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  • The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    by Keith M. Eades, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    by Keith M. Eades, Keith Eades
  • The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    by Keith M. Eades, James N. Touchstone, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The Solution-Centric Organization
    The Solution-Centric Organization
    by Keith M. Eades, Robert Kear
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Monday
Feb232015

The Myth of the Ideal Seller Profile

 In a prior post, we explored the daunting array of possible ideas and solutions that a sales leader could potentially apply to improve the abilities of sales people. Further, we suggested a relevant consideration. Wouldn’t it be extremely valuable to have an objective understanding of what sales people – your salespeople – actually need to be good at to be successful in YOUR company?

As we mentioned previously, broad based and vertical industry research and benchmarks have helped to dispel many common misconceptions about “ideal” traits and competencies of sales people (e.g., extroversion is a strong predictor of sales success). In addition, talent assessment, analytics, and benchmarking have led the movement to a more rational thought process about what it may take to succeed in various types of sales roles.

The premise of this type of research and benchmarking isn’t without value. If the success of your business relies on effectively managing probabilities (what business doesn’t), then understanding practices that have worked across time for similar companies is a significant move away from intuition and toward objectivity and clear thinking. Essentially, we at least have the beginnings of a framework for “guessing better.” We also considered a few limiting aspects of these approaches – weaker analytical methods, many potential extraneous factors, and the possibility that case studies are usually published when things work out in support of a position. So the probabilities of knowing what your sales people need to be best at may be enhanced – or maybe not.

Another interesting development regarding sales talent and methodology in the past several years is that some research has gone so far as to postulate a new and better, “ideal” profile for effective selling in today’s business climate. Across a broad sample size and global corporate audience, a study was conducted to determine “patterns” in the traits and behaviors of high performers. The synthesis of this research yielded a set of seller “profiles,” and their relationship to performance levels. The conclusion; in today’s world of informed buyers, one of the profiles clearly outpaced the others in terms of selling capability. Translation – the code has been cracked – and you should adopt the “new ideal” for your sales organization and probabilities of success will correspondingly go up.

While interesting, many of the findings and conclusions about the “new ideal” weren’t particularly novel or groundbreaking to established experts in the sales performance industry. Most aspects of effective selling (especially for complex offerings) have historically been quite challenging, and very few global companies have mastered high levels of consultative and solution-focused selling acumen on a widespread basis – regardless of what the methodology is called. If anything, the research validated what many companies in the sales performance space had encountered for years – companies saying “we get it,” but then largely practicing product, feature, benefit selling – or reactive needs-based selling.

That is because pre-emptively bringing brilliant new insights to the attention of customers – or effectively re-engineering a highly informed buyer’s pre-conceptions is, for the most part, really, really hard. Some approaches to selling are just flat out easier – and more accessible to the majority of sales professionals (and their companies). Secondly, in world where the shelf-life of new ideas is increasingly compressed, even if you can formulate an incredible new perspective for buyers, competitive advantage is fleeting.

The Demise of One-Size-Fits-Most

But there’s another, even bigger problem. Even if the statistical methodology and research approach of a broad study are flawless, you are inevitably dealing with aggregate data. And even if at this precise moment in time a certain set of characteristics or competencies for sales people correlates to the majority of high performers – that seller profile might not be most effective for your organization in its current situation. Because in probabilistic terms, many cause and effect elements of what impacts success in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your customers might not have been taken into consideration. For some statistical fun, just read a few political and economics blogs about whose policies are most responsible for economic recovery (spoiler alert: everyone’s).

But even more importantly, what about the specific business goals of your company? What if market share growth was the preeminent strategic goal for your organization? Would it not be extremely valuable to understand which sales competencies were most likely to impact that aspect of your corporate strategy? It would, but heretofore we’ve typically had to live with “macro-level” information that provides “one-size-fits-most” guideposts for our choices. That level of intelligence is useful, but still somewhat of a blunt instrument for our critical decision-making.

The New World According to YOU

But there is an emerging new paradigm that is disrupting traditional thinking with respect to best practices – the world according to YOU. A confluence of new capabilities is creating this innovative, more precise approach to performance improvement, including advanced analytics, refined sales competency and behavioral models, adaptive learning, and multiple forms of technology enablement. When fully aligned, these capabilities create intriguing new possibilities for results-based transformation in highly compressed time frames.

