The Inability To Communicate Value Messages – Biggest Inhibitor To Sales Success 2014

At the MHI Research Institute, we have asked this question in each of the past three years: What are the biggest inhibitors to sales success?
Our 2014 data delivers a consistent message: The “inability to communicate value messages” is again the biggest inhibitor to sales success, as it was in 2013 (22%) and in 2012 (23%). The second biggest inhibitor is the “inability to attract new clients” (16%) followed by “more complex buying requirements” (15%).

Value messaging needs a clear design point – the customer

Before the Internet existed, a salesperson could create value for customers by presenting functions, features and benefits. But now buyers can find all this information online, and value messaging has to change. Executive buyers in particular are not interested in what a product is and what it does; they need to know what it means for their business and their desired outcomes. This evolution in the buyer’s world changes the design point for value messaging. It’s no longer the product; it’s the customer. The customer’s journey and the different buyer roles along the entire customer’s journey are the main design point for value messaging.

Value messaging needs to be dynamic

The times when static value propositions were successful are gone. Value messaging has to be dynamic to address the customer’s different focal points along their customer’s journey. In the beginning of the customer’s journey, value messaging has to focus on the customer’s context and the stakeholders’ different concepts regarding how to fix a problem, how to avoid a risk or how to accomplish a goal. Salespeople can create significant value if they help customers to better understand their challenges, the root causes and the real business impact, and if they can provide tailored perspectives on how to approach the challenge in different ways to achieve the desired results. In these stages, there is no room for product-focused messages.

This changes in the actual buying phase. Here, the decision dynamics have to be orchestrated. Value messaging often has to address additional stakeholders with very purchase-focused concepts. Competitive and product-oriented messages are now more important, but must always be mapped to the customers’ desired results and wins. The goal in this phase is to be perceived as the buyer’s best option against all competitors to achieve their desired results and wins.

It changes again in the implementation and adoption phase. That’s right: value messaging doesn’t end when a deal is closed. Now, it is important that the value gets delivered as promised. Owning the customer’s outcome means making sure that they can achieve their desired results and wins. Furthermore, it’s important to orchestrate the value dynamics during this important phase. Different stakeholders will perceive value differently, based on their different roles and concepts. And often, projects are delegated for execution. So, it’s even more important to make sure that the stakeholders and the initial executive buyers know how the value was delivered and which customer results were achieved. Following these steps can easily open a window for new opportunities within this account.

Value messaging and creating new business

The inability to communicate value messages is not only the single most important challenge year after year; it’s also the underlying cause of at least two other inhibitors. Those are the inability to attract new clients, (reported by 16% or our survey respondents) and the inability to expand in existing accounts (7%). Taken together, these three factors comprise 48% of the inhibitors to sales success. This makes value messaging a top priority for every sales leader to care about.

Value messaging, sales enablement and homework

As described above, the secret to successful value messaging lies in a dynamic customer core approach. It is sales enablement’s responsibility to provide messaging frameworks that are easy to access and to customize. Sales enablement and sales training have to make sure that salespeople know how to use the messages effectively, and that they are trained to present messaging that’s focused on business issues rather than on product. Messaging training has a lot to do with role plays and simulations, ideally based on real opportunities. As in sports, it takes a while to get familiar with the basics of a new sport. It’s the same with new value messaging that’s focused on business issues. It requires a different language that addresses different patterns. New skills have to be learned to achieve a certain level of proficiency.

Furthermore, creating new business begins very early along the customer’s journey. First, your strategic account planning must lead to a solid account growth strategy. And the customer has strategic initiatives of their own; it’s essential to understand these and to connect the dots to your own capabilities. Identifying the right buyer roles within new accounts and also within existing accounts is critical to success. Then homework and research has to be done to identify a valid business reason for the first conversation, and all conversations must be prepared for in advance. At that point, value messaging can work successfully—if all other selling competencies are in place.

Related blog posts:

The Biggest Inhibitors to Sales Success

“The Expert” – Why Understanding The Customer Is Key To Provide Perspectives

Providing Perspective – A Customer Core Principle


Posted in Buyer Enablement, Sales, Sales Enablement, Sales Enablement Challenges, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give The Gift Of Data And Get Research In Return – The 2015 MHI Sales Best Practices Study

Sharing is the first step of collaboration, receiving is a natural follow-up. Collaboration leads to receiving more than the sum of the given pieces. Across industries, peer-to-peer networks, communities and the sharing economy are based on this collaborative principle – you have to give to get.

