The Ends are the Means: A Sales 2.0 Maturity Model

[Note: this article was first published in the Nov/Dec 2010 edition of DestinationCRM without the embedded graphics]

Even at the most successful companies, executives want to know if their sales teams are performing optimally:

  • Am I getting the best bang for the buck that I spend on my sales force?
  • Can I drive higher sales productivity out of my existing teams or do I need to invest in new sales staff, leadership, systems, or channels?
  • Can I meet my sales goals without making changes at all?

A useful tool for benchmarking sales performance is a Sales Maturity Model, which is a yardstick for a company to compare themselves against the best practices of other companies and set realistic targets for sales productivity based on their current maturity level. Traditional Sales Maturity Models have identified a number of characteristics that describe each maturity phase including sales metrics, sales processes, sales tools, and sales methodologies.

And yet companies aren’t setting their sights high enough. A new sales discipline has emerged over the past few years – broadly referred to as “Sales 2.0” – that aims to align a company’s selling strategy to their customer’s buying behaviors.

In this Viewpoint, the author proposes a new Sales Maturity Model that incorporates the goals of Sales 2.0 to provide a better framework for companies to measure their sales performance against the latest industry best practices.

With a tip of the hat to Bruce Tuckman’s model for group development, this new sales maturity model is composed of five “-ends” that are characterized by sales messaging that is:

  • Intend – product-based
  • Spend – feature-based
  • Recommend – solution-based
  • Comprehend – objectives-based
  • Blend – buyer-based

The key characteristics of each stage in the 5 –Ends Model are summarized in the below table – the capabilities for each stage are additive, meaning you build upon the previous maturity stage and add new capabilities that give you entirely new productivity gains:

(Click image to view full-size)

For the past decade, the focus of most companies has been toward “solution selling” – shifting sales teams from a product-based pitch (Intend/Spend) to a solution-based pitch (Recommend). Many services-based companies have one step further to present their company as a “trusted advisor” (Comprehend) to their customers. Each step up the Maturity Model brings new capabilities to the company’s sales team: new sales metrics, new sales tools, new skills, and even new sales channels.

But the capabilities in the Blend phase are recent and unique – a suite of approaches, techniques, and information that was not available prior to the advent of more sophisticated collaboration tools like Salesforce.com Chatter or social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Companies in highly competitive markets, who have made incremental improvements in their sales productivity, have only one way to go in order to differentiate themselves from their competition: invest in these new Blend capabilities and transform into a Sales 2.0 selling organization with Social CRM tools that augment their core CRM processes and applications.

And companies who are still working their way up the Sales Maturity Model can build an “edge” to their business through small experiments with Blend-like capabilities, while they focus on improvements to their “core” business using capabilities from an earlier maturity stage.

In short, the 5 –Ends Model is the means through which any company can develop a sales strategy and roadmap, set achievable goals for sales productivity, make smart investments in new capabilities that move its sales team up the Maturity Model, and provide a new sight on the horizon that leverages new Sales 2.0 capabilities to differentiate and win customers.

About the Author:

Mr. Branham is a collaborative selling strategist, advisor, and entrepreneur. He has held executive positions at Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), nGenera (co-founded by Don Tapscott, author of the best selling book Wikinomics), and has launched three companies including Opcentric, a consulting firm that was one of the first Salesforce.com partners in 2000. In addition to serving as a Managing Director of Acumen Solutions, an international consulting firm, Mr. Branham also leads a sales strategy advisory firm, TRE3 Group.  For more information, please email at ebranham@acumensolutions.com or follow Eryc @tre3group on Twitter.

The Lost Art of Lost Metrics: Turning Past Losses into Future Wins

Unless you expect a 100% win rate, a lost deal is not a bad thing. In fact, if you are capturing the right information about your lost deals, then you can turn past losses into future wins! You can identify exactly where to focus your sales training, competitive strategies and positioning. Many sales organizations track the reasons why their deals were lost, but this only paints part of the picture. Let us examine one highly valuable lost metric that is often overlooked…

Lost the Deal

Based on the manager’s response in the comic strip above, it may seem that while the sales rep lost his deal, the manager lost his mind! The manager, however, is asking exactly the right question: “Where did you leave it last?” In other words, “Where was your deal before you lost it?” It is important to capture in which stage of the sales cycle a deal was lost. I call this the “Lost Stage”, the stage where deals disappear.

The Lost Stage, coupled with the Lost Reason, together provide a more complete understanding of your sales challenges. Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1:
70% of deals lost in a given year were lost due to price. The company doesn’t know where in the sales cycle they were lost, only that they were lost because of price. To address the problem, the VP of Sales invests in negotiation training for the sales team and increases the threshold for allowable discounts from 10% to 20%.

