If your sales managers and sales enablement folks don’t know how to have proper BUSINESS conversations, how can they teach your sales people?!

Chief Sales Officers! You want your salespeople to sell value – when most of your sales managers can’t execute the basic business conversations you need. 

A few weeks back I shared how most sales organizations struggle to sell “value.” 

That’s because most salespeople don’t know what “value” means (it’s never been defined to them) or how to uncover what value means to their customers (most important). 

The premise of that article was that internal sales enablement can’t possibly build curriculums to help sales teams and leaders have these conversations – as they have never been taught or done it themselves. 

It’s a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

It was very well received, and easily the top post of the month. So, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it here. 

Let’s start with a question: Are you a sales leader as well as a  parent? (if you’re not a parent, keep reading, you’ll see where I’m going soon enough)

If so, you will know that your kids’ model what they see and hear you saying – not what you tell them to do!

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

“Have a broader business conversation.”

“Link back to the value of our solution.”

“Focus on outcomes and the ROI.”

Of course they do.  But how many sales managers have actually learned to do this? Sure, it’s easy to tell someone what to do. But how do you model these skills so your sales teams can actually guide a conversation to the point where the CUSTOMER shares THEIR case for change (Their $X to $Y by When) and clearly define what their Personal Win is going to be??

When I ask very experienced sales leaders and managers to do this, many can’t (they end up ‘telling’ the customer what they can expect to get… the equivalent of telling the customer how handsome you are – not very believable).

So, if you as a leader struggle to guide a customer to share their beliefs about value and their desired outcome, impact and results – what model are your showing your salespeople? 

How do you show up? Are you modelling excellence?

The ‘kids’ are only going to model what they see and hear from you – so if you’re not able to have a “value” creating discovery conversation, how will they ever learn to do it themselves?

And, hoping that your internal sales enablement programs will build a sales approach and curriculum that shows salespeople how to have business conversations when your own sales leaders/managers can’t, is a bit like asking a neighbour to bring up your kids only to be  disappointed with how they turn out.

The fulcrum to fundamentally transform the kind of sales conversations your salespeople have is to hire people who can have business conversations and train your existing sales managers (and senior leaders) ‘how to’ as well.

Only when the ‘parents’ execute these kinds of conversations will the ‘kids’ do the same – and your results will follow.

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Chief Sales Officers! You want your salespeople to sell value – and yet…

The people designing your sales curriculum and approach have never had and can’t execute the business conversations you need.

EVERY sales leader I speak with wants his or her sales force to sell “value.”

It’s become one of those overused words that’s  meaning has been lost in time to corporate and sales guru buzzword bingo.

Ask a group of salespeople and sales leaders to define value and you’ll get a different definition each time. Even CEOs overuse the term without truly understanding what they mean when they say it.

Recently I’ve met with sales and enablement leaders at some leading and very successful enterprises who are retooling their sales approaches and heard some worrying information in my discovery conversations.

The common thread in these conversations is the sales leader’s desire for his/her sales force to be able to:

  1. Have “broader and deeper business conversations” with senior decision-making executives that tie back to the ‘value’ of their solutions
  2. Be proactive – share insight and ideas that help to position the salesperson as an expert
  3. Build a reputation for being competitively distinct as a sales organization in order to attract and retain the best talent

These desires aren’t new. I heard the same 10 years ago. So why isn’t the conversation changing?

I’d like to suggest that it’s for the following reasons.

  1. No common definition of what ‘value’ means internally (and more importantly how it relates to the customers definition).
  2. There is no plan to help guide the customer to articulate what they define as  value and guide them to make their own case for change
  3. The people who are tasked with designing sales onboarding and skills curriculum have never done the job of having a ‘broad, deep business conversation’ with a C level executive – they simply don’t know what good looks like or how to do it. So how can they build these elements into your internal programs?
  4. Hiring profiles need to change – less sales hustle and more curiosity and critical thinking skills that enable a business or transformational conversation
  5. Lack of clarity and definition of what the purpose of sales is

And, I’m only going to unpack the first few of these in this article..

The issue of value

The biggest challenge with value is that sales leaders believe that salespeople need to be able to show customers the value of their solution; the potential ROI, cost savings, revenue increases, efficiencies, productivity gains, results and impact of their offerings.

These are important…

And, the problem with showing/demonstrating value is a matter of sequencing in a conversation and social proof.

If your salesperson tells the customer what they can expect in terms of ROI, gains, reductions, results, impact before the customer has shared what their beliefs as to the potential outcomes are, then it’s a bit like me telling you how devilishly handsome I am.

I’m a salesperson, of course I’d say that, right? And, how believable are you finding that statement right now…?

If on the other hand, your salesperson can guide your customer to articulate the value of the difference that they, the customer believe would be achieved by addressing their challenges or achieving their objectives in $, then your customer is effectively telling your salesperson how handsome or beautiful your salesperson is…sorry, I mean how valuable your solution/product/service is.

See the difference?

Whose numbers and case for change is more believable for your customer – your salesperson’s or your customers own beliefs and business case? (Of course, your salesperson can advise if the customer is being over optimistic or overly pragmatic)

The customer is selling themselves using their own social proof, not that of your salesperson. Much, much more persuasive.

The issue of Sales Enablement

Gloves off time.

