(Re)defining Sales Fundamentals

11 Feb (Re)defining Sales Fundamentals

When I say “sales fundamentals,” what do you think of first?

Is it a sales process?

Is it a CRM?

Is it objection handling (or other similar skills)?

It’s interesting to me how often the term “sales fundamentals” can be thrown around (or even similar phrases like “blocking and tackling”) and yet people have wildly different definitions – even when they are on the same team.

And since we, at Agility Selling, are fully invested into getting the right people into the right conversations in the right way, I thought it helpful (and prudent) to publish our thinking on “sales fundamentals.”

To us, sales fundamentals are about getting all of the elements that drive clear roles aligned. And by elements, we specifically mean:

  • Skills and training (the core behaviors that you bring to sales conversations)
  • Tools and programs (the resources that you bring to sales conversations)
  • Insights and content (the special information that you bring to sales conversations)

The challenge is that unless you have a unifying concept that pulls all of these elements together, you wind up chasing random acts of enablement. In other words, sales training programs roll out without clear direction, sales tools get designed that only increase complexity, and initiatives to create new insights languish until their sponsor moves on to something more interesting.

However, when you inject the concept of roles into the discussion, it becomes MUCH easier to decide which behaviors/resources/information you want to develop.

So, before going any further, let’s break down the kinds of roles we are talking about.

First, there are customer roles. That’s right. We are starting with the customer, not the sales rep. This is because the role of the sales person is ALWAYS defined by the customer first. Different customers require different sales roles. You cannot create a one-size-fits-all definition of sales role because you do not have one-size-fits-all customers.

We have seen some amazing examples of customer roles defined. And we have seen some horrible ones as well.

The best definition of customer roles is not simply about building a generic persona. It is building a customizable persona. Sure, there are some very common patterns to these roles (like job title, background, expectations by altitude), but there should be a place for role to be adjusted for the situation. For example, a role like CFO will have a slightly different – though very important – difference when in a stable industry versus in a highly volatile industry. These CFOs will each have different priorities. You can’t simply identify a CFO and launch into your canned “CFO speech.” Give your sales people some help by giving them a common framework then adding layers of detail as your sales strategy dictates.

And make sure that you link customer roles together. Think in terms of hierarchy, or as we say in The Power of Problems (our soon to be published book), think in terms of problem roles. For example, senior level executives have different profiles than mid-level managers, which are dependent on the scope of responsibility for the problem/challenge you are helping them address.

With this kind of clarity on customer roles, you can now address sales roles.

Hopefully, you can already see where we are going with this. As I said above, you cannot create a one-size-fits-all definition of sales role because you do not have one-size-fits-all customers. This means that one sales person will most likely need to fulfill multiple sales roles (unless you are a huge company and have the resources to micro-segment your sales team into single role positions).

Pause. Do you define your sales roles to match customer roles? In other words, do your sales people know how to “switch hats” for different kinds of customers? Have you defined what those hats are – or are your sales people doing that on their own?

Your sales roles should be very specific in both what you expect AND how you expect customer conversations to be different. We worked with one client who actually mapped the approach to every single customer profile and made the sales roles align to each one, defining the differences for each. It was detailed work, but the rewards were amazing. Not only did customers get MUCH better experiences (and of course better sales results), it changed how that client approached the recruiting, selecting/promoting, training, and rewards/recognition of their sales force. They were also able to diagnose where conversations broke down – by altitude, by topic, and even by role. The clarity enabled them to finally tackle the issue of engineering relevant conversations.

Now, apply the same logic to using resources and information.

Sadly, most organizations spend massive amounts of time and money on generic marketing and sales initiatives that create irrelevant conversations. All because they didn’t understand how vital clear customer and sales roles are to anchoring their use of behaviors/resources/information.

Pause. Can you identify which resources, behaviors, and information are needed to maximize the interaction between customer roles and sales roles? And if you can’t make that identification, how do you know where to “help?” Or, sadly, does your “help” come across as random acts of enablement?

To effectively enable your fundamentals, you must be able to answer these questions:

  • Which conversations are you trying to enable?
  • What roles (buyer AND seller) are involved in those conversations?
  • What skills and training (behaviors) are needed for those conversations?
  • What tools and programs (resources) are needed for those conversations?
  • What insights and content (information) are needed for those conversations?

Before I wrap up, let me say one more thing.

Do NOT stop defining roles at the frontline/sales representative level. Carry your efforts all the way through to your sales management roles. Seriously, this is a big deal.

If you do not define the role of sales manager, as it relates to BOTH customer and sales rep, you will experience what far too many organizations struggle with – sales manger who are really just super sales reps. They do not enlarge the capacity of the team. They do not develop the talent of the future. They do not focus on the larger strategic picture and broader portfolio of market opportunity. Because their role is not defined to do that.

And whose fault is that?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai.

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