Why Selling is So #$% Hard

03 Mar Why Selling is So #$% Hard

Every once in awhile in one’s professional career, we get to witness something new and exciting that could change the landscape of how they will work going forward.  It’s happening right now in the ever evolving sales profession, and we would like to share what we’re seeing.

What’s going on?

For the past 3-4 years, companies across many different industries have struggled to cope with the harsh reality that the business environment has completely changed at both a macro- and micro-levels.

1)   Macro-level: The economy has reset itself. Since 2005, world economic markets have struggled. As a result, companies have had to drive productivity, enter new markets, create new innovations, while cutting costs at the same time.  This sustained do-more-with-less reality is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

2)   Micro-level:  The world of work has changed.  As a result of the sustained do-more-with-less reality that exists, the way work get’s done has changed.  While there are many trends and buzz-words that support this, like “big data”, “collaboration”, and “social”, the reality is, we’re well into the inflection point between the industrial revolution and the information age creating the need for higher knowledge-worker productivity and more outputs then ever before.

The Challenge?

More CEOs have recognized that their growth comes not only from creating new products, rethinking their go-to-market strategy, or driving efficiencies across processes and workflows (an “inside-out” view of the world), but also from the system that aligns to their customer’s buying and problem solving processes (an distinctly different “outside-in” view of the world).  Companies like Accenture ahave recognized the inefficiencies that exist in working in silos and have pivoted to a more horizontal view of the work they do in order to more effectively communicate, deliver, and create value for their customers. That horizontal view of adding more value uses customers and buyers as the design point – not products and services.

The Implication?

Instead of going to market in a way that uses products and services as the organizing “design point” for adding value to clients, they are shifting to use customer problems as that design point. This is a massive shift – it couldn’t be any more different.  Buyers know it, and they recognize it (so it’s both different and differentiating in the market place).  Think about it. Companies like Symantec are beginning to recognize that buyer problems often cut across product and service portfolios requiring a more configured and coordinated engagement, delivery, and measurement approach to the executives and leaders they sell to. They recognize that in order to grow, product, marketing, and sales teams have to all focus and drive value to those buyers in more relevant ways the cut across the silos that often exist.  Not only does that need to happen in these revenue-generating functions, but it needs to happen in all other customer-facing functions as well. For example, delivery,  and operations teams that support or deliver on “what gets sold” must also work differently.

This new reality creates a major strain inside of companies because they aren’t tooled, organized, or staffed to add value to their customer’s in this way.  In fact, here’s what Steve Bennett, the new CEO of Symantec says about this challenge:


“On our go-to-market strategy what I would say simply, we had talented people everywhere in the world really working hard but that our system doesn’t work, or probably better said — we don’t have a system. Our process, our technology, the tools we have, our knowledge management — our salesforce is not empowered and freed up to sell.”

Steve Bennett, Symantec President and CEO
January 23, 2013, Q3 Earnings and Strategy Direction Conference Call, Source: morningstar


Rising to the challenge

For many sales leaders, this challenge is felt every day.  Complexity and change inside their company, coupled with complexity and change in their client companies creates inefficiencies at the point of sale. Overcoming these inefficiencies requires cross-functional leadership and teaming as well as a unified focus on driving sales objectives. To facilitate the cross-functional work required, organizations should:

1)   Charter a cross-functional team to streamline the horizontal business processes behind sales conversations.

2)   Help that team create standards and a definition of sales enablement to coordinate a common approach across the enterprise.

3)   Take a holistic approach to scoping and launching initiatives that align content, skills, and tools that salespeople need to be successful.

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