So how does your organization begin to apply the “new way” as an approach to optimize sales performance? It begins with zeroing in on the capabilities of your salespeople that align most closely to the specific goals of your business. I begins by defining YOUR ideal sales profile(s) – taking into consideration the current state and situation of YOUR business. In the next several weeks, multiple expert contributors in the areas of talent analytics, learning and development, and sales enablement will help to “connect the dots” for the new way – the world according to YOU. Stay tuned.

 

Author: 

Trevor Byrd, PhD, is a Senior Data Scientist at Sales Performance International. He conducts predictive analytics to provide insight into the complex challenges facing sales leaders. Trained as an industrial-organizational psychologist, he creates psychometric-based assessments used for hiring and developing sales teams. He integrates this data with pipeline and financial metrics to help organizations align their human capital with business strategy.

www.linkedin.com/in/TrevorByrd-PhD

 

Tuesday
Feb032015

From Samples to Studies – The Changing Landscape of Life Sciences Sales

When thinking of the importance of behavior change for sales representatives in Life Sciences, one quote comes to mind. If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading (Lao Tzu).

How many of you long for the heydays when you simply dropped off samples and lunches at physicians’ offices? This approach was once fruitful for you, correct? But, most of you have probably learned the hard way – maybe by way of declining sales numbers – that you can no longer hang your hat on just relationship building and frequency of visits.

Perhaps you have been searching for the Holy Grail that will put you back in the good graces of physicians. Good news – you can cease your search; access is attainable. But, access will require behavior change. Otherwise, like the chosen quote stated, you’ll end up where you’re heading – the world of ever-decreasing sales.

The solution may not be easy to achieve but it is simple in theory. Physicians today want to see more clinical sales representatives. You must possess skills in various domains including clinical selling, customer service, and technology to meet healthcare providers’ (HCPs) needs and desires. A few statistics that provide greater insight into this point follow.

91% of HCPs want representatives to leverage clinical studies and EBM.

Sales representatives who aren’t fluent in the language of evidence-based medicine will not survive. According to the Institute of Medicine, “The Life Science sales professional of the future will require high levels of fluency in EBM to effectively communicate and position value to potential medical buyers.” This trend is also well-aligned with key findings by TGaS Advisors about the importance of EBM. “For the first time, evidence-based medicine was found to be the strongest customer buying influence…” You must walk the walk and talk the talk.

Physicians want more representatives skilled in their specialty.

In short, HCPs are looking for you to be a source of knowledge rather than a fountain of polished, canned marketing language. The key: provide value. This value comes in the form of a patient-centered dialogue and how it relates to successful solutions for their practice and patients. Similar to point number one, HCPs need a partner who can truly speak their language and understand their challenges. “62% of primary care physicians want more or significantly more traditional primary care representatives,” while 91% of “specialty physicians want more specialty representatives.” It’s not easy to entrench yourself in their world, but consider the potential of truly differentiating yourself from the competition by doing so.

Physicians want “hybrid” representatives.

Hybrid representatives are still assigned to specific geographies and sets of target HCPs but they reach the HCPs “through a variety of channels (e.g., face-to-face, phone, and video) and at times (e.g., work day, after hours, weekends) that are preferred and most convenient for each physician.”7 This approach may be completely foreign to you as you’re so accustomed to the old model of solely face-to-face selling. However, as in any role or industry, accessibility is king. Individuals – whether it be a physician, CEO or director of marketing – want responses and meetings on their time, not yours. If you can be flexible, you can win. While it may seem like HCPs are demanding the world of you, consider the amount of pressure they are under, especially since the legislation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 when many of these trends began to emerge.

As the world of healthcare undergoes rapid transformation, there will be new winners and losers. The winners will be armed with the knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully add value to new types of success measures for the industry. Don’t you think it’s time to take a turn off the beaten path and learn how to adapt to the needs of the 2015 HCP? SPI is an experienced partner who has helped hundreds of organizations and sales professionals become trusted advisors to HCPs. Its program, Evidence-Based Solution Selling®, is proven to increase sales and grow market share by teaching representatives how to deliver patient-centered solutions through evidence-based medicine language and principles. Learning is sometimes self-paced, most often collaborative, and also accessible on various platforms including the PC, and more importantly now, the iPad and Android OS tablets to streamline the link between knowledge acquisition and sales/technology enablement.

To learn more about Evidence-Based Solution Selling® and related programs, please visit global.spisales.com/evolve

Wednesday
Jan212015

Why Leave Revenue Growth to Chance in 2015?