For us at the MHI Research Institute, giving begins with sharing the highlights from our 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study. The year before, our research identified three attributes of World-Class Sales Organizations, each corresponding to a cultural component that drives the behaviors and attitudes of the organization. Building on the three organizational attributes – Customer Core, Collaborative Culture and Calibrated Success – as defined in the 2013 study, the analysis of the 2014 data identifies three categories of sales behaviors that define World-Class Sales Performance – Provide Perspective, Conscious Collaboration and Performance Accountability. Connecting those individual behaviors with the attributes of World-Class Sales Organizations creates a framework for a performance-oriented sales culture. A culture that knows how to connect and engage with customers, how to work together and what to measure, recognize and reward.

Provide Perspective is the next level of connecting and engaging with prospects and customers. The engagement and messaging principle is a pure customer core approach. It’s based on the customers’ situational context and the different concepts of each impacted stakeholder. Then, it takes into account that especially in complex buying environments, every customer makes every decision differently. This specific decision dynamic has to be well understood, before the sales team can map all these findings to the own portfolio of capabilities, products and services. Configuring a solution through the lens of the customer’s context, their concepts and their specific decision dynamic is the prerequisite to come up with a specific, customized solution that enables the customer to achieve their desired results and wins.

Conscious Collaboration begins with the customers. The purpose of collaboration is to achieve better results in a shorter amount of time. It allows individuals with different areas of expertise and roles to work together through a common language and strategic frameworks. Collaboration connects teams, organizations and companies. Collaboration frameworks are an approach to multiply individual contributions. Collaboration objectives are different for a strategic account environment compared to an inside sales team. Therefore, collaboration has to be defined specifically and that’s a sales leadership task. Sales leaders must establish guiding principles for different collaboration situations to create the foundation for conscious collaboration.

Performance Accountability is the metric that separates world class from all others. World-class sales performers hold themselves accountable for their customers’ success. They know that the customers’ success is the foundation of their own success. World-class sales performers hold themselves accountable along the entire customer’s journey. There is no walking away after a deal is closed. Instead, performance accountability means to identify even more possibilities to create add-on value for customers. Performance accountability means also to be accountable to the standards and expectations set by the front line sales managers.

From giving to receiving – this is where we ask you for your help!

The 2015 MHI Sales Best Practices Study is now open until the end of November. We kindly ask you to take some time to take our survey. The Sales Best Practices Study is the world’s largest survey for complex B2B sales, covering all regions, different industries and different roles in sales – now conducted in the 12th year.

What you can expect from the study as a participant:

  • Timely business intelligence—exclusive, first access to the full study results when they’re published in Q1 2015
  • A complimentary report from the MHI Research Institute, Perspectives on Productivity: The Next Level of Transparency
  • Entry into a drawing for a World-Class Sales Performance Gap Analysis—an opportunity to take advantage of a service provided by the Institute’s research analysts that compares the participant’s organizational behaviors to those of World-Class Sales Performers as identified in this study

Click here to get to the study – it’s open through Nov 30, 2014.

Posted in MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study, Sales | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

How I Work

This blog post was initially written for the Matt Heinz blog. The series “How I work” is a recurring feature on Matt’s blog.

How did I become part of this fascinating series? It was Jonathan Farrington, CEO of Top Sales World who nominated me! You can read his own story here.
And here you go  - this is how I work:

Location: Wiesbaden, Germany. One of the most beautiful cities to live in. Frankfurt airport is just half an hour away, which is very important for me – I need to be close to an international hub. Wiesbaden has various famous buildings and great architecture to offer, because luckily the city was not destroyed during WWII. I’ve lived here for eight years now, and I’m still happy to come home from my various trips around the world.

Current computer: There is a ThinkPad and a ThinkPad – not very original, but that’s the way it is. Both are laptops, a little one with the tablet option and a larger one, and they’ve never disappointed me.

Mobile Devices: All my mobile devices belong to the Apple family. I love my iPad for checking emails, social networks, and simple internet transactions. I use an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5, one is a personal phone and the other is for business. I just love the intuitive user experience – being able to do many things with just one click.

