Time to Adapt to a New Sales Environment

Ken Thoreson

Working recently with a client in selecting and implementing a CRM system, it struck me that sales organizations haven’t moved past traditional metrics, sales process, recruiting, training and coaching. There’s a new sales landscape that really isn’t so new. It left the station when the Internet arrived, and has moved full speed ahead with the increased availability of product/service information on websites and through the plethora of social media. Buyers no longer rely on salespeople as a primary resource, and they are for more empowered by their knowledge.

This environment has prompted commoditization in almost every industry, making profitable growth the much sought-after Holy Grail.The need to increase the velocity of sales transactions is not only for productivity and low cost-of-sales, but also a defense against intruders.

Stepping up technology

What can sales leadership do to achieve greater productivity? Merge sophisticated technology with past success. The healthcare industry has done this with medical protocols, the power of computers and database management. Researchers create personalized medical treatment plans based on variable data points. For instance, if you are a male or female in a certain age range, a certain nationality, with or without diabetes, there will be a specific protocol for treating a heart problem that is based on successful historical patterns. Sales leadership can incorporate this same concept to begin creating custom sales plans for differing sales situations.

Data-driven protocols

CRM systems linked to business intelligence (BI) software and a variety of data points can create custom sales processes/protocols to expedite sales and increase sales productivity.

The CRM/BI alliance will be a game-changer, giving users a true competitive advantage.

Sales protocols will be based on a variety of prospect variables or data points that may vary some from industry to industry. Fundamental data points captured from any CRM database gathered by the salesperson on the initial call may include but are not limited to:

  • New/existing client
  • Job position/decision maker
  • Tenure
  • Composition of decision making team
  • Target decision date
  • Personality/management style
  • Complexity level of the sale
  • Pains to be alleviated
  • Product/service type

A set of aggregated data points create a specific sales situation that can be validated against a historical database, resulting in a preferred path that includes not only process, but also proper sales tools, a predefined sales process and recommended sales protocols.

Evolution of sales leadership

The adoption of sales protocols will require an adjustment of traditional recruiting, training and development, measurementand other sales management practices. For instance, the sales candidate’s profile will need to demonstrate greater adaptability, intelligenceand creativity for assessing prospect situations to ensure accurate data. In addition, the need for more sophisticated skills to execute sales protocols requires more sophisticated sales training. Therefore, in lieu of relying on traditional, process-oriented sales training firms,companies will need advanced, expertise in creating ongoing (rather than sporadic) development programs that adapt to evolving protocols, such as certification programs.

Sales metrics will also become more critical and more complex. Leaders will need to expand their focus from four to six traditional metrics about historical and forward-looking sales activity and pipeline values; they will need to add actions related to the types of sales protocols being followed and link them with specific success ratios with the help of BI reports.

While the “art” of creating trust and confidence during the sales process will always be essential, a more prescriptive, proven approach to winning the sale will advance the “science” behind successful results.

Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. His latest book in his “Your Sales Management Guru” series is“Leading High Performance Sales Teams.” He blogs at YourSalesManagemenGuru.com.