A HBR-article, by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman
The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to. In recent decades sales reps have become adept at discovering customers’ needs and selling them “solutions”—generally, complex combinations of products and services. This worked because customers didn’t know how to solve their own problems, even though they often had a good understanding of what their problems were. But now, owing to increasingly sophisticated procurement teams and purchasing consultants armed with troves of data, companies can readily define solutions for themselves.
In fact, a recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier. In this world the celebrated “solution sales rep” can be more of an annoyance than an asset. Customers in an array of industries, from IT to insurance to business process outsourcing, are often way ahead of the salespeople who are “helping” them.
But the news is not all bad. Although traditional reps are at a distinct disadvantage in this environment, a select group of high performers are flourishing. These superior reps have abandoned much of the conventional wisdom taught in sales organizations. They:
- evaluate prospects according to criteria different from those used by other reps, targeting agile organizations in a state of flux rather than ones with a clear understanding of their needs
- seek out a very different set of stakeholders, preferring skeptical change agents over friendly informants
- coach those change agents on how to buy, instead of quizzing them about their company’s purchasing process
These sales professionals don’t just sell more effectively—they sell differently. This means that boosting the performance of average salespeople isn’t a matter of improving how they currently sell; it involves altogether changing how they sell. To accomplish this, organizations need to fundamentally rethink the training and support provided to their reps.
Coming Up Short
Under the conventional solution-selling method that has prevailed since the 1980s, salespeople are trained to align a solution with an acknowledged customer need and demonstrate why it is better than the competition’s. This translates into a very practical approach: A rep begins by identifying customers who recognize a problem that the supplier can solve, and gives priority to those who are ready to act. Then, by asking questions, she surfaces a “hook” that enables her to attach her company’s solution to that problem. Part and parcel of this approach is her ability to find and nurture somebody within the customer organization—an advocate, or coach—who can help her navigate the company and drive the deal to completion.
But customers have radically departed from the old ways of buying, and sales leaders are increasingly finding that their staffs are relegated to price-driven bake-offs. One CSO at a high-tech organization told us, “Our customers are coming to the table armed to the teeth with a deep understanding of their problem and a well-scoped RFP for a solution. It’s turning many of our sales conversations into fulfillment conversations.” Reps must learn to engage customers much earlier, well before customers fully understand their own needs. In many ways, this is a strategy as old as sales itself: To win a deal, you’ve got to get ahead of the RFP. But our research shows that although that’s more important than ever, it’s no longer sufficient.
To find out what high-performing sales professionals (defined as those in the top 20% in terms of quota attainment) do differently from other reps, Corporate Executive Board conducted three studies. In the first, we surveyed more than 6,000 reps from 83 companies, spanning every major industry, about how they prioritize opportunities, target and engage stakeholders, and execute the sales process. In the second, we examined complex purchasing scenarios in nearly 600 companies in a variety of industries to understand the various structures and influences of formal and informal buying teams. In the third, we studied more than 700 individual customer stakeholders involved in complex B2B purchases to determine the impact specific kinds of stakeholders can have on organizational buying decisions.
Our key finding: The top-performing reps have abandoned the traditional playbook and devised a novel, even radical, sales approach built on the three strategies outlined above. Let’s take a close look at each.
The best salespeople are replacing traditional “solution selling” with “insight selling”—a strategy that demands a radically different approach across several areas of the purchasing process.
As a leader, one of your most important roles is to coach your people to do their best. By doing this, you’ll help them make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, learn new skills, and otherwise progress their careers.
Coaching your employees requires a continuous effort to make it a part of your management practices. Below you find some useful tips that helps you incorporate coaching techniques into your management practices:
- Set meaningful goals: Collaboratively set goals with action plans that define the key steps for achieving the goals. Define the results that need to be achieved and how the goals will be measured.
- Assess employee performance: Don’t wait for the annual review. Meet one-on-one at least once per quarter to review performance; adjust plans accordingly to keep priorities current.
