Objective -- create better, more profitable relationships between buyers and sellers.
Through this blog, Thoughts On Selling, Lee Levitt explores strategic issues in sales effectiveness, productivity, sales operations, sales enablement, and sales strategy. Lee leverages his significant experience in sales, sales management, sales enablement and operations and channel development, along with substantial sales productivity research and consulting as an analyst at IDC.
Okay, so it’s not quite that cut-and-dry, but in considering the roles of the two organizations, we find some key distinctions.
Marketing - Step 1
Marketing sets the “tone” in the market before sales engages with individual prospects. Marketing identifies the “best prospects” based on market size, competitive environment, and product or service capabilities. Marketing establishes the overall value proposition – “our products solve this problem”, the positioning, pricing, etc. Marketing creates the sales assets used in developing individual opportunities.
Selling - Step 2
Sales follows through to establish the relevancy of the offering for individual prospects and converts prospects into customers.
I’m simplifying a bit…
In this model, step 1 naturally precedes step 2. You sand before you paint. You scramble the eggs before you cook. You date before you marry. Step 1 is necessary for the success of step 2.
A change in step 2 requires changes in step 1. Cooking paella requires different preparation than that for cooking an omelet. To transform sales, you must create a new set of preparations in step 1 (marketing).
Results are what matter
We don’t actually care about sales transformation; instead we care about the results of sales transformation. In this conversation, we don’t even care much about the short term results of sales, what we’re focusing on is building a more robust, healthy business, a qualitatively better set of results.
Selling is a means to this end -- the creation of profitable, long-lasting relationships between buyers and sellers. These profitable, long-lasting relationships generate the highest shareholder value. And what shareholders really care about is shareholder value (not this quarter’s sales).
Unfortunately, our current set of preparations (in marketing) doesn’t usually lead to that end. If measured using the Six Sigma scale, selling is at best a one sigma activity. Buyers complain that less than a third of their sales people show up “very prepared” for sales calls. Buyers cite a poor relationship with their vendor as a primary reason for switching vendors. More than 50% of all reps failed to make quota last year. (Source IDC 2010)
Vendors are failing miserably to meet the relatively low expectations of their buyers. In talking with senior executives at Global Fortune 500 companies, I repeatedly hear stories of sales people driving to a deal rather than building relationships. One executive at a global financial services firm described a storage rep who, despite being invited to coordinate a brainstorming session, essentially showed up with an order pad and an expectation of booking something that day. The damage to the relationship by his actions can be measured in the millions of dollars of lost revenue.
Most vendors mean well. They want their sales people to do the right thing. They hope that their sales people are doing the right thing. They need their sales people to be doing the right thing. But wanting and hoping and needing don’t constitute a strategy.
To create more productive, profitable relationships between buyers and sellers that actually drive shareholder value for both sides, both parties must commit to change. Both parties must invest in the relationship. If vendors do not make this investment, buyers will treat them as commoditized suppliers rather than value-adding partners.
Where to start?
A good place to start is to evaluate the needs of your best customers. What value do you provide these customers? What other organizations have similar needs? How should your engagement process change to enable more value creation and transfer? What else must change within your organization to ensure consistency?
If you undertake sales transformation with the goal of improving relationships with your customers and actually make the changes necessary to ensure this transformation, you will be rewarded with higher share of wallet, longer, more profitable relationships with your customers, higher revenues and profits, and increased employee satisfaction.