If there is such a thing as a “holy grail” in sales management it would sound something like this:
“Our top 10% of sales people are bringing in at least 70, 80, even 90 % of all new business. So, what if we could simply codify the proven activities and behaviours of these top sales people? What if we could bottle this secret sauce so it can be coached and practised by all members of the sales team?
This would lead to above quota performance across all sales people and therefore – boom – we would now have a smoother bell curve and a 10x increase in sales performance”
I use the term “holy grail” because it is likely a mythical goal. We need to accept that there will always be those top performers who produce exceptional results beyond the reach of the ‘average’ account executive.
But, what if you could get maybe half your sales team performing half as well as your top performers? Better still, what if your top performers could also benefit from learning from and building on the unique activities and behaviours that their top colleagues are executing? That could nudge the bell curve further to the right.
Clearly, most sales leaders understand the opportunity. Indeed, companies invest a lot of time and money into sales strategy, training, sales development programs and sales tech with this goal in mind. Consultants are hired. Training sessions attended. Workshops facilitated. The CRO delivers an amazing powerpoint deck at the sales kick off – the brand new Sales playbook. It is a magnificent one hundred slide powerpoint deck (or Word document or Google sheet workbook). It gets tabled at the next sales meeting. Gets mentioned a few times during the month. By the end of the quarter, in the mad rush to achieve the forecast, the document is forgotten.
So, why are sales people still winging it? Why are they ignoring the sales process? And if they ain’t following it, that means sales managers aren’t using it. And therefore they are not coaching their sales reps to it. Why is it so hard to translate strategy into holy grail-like results?
Here’s three reasons why it’s tough and what you can do about it.
Problem #1 Your documentation is linear, but, your sales process isn’t
For example, page 1 – Target customers, Buyer personas. Page 7 – Lead generation – Page 10 – Introduction call etc through to page 98 – Close the deal.
The problem with this is that complex B2B sales isn’t a simple linear progression. It’s more of an agile process where you’ve got multiple things on the go. Multiple stakeholders, multiple steps need to be executed. Multiple options. And those buyers will often throw a curve-ball into the process. As they say…“No plan survives contact with the enemy”
To make things worse, the sales process requires a multitude of sales support, buyer engagement and buyer acumen content items. You can link to these in your document but your sales process also needs to capture multiple content and messaging option variations to cover different scenarios in the process.
For example, “present the proposal” is a step in your sales process – you might link to a proposal template in your static document. But you could have many variations for different situations.
– eg. the big pitch to the board versus the trial close with your champion
– eg. the proposal document in response to a formal RFP versus a proposal for a customer you have engaged through an outbound process.
– Different proposal formats for different industries. Different content for different personas etc.
And that’s just the content. There are then different actions for these scenarios and so on.
A static document or set of documents can not support the complexity of the real world of B2B sales.
Finally, the documentation is already out of date when you publish it. You need your sales process documentation and all related content to be captured and curated regularly by the salesforce and the marketing team. The market is moving too fast for an annual update.
You need a clear sales process map that enables your salespeople to intuitively traverse the different steps and actions across the sales process as things happen in real time. They need to be able to search dynamically across different elements such as action items, optional moves, content, messaging and to be able to combine these in different sales situations.
Your sales process can’t be captured in a “document”. You need a database that is integrated with your sales process map and all related content. For more about sales process maps – refer to “blueprint blog”.
Problem #2 – the document is sitting “on a shelf” – it’s not embedded into the sales teams’ workflow in how they manage opportunities.
Your sales people are most likely working their deals in Salesforce and communicating with customers in Gmail and a meetings app like Zoom or Teams. They might need to dive into GDrive or Sharepoint to find the content they need and to manage their files.
A hundred page sales process document is not going to naturally live inside their daily workflow.
Your sales people need all the details of the sales process – the key actions, the buyer engagement content, the sales support content, the buyer acumen details – all to be available at their fingertips inside the applications they work in. They are not going to go finding answers and help in a static, linear document that isn’t complete or up to date.
Ultimately, salespeople only want the most relevant and contextualised elements of the playbook to be presented when they are working the opportunity
And remember, people don’t read documentation like they used to. If they ever did.
Scientific research shows that attention spans are shrinking. There doesn’t appear to be similar research available for sales people – but, our experience tells us that sales people are notoriously averse to corporate communications. They are only going to read material if it can directly assist them in hitting their sales goals this quarter.
And we know that the sales force is filling up with the millennial generation and Gen Zs who are more comfortable with scrolling thru meme’s on Tik Tok than reading through a 100 page book!
So, you need the whole package to be accessible in a bite sized and engaging way
Problem #3 – The sales process doesn’t detail the “how
Most sales process documents and “playbooks” tend to focus exclusively on the “what” that needs to be done during the sales process. Stages are mapped out in sequence and key actions bullet pointed under each stage. But there’s no examples or content that is reevant to “how” to execute these actions.
In other words, the playbook shows the sales person “what” to do but doesnt help them understand “how” to do it.
Integrate helpful best practices content inside each Key Action and Step.
It doesn’t matter how many months, how many millions of dollars or how many communication plans you roll out. Your sales process documentation will become a stale artefact with most of that investment wasting away if you don’t address the fundamental problems
- Traditional documentation formats are linear/waterfall whereas your sales process and the customer’s buying process is agile. The Scale of detail and complexity means that it’s impractical to “document” the process with typical MS Office style tools
- The documentation will never be used if it doesn’t live inside the workflow of the sales team’s daily activities. Instructions and content need to be served up in context and in an engaging way for Gen Y&Z
- Need to define best practices for HOW to do WHAT needs to be done. Sales process documents tend to focus only on the what and leave out the methodology – the HOW.
For these reasons, we are building SalesGRID as an intuitive companion for Salesforce. The product uniquely integrates a detailed process map with your sales content system.