I launched this blog in October 2011. I didn’t celebrate the first birthday (“wow, already one year on-line?”). But today, I’d love to celebrate the first full year of my blog with you!
Sales enablement – the term is still a bit “under construction”, but the relevance and the meaning is increasing. More and more organizations see the long-term value, see the strategic relevance, the need to be able to quickly execute on changing business strategies, to close the strategy-execution gap. More and more organizations see also the need to design selling systems end2end, from prospect to contract, across all functional silos. More and more organizations see that technology is a great enabler – when the organizational and structural homework is done before. Breaking down the collaboration barriers is still a huge challenge – not only, but especially for sales enablement.
Working on this 2012 review, I’m writing with so much gratitude 🙂
Let’s celebrate a few highlights – OUR highlights!
I couldn’t have achieved all these things without YOU! Let me take a moment to express my deepest gratitude for your ongoing support and contribution! Thanks so much for reading, challenging, discussing, commenting, sharing – thanks so much, all my friends, supporters, mentors, challengers, peers, colleagues, collaborators all over the place!
- The audience of this blog is growing and growing! Thousands of people have seen, viewed, clicked on this web site in 2012, in North America, in Europe, in Asia and in Australia!
- I was surprised about myself, when I counted my posts in 2012 – I published 20 posts including this one!
- I had the wonderful opportunity to give a keynote on the state of sales enablement in Melbourne – CSE2012
- I had a presentation on the gap in strategic accounts at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum in San Francisco
- I’m feeling very honored that a few of my posts were published in the Top Sales World Magazine and I’m feeling even more honored that I could be a member of the Top Sales Awards judge panel.
- I’m very happy that one of my posts was published in the SAP sponsored 21st Century Sales Warrior iGuide.
The blog post highlights in 2012:
There is still a lot of work to do, regarding all the essentials, but especially in a direction, where we need a lot of innovation, creativity, bravery and passion – and leadership. In my opinion, that’s all about how to use GoToCustomer oriented sales enablement approaches and selling system blueprints to drive change in the 21st century. Knowing, that we have to bridge between the information age and the conceptual age, knowing that well-known skills and behaviors from the last century are no longer valuable for customers and no longer suitable for our planet – not only regarding selling?
“Unlearn and Relearn” – that describes the challenge perfectly.
How to design selling systems – no, I should say – buyer enablement systems, that are part of responsible, sustainable, outcome-oriented stakeholder-oriented and customer-centric business models? How to build those end2end buyer enablement systems, how to connect them to other value cycle elements across silos, functions and organizations? And then, how do we measure success internally when we enable customers to achieve their outcomes. What does it mean for our internal performance management systems, when our mottos might change to
“Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle – Re-imagine a responsible enterprise”
My first outlook for 2013, what you could expect to find here:
- Enable the sales managers first, covering several view points
- Sales infrastructure and selling systems, buyer enablement systems
- Driving the general concept of GoToCustomer, as outlined above
- A special on customer outcomes, what is it, what does it mean for our sales force control systems, our behaviors, our collaboration models, our performance management systems etc.
Yes, writing is an amazing creative activity. Writing, especially developing and growing this blog changed my life, without a doubt. It became a major part of my journey, writing and finally clicking on the “publish” button are definitely feeding my soul…
I’m looking very much forward to 2013 – I want to welcome the new year with you!
Welcome 2013, with all the challenges you might bring to us!
I truly believe that great challenges are always great opportunities, to make a difference, to drive change, to make the world a better place – for all living beings on planet Earth.
Having said this, I want to wish you a healthy, happy and a successful 2013 – whatever success might mean to you. It’s easier with the key to happiness –
Happiness comes from within, as soon as you unlock the unconditional love of your heart, you found your personal key to happiness…
May your visions become true, may you achieve the next steps on your journey.
