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Sales Strategies
Understanding the investments made in sales performance
By Scott Santucci, CEO, BluePrint Marketing, LLC

Most organizations are aware that they: can improve their productivity with investments in infrastructure, can always benefit from a sales process and fine tuning their skills, and require up to date information about market trends and competitor actions. However, there are many more factors that must be addressed...

Types of investments in sales productivity

There are many different types of organizations that are telling you that working with them will help you improve your sales productivity. For example:

  • CRM vendors argue that implementing their software will help you drive more business by providing better structure to the sales process as well as improving the accuracy of your forecasting.
  • Sales training firms suggest that you should improve your sales fundamentals by teaching them their sales methodologies and best practices.
  • Market intelligence firms claim that better and more up to date information about market trends and your competitors' actions will do the trick.
  • Telemarketing and list brokers suggest revenue growth is simply a numbers game, and that more calls will result in more sales.

What does your sales team need?

Before introducing our sales productivity framework, let's first understand the common challenges enterprise sales executives face in their jobs. Listed below are a few expectations that IT vendor organizations impose (either intentionally or unintentionally) on individual sales professionals each day.

  • Understanding the customer's needs. Identifying the true customer is challenging enough. With most technology purchases, there are many buyers involved. Business sponsors, IT executives, requirements analysts, financial analysts, enterprise architects, and application engineers, are all common participants in an enterprise solution. It is almost impossible for a typical sales person to understand the business goals of each of these stakeholders and translate your offering so that it is relevant to them.

  • Following up on leads and prospect opportunities. What happens when marketing passes a lead to sales? All too often these leads only contain contact information and what products the customer is interested in. The sales person who is tasked to follow up on that lead does not have insight into the business goals of that prospect, nor a compelling way to engage in a conversation with them. How effective is your sales team at effectively describing what you do in a business context to you clients?

  • Advancing opportunities through the pipeline. Sales people are expected to continually advance opportunities through the sales process towards closure. Methodologies allow sales executives to focus their skills on various stages of the selling process and define key milestones to help you determine how soon an opportunity will close. However, your customers are not making decisions based on the artificial milestones that your organization sets - they have their own buying process to evaluate these opportunities.

  • Translating product knowledge into business advantages. A lot of time and energy is invested in training sales people on the functional attributes of the offerings they sell. However, sales professionals lack the personal experience of working with your offerings and have difficulty understanding why the features and functions are important to your clients. Your clients want to know how your products or services will help their business, yet most sales people have difficulty making their offerings relevant - and rely on the "product demo", hoping the customer will see benefit in what you have to sell.

  • Financially justify investments. IT investments are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. Organizations want to know: how your offering is going to impact their business, when will they realize that return, and how will that investment impact their budget. Corporate financial metrics, cash flow outlays, and internal rates of return are all examples of topics common in evaluations of technology investments. Yet, most sales people lack the ability to have a meaningful conversation about these subjects - let alone prepare the tools to help your clients perform these analyses.
  • Most organizations are aware that they: can improve their productivity with investments in infrastructure, can always benefit from a sales process and fine tuning their skills, and require up to date information about market trends and competitor actions. However, there are many more factors that must be addressed to improve sales productivity, and all of these issues must be organized in such a way that sales people can actually benefit from your attempts to address them.

    The five disciplines of sales

    To empower your sales force with the resources it needs to maximize its efficiency, we have developed the "five disciplines of sales" framework. This model should be viewed as an ecosystem that requires balance to produce the greatest return. For example, organizations that continually invested in "market dynamics" would realize diminishing returns on those expenditures, if investments in other disciplines were not made. Below are some brief definitions of each of these disciplines.

    • Sales fundamentals. There are several sales productivity companies that will help implement a sales methodology in your organization. Sales people are trained on best practice skills that can immediately improve their abilities. However, most organizations do not equip sales people with the right content to enable their sales people to practice these methodologies. Over time, no matter how positive the sales team is about the process, they revert back to bad habits because they lack the tools to sell solutions.
    • Market dynamics. Investments, typically made in the marketing organization, about market trends and competitor actions are elements of the market dynamics discipline. Regardless, if this function is performed in house, or outsourced to the many syndicated resource providers in the market, this information is only half of the battle. Sales people require this information to keep from being blind-sided by customers and to develop an intelligent counter to competitor claims, but they still require the content to develop those responses. An additional challenge is getting the information to sales people in a useable manner. Having them navigate several web sites, or asking them to read reports, reduces their time spent in front of clients.
    • Customers. Enabling your sales people (through a combination of tools and training) to understand the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders involved in procuring your solution, and the knowledge of how they evaluate your offering are examples of outcomes of the customers discipline. It is extremely rare for any organization to provide this information in an easily digestible way that salespeople can take advantage of.
    • Business impact. The primary focus of this discipline is to enable a typical sales person to map your features and functions into specific advantages your customer will realize from working with your firm; and translating those advantages into the goals of each of the stakeholders involved in the buying process. There are very few organizations working on this right now.
    • Financial justification. Today, IT investments require a business case and cost justification to be approved. How well your sales people can define a clear business advantage and support that with a strong financial case is the focus of this discipline.

    Based on our experience and research, the majority of IT vendor organizations are extremely unbalanced across each of the disciplines. The most common mistake made is over investment in sales infrastructure. The chart below highlights how well a common IT vendor is mastering each of these disciplines.

    The index on the left is a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 meaning that an organization is sufficiently competent in a given discipline. Keep in mind, your organization may score differently, this is just an aggregate view of our industry.

    The "performance gap" is especially eye opening because these are the disciplines that are the most important to customers. We believe closing this gap is a critical success factor to achieving a highly efficient and effective sales organization within your firm.

    Disciplines are elements to compete in an "ecosystem" economy

    Technological innovation has reduced so many inefficiencies that business does not operate in the classic, industrial age, "cause and effect" model. Today, change happens fast, business is dynamic and seems to operation with a life of its own. IT organizations today should view themselves as organisms operating within an ecosystem.

    The sales discipline landscape is designed to help you organize the various elements required for your company to successfully compete in the extremely competitive and dynamic technology industry.

    Scott Santucci is a leading authority on reducing the business development friction caused by the divide between sales and marketing. His company, Blueprint Marketing ( ), helps companies realize the compounding returns on revenue generation investments that are achieved by harmonizing sales and marketing efforts. Scott can be contacted by e-mail and phone (703) 723-5900.

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