GoToCustomer – let’s discuss, how this approach can lead to simplicity!
GoToCustomer is first and foremost a consequent way of thinking and designing your sales system with the customers at the core.
The customers are your central design point. Thinking this way, thinking GoToCustomer, is the most important prerequisite, before you even start to design any kind of framework, processes or enablement services.
A GoToCustomer framework is your foundation, especially in a complex sales environment. The customer’s journey is your design point for all enablement and coaching services. All seller/buyer related interactions are mapped to the customer’s journey with clear milestones. All internal decisions, every sales organizations has to make (e.g. opportunity assessments, resource allocation, delivery checks etc.) are also mapped to the customer’s journey – not the other way around.
It sounds simple. And in fact, it is. But to get there is hard work. It requires consequent, thoughtful execution and change management.
Executing a GoToCustomer strategy based on such a framework can become a challenging endeavor, depending on your organization’s culture.
“We need specific content for specific sales roles”, “content for trainings is completely different”. “I have to create this content, it’s on my check list” and the list goes on and on. I cannot remember how often I got those requests, from many different groups. They have all one element in common: They refer to internal design points, such as sales roles, check lists and products. They don’t refer to the customer. For me, it seems to be an “inside-out muscle memory”.
You can start to work immediately on those requests, which will put you in a reactive enablement role, reinforcing the current state, but not really executing your strategy. The second way is more challenging, but it will lead you toward your goal: executing your GoToCustomer strategy. Discuss these requests with the relevant stakeholders in your organization and develop a deep understanding on the underlying, real problems. Change people’s perspective in these conversations from inside-out to outside-in: What’s the sales outcome, people want to achieve, at which stage of the customer’s journey with which set of stakeholders?
Over time, you will develop a structured questionnaire how to deal with those requests, and how to inspire people to change their perspective to outside-in. Additionally you will identify the root causes of these requests: Maybe, the sales roles are not properly mapped to the customer’s journey. Maybe, you have marketing teams that have to follow a “one size fits all” checklist. Maybe, the trainings and content teams don’t work closely enough together, to be able to adjust their efforts to the customer’s journey, etc.
The bottom line is: People have functional missions. You need their functional expertise – but during execution, not for the design.
- The design perspective has to be the same for all teams: The customer’s journey.
- The execution perspective is based on the design perspective
- GoToCustomer drives efficiency and effectiveness at the same time: You will get rid of unnecessary enablement services and sales people will be more focused on the services that really matter, to make them successful at the customer.
GoToCustomer means simplicity.
Achieving simplicity is hard, but at the end, it’s beautiful.
This post was published initially in a column version @ TopSalesWorld,
This post was published first @ TopSalesWorld – July Magazine,
in a column version.
A question people ask very often. They want to make a difference, create impact on business results. So, let’s discuss a few experiences and lessons learned to support the discovery of your specific sales force enablement journey.
No silver bullets? No, there are no silver bullets out there, and no “one size fits all” approach.
I’m a firm believer that every organization has to find its own way how to define sales enablement, because every sales organization has specific challenges, a different culture and different ways how to approach change and how to make decisions.
Discussing my thoughts on that with my friend and leadership guru Walter H Groth, he shared a great analogy: ”That’s the same with flying. There is a reason why every pilot needs a special license for different aircrafts, because they are different, they behave differently and after all – every flight is different. But flying is based on core principles that are the same for every aircraft.”
Perfect. We have “unique and specific sales force enablement flights” in every organization. But, let’s focus on the core elements and principles of strategic sales force enablement, that are always the same:
- Cross-functional, end2end character:
Wherever sales enablement resides inside your organization, it’s more important how you design your scope and aspiration level and how well you organize to work cross-functionally. Then, it depends on whether you are increasing performance in a given sales system or whether you are actually driving change and transformation across the sales system. To me, the transformation part is the most important one, from the information age to the connection economy, from push to pull. End2end means two things: First, to cover the entire value chain at least from prospect to contract. Second, to equip not only the front line sales people, but also the first and second line sales managers.