PS: I’m sure, you want to make a difference – for people who have no access to clean water. Imagine, what a huge difference you can make in people’s lives, just with a small contribution. The camapign has the goal to support 1000 people to get clean water.
Please check out and support Dave Brock’s amazing water campaign.
Thank you so much in advance!
I was very inspired reading Dave Brock’s brilliant thought leader post „Moving From Value Creation To Value Co-Creation“ including the great discussion on his blog. The essence of these thoughts made me challenging and rethinking the idea of the customer’s journey – especially in an outcome selling scenario.
My focus today is complex business: Customers want to achieve certain business outcomes and vendors are focused on how to enable customers to achieve their desired outcomes with the vendor’s capabilities in a kind of co-creation. That requires to use the customer’s capabilities and sometimes also capabilities from partners. What we shouldn’t forget – value co-creation can only happen, when vendors (and partners) as well can achieve their desired business outcomes. My hypothesis is, that value co-creation belongs to an outcome selling approach – based on a collaborative, customer-centric approach. Outcome selling not only requires that the vendor designs the whole selling system backwards from the customer’s journey, it also requires different selling skills and behaviors. It’s a place for value- and purpose-driven sales people rather than for quota-driven people.
Very early along the customer’s journey, we should try to get our foot in the door, to challenge the customer, to share insights, best practices, case studies – to make them thinking differently about their challenges, to help them to change perspectives, to show them a first vision of a future state – how to better achieve their desired outcomes. Our value messaging should consider two dimensions: One is the stage along the customer’s journey, the other one is the buyer role model. So, we are working with a value hypothesis, tailored to the role of the potential executive owner regarding a specific challenge/outcome.
Let’s imagine you are talking to the VP Desktop Services – sounds a bit boring and „commodity“ at first sight. But we can easily draw a big picture, a vision, which covers mobile strategy, collaboration and unified communication all together, focused on the design and the architecture of a compelling future workplace. So, we act as a strategic partner, we are focused on the customer’s desired outcome. We challenge him/her in a positive way, we share insights, we communicate value. Now, he/she will look at the challenge in a different way. Maybe, even the customer’s desired outcome will change.
Tailored value propositions:
When the customer got the entire scope of challenge and impact, we can continue with building a more detailed future vision and develop together a high-level big picture of a solution – with the focus to define the customer’s desired outcome more precisely. We are still engaging the role of the executive owner, but we also address the different impacted stakeholders. These different stakeholders might have different challenges and perspectives, because their success is measured differently depending on their different roles. So, they will decide what’s valuable for them.
Now, we work with different value propositions tailored to different stakeholder roles. We might keep a strong focus on the desired outcomes, to make sure that we drive urgency and importance at the same time to avoid a „no decision“ situation. The best way to do that is to show that the current state is really uncomfortable and that the future state is a much better place to achieve the desired outcomes. The transformation into the future state has to be based on a step-by-step approach in a way, that the future state is perceived much better compared to the current state/pain, the related invest and the general and individual risks all together.
Then – hopefully we got it! The executive owner decided to take action! Let’s celebrate that for a moment. We have communicated value and – apparently – already created value, because the executive owner was now able to make a decision to move forward – coming from a situation where the problem and/or the impact as well as the question on how to achieve the desired outcomes were not completely clear.
So, value creation took place in two dimensions: First, we enabled the executive owner to make a decision to change the current state and we enabled him/her to sell the vision and the project internally in a successful way. Second, we created value internally for our own pipeline, we developed a lead to an opportunity – „selling internally“
This stage is also a critical moment. Why? Because the executive owners have a tendency to delegate the project now within their teams to another person who is now responsible to run the buying process.
Unique value messages:
Now we should evolve our messaging into unique value messages for each of the impacted stakeholders. That’s based on a prerequisite – having a competitive strategy. Important here is to decide on the strategy regarding the competition but to remain focused on working with the customer’s stakeholders – don’t allow anybody to shift the focus to competitors. The key to success in this phase is to enable the buying team to make the best decision on how to achieve their desired business outcomes. That means to enable this team to sell the project internally to prepare a positive decision.
