Sales fit or sales flabby? Eight steps to raise your game!

Transforming the culture of a sales organisation, like a sports team, is no overnight task; but as we've seen with the use of science and analytics to optimise athletic performance, the world of sales should be using advances in sales and marketing technologies to gain a competitive edge.

Having spent time in recent weeks with many customers in the UK and US, including our User Group, invariably the conversation has circled back to the challenge of sales transformation and how best to make it happen. From sales methodologies, sales management, coaching and sales enablement, to relationship mapping and bid management, these are just some of the themes that came up in various discussions, along with the perennial headache of sales and marketing alignment (which is a big topic in its own right). From where I sit, insight needs to play a critical role in sales transformation and high-performing sales organisations. And this isn’t just my view. Yet based on recent conversations, the attitude among sales execs towards using insight appears pretty polarised.

On one hand, you have those that ‘get’ value-based selling and the need to engage customers contextually around their agenda. These execs tend to work in lockstep with marketing (and beyond), and are empowered by access to tools like insight3 and supported by nurture programmes using technologies such as LinkedIn and Marketo. But, a second group still exists: sales execs that want to operate in the Always-Be-Closing school of aggressive deal making with traditional sales team structures and weighty incentives. How do we align the two, and take them both on a transformational journey, allowing everyone to understand and see the value of a modern approach to sales? Taking inspiration from the world of sport, noting the similarities between high-performing sports teams and successful businesses, here are eight ways to guarantee a table-topping sales transformation.

Set targets and build a plan to get there. Having a milestone or target is usually a great motivator to an exercise regime. For the amateur athlete, it might be a marathon or a personal best time and it’s similar in professional sport; Dave Brailsford, the much quoted architect behind the rise of British Cycling and Team Sky, talks about podium places. Quite simply, this means starting with the goal and working back from there.So it’s probably no surprise that sales methodologies like challenger are increasingly being adopted to help sales leaders understand how they should structure and enable their teams. As Lindsey Armstrong says, “Sales people today need tools that let them become forward-looking because CRM is great but really it’s a rear-view mirror on the business. The science and the art of selling are merging.”

You’re not the same as your colleagues and peers. The old adage of needing to focus on ‘your own race’ rings true. Usain Bolt and Mo Farahs training regimes vastly differ, but they’ll both win medals. You need an insight solution that suits your needs, and that may be a different solution to your colleagues. Any technology you use needs to be flexible enough to provide support across your organisation.

Get the wider team on the same page. You win as a team. That’s a fact. High-performing sports stars are surrounded by a team of advisors, coaches, psychologists, chefs, etc. – all focused on the same goal. It’s no different in the sales environment, and building the right culture is key. What’s critical is alignment around a common methodology and approach and ensuring that everyone has 100% clarity on their role and the resources needed.

Make it habitual. Like any exercise plan or training routine, once it becomes habitual, your plan will stick. Over time you’ll start to enjoy the progress you’re making and see the benefit of using insight to prepare for meetings, developing sales plans, tailoring sales propositions and being situationally fluent when talking to a customer. Making insight (like exercise) part of the daily routine will make it a pleasure, not a chore.

Follow your customer’s form. The chances are if you’re a sports fan and follow a football team, you’ll track the team’s form, results, transfers, monitor your arch rivals, look at message boards and look for rumour and speculation. What’s stopping you doing the same around customers and prospects you’re rooting for? Probably the ease of access to the insights, stats and analysis that are directly relevant. A nut we are trying to crack with the insight3 platform.

Look in the rear-view mirror. The best coaches and athletes are students of their trade. I read Legacy on holiday this summer, which explores the traits, beliefs and culture of the All Blacks and other high-performing sports teams. In all instances, there is a thirst to learn and desire to find major and marginal gains is huge, all wrapped into a very tightly reinforced culture. Graham Henry, ex-All Blacks coach and one of the world’s most successful sports coaches, said, “The challenge is to always improve, to always get better, even when you are the best. Especially when you are the best.”

Be open-minded. In a recent survey of sales users of insight3, one sales leader admitted he “doesn’t get on with social media.” As quoted in From Hard Sell to Smart Sell, in value-based selling a good sales person will tell you about aspects of the buyer’s company that they, as an insider in their company, often don’t see. They can transcend natural silos. They can act as the broker of internal information from all relevant sources…including social media.
(Psst. If you’re not confident in using social media as part of your daily routine, give our professional services team a call who support all aspects of sales enablement and coaching including social selling.)

Success demands leadership. The need for strong leadership and a singular vision is key to delivering success in sports or sales. There are very few successful teams that don’t have strong leaders with defined goals and an action plan of how to get there. Transforming the culture of a sales organisation, like a sports team, is no overnight task; but as we’ve seen with the use of science and analytics to optimise athletic performance, the world of sales should be using advances in sales and marketing technologies to gain a competitive edge. Sales organisations need to embrace newer, more consultative, insight-driven ways of selling in order to bring about a new era of modern sales. Do so and the revenue opportunities will inevitably follow.

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