What apps/software/tools can’t I live without? I can survive without any of these apps. Seriously, I still have to make my green smoothies on my own; there is no app to do that for me… But I do highly appreciate the apps and tools that make me more productive.

PowerPoint and Word: Both are essential for my work. Word is for research content and blog posts; PowerPoint for presentations, visualization of frameworks, models and to create stories to tell – my canvas…

LinkedIn: The most important social network for business. I love the way LinkedIn takes business networking to another level.

Hootsuite: The platform for my tweets, my Google+ and my business-related FB posts. I love to have different streams on one screen, to be able to adjust, to schedule and to monitor tweets. It’s a productivity driver.

Twitter: Perfect for everything that stays within twitter, and I don’t need to use Hootsuite.

Skype: I started to use Skype for personal calls. Now, I use it more and more for business purposes. Working in a global organization with many business partners, Skype is often the single common denominator.

Google+: For me, Google+ is the social network with the best conceptual approach. The circle principle and the ability to quickly – I mean really quickly – grow circles cannot be achieved with any other network. And Google+ Hangouts – often better than Skype.

Google Maps: Always with me on all devices to find known places, to add new ones and simply to get guidance in new cities or places.

Zite: Checking quickly who has published new content on topics I’m interested in. Zite makes sure that I’m up-to-date and can learn about new sites I didn’t follow so far.

Feedly: My to-go “newspaper site.” All the blogs and websites I’m following are in one place. That reduces the notification emails I get significantly, because there is no longer a need to receive emails when new posts are published. I have it in Feedly, everywhere, on all devices, and I can share directly from Feedly. Especially in my profession, I need a quick overview day by day on who has written about which topics, where new stories are, and where content from older stories is appearing again. Checking Feedly is also how we create our weekly recommended reading list for our research members.

Evernote: Traveling, taking quick notes, capturing an idea, beginning to write a blog post – Evernote is my app to go.

What’s my workspace like? As an analyst with a global role and a focal point in Europe, I work from home. My home office is the most productive workspace I’ve ever had. I already worked a lot from home in my previous role as VP sales enablement at T-Systems, because my team members were all in different cities – in Germany, Europe and the US. What started as something I enjoyed intermittently is now my main workspace. Before I started my role at MHI Research Institute, I designed my office exactly the way I wanted it to be. I made sure that I have the right paintings with the right energy on the wall in front of me. An effective and well-designed bookshelf and a large desk make my home office really comfortable. And of course, my red couch is a must-have ingredient as well. And I love this one, which is next to my screen – a card from my favorite chocolate company Booja-Booja that says, “Relax – nothing is under control.” I’m always reminded of this wise statement when something happens as a result of a complex environment with very low predictability. Inhale, exhale. Then, keep moving.

What’s my best time-saving shortcut/life hack? I’m a big fan of the Pareto principle. That means I focus on those issues where the specific value I can add is really required. And I try to delegate and to step away from everything else. It’s a process and I’m getting better over time.

What everyday thing am I better at than anyone else? That’s a question my colleagues, clients and business partners should answer. In my own humble opinion and what I received as feedback, I have the ability to work with strong concentration and focus over a long period of time. Additionally, I have a lot of energy to get things done. And I work at a fast pace. Another thing is that I quickly recognize complex situations and can decide how I want to navigate complexity. I’m a system thinker – not always easy for my environment – but that’s the way it is. I love to discover related dimensions and patterns and I quickly create a framework in my head.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? I don’t have a favorite. Honestly, I hate all of them, because I don’t want any app to tell me what I should do next. But since I need one anyway, I work simply with the outlook task manager.

What do I listen to while I work? No music while I’m working. I love music, but I think great music requires a listener’s full attention. I’m just listening to the birds out there, and most important – my inner voice.

What am I currently reading? I’m always reading a few books in parallel, as not everything makes sense in every reading moment.

  • Michio Kaku: Mind: The future of the mind
  • Osho: Courage

What’s my sleep routine like? I’m usually up until about 11 pm. My most creative time is the afternoon and the evening hours. I often have to force myself to go to bed, because seven hours sleep is what I should get. I get up between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m., most of the time before the alarm clock rings. My day begins with a yoga session to align my body, mind and soul, a fresh shower and a home-made green smoothie. Then I take care of my plants and flowers and I’m at my desk at around 8 a.m.