In parallel, we have to adjust the unique value messages for internal purposes, to get the different delivery units and the internal legal and commercial managers on the same page, to get their buy-in, to persuade them with a compelling business case which helps both partners to achieve their business outcomes.
Selling internally is an own journey in parallel …
If the customer makes a buy-decision in favor of us, we know that we were pretty successful along the entire customer’s journey with our messaging. The value at this stage is already a co-creation because we created value for the customer AND for our own organization in terms of a win-win case – to enable the customer to decide for us and to enable our organization to make a „Go“ decision for this customer-outcome based project.
Value implementation and communication:
Now, many sales people declare victory too early (order entry is booked!) and aren’t focused on the last phase of the customer’s journey any more. But this is the most important one to make the customer’s journey successful, which means that they can achieve their desired outcomes – and ours as well. Also, our contract might depend on the customer’s outcomes – if we are really serious and consequent in terms of outcome scenarios. We have to deliver, we have to implement the value we communicated, exchanged and created so far – step by step, phase by phase, as outlined before. The customer will also have to take actions, but the biggest part will be the vendor’s responsibility.
Attention – there will be different time frames between the implementation of technology and the achieved business outcomes! Imagine an outsourcing scenario, the desired business outcomes will take some time…
If we achieved all that, let’s not forget this final step – to communicate the co-created and now implemented value accordingly. First, to the stakeholders running the project day-by-day. Second, to the executive owner, the person we started the project in the very beginning. If we take this step seriously, we have a great chance to hear more about upcoming challenges, potential future opportunities, served on a silver platter…
What’s the necessary foundation for value co-creation, for real outcome selling like this? A selling system designed from the outside to the inside, a clear statement that both the vendor and the customer consider this relationship as strategic, based on a collaborative partnership with a strong commitment to achieve the outcomes of both partners.
What are your thoughts on value creation and value co-creation?
What do you think about the outcome selling approach?
Chime in and share your thoughts!
Here you go – the second part of my little series about The Challenger Sale. Today it’s about the so-called death of solution selling.
As we discussed in part 1: The Challenger Sale provides a broad range of valuable, very interesting research results and insights on sales behaviors – what are successful behaviors, what’s not working anymore and and what are the behaviors that lead to high performance. Let’s think about that for a moment: How can a behavior-based approach lead to the death of a selling strategy which has a totally different design point?
Maybe that’s only me, but I don’t feel very comfortable with that.
Let’s focus on the evolution of sales, and then let’s discuss the conclusions.
Product selling is focused on what a product is. That worked pretty well, especially for products without a big need for complex knowledge transfer. It worked also pretty well before the buyer could gather all this information online. Now, that’s going to be transactional business and we need to design this business as efficient as possible, with lean integrated processes from prospect to contract, with process automation technologies, inside sales etc.
Solution selling is focused on how to solve customer problems and how to create a measurable result regarding the solved problem. The solution sales based value messages explain what a solution does (to address a specific problem or challenge).
There is often one big confusion: What are we talking about – are we talking about vendor solutions or about customer solutions? Didn’t too many vendors just change the label? Didn’t too many vendors just try to sell their (!) solutions as they sold their products?
Outcome selling or result selling, is the next level of the selling evolution.
The focus is on the customer’s desired business outcomes, which means to think about how to improve the main customer business drivers, which is often only possible if we as a vendor really understand the business models our customers have with their customers. The outcome selling based value messages are focused on what a tailored approach means for the customer business results – and not what it does and not what it is – that’s backup information.
