This post was published first @ TopSalesWorld – August Magazine.
Picture this – a sculpture from Michelangelo and a sculpture from a craftsman! In both cases, a lot of knowledge, skills, experience and attitude on how to work with marble or bronze are necessary. One produces sculptures, the other creates a piece of art. Isn’t the difference something that makes Michelangelo’s sculpture more meaningful, isn’t it the “je ne sais quoi” that’s touching people and they cannot say why?
Let’s define, what we are talking about: Science is defined as “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject” and craftsmanship as “the quality of design and work shown in something made by hand”. When it comes to art, we should build on Seth Godin’s definition: “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.”
Isn’t that perfect for selling?
Selling is based on e.g. knowledge, skills, talent, experience and attitude. Knowledge covers e.g. knowing the customers and their challenges, knowing the own capabilities, knowing sales processes and selling methodologies. Knowledge is the foundation of what and how we are selling. Skills are the ability to do something well. Then, it’s about talent and attitude. If people have more talent regarding certain skills, they will develop mastery with ease, if their attitude is accordingly. Not only in sales, the own attitude is where it all begins. Additionally, selling means experience, intuition, gut feeling and the list goes on… We are talking about tangible and intangible things.
Now, let’s look at different selling scenarios:
- Transactional: Let’s recap the crafted sculpture, a book, a software license, or a well-defined service. This kind of business is processed with inside sales teams, on line and often – without sales. But with customer service (see also Dan Pink’s “To Sell Is Human”). The customers drive this process, they find everything they need on line. Maybe, they contact the customer service hotline more often than the sales team. It’s a standardized, very efficient, optimized, sequenced process. In this sales scenario, we are talking more about science and craftsmanship, not so much about art.
- Complex: Let’s look at an outsourcing deal. The customer’s stakeholders may all have the same challenge to solve, but they usually have different responsibilities and different view points how to get there, and they are measured differently. Even though these stakeholders analyzed a lot on line, very often, they are more confused than they would ever admit. Now, a sales person can create a lot of value by engaging with the stakeholders very early, ideally before the problem occurred or they are aware of the problem’s impact. That’s about sharing insights how to solve such a challenge, why they have to change now, to achieve their desired outcomes. Value creation from a sales perspective is also to provide context, to put things into perspective and to create a shared vision of success, a buying vision, a big picture, the whole stakeholder landscape can agree on. What makes the difference in the buyer’s eyes? The creativity, the passion, the empathy, the commitment, the attitude of the sales person, the value that was created so far for the buyers – all intangible things. Art makes the difference, but based on a solid foundation of science and craftsmanship.
- Transactional selling: There is way more science and craftsmanship than art, due to the fact, that there is no longer an asymmetry between buyer and sellers. Success factors are efficient processes to create most effective results. Art is just icing on the cake.
- Complex selling: Science and craftsmanship are the foundation, but art is the critical success factor in this scenario. It’s not about detailed processes and check lists, but about customer journey oriented milestones and core principles, that empower sales people and their managers in complex situations, and keep them accountable for their decisions and outcomes. Art in this context is creativity, imagination, bravery, boldness, passion – all the intangible skills and talents and a certain attitude of a sales person to own and to fight for the customer’s outcomes.
What does it mean for sales enablement?
In a transactional sales system, the world is complicated, but not complex and enablement is focused on science and craftsmanship. In a complex sales system, science and craftsmanship are a foundation, but enablement has to achieve more – to equip artists to make a real difference for the customer. So, enablement in a transactional environment is focused on scalable efficiency, but a complex sales system requires more, it requires also scalable learning to make a difference.
- Sales content, based on content management framework: In a transactional sales system, the content supports standardized product and services, mapped to customer challenges, tailored to buyer profiles – and can be automated in structured play books along the sales process, stage by stage. The need to customize content is low, it’s already tailored to the defined predictable number of typical buyer roles.In a complex sales system, content tailoring can get very complex along the customer’s journey, telling the story from the customer’s perspective and in different vertical colors. Content for different “why change now” scenarios is critical for success, tailored for a different set of stakeholders to create a shared vision of success.
- Skill development: In a complex sales system, there are many more sales roles to be equipped than in a transactional sales system. Also, the focus is different: products and solutions are only a foundation. People in a complex sales system need business acumen, investment rather than efficiency thinking as wellas principles how to navigate a complex customer stakeholder network, how to analyze the customer’s specific challenges, how to create a shared vision and how to map the own capabilities to specific situations.
To sum it up – enablement in a transactional sales system is focused on tangibles, enablement in a complex sales system has a stronger focus on the intangible things, on everything we call “art” – to make a real difference at the customer.