Scenario 2:
70% of deals lost in a given year were lost due to price, 90% of which were lost during discovery. Now the VP of Sales understands that reps are disclosing cost even before the pain is quantified and the solution is understood by the prospect. He therefore directs his training efforts to the front half of the sales cycle.

In the first scenario above, the VP of Sales would have invested significant resources on negotiation training, but to no avail. Decreasing allowable discount thresholds was likely to also decreased the value of deals won. This would have yielded the opposite result from what was intended because of the false assumption that the problem was in the latter parts of the sales cycle. Worst of all, they would never have known it!

Knowing why deals were lost without understanding when they were lost can sometimes be misleading. Capturing both the Lost Reason and the Lost Stage provides a more complete and accurate picture. This leads to wiser, more informed decisions, which ultimately leads to improved sales effectiveness.

Capturing the Lost Stage metric can help turn past losses into future wins!

Whiteboard Thinking: A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture

We’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true then the converse is also true: a thousand words are worth a picture. What I mean is that if it requires a thousand words to explain, then it’s complex. If it’s complex, then it needs to be mapped out. It needs a picture.

One of Sales Ops Solutions’ fundamental principles is that every complex problem can be translated into a series of simple problems. Think about it. Your business has a lot of moving parts. A dashboard provides a series of simple charts that together provide an overall view of your business. The secret to solving a complicated problem is in mastering the art of translating it into bite-sized, manageable pieces.

I help clients solve complex problems. One of my first questions when I visit a client is “Can I use your whiteboard?” The whiteboard helps us to produce clarity around the problem we are trying to solve and how to prioritize its components.

I like to refer to the following simple steps as “Whiteboard Thinking”. They are designed to help you get started in attacking a complex problem with clarity and confidence:

    1) Settle in your mind that you will solve the problem. The only question is how.
    This will eliminate the fear factor, which often slows us down.

    2) Define the ultimate goal.
    What are we primarily trying to accomplish? Often in trying to solve one problem, we discover 3 more. This causes us to shift our focus on trying to solve all 4 problems at the same time. Bad idea. Define your ultimate goal and stay focused. Often this goal is refined through the process; that’s ok. But stay focused. Each problem will have its turn.

    3) Define the various components.
    What often complicates a problem is the existence of several interrelated moving parts. Define clearly what those parts are. Draw each one as a circle on a whiteboard. Literally looking at these circles helps to bring clarity to our thinking. If you have too many parts, then you may need to create sub-components, so each level contains no more than 6 or 7 components. Deal with the highest level first, then tackle each multi-component level. To demonstrate this step I have provided below a simple diagram that I created to help define Sales Operations. Viewing this diagram provides clarity around what I mean when I refer to “Sales Operations”.
    Sales Operations - Simplified and Defined

    4) Define the purpose of each component.
    Why does each component exist and how does it contribute to your ultimate goal?

    5) Define the relationships between components.
    How does each component effect every other component? This is often represented by a line interconnecting the circles. Often a matrix is helpful in this exercise, with each component having its own row and column. Does each effect strengthen or weaken the respective components’ purposes?

    6) Define the players.
    Who in your organization owns each component. If you cannot identify an explicit owner for each component, then this may be part of your problem.

    7) Define the problem.
    a) What are the fruits? These are visible symptoms that indicate that a problem exists.
    b) What are the roots? These are the ultimate causes of the problem. This is what needs to be corrected in order to stop the problem from recurring. Sometimes identifying the root cause requires digging deeply and speaking to several effected parties.

These 7 steps to Whiteboard Thinking will help you to define and simplify the complex problem so that you can tackle it with clarity and confidence. This exercise is worth your time, because a thousand words are worth a picture.

Enjoy!

I welcome you to post your feedback.

How to Inspire End User Adoption

If your organization struggles with end user adoption for new processes and technologies then this post will help. The practical insights provided below have been proven to work whether deploying a new CRM system or a new process within existing technology.

The seeds of end user adoption are planted long before implementation. The secret is to create a sense of ownership and positive anticipation leading up to deployment.

Consider the foundational meaning of the word “adoption”. When a parent “adopts” a child, they take one that belonged to another and makes them their own. By this definition, true adoption goes beyond meeting the minimum requirements to a sense of personal responsibility and expected value.

To create a sense of ownership, create a committee (whether formal or informal) that is to actively participate in shaping the process or technology being deployed. This team should have at least one representative from each role being effected. Guide them to provide input at pre-established milestones.

Be sure to listen carefully and value their input. Give them a sense of ownership. Only the true owner of a project can offer a sense of ownership to selected others. If you do this well, they will advocate the new process to their peers well before implementation. You will have actually effected the culture, which will not be easily changed.

Now, what if we still have an issue with adoption; what if 100% of your sales team members are not passionate evangelists of your process (imagine that!)?