So what? The main difference between solution and outcome selling is, from what a solution does to solve a specific problem to what a solution or a tailored business approach means in terms of business outcomes, business results. Both selling strategies have a solution in mind, but with a different purpose. If implemented the right way, it’s always about the customer’s solution to solve a problem, to master a challenge or to drive a specific business outcome. Defining solution selling from the vendor’s portfolio of products and services, from the inside to the outside, was probably never a very successful and sustainable idea. Because – as we know from a variety of research results – customers don’t care. They don’t care, what we offer as packaged, bundled solutions. They value, if vendors can map their capabilities to their specific problems and challenges, and they value if a vendor can develop a shared vision of success with them, to drive their outcomes. That’s valuable and that makes a difference for them – if we show what it means for them, not what it is or what it does.
From my point of view, it’s pretty obvious, that we need a variety of challenger skills for different selling strategies and different selling situations – to create customer value regarding their specific business challenges, to drive their business outcomes, to create a shared vision of success. But, let’s avoid to pronounce solution selling dead, because:
First, it’s strange for me to promote a behavior-oriented approach – which is actually valuable – and declare at the same time the end a solution selling, which has a totally different design point. For me, that devaluates the initial research value.
Second – yes, it’s true that many organizations implemented solution selling the wrong way, from the inside to the outside, based on their own set of solutions. It’s also true that many organizations didn’t focus on ongoing improvement efforts.
But, most of the time, it’s not the “dead” selling strategy or the “wrong” sales process – the root causes are bad implementation and bad execution. Is it fair to blame the whole approach for that? Of course not, but we can blame bad implementation and bad execution, missing vision and missing leadership, as most of the time.
Additionally, let’s talk about the solution selling questions. Are these questions still necessary, yes or no? Of course, they are. All these questions have to be answered – but nowadays no longer in front of the customer – that’s a waste of time and of no value for them. This is the sales person’s homework and has to be done before the conversation, whether you are a challenger or not.
Furthermore, none of these selling strategies is dead. I truly believe that we need a portfolio of different selling strategies. The real challenge for us practitioners is, to analyze our different revenue streams, the transactional, the solution and the outcome related business, to predict the future of these revenue streams and to make the right decisions for a mid- and longterm transformation journey. What will be transactional and highly automated business tomorrow, and which part of the solution business will be transactional tomorrow? How to enable a sales force to grow the complex business area to drive customer outcomes?
Two dimensions are mandatory for such an analysis. First, it’s the complexity of the portfolio, connected to the scope of problems you address at your customers and the increasing complexity of business related knowledge that has to be shared. This dimension describes your set of selling strategies. Second, it’s about your buyer role map, the different functions and altitude levels that have to be addressed. Third, it’s about the right predictions of growing and shrinking revenue streams, per regions. Fourth, maybe the most important issue from an enablement perspective, it’s about the comfort zone of your sales force. Where to start, where are low hanging fruits and quick wins? All that’s easier said than done – and there is no silver bullet to do so – nowhere.
Now, we can talk about how to implement the challenger skills in which ways, for each of the relevant selling strategies. Let’s think about where do we need them and in which characteristic.
Mastering all these issues, that’s science and art at the same time. That’s of real value for a sales organization. It’s where the rubber meets the road, as my good friend Dave Brock would say. It requires very experienced practitioners and executives with a very deep knowledge and holistic understanding of the entire selling system, the different comfort zones of sellers and sales managers to drive change in the right direction.
Let’s focus on the entire selling system, identify the relevant selling strategies and then let’s implement the relevant challenger skills along the customer’s journey, considering the buyer role map and then, let’s integrate all of that into an account management framework (see part 1).
Many passionate discussions on the relevance of The Challenger Sale are currently going on. Many very valuable thoughts were already shared from Dave Brock, Linda Richardson, Jonathan Farrington – just to name a few.
How to implement challenger behaviors and how not to do it, what’s actually missing, … and of course, many thoughts on the questionable HBR article regarding the “death of solution selling” were also shared, sometimes in a very violant way. The scene has a topic.