What’s the best advice I’ve ever received? You are the master of your own journey – trust in your courage and strength and enjoy the freedom of creativity.

Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see Richard Young, Managing Director UK, Pipeliner Sales, answer these questions.

And … hopefully you enjoyed the inside scoop on how I really work.

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What Sales Enablement Content Analytics Really Mean

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Albert Einstein

Einstein’s observation holds true for sales enablement content-related analytics. Imagine the launch of a shiny, new enablement and collaboration platform. Many different roles in sales, marketing and product management are looking forward to the content analytics that the system will provide. Will the reality live up to their expectations?
Let me share with you a few lessons I’ve learned.

Correlation and causation

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a correlation is “a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things.” Causation, on the other hand, is the action of causing something, e.g., “the postulated role of nitrate in the causation of cancer.” Let’s keep in mind that even a strong correlation is not a proof of causation.

View, clicks and downloads are indicators—nothing more, nothing less

These metrics are foundational information, for different target groups—salespeople, their managers and the cross-functional enablement team. The data shows what people view and what they download. That’s all it says. It does not necessarily mean that people use what they download. And it does not say that the downloaded content was helpful. These are very common and widespread misinterpretations.

To better understand these analytics, check out your organization’s key sales initiatives. What are the important products, solutions, services? For which portfolio elements can people earn the biggest commission? Is there a performance management rule that rewards people if they download or indicate that they used certain content, e.g., the latest campaign playbooks? Next, check out the biggest revenue generators in your portfolio and examine the analytics for the related content. It can happen, especially if a sales force is very experienced, that there is only a small correlation between top revenue generators and related content usage. Those experienced people often still share across the “black market” of sales information, which is the informal network of colleagues who know each other personally. Map these insights back to your enablement analytics and you will come to a slightly different conclusion. Even if your enablement platform is completely linked to the CRM system and analytics show people working with recommended content stage per stage, it’s never more than a correlation.

Content ratings and likes—it depends

The biggest challenge for enablement platforms and teams is always to get the salespeople to actually use these social functions. Being a customer at Amazon and being a sales person in complex B2B sales forces are two different things. Just because sales people have an “Amazon” behavior at home, does not mean that they behave the same way at work.  Mature sales forces are especially hard to convince that there is value in this activity—value for the entire sales community and over time. What we appreciate with top performers is their strong focus on what matters to their sales success, and to ignore everything that doesn’t create immediate value for them. Rating content is definitely not in this category, especially not when you ask them to go back to the system and rate the content after they have used it. And what does it mean when a rating is given by someone who has not yet used the content? Nothing. To understand ratings and likes, it helps to analyze the percentage of your content that’s rated in the first place. The lower the percentage, the less valuable it is. Then, check which roles are authorized to rate and to like content. If there is no role-based limitation (and that happens more often than you may think!), the value of ratings and likes is precisely zero. On more than one occasion I have discovered that content creators have rated their own content high and their colleagues’ content low. If that’s the case, it’s better to switch off the entire function: the absence of data is better than false data.

Content analytics are only one side of the coin

What content analytics really mean is different in every sales organization, in every culture and in every industry. Imagine a sales force of millennials in San Francisco selling technology, and a mature sales force in the manufacturing industry in Europe. The specific value of content analytics couldn’t be more different in these two cases. For you as a sales enablement leader, it’s essential to define a content analytics framework that defines how to look at the data and what additional elements are necessary to understand the big picture. Additional elements can be dedicated win/loss interviews, campaign reviews, and sounding boards with “early adopter” salespeople and front line sales managers to discuss analytics and learn more about their perspectives and experiences. Approaching the issue in a holistic way like this helps to leverage content analytics and to make the right content decisions—to create value, not noise.

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Sales Force Enablement – See you in Atlanta, Sept 17

The term “Sales Enablement” is used for almost everything that has to do with content, messaging, training, collaboration and technology to improve sales productivity and drive sales effectiveness. The function is rarely a strategic discipline that translates selling challenges into integrated, tailored sales execution plans. But this is exactly the kind of strategic approach that is required to create sustainable business impact and to drive sales force transformation successfully.