- Motivate employee performance: Give timely recognition for a job well done and provide favorable assignments that challenge your staff and meet business needs at the same time.
- Give performance feedback: State what you observe, be specific and direct, show sincerity, and communicate face-to-face for both positive (always to start with) and negative performance efforts.
- Reinforce good performance: Catch employees doing quality work and demonstrating positive behaviors with the same effort that you catch them when performance doesn’t go as well as needed.
- Employee growth: Pass on words of wisdom that guide behavior for success and ask employees for ideas to make improvements and solve problems.
- Delegate: Articulate the results you want to see, set parameters, determine what support the employee needs, and set times to conduct progress reviews along the way.
This week I was invited by www.facesso.se to join an interesting breakfast meeting.
Does it take a different set of skills and techniques from leading a team that sits down the hall? The general outcome was that with smart technology, good listening skills and bringing in the fun – you can make long distance relationships work! Peter Hägglund from www.novaagentum.com was facilitating on the topic Virtual leadership / Long Distance Leadership.
This morning got me started to reflect on next generation leadership – in combination with social media. “Social media leadership” – does that exist? The only thing we know is that to be successful as leaders and including the social media landscape, we will need to demonstrate humility, a willingness to learn and a desire to keep our organizations and ourselves competent as the world changes.
Linda Fisher Thornton has published a learning tool that clarifies what it means to lead in a complex world.
In leading social media engagement, we first have to change and embrace social media, then help others see the value and make the change, then lead the cause within the organization in ways that benefit multiple stakeholders. This challenge is multi-level and begins with making changes to our perception of our personal and organizational boundaries that seem catastrophic to some leaders.
While we may have thought in the past that we could “lead from a distance,” the social media world is more like being in a virtual coffee shop with everyone who’s ever heard of your brand, your (happy and unhappy) customers, your employees, your competitors, your suppliers, your biggest fans, and the rest of the global community across geographic and industry boundaries. The good news is that people will hear about your business a lot faster. To have that awareness lead to business growth though, they will need to believe that you are concerned, responsible and responsive to their needs.
This collection of resources will help you and your teams:
- see the value of joining the social media information wave
- lead individuals and groups through engagement with social media, and
- lead your organizations through successful integration of social media into daily business.
There are many practical tips of becoming Successful in Long Distance Leadership. Patti Johnson has published a few tips for increasing the connection and engagement with a virtual team:
Replace hallway conversation: On virtual teams, you don’t have time for the informal chat at the coffee bar or to pop into someone’s cubicle for a quick question. This is important for a fast work question, but also to ask about the new baby or how Dad is recovering from the surgery. These informal help us feel part of a team. Find ways for fast check-ins through texting or Skype – or a quick phone call just to ask how things are going. Five minutes is fine – but shows you are interested and care. Plus, if they have any issues they will most likely raise them.
Rely on structure as your safety net: Because the informal chats are harder, have standing times for one to one calls and team chats. Plus, build in some time for some personal chatter that helps the team feel connected.This structure helps your team feel there is a rhythm to connecting with the bigger team and they can count on it.
Use creative ways to connect: One challenge for virtual teams is feeling isolated from the center or if working alone, from the rest of the team. This is magnified if workers work from a home office. I have seen leaders have a standing virtual lunch date or ask team members to send in photos to share on team calls. Get creative. These small things help team members feel connected and important as an individual.
Make technology your friend: Technology can make a huge difference for virtual teams. Use Join.me as a way to share materials on a call if you don’t have a standard tool already in place. Use Shutterfly to create folders for team members to share a few pictures. Yammer is a great way to create your own internal social media site that can only be accessed by your team. Our team encourages everyone to be on Skype for instant messaging so that it’s easier to have more spontaneous conversation on work or just to ask how things are going. And, of course, use Skype for a video call so you can see each other face to face. It makes a huge difference (if you aren’t in your pajamas).