Define what your organization wants to achieve from a business perspective (it’s more than having better meetings). Then, identify and remove collaboration barriers between departments and units. That’s easier said than done, but a pivotal issue. The more silo-oriented your culture is, the more challenging it will be. In the first place, it’s about creating awareness that real barriers and intangible barriers do exist, such as competing objectives and priorities, but also a hoarding rather than a sharing culture. And the second, the intangible barriers are really hard to address and to change. Often, the middle management won’t support those changes, because it seems to create a perceived uncertainty for them. And involving the C-level on collaboration is often an even bigger challenge, because they delegated “collaboration” a few levels down, often to IT… So, you need business relevant stories for each of these stakeholders on “why change”, why we cannot stay in the current stay if we want to achieve the business objectives. Important from a specific enablement perspective: If these obstacles are removed, now technology can really enable collaboration and leverage the full potential. But it’s not working the other way around.
Interesting data points from Miller Heiman’s 2013 Sales Best Practices Study:
World class sales organizations collaborate successfully across the sales system, they know why their top performers are successful, they are highly effective in allocating the right resources on the right deals and – most important from an enablement point of view: They leverage the best practices of their top performers to improve everyone else. The data couldn’t be more powerful: There is a gap of 61 points between world class and all.
- Effectiveness, then efficiency:
Doing the right things, before doing things right. Begin with a root cause analysis of the sales system’s challenges regarding three criteria: People, process, performance. Map your findings to common sales enablement practices such as sales content, sales trainings, skill development, engagement models or metrics. Where are the gaps, where are redundancies, how are decisions made and how effective is decision making, in which councils, boards, departments, etc? And never forget to care about a very important , but often overlooked target group: your sales managers. How do you integrate them and how do you equip them with your enablement practices?
Now, let’ check core design principles:
Make sure that you have a defined buying cycle, a defined customer’s journey (depending on your business), as a foundation for a GoToCustomer framework (you name it) which covers methodologies, design points and principles, end2end with a bridge to the selling processes. Such a framework is your single reference point for ALL sales force enablement services. Define necessary selling-oriented activities and milestones with KPIs along this journey. Then, map sales content and sales trainings and continue with a content and training assessment regarding structure, creation and localization: How well do these enablement services support the purpose of a certain activity along the customer’s journey? Is the content product-oriented or problem-oriented, is the content more feature and function focused, ore really addressing the customer’s issues? Is the content tailored to specific buyer roles or personas? Is the content supporting dynamic value messaging along the customer’s journey? Don’t forget this one: Do you have a corresponding coaching map for your sales managers?
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is always my favorite quotation when it comes to simplicity. Focus on creating simple principles rather than detailed checklists, focus on creating frameworks rather than detailed processes to equip people to navigate within complex systems, to keep space for creativity, purpose and autonomy! Because sales systems as well as buying systems are complex, due to multiple dimensions, blurred boundaries and many different people with different interests who are interacting and communicating. You cannot reduce this complexity. I know, many of you may think differently, but let’s check reality – how complex systems are actually defined, see also Business Dictionary:
“Consisting of many diverse and autonomous but interrelated and interdependent components or parts linked through many (dense) interconnections. Complex systems cannot be described by a single rule and their characteristics are not reducible to one level of description. They exhibit properties that emerge from the interaction of their parts and which cannot be predicted from the properties of the parts.”
We need principles and frameworks that help us to navigate complex systems in a more effective, more efficient and more predictable way. That means we build those principles and frameworks such as a GoToCustomer framework in order to eliminate complicated things, that are not necessary and don’t create any value. But we cannot reduce complexity itself.
It’s so important to understand this difference. This is why the analyzing phase is so important, to understand the sales system completely to be able to achieve the beauty of simplicity.That’s totally different from useless simplification with no impact, but confusion on a higher level.
Back to our flying analogy, Walter H Groth added again very valuable thoughts: “Frameworks, reference points, principles are necessary navigation aids. Checklists will never be able to do this job, because a multi-dimensional space is changing constantly: There are different forces and interdependencies based on an unknown number of variables.”
Sounds pretty familiar, right?
Working with frameworks and principles to navigate complexity, we can achieve what people actually mean: Simplicity.
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”
Now, it’s up to you to create a compelling story for your senior executives, derived from your main business challenges. Help them to connect the dots along the entire customer’s journey to see the value and the impact you will create.
And be aware…Strategic sales force enablement is first and foremost – selling internally!
Practice what you preach!
