CEO of SYSPRO USA, with a passion for team building, digital business, customer experience, sales enablement, and uplifting the community.
Considering sales are the lifeline for most companies, analysis and optimization of sales processes should be the most outcome-measured activity. However, in my many years of turning well-established companies around and helping startups succeed, I find business-to-business sales performance can be among the biggest downfalls for organizations.
In today’s market, I would argue efforts to sharpen your sales saw take on even more urgency. It’s vital to quickly assess where sales efforts are falling flat to make necessary course corrections. Often, I find this requires more than incremental changes; it requires a radical reinvention of the sales process.
Organizations must contact, qualify, develop and close business continuously and at scale while ensuring interactions are personalized, meaningful and dynamic. As if that’s not enough, they must do so by supporting multiple influencers, channels and buying options.
The reinvention process isn’t easy. The B2B sales process is complex, and it’s hard to know where to start. Top sales talent can be expensive and hard to come by. But perhaps the biggest challenge is coming to grips with the reality that there is no leniency in enterprise sales. There are so many things companies must get “right” to win the deal, and it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
Here are four ways to (undauntedly) revamp your sales process:
1. Hire right from the start.
Talent management is a critical business function, especially for sales. Ensuring the right “fit” from the start can improve salesperson tenure and protect the bottom line.
One of the first changes I made to revamp my own sales hiring process was to eliminate every recruitment agency we worked with. I worked with our human resources department to develop a hiring pipeline with very stringent qualification criteria, and candidates complete assessments to test their hard and soft skills, culture fit, and business acumen. Out of 250 applicants, this vetting process results in 86% being disqualified. However, by ensuring we’re hiring for the right attributes, we’ve been able to improve the effectiveness of our sales.
2. Be a contrarian.
What makes a good salesperson today is not the same as it was five years ago, so it’s important to shift your thinking about your sales force. Many executives make the mistake of thinking effective salespeople are extroverts, but I have seen many highly successful salespeople who are introverts.
Interviews of top B2B salespeople conducted by sales strategist, author and speaker Steve W. Martin revealed that bravado-type salespeople are likely to alienate more prospects than they win. In fact, 91% of top-performing salespeople demonstrate high levels of modesty and humility, whereas salespeople who are extremely gregarious (or those who prefer friendliness and being with people) tend to have lower sales performances.
Making connections, building relationships and instilling trust are the cornerstones of sales; introverts can excel at building relationships. As well, salespeople must be good at research and highly analytical, which are often considered innate introvert strengths.
3. Align skills with customer segments.
It’s vital to structure your business to align with your customer segments so your organization is customer-focused. You can’t be everything to everyone. Trying to do so in the sales arena results in an inability to develop domain-specific knowledge. To counter that, each salesperson should be aligned with specific types of customers. Organize and align your sales force around customers served as opposed to virtual or actual geographic boundaries.
This sales specialization ensures your sales force can practice the art of selling business value versus merely being transactional order takers. Selling business value entails understanding a prospect’s issues and challenges and revealing how your product or service can serve their needs. This is key because Gartner’s research shows that buyers prefer suppliers that offer valuable information that helps make navigating the purchase process easier.
4. Take a culture and systems approach.
When it comes to B2B sales, it takes a village. You can’t close sales without a team these days. As well, buyers engage in a varied mix of digital and human assets throughout the buying journey. Pre-sales, marketing and sales enablement all matter to ensure the right collateral, the right references and the right demonstrations are delivered at the right time. Providing your sales team with the resources they need to be effective is also essential.
Some of these resources will fall within your sales organization, and some might fall within your marketing or communications organization. However, all are interrelated and interdependent and must be analyzed and optimized collectively to drive the best sales performance. Journey mapping can help you learn about customer interactions in your sales and marketing efforts to uncover opportunities to make the sales process more effective and efficient.
Aligning value measures and linking performance measures is key to ensuring the right collaboration and focus among sales, marketing, pre-sales and the rest.
Get busy building your post-pandemic pipeline.
Don’t let sales performance be your biggest downfall. Growth in a down market isn’t impossible, but it won’t come easy. Take the steps needed now to radically reinvent your sales efforts through a focus on people, processes and systems.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?