Selling internally – that’s when sellers complain about processes, templates, specific questions they have to answer to get delivery commitments, necessary invests and so forth…
This is the first dimension of selling internally – already addressed in many articles.
There is a second dimension: Especially in complex selling situations, sales people should also equip their relevant decision makers within the customer’s organization with a shared vision of success, to help them to sell the story and the value of a deal internally – to speed up the process to get a decision and to reduce the risk a no-decision. My friend Dave Brock has written an excellent blog post called “Selling internally” on exactly this dimension.
And there is a third dimension, our topic today: Selling internally as key to success for sales enablement professionals. I mentioned the need to be excellent when it comes to selling internally in half a sentence without going into detail at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale this year – and it was tweeted and tweeted and tweeted… Did I hit the nail on the head?
We are running a variety of different strategic initiatives. What’s the most time consuming part of my job? Selling and communicating our visions, missions, projects and initiatives internally (including preparation), followed by execution activities. I made this calendar exercise, when Dan Pink published his new book “To Sell Is Human”. He created the term “non sales selling”, which means exactly these activities – persuading and convincing people, building agreement networks, getting senior executive buy-in to get your initiatives supported with resources, budgets, ideas and innovations and so forth…
Sales Enablement, especially if the discipline is focused on strategy, change and transformation, has a lot to do with selling internally. It’s selling a vision, a shared vision of success from the very beginning until the value is delivered with measurable results.
Our internal customers are front line sales people, first and second line sales managers, sales executives, operations managers, or marketing and portfolio management colleagues, HR business partners, process managers, IT architects and the list goes on and on…
So far so good – it looks pretty much like a complex sale with many stakeholders across different functions and a pretty long sales cycle.
I analyzed a few of our sales enablement initiatives, tactical and strategic initiatives, and how we set them up, how we communicated and how we sold them internally. I would like to start with a few lessons learned – please chime in and add your experiences to the list:
1. Practice what you preach – Follow a GoToCustomer approach:
Address the organization’s problem in the first place (not what you want to do!), consider the different patterns how to solve it, and the different expectations of your impacted stakeholders, design a phased approach how to achieve the future state and the customer’s desired outcomes. Define those desired outcomes with your internal customers as part of a big picture and connect measurable KPI’s to this future vision of success. Additionally, provide a business case, depending on the volume of your initiative and your organization’s policy.
2. Answer the question “Why do we need to change?” – You will need a story!
It’s key to success, especially if your initiative is touching comfort zones and addressing change and transformation. Work with scenarios – first of all, what will happen if we do nothing? Then, what will happen if we change? Where is the difference between current state and future state, how does the transformation look like and how do we measure success? Don’t forget to connect the metrics to your sales leadership team’s top KPI’s. Use research data and analysis and case studies – data are your best friends. What are other organizations doing, what are world class sales organizations doing? What’s different to your specific situation? Work from the outside to the inside, but never forget to add your organization’s specific color. Every journey will be unique.
3. Focus on the shared vision of success:
Let’s assume, the problem and the impact are agreed, the “why change” question could be answered, create a shared vision of success. This is a story to communicate your vision to different stakeholders, it should include the big picture, the path how do we come from the current state to the desired future state and what’s each stakeholder’s contribution to be successful in each phase. This step is building trust, showing that your approach is well thought through, that you know the upcoming challenges along the transformation. Perfect to ask for specific support in each phase.
4. Define “time” and results:
In case you have a tactical initiative, you might be able to deliver results within one or two quarters, let’s say you set up new sales messages in new content types and you provide the related trainings. But in case you are addressing a change initiative which is changing sales methodologies, sales management methodologies, selling processes, strategies etc., define “time”. You will have initiatives that will last between twelve and eighteen months to achieve the promised future state. You will need senior executive sponsorship over this entire time frame. So, provide defined progress and results in a phased approach to help people to understand that you are on track.
5. Create a clear picture regarding change and transformation impact:
Change and transformation programs have certain curves. Often, the curve makes the situation worse before it’s getting better and better. Your stakeholders have to be prepared, they need to send the right messages at the right time and they need to prove sales leadership. If you change the sales methodology, you will face those situations. To be able to manage those situations successfully, strong and clear messages that are reinforcing the change are key to success.
6. Offer your sales enablement services as a business within a business:
That’s the shift from activities to services. It’s what you could implement after you rolled out successfully a new initiative. As soon as the results are delivered and the impact is achieved, why not designing a sales enablement service (platform, process, content, training, coaches, etc.)? We created such a service for account planning, offering a process, a methodology, content in terms of “how to” guidelines and templates, webinar trainings and dedicated account coaches. A great idea to be implemented after pilots and first projects were successful. Take all your lessons learned during these phases to design a sustainable, mature and valuable service.
I will stop here – I could write and write and write and talk about examples, lessons learned and experiences. But that’s not the purpose right now.
I wanted to initiate a discussion, based on many conversations I had with peers on this issue.
Chime in, share your thoughts and add your lessons learned to the list!