A few months ago, I started to write about one of the missing pieces in many sales enablement discussions – the sales managers. In case you missed it, you can check it out here: Sales Enablement and Sales Management – Enable Your Sales Managers First
In the next couple of weeks, I will discuss how to enable and how to equip first and second line sales managers in an effective and integrated way to be able to leverage the full potential of sales organizations in terms of sales productivity, growth and transformation.
Today, we will focus on a simple, but integrated foundation for sales managers, the “Round Pegs In Round Holes” framework.
I’m very happy, that “Round Pegs In Round Holes” is part of the Top Sales World – Top Sales Academy – Sales Management Curriculum. It’s module 9, June 4th:1 pm EST, 6pm GMT, 7pm GMT+1.
Not registered yet? Here is the link: Top Sales World Academy – Registration
This framework is based on our findings and our experiences, that many sales managers feel supported (from “somehow” up to “pretty well”) regarding their tactical challenges to make their numbers quarter by quarter. But very often, they don’t feel supported pretty well regarding their strategic mid- and long term challenges, especially not, when it comes to change and transformation.
One of the reasons is simple, but underestimated and overlooked: It’s the gap between changing business strategies and pretty inflexible sales execution models, that aren’t pretty well aligned. This challenge is even bigger in organizations that experienced many acquisitions over the last years. Then, many different piece parts exist in parallel, without being connected to a big picture in order to execute the current business strategy successfully. In those situations, sales managers may find many different piece parts – and what are they doing if the piece parts don’t fit together? They either switch off the noise or they use what they always used and what helped them in the past. Not the most effective approach, right? Here is an idea what to do about it.
In those situations, sales managers may find seller roles, functions, profiles and assessments, often driven by HR. Somewhere else, they may find buyer role models, power maps in account plans, often driven by Sales Operations, Strategy or Enablement. Additionally, they get account segmentation results, that are often driven by Finance only. And the list goes on and on…The special challenge though is – these piece parts are not connected pretty well within a sales execution model. Additionally, there might be a gap to the business strategy.
The “Round Pegs in Round Holes Framework” is based on a few core ideas and principles:
- First, sales managers have tactical and strategic challenges:
Managing sales behaviors to achieve better results AND fighting organizational drags and comfort zones to drive transformation in a changing economy.
- Second, “people buy from people”:
I’m a firm believer of relationships as the foundation of every sale (but I don’t mean order takers!), even if some people out there try to explain the opposite. Relevant relationships matter even more. Science and art meet exactly at the intersection, when it comes to the question, how to pair different sellers and different buyers to valuable relationships, not only to maintain existing business, but to create significantly more new business.
- Third, “not everything that matters, can be measured”:
Account segmentation is often a finance driven, facts and figures based exercise – inside-out. We need to integrate the growth potential in our account segmentation processes, in terms of strategic relationships and specific portfolio capabilities.
- Fourth, no “one size fits all” approaches regarding growth strategies:
Let’s think about different growth strategies, mapped to strategic and transactional account segments to identify what’s the most effective strategy right now.
Join the session on Tuesday! Let’s discuss, how to apply such an integrated sales management framework based on people’s selling and buying preferences, mapped to account segments and tailored growth strategies.
In case you have any questions or comments beforehand, please share them!
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!
Maybe, you were already waiting for part 3…
I was asked, why I would plan to write about account management execution and the role of sales management: “Isn’t that pretty clear?” and “where is the link to sales enablement anyway?”
First, sales enablement in my opinion has to be a strategic, cross-functional end2end discipline, not only designed to equip sales people to make their quarterly numbers, but first and foremost to lead sales organizations to master the 21st century challenges – the challenges of a connected economy from push to pull – to create more value and to achieve profitable growth goals. This is why I prefer to design all enablement practices backwards from the entire customer’s journey, tailored for a complex set of customer stakeholders (GoToCustomer). Especially in a named account strategy, there is a lot to do for a strategic sales enablement discipline.
Second, I do see an urgent need to address this topic, because account management execution is where we are often facing the same dilemma, year by year: We don’t create enough new business with our strategic accounts. Then, it’s easy to blame people, the process or the “useless” account plans. OK, people can be on the wrong accounts, the process might not be the most compelling one, and yes, many organizations don’t focus on how to create valuable account plans (see also part 2). But, after twenty years in this business, I’m pretty sure, that we have to look deeper to identify the root causes. These are the top causes:
- Account management and the sales process are not pretty well integrated, the big picture is missing
- Sales managers and also sales operations are often too much focused on fixing the quarter. Then, the strategic focus gets lost and too many resources are used to maintain existing business and to process short-term opportunities. Consequently, not enough resources are spent on the development of future growth.