Sales enablement daily challenges

Our clients’ reality is that it’s still challenging to provide core enablement services in an effective and valuable way. The environments sales enablement leaders are dealing with are complex. Sales alone is a complex system with many dimensions that are all connected to each other. Furthermore, the need to work cross-functionally adds more dimensions to this existing complexity. Not to mention a variety of external providers of content, messaging, technology and training to work with. All these dimensions and their dependencies have to be orchestrated effectively to create significant value for the sales force. Additionally, there are still missing elements in many enablement approaches that need to be integrated with current enablement approaches, e.g., the relevance of frontline sales managers, the need to develop integrated content and training services, and to establish a strong foundation in sales operations that’s beneficial for both disciplines. This complexity is why frameworks are so important for sales enablement leaders. Frameworks provide a visual supporting structure, they cover several dimensions and their interdependencies on an aggregated level, and they enable us to navigate complexity in a more effective way.

Foundation for Sales Force Enablement (SFE)

In my SFPC session, Sept 17, 8:00 a.m., I’ll share some fresh data from our 2014 MHI Sales Performance and Productivity Study, including data on the biggest inhibitors to sales success, data on a growing sales enablement scope, and data on enablement investments and the correlation to quota achievement. Based on the data and the still-existing different perceptions regarding what sales enablement should do, we will then establish a customer-core foundation for sales force enablement, which covers the entire customer’s journey.

Our MHI Sales Force Enablement Master Framework is based on this customer core foundation. It enables you to define, structure, process and prioritize your sales enablement efforts to create more business impact in a more effective way. I will share an overview of the framework, what the different areas look like, and how you can use them. You will learn how to connect the customer’s journey with the internal value creation processes. We will discuss how to tailor your enablement services to all stages and all levels of the customer’s journey. And we will discuss how sales force enablement and sales operations belong together. Last but not least, we will look at a phased approach to a successful change and adoption program.

See you in Atlanta at the Sales Force Productivity Conference, Sept 17, 8am

Related blog posts:


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More On Performance Accountability – The Sales Manager’s View

According to Business Dictionary, performance is defined as “the accomplishment of a given task measured against preset known standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed.” It is a result to be measured. Accountability, on the other hand, is a virtue. It’s the willingness to accept responsibility. Accountability is a key ingredient to achieve your sales performance and growth goals. Accountability across the sales force ensures that the sales force’s energy is focused to execute the strategy successfully, that the right actions are in place to become world class.

Performance Accountability—a behavior of world-class sales managers

Our 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identified three individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One of them is performance accountability. Click here to see what performance accountability means for sales professionals. Today, we discuss the term for sales managers. One example from our data is that in an average month, front line sales managers (FSM) spend adequate time coaching each individual on their sales team. The data show a significant difference between world class and all respondents, which is a consistent trend over the last four years.

Performance accountability for sales managers has three main characteristics:

  • Accountability to leverage salespeople’s full potential
  • Accountability for team performance
  • FSM Professionalism

Click here and read my full blog post which was initially published over @ Miller Heiman.

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Defining Sales Functions And Programs – How to Define Your Charter

Now, as we have defined vision mission and purpose, we have to be more specific. Based on your target audience (sales roles, sales manager roles, channel partners, etc.) motto, objectives, strategies and tactics, your specific services and your metrics have to be defined. For you as a sales leader make sure your sales functions complete these charters. Also, make sure they connect the dots between the different charters to set a foundation for effective collaboration. Let’s look at your five steps to complete your charter. These steps build on the first three steps, discussed here.

Create an inspiring tag line to address your target audience

A tag line should capture your vision. Especially in times of transformation, change and adoption programs, those tag lines shouldn’t be underestimated. That’s how people will feel about your function, initiative or program. An example for sales enablement and or sales training could be: Let’s change from “I have to sell a product” to “I love to solve my customer’s problems.” Then integrate vision, mission and purpose as discussed in my previous post.

Define goal and objectives

The goal is closely related to the vision, it captures what has to be achieved, e.g. “We implement sales enablement and collaboration platform for the sales force” or “we want to provide a state-of-the-art CRM system that drives collaboration and effectiveness.” Goals do not have to be strictly measurable or tangible. Objectives instead have to be tangible and measurable. Several objectives can lead to your goal. An example could be “The CRM collaboration platform will go live August 1 for selected users, migration will be completed by Oct 30.” Another objective could be “to implement interactive playbooks until September, to decrease salespeople’s search time by 20 percent.”

