Science into the Art of Selling

What organizations face from following a non-scientific structured approach on strategic and tactical basis.

In bicycle-racing, keen teams match their strategies to the phases of the race. In the time trials, a few team members maintain steady speeds over long distances to lower the team’s average finishing time, others might end up pedaling fast to lead on the short site and lose  their energy to continue the journey.  Having unclear paths and roadmaps leaves bicycle-racers undecided and dazzled for setting the right strategy. Talent always matters, but in most races, the way strategies have been set and deployed over time, in different formations and in different contexts, is always the winning edge.

The same applies at organizations and sales departments. When not putting science into sales, organizations will face accordingly the following:

No Strategic Strategy: It’s not the size of the bicycle-racing team that oblige in following a solid strategy, but rather how long the journey is. Small organizations need to set and follow aggressively a solid strategy as any big organization. Having an unclear strategy will justify the ad-hoc scattered approach keeping sales teams moving in circles chasing the held pipeline and their daily transactions.

Some might say that they have indicated good growth for the past years by just following a successful strategy, working harder. In fact, it’s more costly to maintain working harder or further expanding your team than setting a strategy to change your results or further develop your current team. To this I add that even if you have a very successful, focused and refined model, you should still look for good reason to deviate from this model.

Napoleon Hill in his book “Think and Grow Rich” described these people or companies as failures saying “It is no less impressive to observe those who are classified as failures have no such purpose, but they go around in circles like a ship without a rudder” or a company without a strategy, and sales departments without any sales strategy.

Unmatched Sales Structure: Interesting how most companies structure their sales department irrelevantly of its growth phase. They devote considerable time and money to manage their sales forces, motivate, stretch and train them, but few take full care to structure their department to match with their strategy and sales cycle.

Jim Collins in his book “GOOD to Great” talked about hiring the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off the bus. And Larry MacGirr mentioned as well “Hiring the right people in sales is very challenging. Unless you are very strategic, at best, you may be 50-50.” What most management misses is to match the fit of sales people with their strategy, culture and sales cycle. This is mostly due to an unclear strategy, target segmentation, sales cycle and approach. It ends up hiring any good salesperson, gambling he/she will succeed.  Like calling Al Pacino for a comedy film excusing yourself saying “Great actors can always make it”.

Further statistics have reported a very high cost when hiring sales people compared to a high ROI when invested in increasing the productivity and efficiency of the current team.

Unstructured standardized Sales Process and Approach: It’s like bicycle racers with no roadmaps, not knowing when to paddle fast, when to shift gears and when to re-energize. It’s like a football team with an unclear formation and strategy to follow. This will end up with players overwhelmed moving in circles and in best scenario relying on their past experience and their talents. The latter might not lead to losing the game but definitely increase the possibility of losing the Cup.

Furthermore, having no guidelines, tools, and scripts will make it very difficult even to talented sales people to approach and create awareness with prospects that are not searching for the product/service, or prospects that are even unaware of their pain.

Most managers rush into implementing a CRM solution to solve the problem. Interviewing more than 500 CEO, in his book “Good to Great” Jim Collins showed that IT is a great accelerator but never the base and solution for the root cause of the problem.

It is the method of putting systems into the art of selling. What I mean by this is the method of no more relying on the gut feelings and the natural sales talents of rainmakers, but rather on strategies, analysis, processes, guidelines, MAPS and tools that bridge the gap between rainmakers and the other sales team. According to Harvard Business Review article on “the New Role of Rainmakers”, applying science when selling produces a 200% increase in productivity even when rainmakers are in their bad quarters. Big part goes to the fact of clear milestones that motivate sales people and accelerate the sales cycle. Today maybe we can call this methodology the best practice, but what I’m sure of is that within few years, this will be a standard processes and procedures within every sales department that is looking for the future.

Such Standards are:

  1. Setting a validated sales strategy: Expanding a sales department and working harder is not your strategy, it is just what you want to do.
  2. Targeted offering: Is the understanding of what you are best at and accordingly focusing on and how to offer. This entitles systematically segmenting and dividing clients and the way to approach them.
  3. Setting stretched achievable targets: This is any company’s first step when creating sales plan. The key is to have it written, and revised quarterly. The targets should match the sales strategy rather than meeting shareholders’ net profit expectations.
  4. Implementing a structured scientific approach and guidelines: With all the sales mapping processes, tools and MAPS, that aid in moving easily in a clear processed milestone and maintain sales efforts and energies.
Managing Partner
Founder of HEED, a sales management consulting firm focused on aiding companies to structure, transform or optimize their sales by integrating science into selling.

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