But how do you work with these groups specifically? Which group do you need to challenge your concepts and ideas and for which groups do you actually design your enablement services?
As always, there is no „one size fits all“, especially not, if you design services for complex selling scenarios. In my experience, SE professionals should analyze precisely, where and how to invest time and resources, to address what really matters to increase performance and to drive transformation. The answer to this question is often different in transactional and in complex selling scenarios. Today, we will focus on complex selling scenarios. But how is that defined anyway? Complex selling scenarios are not only defined by what you sell and how complex it is for your organization to sell. It’s even more important to consider how complex it is for the buyer to buy: Complex means, that there are many different stakeholders involved, with different roles, different patterns, different opinions how to achieve desired outcomes, and these stakeholders are often measured differently. Sales cycles have a tendency to get longer and longer, because on the other hand, the number of stakeholders is increasing, and buying processes didn’t get a lot easier.
Then, in a complex selling scenario, everything is connected to everything, in the sales system and in the buying system. A deep understanding – which is much more than “knowing”- of all the elements in these systems is necessary to take the right actions in the most conscious way, to be able to achieve the desired sales results and then – the buyer’s desired outcomes. Complex sales means also, that the customers make their decisions differently – because every situation, every problem that has to be solved has its own unique characteristics.
These specifics have a direct impact on sales force enablement as a whole: on strategy, methodology, on enablement services for sales people and their managers and on sales enablement metrics. In general, you need flexible principles rather than detailed rules. Methodology and enablement services should be more focused on outcome-selling. Consultative and value-based selling skills are much more important to make a difference than product, process and tool knowledge. These areas are of course a necessary foundation. But to make a difference, the how, the outcome-based selling orientation will be key to success. Also, enablement content has to be much more flexible and should be designed in a very modular way, because many different stakeholder groups cutting across IT and business with specific and tailored value messages have to be addressed – way more than in a clearly defined transactional sales environment. Therefore, editing and configuring content in a very effective way is mission critical for sales teams. Apart from the stages along the customer’s journey, all the different impacted stakeholder roles have to be considered – to equip your sales people to navigate complexity and build a shared vision of success. So, this is quite a challenge for a sales enablement content management framework.
Now, let’s discuss how to work with the different groups in your sales organization. There are two challenger groups and two target groups:
- A-Player – Sales People:
The goal to engage with A-Players is to get as much input as possible from your most successful sales people. Engaging with them is often a challenge in itself: They are the „troublemakers“, who challenge an organization’s processes and systems all the time – which is actually a gift for all! They are always successful – whatever you provide or don’t provide. Often, they cannot articulate pretty well, what and how they do differently. They just do – and they lead. Whatever enablement services you will provide, check-in with your A-Players, let them challenge your ideas, your trainings, your content, even entire frameworks, weave in their feedback, before you roll-out anything to the field.
- A-Player – Sales Managers:
Your top sales managers have the same importance – for two purposes.
First, it’s regarding the enablement services you will provide for their sales people. Gather their feedback from a sales coaching perspective and integrate it. Based on their day-to-day coaching experience, they know exactly in which selling situations and why which kind of sales people struggle the most.
Second, challenge your enablement services for them with them. It can be a very challenging undertaking, but it’s absolutely worth your effort, because the sales managers have always the biggest leverage effect regarding performance and transformation. Everybody will benefit, if your top sales managers are “enablement evangelists”.
Your main target groups:
- B-Players – Sales People:
They are the most important target group for all your sales enablement services you are going to provide sales people. The goal is to empower them on their journey towards the A-Players’ performance level. This is why it’s so important to incorporate their wisdom – especially in complex sales. It’s essential to focus on principles rather than on processes and check lists, because every selling situation is different. Engage with a group of B-Players after you challenged your services with the A-Players. Then, adjust what’s maybe not completely understandable.
- B-Players – Sales Managers:
After having challenged your sales manager enablement program with a few top sales managers, run a second pilot with the “B sales managers”, to make sure that everything is well understandable and can be well received to create the most value for them. Focus especially on the sales coaching framework and connect the dots to the enablement services for sales people. Make sure, that there is a lot of space to practice sales coaching and to get coached on coaching…
“And what are you going to provide for the C and D Players?”
I hear you…
A short but provocative answer:
You do nothing specifically for these groups regarding your enablement program for sales people (!). But, and that’s the second part of the answer: You don’t accept bad performance. Never. Because it turns a sale force into mediocrity. Now what?
Enabling and developing C and D players (or figuring out, that it’s not possible) is first of all a sales management challenge, and it should be part of your enablement program for sales managers. For such a program, it’s important to provide sales managers a matrix that helps them to decide where to focus their coaching efforts and where to apply different measures, also how to decide which people in these groups have the hidden potential to grow and to increase their performance and also, how to enable and coach them to get there.
The most important principle:
Focus on what matters most in your specific environment, which will always be a specific and unique answer.
A column version of this post will be published @TopSalesWorld – September Magazine.