Listen better: As a virtual leader, you have to listen for the subtle cues for confusion, disagreement, or conflict. When you can’t see faces or the in person interactions, your listening skills need to be more advanced. Was there silence after you explained the new process? Is the new team member asking questions that her onboarding contact should have addressed? Why is one team member extra quiet? If you listen more, you will know when you need to get more personally involved.
Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy! Smile. Right now. I mean it. Make you muscles work happy. Are you smiling yet? If you are, you are already feeling more positive, aren’t you?
You can´t live a positive life, with a negative mind – right?! There are many good articles about “PIA” on the web. Here is a summery of nice practical tips of developing your own Positive Inner Attitude.
Watch your language. How you talk to yourself and to others have a tremendous influence on you and the other person. How is your inner talk? Do you have a critical inner voice? Use positive “can do” words. Avoid the following words: can’t, should, difficult, impossible, but, try, doubt, limitation
Practice mindfulness – be mindful of all that you do, washing dishes mindfully, eating your lunch mindfully. This makes you appreciate what you are doing, helping you to be positive.
Choose to be with positive people – positive people radiate good energy. When you are around positive people, you will automatically take on their behavior.
Develop an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most important virtues of highly positive people.
Read inspirational stories and quotes.
Live in the present moment – happiness is found only in the present moment. Because the present moment is the only reality that there is. The past is gone, the future is unknown, but the present holds your joy.
Find something positive in any situation. This is not about denial. It is about finding something good in a situation. Confront people that are lying for you.
Take care of your body. One of the positive attitude tips that many people forget about out is taking care of your body. You need to give your body and mind the best care. Exercise and eat a healthy balanced diet.
Repeat affirmations. When you are stuck, affirmations can help.
Find your life purpose. Why are you here?
Know your goals and go after them. If you don’t know your life purpose yet, that’s ok. Begin by discovering what your goals are and then go after them. Remember keep positive, you can achieve your goals.
Practice kindness. Be kind to others, offer a smile, do little things every day. It will make you feel better about yourself and your attitude will be more positive.
After reading this summery of PIA´s – Take an action – What are you going to do different at work/ in life tomorrow (and for the future)!
Enjoy the ride!
Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions
There are times I get the question– So, what exactly are a Trainer and a Coach doing? For that reason, I took help from my friend Wiki to give a short summery about the life as a Business Trainer and Coach.
Trainers work in many different areas, mainly educating employees of companies on specific topics of workplace importance. Some trainers are in-house, and others work for training companies. In certain cases companies hire external trainers, especially if the needed knowledge is not available within the own trainers pool or if the company is too small to have internal trainers or if the project is too large for the in-house training staff. Many companies exist specialize on certain areas of training such change management and leadership, as well as Sales and Team management, etc. Many times people confuse the term training facilitator and trainer. As opposed to the facilitator the trainer does take an active role and transmits mainly knowledge.
Coaching, when referring to getting coached by a professional coach, is a teaching, training or development process in which an individual gets support while learning to achieve a specific personal or professional result or goal. The structures, models and methodologies of coaching are numerous, and may be designed to facilitate thinking or learning new behavior for personal growth or professional advancement. There are also forms of coaching that help the coachee improve a physical skill, like in a sport or performing art form. Some coaches use a style in which they ask questions and offer opportunities that will challenge the coachee to find answers from within him/herself. This facilitates the learner to discover answers and new ways of being based on their values, preferences and unique perspective.
Different examples of coaching.
- Life coaching
- Business coaching
- Executive coaching
- Career coaching
- Financial coaching
- Personal coaching
- Systemic coaching
- Health coaching
- Sports coaching
The basic skills of coaching are often developed by managers within organizations specifically to improve their managing and leadership abilities, rather than to apply in formal one-to-one coaching sessions. These skills can also be applied within team meetings and are then akin to the more traditional skills of group facilitation.