This is where the stick comes in. The stick is to be used only when the carrot doesn’t work. Willful adoption is always more effective than forced adoption.

The following guidelines will help you to continuously increase adoption:

1. Establish metrics to measure adoption AND the expected results of adoption.
2. Use the metrics you established.
3. Acknowledge those who are adopting well and highlight their positive results to their peers.
4. Point out those who are not adopting well.
5. Managers, hold your team members accountable. Manage beyond metrics. Interact with each member.
6. Executives, hold your managers accountable to holding their team members accountable.

How do you drive adoption? You don’t. You inspire adoption!

“Weighted BANT”: A Simple Lead Qualification Methodology

If you have any experience in Lead Generation, then you are familiar with “BANT”. Budget, Authority, Need and Time frame are commonly used criteria for qualifying leads. If all four criteria are confirmed, then the lead is considered “qualified” and it enters the sales pipeline.

The Common Challenge:
Here’s the challenge that many companies will admit: “If I hold to all four criteria, then I will not qualify enough leads. But if I remove any one criterion, then I will qualify too many leads. Either way, I can’t win!” Yes, you can win. There is another way…

The Simple Solution:

The following lead qualification methodology is easy to deploy and can be quickly configured in most SFA or CRM systems.  I call it the “Weighted BANT” methodology:

Apply a weighting to each of the BANT criteria (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4) and define each weighting. Below is a sample set of definitions for Authority:

0 = Has no authority and has no access to the decision maker(s).
1 = Has no authority, but has direct access to the decision maker(s).
2 = Has influence and has access to the decision maker(s).
3 = Is one of several decision makers.
4 = Has complete authority as the sole decision maker.

Define a similar scale for Budget, Authority, Need and Time frame.

Now qualify your leads based on the sum of all four scores. For example:

0-4 = Unqualified (don’t waste your time).
5-8 = Slightly Qualified (nurture it).
9-12 = Qualified (follow-up).
13-16 = Highly Qualified (follow-up immediately).

The “Weighted BANT” methodology provides enough flexibility to customize for your sales organization and enough simplicity to deploy and train quickly and easily.

If you choose to adopt this methodology, please share your results with me.

Enjoy!

Character Over Talent: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment” – Roger Gushway

Three years ago I heard Roger Gushway speak these words: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment.”  Immediately I thought of various people who had reached great heights of success after a lifetime of hard work, only to see it all tragically destroyed because of one pivotal moment’s decision.  I had to ask myself, “Am I prone to the same tragedy?  When I achieve my desired success, will I have the character to sustain it?

As we aspire to achieve our goals in business and beyond, let us maximize every opportunity to build character.  Character is not acquired through learning or reading.  There is no “Character 101” course or “Character for Dummies” book.  Character is established through a series of daily decisions where the rubber meets the road.

When we choose not to compromise our morals, even if it results in loss, character is built.  When we insist on the betterment of someone else in stead of ourselves, character is built.  When our patience is tested in the fires of daily life, character is built.  When all odds are against us but we do not quit, character is built.  And as our character is built, so is our legacy.

Character does not have a time and a place.  It is always relevant, always appropriate.

In the business world, when I evaluate a vendor, a partner, an employee or a customer, I always look for character first.  I’ll take character over talent any day.

Influencing the Influence of Others

Influential sales reps can have a great impact on sales teams, whether good or bad. The wise manager will know how to identify and leverage that influence to his or her advantage.

Turn the Negative into Positive Influence:

When an outspoken sales rep is spreading complaints, the effects can be devastating on the sales culture and over-all morale.  Managers who try to suppress this rep may get the opposite effect from what they had intended.  Have you ever tried to suppress a ball in a swimming pool?  The further down in the water you try to keep it, the greater the resistance you get in return and the bigger a splash it makes.

Instead of trying to stop the complaining rep, engage them, listen to them (whether they are right or wrong) and try to win them over.  Ask their input in advance when certain changes are on the horizon.  Instill in them a sense that you trust them and view them as a leader.  This will give you the right to expect them to use their influence prudently.  You now have a relationship where you can leverage their influence instead of fighting against it.  You will have transformed negative influence into positive.

Maximize the Positive Influence that Already Exists:

If a rep has a positive influence on your team (for example they advocate positive change and prove it quickly in practice) then don’t just leave them alone, maximize their influence on purpose.  Involve them early to help shape important changes (such as new technology and processes that will affect daily life).  This influence can be a powerful force in uniting the team towards a common goal.

As a manager, it is in your best interest to identify and guide existing influence.  Note that not all outspoken people are influential.  Focus on those with real influence.

Effectively channeling existing influence is one of the unquantifiable yet powerful ways to increase sales performance.  This ability often separates the good sales leaders from the great. Your indirect influence through others is greater than your direct influence through yourself alone.