Define strategies, create a phased approach

This section is about how to bring the vision alive. A strategy refers to a plan of action which is designed to achieve the defined objectives. Detailing the strategies, the activities have to be derived from, and connected to the expected outcomes that have to be achieved. Capture all activities necessary to achieve the objectives. If you are going to implement sales technology or new enablement services, make sure there is an adoption activity included. Think about the salespeople you provide services for. Finally, organize the activities on a timeline and create a road map.

Define your services and offerings

Your services and offerings are what’s visible to your defined target audience, the different roles within the sales force and channels. Your services are what people use and how they will perceive your function. Those services are  e.g. sales enablement content, interactive playbooks, different training services, a collaboration platform, a performance management framework or a coaching guideline for sales managers. Define what is provided for which target audience.

Define how to measure success

Last but not least, define how to measure success. Those metrics depend on what’s included in your charter. If there are services to be implemented for the first time, milestones will be very important for you. If services are already in place, their effectiveness and their impact on sales performance is what matters. Last but not least, how efficient are these services produced? Make sure to cover all dimensions adequately.

Now, put it all together. Begin with your target audience, inflate vision, mission and purpose from the previous post, and add the topics that we discussed here – and create a compelling charter. It will become your go-to-resource for any kind of internal selling, communication, change and adoption situation.


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Defining Sales Functions And Programs – Why You Need Vision, Mission, Purpose First

Fitness, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is defined as “the quality or state of being fit.” That’s a general guideline, but what does it mean to you? It depends on your context. Are you a professional decathlete or a weekend trail runner?

Defining functions and programs the right way is key to success for both you as the sales leader and your sales functions as leader. Definitions create value only if they are adjusted to your organization’s specific context and challenges. Developing a big picture on vision, mission, purpose and core values is the first step in creating a meaningful charter for each of your sales functions. The purpose of such a charter is to support you in various internal selling and adoption situations with consistent messages that tell a compelling story.

And that’s the part you have to be deeply involved, because it’s about bridging the gap between business strategy and sales execution. Today we cover part one – vision, mission, purpose. A follow-up post will cover goals and objectives, strategies, the function’s services and metrics.

Step 1: The vision describes the desired future state

It describes WHERE you want to be, and what you want to achieve on a high level. To develop, for instance, a sales enablement vision, the organization’s vision has to be mapped to both sales and  sales enablement. Visions for sales forces often have to do with transformation from product selling to outcome selling. If so, your vision can describe, for example, being the leading internal function that drives the transformation towards outcome selling as well as productivity to create more customer value in complex buying environments. It’s of course different if sales’ vision is to build partner channels. Key to create a meaningful vision is to work precisely from top down. You cannot put the cart before the horse.

Step 2: The mission is about the current state leading to the future state

A mission defines HOW you will get to where you want to be. An example for sales ops could be defining and executing a sales operations framework to provide a compelling and integrated value creation process from prospect to contract, easy to use and powered by technology. An example for a sales enablement mission could be defining and executing a cross-functional enablement framework to provide integrated services that are tailored to an outcome oriented sales approach, powered by an enablement platform.

Step 3: Purpose and core values

The purpose answers the question WHY a certain sales function exists. A purpose can be that sales enablement orchestrates the various sources of knowledge to create integrated enablement services, tailored to each stage and each level of the customer’s journey. A purpose for sales ops could be to build the skeleton of the sales organization.

Core values show how you and your teams will behave along the journey to achieve the vision. This area depends on your organization’s culture. There are three core values you will always need in a world-class sales organization – collaboration, accountability and leadership.

Don’t underestimate these three steps. If these fundamentals are not defined properly, you and your functional leaders will need much more time to sell every single initiative internally. Be ready to provide answers to questions that are related to vision, mission, purpose and values. Invest your time wisely, and develop vision, mission and purpose for your core sales functions!

Watch out for the next post where we’ll talk about the second part of your sales functions’ charters – goals and objectives, strategies and tactics, services and metrics.


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Performance Accountability – A Behavior of World-Class Sales Performers

If a taxi driver delivers excellent services, then you are a lucky person. In case your taxi driver also helps you out with coins that were part of his tip just to make sure you can pick up a baggage cart and catch your flight – then you have a taxi driver who cared more about your outcome than about his own. That’s one aspect of performance accountability.