So far, I was in an observing position, still thinking about the relevance of the research results and my own conclusions. On the one hand, I really like all the research results on the challenger rep. It’s fascinating to learn, which sales behaviors are very successful and why, and what those sales people do differently: “Mediocrity comes in multiple flavors.”
On the other hand, I’m missing something. I’m missing a strong conceptual foundation in order to get approaches like this implemented – successfully. Implementation and execution are the moments of truth for every new approach.
That’s where the rubber meets the road – or not.
The Challenger Sale is all about sales behaviors. There is nothing wrong with that, absolutely not. Sales behaviors are what our customers experience having conversations with sales people. Sales behaviors are how conversations are experienced by our customers – their buying experience. Our customers decide what’s valuable for them, and they have clear expectations, what they want to get out of a conversations with a vendor. So far, so good.
But a selling system requires a bit more than sales behaviors, right? There are many other elements to be considered and to be designed, such as selling strategies, selling methodologies, a sales process connected to the customer’s journey, design points for demand generation programs, account management frameworks, pipeline and sales management processes – and a clear approach on buyer persona, buyer roles, role maps, and of course, content, messaging, training and coaching approaches, etc.
How do the challenger research results fit into these elements?
First, I couldn’t see that the challenger behaviors are mapped to defined stages along the customer’s journey. How does a challenger conversation look like at very early stages along the customer’s journey and how does it look like later?
Imagine these scenarios:
The customer didn’t identify a certain problem or challenge so far, which could be an ideal situation to create a new opportunity by working with value hypotheses.
The customer already recognized the problem, but didn’t see the whole impact. A perfect situation to come up with different case studies and insights to show the whole impact, to work on urgency, and to show first future visions of success.
The customer is aware of the problem / the challenge and its impact: In that case, considerations regarding solutions are already made, a vision of the desired future and the first steps to get there are defined. The sales person can chime in and try to change the game – if necessary – with challenger skills and new insights.
How is the choreography changing along the customer’s journey for different selling situations? Is the challenger sales rep only focused on a specific scenario?
Second, I couldn’t find a link to a framework of buyer persona, buyer roles – you name it.
The recent HBR article “The end of solution sales” mentions specific customer profiles, the challenger sales rep prefers to get in touch with – they call them the Go-Getters, Teachers and Sceptics. These profiles are also only based on behaviors and attitudes of people.
I’m missing a link to buyer roles and their altitude levels. Here is why:
Imagine a VP for network operations and the corresponding SME for network operations, imagine the SVP of a business unit and a VP shared services and a CIO. All these roles have, depending on their altitude level, different expectations, different challenges to master and they get measured differently. So, their expected outcomes will look differently.
The related value messages have to be different for these different roles. And they will have to be adjusted along the customer’s journey. We will see dynamic value messages, because people can change their views along the process – a very normal procedure, happens in every big deal more than once.
Depending on the complexity of a vendor’s portfolio, the typical executive owner can be found on different altitude levels and in different roles. These dimensions regarding buyer roles/persona are currently not considered – unfortunately.
So, the Challenger Sale’s behavior profiles for stakeholders are actually the third dimension, an important dimension. But it’s not the only one.
I’m missing a foundation like that. Frameworks like that are critical success factors for every successful relationship management, which is still the foundation, also for a challenger sales rep. I would argue, that the challenger sales rep’s success is based on a successful relationship management. It will never replace that, it will always build on that foundation.
Now, my question to the challenger experts:
Which buyer roles (not profiles!) are addressed by the challenger rep? What if the relevant stakeholders don’t have the preferred challenger stakeholder profiles?