Execution: GoToCustomer Account Management and the Sales Process
Execution is, as my friend Dave Brock would say, “where the rubber meets the road”. It is a mystery to me, why exactly here – at this important interface – so many organizations don’t pay enough attention. On the one hand, we have opportunity management including lead qualification on a tactical level. On the other hand, we have strategic account management activities, that are not directly connected to a specific lead or opportunity, for instance relationship cadence plans to build new, relevant relationships. These strategic activities should remain within the account management process, which is why we don’t call it account planning, but account management, which includes execution, dashboards and reviews.
As soon as leads (here the leads that are created by account planning activities), become opportunities, the sales process should be the leading process – but only for this specific opportunity! Keep account management on a strategic level and keep opportunity management on a tactical level, to ensure effectiveness for the account and for the opportunities. This principle sounds so simple, but it’s very often overlooked.
Reasons for a missing account management / sales process connection:
- Account planning and account management are not designed as a strategic and iterative cycle.
- Account planning is considered as an annual exercise (often still in power point or excel) and nobody cares about the account growth strategies during the year.
- Sales culture and the sales management culture are more opportunistic than strategic
- Sales operations is focused on opportunity management only
- The role of sales managers is considered to deliver the numbers, not to develop strategic accounts, and the list goes on and on…
A few principles how to connect the dots between account management and the sales process:
- Define the strategic, more holistic purpose of account management and the more tactical and narrow purpose of the sales process, and explain where the interface exactly is – in both directions (use e.g. leads, opportunities and performance data as indicators)
- Design a balance between the broader account view and the more narrow opportunity view – along the entire sales process. In case you are working in complex business with specific bid teams and bid managers, make sure, that the account manager has a strong voice along the sales process.
- Make sure that there is one activity management process per account and make also sure that people can see whether an activity is connected to a specific lead or opportunity or not.
- Connect the dots between account segmentation, sales process and sales operations process accordingly to make sure, that decisions regarding resources are made in a conscious and comprehensible way.
- Focus on the role of sales managers – they have to make sure that their account teams can balance the strategic and the tactical level to ensure value creation and profitable growth.
Account Reviews and the Role of Sales Management
In order to avoid that every review ends up in an opportunity review, we should define the purpose and the frequency of account reviews. The sales managers are accountable when it comes to account reviews.
- Account plan reviews:
The purpose is to check, to understand and to challenge the account plan on a regular basis. If account plans are set up once a year, you need this review only once a year. Everything else will be covered with the account performance review. What’s the growth ambition according to the account segment and the budget? Did they develop a win-win vision with the customer? What kind of growth strategies are described? Did the account team analyze precisely the account’s strategic initiatives and challenges? Are the new business ideas connected to these initiatives and challenges, and designed to make the numbers? Where does the team needs support? Did the account team work within their comfort zone or did they step out of it, and so forth…
- Account performance reviews:
You should define a regular cadence, maybe once a quarter or twice a year, according to the rhythm of your business. The purpose of this review is to focus on the account’s performance only, ideally based on the data of a specific account dashboard. How is the account’s performance, based on the account plan and what was discussed during the plan review? In general, there are three possibilities: The account is outperforming, the account is performing pretty well or the account is not performing as planned.
Whatever the situation might be, it’s important to focus on coaching the account team to help them to achieve better results and to focus on the mid and long term growth of these accounts. Account performance reviews are also an ideal meeting to discuss the relationship cadence and to decide where the sales managers or other executives should step in and for which reasons.
In each case, there could be a need to adjust the account’s current segment – which brings us back to part 1, the account foundation.
I hope you enjoyed this series and you could find a few valuable ideas. We covered the foundation with outside-in account definition and account segmentation, we discussed GoToCustomer based account planning and we discussed the importance of a strong connection between account management and the sales process and why sales managers have such a crucial role in making account teams successful.
Our job as sales enablement professionals is to equip both, the account teams and the sales managers to ensure that especially the strategic accounts can execute their growth strategies successfully – ideally based on a win-win vision, in a collaborative, valuable way for both.
What are your thoughts and experiences?
How do you connect the dots?