Should sales people be more „pushy“ – yes or no? You can find Q&A’s and blog posts all over the place on that topic. There are valid arguments in all those discussions. But I think, we are missing common ground to have a really valuable discussion on this topic.
Following this blog, you might have asked yourself: What does she actually mean by „Let’s transform from push to pull to master this century’s challenges“? I’m referring to one of the most important books on this century’s challenges „The Power Of Pull“, written by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison.
That’s why my background is the fundamental change, the „big shift“ that’s currently happening. What’s the transformation, the „big shift“ all about?
Transformation is like a fire of change!
The bottom line is – it’s the end of push systems. Push systems determined our businesses over decades, based on the assumption that we are in a seller market, that we can forecast demand and design detailed push programs to make resources available, when and wherever we need them. Prerequisites are hierarchical organizations and decision making done by a few elites.
The world has changed. Technology changed not only the buyer’s behavior fundamentally. We are now in a customer market. Buyers often talk to vendors not until they are already pretty much down the road with their purchasing process (50-60% according to a variety of research documents). So, forecasting is getting more and more difficult, economic uncertainty is increasing – for all of us, buyers and vendors.
What we need is a identity shift: „You have to start to believe that I’m here not to sell what I produce, but I’m here to solve a set of customer problems that I want to own“, as Ranjay Gulati, Harvard Business School professor explains perfectly.
What Ranjay Gulati explains is a shift from internal design points to an external design point: the customer. It’s a shift from inside-out to outside-in, it’s a shift from product-centricity to customer-centricity. But is there anybody out there saying „I’m not customer-centric.“ Of course not.
What makes the difference? I believe that push systems using internal design points as products or sales and delivery territories with related internal KPI’s create more „pushy“ sales people than other systems.
Let’s have a look on sales behaviors:
Yes, we need proactive, agile sales people, driving ideas and opportunities with energy and passion together with their customers, developing ideas and approaches to help their customers achieving their desired outcomes. We need sales people fighting for success, challenging different approaches together with the customer to find the best solution for their customer’s success – because that’s also their success.
Other scenario: Imagine a sales rep talking to you (talking, listening doesn’t happen very often) focused on products and services, features and benefits. You as a customer have always the feeling, that it’s not about you, but about the vendor, you have the feeling that he/she needs to fix the quarter. You don’t see that the sales person understands your role, your responsibility and your challenges. You have the feeling that those sellers want to sell their stuff. Period. No special focus on your results, your desired outcomes.
Which behavior gives you the feeling to be pushed….? We are all familiar with those scenarios…
But what makes the difference?
First, the right intention makes a difference – seriously. If the intention is primarily driven by the vendor’s internal product and pipeline KPI’s, if the intention is more short-term than long-term, if the transaction is more important than the overall business partnership, etc….
Then, it’s getting „pushy“. Our customers have a good intuition, they feel the seller’s intention.
On the other hand, if the intention is derived primarily backwards from the customer’s desired results, that’s what I call a pull oriented sales behavior. Why? Because such an approach, a pull-oriented approach, starts at the customer. Model the customer first – understanding their specific situation in terms of context (who and why) , relevance (what and how) and stage along their problem solving process (when and where). After that, the pull-oriented sales team maps to the vendor’s capabilities, products and services and comes up with a tailored approach. Most important: Pull does not mean to be not active! It’s a joint interaction, a joint creation with a clear purpose – the customer’s results.
Second, the right design point within the selling system makes a difference as well. If the selling system is primarily driven by internal design points as products and campaigns, you will often see a more „pushy“ sales behavior. Why? Even if people’s intention is different and more pull-oriented, if they are measured by push-related internal KPI’s, you will feel the difference, sooner or later.
How do we get out of this dilemma? Is that always black and white like this?
Of course not: Our challenge as sales enablement professionals is to build the bridge between those design points, to build road maps to master the change, the transformation to more long-term value creation, to more real customer-centricity, to more long-term business partner relationships.
A good starting point in a named-account strategy could be to start with the strategic account planning. Use methodologies that enable account teams to work backwards from the customer before they map to their product and services – implement a go-to-customer model!
Go-to-customer strategies start with understanding the customer’s desired outcomes – and that does NOT mean matching standardized value propositions of products and services to standardized customer problems!
How go-to-customer models become part of a sales enablement framework to enable buyers – that will be the topic of another blog post!