Third, it’s about the missing integration into an account management framework. For me, an account management framework should cover a few core elements, such as a clear account definition, an account segmentation process, an operationalized account planning process including vision and strategies focused on new business generation, based on an outside-in principle, a defined link to the sales process for execution, a relationship management layer, account dashboards and a strategic review process. Many issues to be addressed, let’s just take a few:
Account segments: How do we allocate challenger behaviors to different account segments? Let’s assume a vendor has different account segments for strategic accounts, large accounts, young and strong growing accounts and accounts that are more focused on transactional business, etc. All these account segments will require different growth strategies from enlarge existing contracts with existing budget centers to different ways of cross selling and different new business strategies. These different growth strategies require different skills and competencies. So, for which account growth strategies and for which segments are the challenger behaviors mandatory, for which segments optional?
And do we have account segments we possibly won’t need challenger skills? Also, the very special topic of strategic account planning – what’s the challenger rep’s impact, specifically? How do we run an account team? What’s the challenger’s role in an account team? Or do we manage challengers in a solution sales or a business development team?
In the meantime, I developed my own ideas on how to connect the dots between the behavior related challenger research results and all these elements of a selling organization.
What are your ideas and experiences?
Chime and share your thoughts.
We aren’t done yet…that was part 1!
Part 2 will be about The Challenger Sale and the questionable story about the “death of solution selling” and my thoughts on that…
The more I’m working on that fantastic and challenging topic and the more I’m discussing the term „sales enablement“ with peers, the more I’m wondering – is this always the right term?
You might be surprised „What a question, of course it is the right term! We have to enable our sales force to deliver better results, to grow, to be more effective, more efficient“, and so on.
Wait a minute; let’s recap the “why” and “what” of sales enablement. The “why” is a pretty obvious – traditional function-oriented inside-out approaches are no longer working – something is broken. The “what” is described in many ways, also here in one of my earlier blog posts. However, it’s definitely not about creating more content and more trainings and throwing all of that over the fence to the sales force – won’t be successful.
Sales enablement, processed in a meaningful and valuable way, is quite the contrary!
Here are some key elements:
SE is a system’s approach, a strategic, ongoing discipline, which covers the whole selling system in an end2end way
SE’s mission is to bridge the gap between strategy and execution by engineering the right selling models according to the business strategy based on outside-in oriented GoToCustomer approaches.
- SE’ foundation is collaboration as a core principle across the whole selling system, within sales teams, with partners and with customers. The goal of collaboration is to achieve better results. It impacts strategy, processes and IT, inside and outside of the organization.
- SE’s specific topics are across the selling system are e.g. sales model, selling methodologies and strategies based on your sales segments, integrated end2end lead and opportunity management from prospect to contract, account management best practices, sales content/messaging, knowledge and collaboration platforms, trainings/learning’s (what and how), engagement models tailored to buyer roles and of course, performance metrics.
Here are the goals:
SE’s goals are to enable all client-facing people to have meaningful conversations that are valuable for customers to solve their problems, to master their challenges and to drive their desired outcomes.
SE’s impact is to improve the performance of the whole selling system regarding efficiency and growth.
So far so good. A lot of things to do, many challenges to master, which require a lot of leadership, communication, collaboration, change and adoption and of course a strong senior executive buy-in. It’s always a journey.
Now, let’s think about the term „sales enablement“! If you should find a headline for sales enablement regarding the purpose and what all the different fields of actions, we considered above, could have in common, what would it be?
Isn’t that all about scalable selling efficiency? What’s the bottom line of all these topics, which are mentioned above? They are focused on the vendor’s organizations, on process integration and performance, on connecting the dots across the selling systems. Calling that “sales enablement” makes sense.
But something has changed in parallel, right? Some organizations already changed the design point from an internal one such as the own product and service portfolio to an external – the customer and their challenges and problems.
Why is that so important? Because the customers don’t care about our products, they only care about how to solve their own problems and how to achieve their desired outcomes. So, there is a translation required – mapping own capabilities to the specific buyer’s challenges.
Let’s rephrase that: We are talking about sales enablement, and then we changed our design point to the customer. So, sales is an internal function, the buyer, the clients are outside, right? Establishing the term „selling system“ was the first step in the right direction, because we can only be successful in the future, if we collaborate successfully across the functional silos – that’s why I mentioned collaboration as a mandatory core principle. But what about collaboration with partners and customers?