Performance Accountability—a behavior of world-class sales performers

The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identified three individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One of them is performance accountability. World -Class Sales Organizations set themselves apart in many ways. One example for performance accountability is their ability to align their sales performance metrics with their business objectives. It sounds obvious, but our data show – in a consistent way over the last four years – that this is a very significant differentiator between world class and all respondents. Now, how does performance accountability look like for a salesperson? Let’s look at a few criteria:

Accountability for the customers’ success

First and foremost, world-class sales performers hold themselves accountable for their customers’ success. They know that the customers’ success is the foundation of their own success. They own the customer’s expected outcome that was part of the solution they have sold. They do everything they can to make sure the expected value is achieved or overachieved. World-class sales performers hold themselves accountable along the entire customer’s journey. There is no walking away after a deal is closed, just as the taxi driver didn’t walk away.

Accountability for own performance

World-class sales performers are focused on results. They don’t accept excuses. They know that focus and energy create movement, and they use their time wisely. They hold themselves accountable to the standards and expectations set by their frontline sales manager (FSM). They recognize that their FSM relies on timely and accurate business updates. They deliver on forecast commitments and maintain current and accurate funnel data. That’s why they are always prepared for opportunity reviews.


World-class sales performers are professionals to the core. They show up every day. They practice hard. They always try to become better. And they demand continuous coaching from their sales manager to leverage their full potential. They are committed to mastering various sales techniques, they are courageous, creative and they take risks – even in the face of fear. They reflect their practice all the time, and they learn even when they lose. Even if they lose the deal, they gain experience. Last but not least, they collaborate: they share best practices, they love to learn from others, and they are well respected by other world-class sales professionals.

Looking for more interesting data on world-class sales performance?

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Conscious Collaboration—A Behavior Of World Class Sales Performers

Look at a couple of your won deals and analyze the criteria that made the difference. There will be tangible criteria such as the vision of future success, the compelling business case, a specific solution whose value outweighed the perceived risk of change, etc. There is one intangible criterion that empowers all the tangible criteria, and that is collaboration.

Conscious collaboration—a behavior of world-class sales performers

The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identifies the individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One is conscious collaboration. It’s the ability to collaborate across departments to pursue large deals, specifically to quickly allocate the right resources to those deals. It’s the ability to collaborate across departments to manage strategic accounts and to have an effective cross-functional process to manage global accounts. Conscious collaboration also means that sales and marketing are solidly aligned, with a shared understanding of the customer’s journey and a shared focus on one goal: revenue.

Collaboration needs to be defined

The purpose of collaboration is not collaboration itself. It’s achieving better results in a shorter amount of time.  It allows individuals with disparate areas of expertise and different roles to work together in ad hoc scenarios through a common language and strategic frameworks. Collaboration connects teams, organizations and companies. It’s how they work together to multiply their individual contributions. Collaboration objectives are different for a strategic account environment, and they are different for an inside sales team. Sales professionals are traditionally more competitive than collaborative, which means that collaboration and its objectives must be clearly defined. Collaboration has to make sense for sales professionals. That’s why we call it conscious collaboration. Each situation is unique and requires its own balance of collaboration and competition. For example, large deal team are necessarily collaborative, while account teams compete for sales resources, and sales professionals may compete for promotions. Defining collaboration cannot be delegated. It is a sales leadership task. When sales leaders establish guiding principles for different situations and defines expected behaviors, it creates the foundation for conscious collaboration.

Collaboration needs a framework to create business impact

These principles and definitions must be operationalized to create a common language and a shared understanding of the components of the strategic framework. Successful collaboration frameworks start with the customers at the core. Those frameworks cover customer management strategies (including account and opportunity plans), industry strategies and sales execution plans. Messaging covers how to address different customer stakeholders with the right messages based on their concepts and roles. Another component is knowledge—covering all relevant knowledge areas (e.g., customer, products and solutions, industries, competitors and internal knowledge. Prepared with such a framework, and ideally embedded in technology, collaboration and enablement platforms together with integrated SFA/CRM systems can create great value. The extended sales teams can speak the same language, have access to the same information and are able to focus on the customer instead of constantly needing to adapt to random, judgment-based tactics driven by individual sales professionals. In this way, conscious collaboration empowers sales communities.

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