A Daunting Array of Options for Sales Leaders

Is your company’s business goal to shrink… to achieve LESS business, to gain LESS revenue, or LESS market share? What company decides ‘contraction’ is their business goal? In all likelihood, the answer is simple. None. The challenge of sustained growth and profitability are constant and universal in every global company – and that pressure passes relentlessly through to every sales organization.

Recent research illustrates emphatically (see The Agile Sales Organization) that effective selling is being disrupted by more forces than ever before. Against the backdrop of increasing change, in the more than 150 global sales organizations we work with annually, the litany of sales problems has remained somewhat persistent:

  • Low quota attainment
  • Low competitive win rates
  • Lengthy sales cycles
  • High customer acquisition costs
  • Failure to maximize revenue in strategic accounts
  • Frequent discounting to win
  • Difficulty cross-selling and up-selling
  • Lengthy ramp-up times
  • Highly informed buyers finding their own solutions

Not exhaustive, but you get the picture. On a (possibly) positive note, each of these challenges have potential antidotes – in fact maybe dozens of antidotes. For example, there are at least 200 identifiable companies today that prescribe solutions for some aspect of “sales enablement.” And that is only one subset of the “solution provider” marketplace for sales which can also include sales training providers, sales technology providers, sales method providers…. and so on and so on… all with their own ideas, processes, recomendations and best-practices.  So which among these potential “antidotes” might actually solve the sales problem YOUR company is experiencing today?

Any number of ideas might be viable – there is no shortage of potential “solutions.” It might be sales analytics, it might be sales training, it might be technology enablement, it might be embracing a new type of seller profile, it might be improved talent acquisition, it might be improved messaging, it might be social media, it might be …

And every solution to the aforementioned problems has a beautifully documented case study (or three) that will instill confidence that the proposed offering will have an impact on your organization. And so, how does the rational sales leader proceed? Because the reality is that if every solution performed as well as case studies and value calculators would indicate – we would collectively be awash in a utopian paradise of sales excellence. In fact, let’s just intuitively pick a few reasonable sounding ideas and pre-order those President’s Club Lamborghini’s and 110% quota attainment cruises now – before supply runs short.

What Really Matters?

In seriousness, it would be unfair to say that companies make irrational decisions in terms of growing their businesses. In most cases there is a legitimate effort to think clearly about providing differentiated, valuable products and solutions to their customers. And organizations generally make a sincere effort to align their organizations and human capital around the goals of their business. But those best laid plans often have a complicating factor. Because for thousands of global companies, there’s also a universal reality.

Between their beautifully conceived offerings and the buyer exists that interesting collection of people known as “the sales force.”  And in the majority of companies, the human capital costs of the sales organization comprises a significant share of corporate operating expenses.  Investing in sales performance improvement solutions isn’t inherently a bad idea – some offerings might actually work well for your organization. For example, if your organization has no coherent “framework” for selling – by all means move from ad hoc behavior to some semblance of order and management science (we encounter and address this often). But conversely, many ideas might also not work well at all – even if they’ve benefitted other organizations that seem similar to yours.  

So before we survey this daunting array of sales improvement alternatives and invest in one or more of them, it might be valuable to pose a simple question.

What do OUR sales people actually need to be good at?

Because until we’re able to answer this question with a high level of validity, most of the investments we make are at best, educated guesswork. There has been extensive research, data collection, and analysis of the innate traits and learnable competencies of “successful” sales professionals. Within this collective research and benchmarking there is some good news and some not so good news.

On the good news front, broad based and vertical industry research and benchmarks have helped to dispel many common misconceptions about “ideal” traits and competencies of sales people (e.g., extroversion is a predictor of sales success). In addition, talent assessment, analytics, and benchmarking have led the movement to a more rational thought process about what it may take to succeed in various types of sales roles. Some researchers have also gone as far as to posit an “ideal” profile for effective selling in today’s business climate (which we will discuss further in a future post).

While potentially better than intuition or opinion, these approaches provide us with a blunt instrument of sorts. Because even if a set of specific traits and capabilities correlate with 50% of high performers in companies somewhat like yours, that doesn’t remotely guarantee that the same outcomes will occur for your organization. Beyond that, the statistical methods applied in many of the case studies and broader research studies might not survive serious mathematical scrutiny.