What’s the next level, which builds on the layer of scalable selling efficiency?
Scalable efficiency is pretty much focused on strategy, structure, process and performance. We need that, no doubt, it’s a very important foundation. Getting all these elements right, you can build a selling system which is very efficient in a scalable way.
But does that make any difference? Probably not, but it’s a necessary foundation for greater success.
What about people, and what about culture and how do we want to interact with our customers in the next decades and which skills are required to master these century’s challenges? We need people’s passion at work, their full creative potential, we need much more meaning, more focus on valuable outcomes for our customers instead of more outputs.
Outputs were part of the industrial age, outcomes are information age key elements.
Sounds simple, but it’s not – not at all.
That’s about the big picture. What does that mean for sales enablement, what’s next, how do we need to evolve the discipline?
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Unlearn and relearn. Now, it’s now about people and culture, about how do we equip and coach people to unlearn and to relearn. What do we really need to change from last century’s push behavior towards a smarter, pull-oriented behavior (which does not mean being reactive!)?
Unlearn the „product push muscle memory“, the attitude to pitch a product, to focus more on outputs as activities and check lists than on value-creating outcomes.
Relearn is all about what it really means to work customer-centric, to help a client to achieve their desired outcomes – which can also mean to challenge a client in a positive, in a collaborative way. It’s about how we share new insights with them on a business level; make them thinking on their challenges from a different perspective to show them how a certain solution could help them to achieve their desired outcomes?
From my point of view, we have to establish a learning organization, based on collaboration in many dimensions, with a culture of scalable learning. I mean different layers of learning, e.g. basic learning’s, individual coaching , tailored learning’s within smaller groups, where certain people are coached from a few high performers – a platform to share tribal knowledge, e.g. how to sell cloud services in a meaningful and valuable way (we won’t make no difference if we try to sell different cloud operating models, but we could make a difference if we would show a customer how to create new cloud based business models – next level of value creation).
Leadership based on storytelling might be a prerequisite… to touch people’s hearts, not only their minds.
That’s no longer selling and trying harder as well-known for decades, it’s more how to challenge and enable buyers to help them to make their best decision to solve their problems and to drive their desired outcomes – that’s what I call a value-creation engine!
Couldn’t buyer enablement be a great term for this next level, based on scalable learning?
It could be a consequent next step, which requires a foundation of scalable selling efficiency, what we should achieve with sales enablement in the first place.
Additionally, successful buyer enablement will only happen, if an organization is pretty clear on the why, on the meaning, why does the organization exist. Without meaning and mission, what should I learn and why should I change?
Organizations that have a meaning, that deliver extraordinary value for customers will achieve growth and profit – but as a result, never as a purpose.
Apple is the best example.
It’s not only me – there are a few peers thinking about the term sales enablement and buyer enablement. Have a look at this excellent blog post on enablement, written by Michael Fox: The 21st Century Sales Warrior.
What are your thoughts?
I’m looking forward to start a challenging discussion!
The other day, I had a call with a sales rep. So what, you might think. I thought the same, until the call happened. First, there was the sales rep’s request for a one hour meeting. I said, I’d prefer to have a short call first. Unwillingly, he agreed.
Then, we had the call:
„Did you already have a look at our web site?“
Interesting approach…would it become funny or horrible?
„Yes, I had a quick scan, when we scheduled this call, but I didn’t find something really valuable regarding my current business challenges. But I’m sure that you will now connect the dots for me.“
Hey, wasn’t that an invitation to ask me about my current business challenges, an invitation to listen? Apparently not. He didn’t react on my response, but continued to talk about the functions and features of his product, without drawing breath.
After a few minutes, I interrupted him and said „Sorry, but I’m a bit surprised that you are so focused on general product features and functions at this time, without knowing our current challenges from a business perspective“.
