultimately wasting time and energy figuring out how to sell to industries.

The result? The Beast is Starved: quotas aren’t made, sales reps quit, the rep’s (former) company is unsuccessful, and (most importantly) customers’ needs are left unmet.

The Lesson? Don’t Starve the BeastFeed it.

Enable your sales force to have successful industry-focused conversations with their prospects.

Your service is only as good as the value it provides (part 2)

Previously I wrote about how providing value to customers means taking responsibility for their success, and I outlined four principles I follow to help assure value for my customers.

In this post, I want to expand on my comments on Geoffrey Moore’s article. Moore mentions three levels of transformation for adding value within this evolution of service processes: Infrastructure Transformation, Operating Model Transformation and Business Model Transformation.

Ideally, world-class service providers will employ the first and second models (Infrastructure and Operating Model transformation), help their clients implement these changes and help them achieve successful business transformation.

For Sales & Marketing Enablement, service providers should consider the following requirements for an Enablement Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):

  1. An Enablement IaaS should provide vendors with support for all sales cycle activities, including Prospecting, Discovery, Value Proposition and Negotiation.
  2. An Enablement IaaS should help vendors’ sales organizations adopt the customer’s perspective. This means they must align their sales cycle activities with the Customer’s Buying Cycle, including the Customer’s:
    1. Burgeoning market & solution awareness (matching Prospecting with Awareness)
    2. Consideration of market / vendor alternatives (matching Discovery with Consideration)
    3. Evaluation of Alternatives (matching Value Proposition with Evaluation
    4. Justification of vendor selection and project (matching Negotiation with Justification).
  3. An Enablement IaaS must include processes and a framework for:
    1. Demand Progression (from first prospect contact to Closed Win)
    2. Solutions & Industry Marketing
    3. Sales Operations & Methodology
    4. Sales Enablement (e.g., Enablement Training and Delivery)
  4. The Enablement IaaS should allow for the ever-changing external factors of Market Conditions, Industry Trends, Solution Strategies and the Competitive Landscape.

In terms of Operating Model Transformation, an Enablement Service should bring this Infrastructure to their customers, teach them how to employ it and stand with them as they transition their operating procedures to include the new framework. An Enablement Service offering needs to shoulder the responsibility of the customer’s success. The service provider must take on the “hard work” of staying with the customer throughout their Infrastructure change, and also work with them during their Operating phase as a trusted advisor for Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), Sales Opportunity Reviews and Coaching and regular sales training.

Finally, an Enablement Service provider should support Moore’s third paradigm shift: Business Model Transformation. In this third transformation, Moore mentions companies such as Uber who have developed new business models – e.g., crowd-sourced transportation – that have disrupted traditional business models such as taxi services.

If you are a new company providing such a disruptive service, or if you are a company being disrupted by new services, you need to have comprehensive Go-to-Market strategies and tactics that enable your sales and marketing forces to succeed in this evolving landscape.

Ideally, an Enablement Service provider will bring their customer:

  • The Infrastructure for new models
  • A roadmap for implementing and/or transitioning to the new model
  • Implementation services for the new model
  • Ongoing operational support before, during and after the transition to the new business model

Does your company claim to offer a service? How are you providing value to your customers to back it up? Do you have the Infrastructure, Operating Model and Business Model to make you and your customers successful?

Your service is only as good as the value it provides (part 1)

One of the most influential shifts in the business world in recent history is XaaS: Everything (X) As A Service. We see this model reflected in everything from entertainment (Netflix), to software (Adobe). Gone are the days of buying an individual product. Today, for a subscription, we contract a service that evolves with our needs.

Geoffrey Moore, in his article: The Product-Service Shift Comes in Several Flavors: Which One is Yours?, remarks that this change in value delivery from product to service is “… the most profound change in enterprise computing in this century to date…”

Watching the XaaS evolution unfold over the past decade, I am surprised at the businesses and industries that have not yet adjusted to this new value paradigm. Simply selling a product and walking away is no longer acceptable when competitors provide services that bring continuous value to the customer.

Indeed, Service means more than just getting paid for your time and IP; it means taking responsibility for the success of the customer, and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve maximum value.

Here are four touchstones we keep in mind at Mereo, as we serve our customers and provide them with maximum value:

  1. I need to understand my customer’s pains – Business, Financial, and Personal pains. I must actively LISTEN to them, uncover their pains, and reflect back to my customer that I have heard and understood them.
  2. I must relate my customer’s pains to their root business causes (synthesize).
  3. I need to constantly be familiar with leading practices in my customer’s industry, and how these leading practices are to be employed by my customer to eliminate their business problems (integrate, analyze, recommend & / or develop solutions.)
  4. I need to help my customer navigate and implement various choices for improvement (even if the solutions do not come from my business and personally benefit me.) By helping my customer achieve the solution that most relieves their business pain, they will realize value.

The success of the customer must become your personal goal, and you must shoulder that responsibility. By embracing your customer’s success as your personal goal, you create rare, unforgettable service that will keep your clients coming back to you as their trusted advisor.

This is why, at Mereo, we seek to serve, not to sell.