A great number of case studies and even “formal” (appearing) research studies are little more than correlation-based analyses. In many cases these types of ostensibly “empirical” approaches don’t consider numerous factors that actually could (and do) have a cause and effect impact on outcomes. Some may utilize some form of regression analysis, but rarely do these types of initiatives apply causal analytics. As importantly, the current situation and environment of your business might entail variables and factors that are considerably different than the company or aggregate research sample a conclusion is based on.

So with hundreds of possible ideas and solutions that a sales leader could potentially apply to improve the abilities of sales people how do we better answer the question; what do our sales people actually need to be good at? And of equal importance - then how do we capitalize on that understanding to create impact on our business goals?

In the next post, we will begin to explore how to cut through the noise and get focused on human capital investments in sales that have the highest probability of impacting your company’s specific business goals. Stay tuned. 

 

Author:
Robert Kear, Partner and CMO, Sales Performance International

www.linkedin.com/in/robertkear

 

Thursday
Jan082015

Change Your Daily Selling Habits. Become a Micro-Marketer 

by Chris Carlson, Director of Channel Development at SPI

In order to succeed in sales, sellers need to be able to generate as much as 70% of their own leads to make their sales numbers.  This according to a recent study conducted by CustomerThink and cited by Koka Sexton in his whitepaper last year “7 Ways Sales Professionals Drive Revenue with Social Selling”. 

Sellers who want to control their own destiny and exceed quota, must develop and incorporate new habits into their sales processes.  From creating demand using LinkedIn Posts, to monitoring of client Twitter feeds, these activities will set you up for success in the era of social selling.

Here’s my story of how I became a micro-marketer and what you can learn from my experiences.

First, know that everything I did next came with a certain level of hesitation and an initial feeling of discomfort. Like anything new, practice and persistence is key.  This was true for blogging, and regularly monitoring client posts on LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Here’s how I got started.  I would spend two hours per week researching my target clients and what they were posting or commenting on.  Then, I started posting regularly on key industry or ‘best practice’ groups on LinkedIn.  Further, I scheduled another 30 minutes to review top sales articles and when I found good ones, I commented and shared these with my network.    

The Early Results:

What initially happened was that people in my target demographic started viewing my profile or reaching out to me on LinkedIn wanting to connect.  In late 2014, I closed my first deal that could be sourced to a LinkedIn interaction.  I am currently working on another as I write this article.  Three such deals were in my pipeline for Q4 2014 and I have one Win, one Loss, and one still deciding currently from this group.  All began as LinkedIn interactions.

Kick off 2015 with a Social Selling Bang

Get started with Social Selling in 2015 by identifying goals against which you can measure your success. For example, how many meetings would you like this to lead to monthly?  How many more leads in the pipeline would you like to see generated as a result of Social Selling activities? Once you have penciled in goals, take the next step and complete the following action items:

  1. Build a Social Selling Strategy Plan:
    1. What will you tackle first?
    2. How much time can you allocate?
    3. Where do you think your time will be best spent given your goals and audience
  2. Schedule different activities in 30 minute blocks throughout the week, this can include:
    1. Account planning and researching key players
    2. Posting on blogs and in relevant industry groups
    3. Reaching out to people in your LinkedIn network
    4. Discovering new contacts and identifying warm introductions

Build a routine of activities that you can repeat often and track results against. For example, if you start sharing content within LinkedIn, what posts receive the most engagement or comments? What type of prospects are responding most positively, and what commonalities do they share (i.e. title, company size, or industry)? 

Your social selling activities should be methodical and connected so that you are building relationships, sharing valued information, and ultimately leading your prospect through a story that culminates in how you can help them solve a problem.  There is a right way to gain access to and influence early stage buyers, but it means behavior changes and increasing your micro-marketing activities.  

Learn more and follow the LinkedIn discussion >>
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn >>

Tuesday
Dec232014

Happy Holidays from SPI!

At this special time of year as we celebrate the Holidays, SPI wants to say thank you to all of our past and current clients, to our partners, and to the individuals and teams we collaborate with daily in the pursuit of success. Thank you for a great 2014.

We have had the great pleasure to work with the world’s best and most dedicated professionals, from all parts of the globe, for over 25 years. It is our collaborative spirit, and mutual partnerships that make our jobs a joy and keep our passion for sales success and transformation alive.

From the SPI family to yours we wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Warmest Regards,

Keith Eades and the entire global
Sales Performance International team