Silence on the phone…. „That’s why you should see the product, then you would see the value!“ I couldn’t believe it!
I replied „I am capable to think in multiple dimensions at the same time and I do understand what the product does, but I still don’t see how your product’s capabilities could be valuable regarding our current business challenges? What are for instance your recommended business requirements for a successful implementation of your product to drive our results?“
„Oh, our customers x, y and z are really happy with the product.“
„What was there initial starting point when they implemented the product, which specific problem did they try to solve?“ I asked him.
He tried to give me some generic data – from a standard reference sheet, I guess.
Not valuable for me.
Then, I explained, that I’m currently not focused on a tool implementation, because we are at another stage along our own problem solving process – honing our newly implemented processes and methodologies with a few pilots in the field before we would consider the implementation of an additional tool.
Then, it couldn’t be worse, he said: „Well, you know, I’m a seller, I just wanted to make sure that my product is part of your decision making process“.
HORRIBLE! It takes some time to make me really angry! Now, I was angry.
I said „Why should your product be part of a decision making process, which I don’t have at the moment, as I mentioned. And why should it become part of a future make-or-buy decision?“
Again, silence on the phone. How to make the most of a situation? I asked him, if he would like to have a feedback on the call. He agreed.
Then, I explained him my role and responsibility, what kind of transformation we are currently driving with sales enablement – changing the seller’s mind set from „I have to sell a product“ to „I love to solve my customer’s problems“, translating GoToMarket models into more seller and buyer relevant GoToCustomer frameworks regarding strategy, methodology, processes and IT applications. I gave him a bit more color on the GoToCustomer approach, on outside-in thinking on how to model a customer regarding relevance, context and timeliness.
Then, I shared a few insights with him about the expectations from executive buyers regarding strategic vendors – especially the fact, that products and solutions were not part of their top expectations – most important for them is that the vendors can map their own capabilities to the buyers specific challenges to solve their problems, to drive their results, to create value.
Then, I shared with him, how I was feeling during that short call – just as a any prospect that could feed his pipeline goals – which had nothing to do with creating value for me, with solving my business problems.
So, why am I writing about that? Not only, because it could become a sales rep’s nightmare to have a sales call with a sales enablement professional…
Because sales conversations like this are the reason why sales enablement really matters, why I’m so passionate about it! These conversations are the reason why we have not only to establish sales enablement as a profession and a discipline, we also have to re-establish sales itself as a profession.
Having a call like this is no art at this point, it’s about to learn a trade, based on general communication skills.
This example shows how much broken the selling system actually is. It’s about the „product selling muscle memory“, which is nothing else than an inside-out focused view of the world, based on the idea that we are still in a seller market, where we can organize ourselves around our well-known internal design points.
The related „inside-out muscle memory“, which is exactly what the sales rep demonstrated – doesn’t allow to recognize the full potential of a prospect. Because, inside-out often means to work with product and solution based benefits and generic values which are derived from the perspective of a single product or solution. But the buyer’s world is not organized by our portfolios. The buyer’s complex world is at least as complex as ours, but in a different color – which can include much more potential for a vendor, if the customer is modeled the right way and if we avoid to look too early from a product’s narrow perspective and miss the whole business complexity behind.
So, it’s not about fixing a few things in an inside-out selling system, it’s about how to design GoToCustomer frameworks that help sales reps to work from the outside to the inside – it’s about how to drive change. It’s about selling strategies, methodologies, trainings, sales content, skills and competencies, engagement models, related metrics and much more. All these topics on scalable efficiency have an impact on strategy, processes and IT, across the whole selling system. And than, it’s about scalable learning, it’s about unlearn and relearn – change that’s touching people’s hearts.
How GoToCustomer frameworks can look like, will be part of my next blog post – and how GoToCustomer frameworks can lead not only to successful sales enablement, but also to successful buyer enablement…