How can somebody in HR, Learning and Development, Sales Enablement who has never executed a broad, deep business conversation that has guided a C level executive to build their own case for change (based on the customers beliefs about value) possibly know how to build a sales onboarding approach that helps sales people to execute business conversations?

That’s why so many salespeople dread attending their internal sales programs and often don’t respect these functions. It’s because they know the trainer hasn’t walked a mile in the salesperson’s shoes.

In addition, there’s another reason why most sales people still struggle to have business conversations. Because, most internal training tends to be product/solution/service led. Picture this.

An internal product expert leads a conversation about the new product/solution, it’s features and function and why it’s better than competitive alternatives. They then share a few customer wins so sales have some reference brands to use. Then they tell sales to go and sell it.

What’s the problem here you may be asking?

Well, the whole focus of the internal training has been “why choose us” – and has failed to incorporate any or much of the customers priorities or needs which have to be captured in a “why change?” and “why now?” framework.

And because these critical elements of customer focus are missing, salespeople “show up and throw up” features and benefits, focused on “why choose us” without engaging in any sort of  value uncovering business conversation.

Sales leader and salesperson then wonder why they’re not invited back for a second meeting with the senior executive. (Research shows that 58% of executives are disappointed with their first meeting – and only 7% of first meetings result in a continuation)

The remedy for this is internal sales programs that:

  • follow the “Why change, why now, why choose us” framework
  • involve executives from customers (to share before and after stories and value created/difference)
  • show salespeople and their leaders how to guide the customer to articulate their value (business and personal win)

This is the way to build unshakeable confidence and competence in your salespeople to have business conversations.

Until that happens, expect the same feature/function conversations that don’t link back to the value of your offerings and salespeople who aren’t confident and proficient at speaking with senior decision makers…you know, the people who can say “yes.”

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Inconsistent prospecting and sales results

If your organization is getting insufficient sales results, it’s generally for one of two reasons.

The first is a lack of clarity. Many sales people just aren’t clear on the purpose of sales (why they do it).

Is it just to sell stuff? Meet an arbitrary quota? Crush their number? Make commissions?

All of those reasons are not very purposeful or inspiring over the long term.

The second reason also has to do with clarity. Specifically, there is no clear understanding of the value and outcomes of what’s being sold to clients.

My view is that sales is about making a dramatic and measurable improvement to your customer’s business and personal condition.

And being very clear on what that measurable impact is motivates sales people in a way that goes much deeper than just selling for the sake of selling.

If you’re a sales person ask your leadership for the numbers that prove TO YOU that what your selling is going to make a difference.

And, if you’re in leadership and you want to improve how your sales teams perform, then maybe it’s time for a chat. Send me a quick email and let’s have the conversation matt@matthewconway.com or call me on +1 647 402 2096 or visit my website https://www.matthewconway.com

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CEOs and Sales Leaders! Is your Director of Inside Sales unintentionally sabotaging your growth efforts?

“They’re not our target customer.”

“They don’t buy what we sell.”

I’m paraphrasing – and, this is what I’ve heard from several leaders of BDRs, SDRs and inside sales teams (who do outbound prospecting) who have pushed back when I’ve advocated taking a top down approach – that is, prospecting to the CEO of that ‘must win’ or ‘named account.’

I get it. I do.

The CEO may not be the buyer or user of your service, product or solution – and after an internal referral or one call, you may never need to speak with that CEO again (although I strongly recommend keeping them in the loop).

AND, it’s the fastest way my clients know how to get conversations started with the account they want to do business with. Prospecting cycles get reduced from weeks or months, 7 to 15 touches to seconds, minutes and hours with between 1 to 3 touches.

Imagine the impact this approach would make to your business…

Here’s are a couple of typical outcomes.

“Using Matt’s methods the first week, I secured a meeting with a hard to reach client (CEO) in 26 minutes and had a meaningful pitch to another client I was trying to engage for 18 months! I highly recommend Matt to evaluate how you are selling as his methods have worked for me.” Sr. Manager, Business Development

“My Senior Enterprise Director has been trying to get into ACCOUNT for years. I just got a meeting with the VP Operations in 6 minutes…” Business Development Associate

When the CEO of a company decides that a conversation or referral is warranted it loosens the grip of “status quo” bias. Mid-level executives who are tasked with executing and operationalizing existing initiatives are suddenly made aware that this is, or could be, a new change initiative that is a high priority. And that is what sales is, introducing new process, technology or behaviour. So, start your sales motion with people who are change orientated (for avoidance of doubt, that is the C suite).

So why do many inside sales leaders tell their reps to start their prospecting cycles at VP, Director or Manager level?

In my experience, there are two reasons.

  1. Ideal Customer Profiles
  2. Generational behaviours

An Ideal Customer Profile typically describes the person(s) who may have bought your service, product or solution in the past. It tends to focus on VP and below titles and is often pulled together by marketing.

However most marketers have never prospected or had to set a cold appointment. Sorry marketing folks, I love you for a great deal of what you do. You get my drift…

In addition, most ICP’s don’t take into account the circumstances, reasons or trigger events that cause mid level prospects to contact your company or the 1 out of 100 contacted who take your reps call. 95% of mid level buyers are fine with the status quo…until they aren’t. That’s usually because they’ve been tasked by their C suite to fix or find something to do business differently. So ICP’s are at best incomplete.

Generational behaviours…many inside sales leaders have learned to call on mid-level executives because that is what their leaders did when they were reps and they simply haven’t considered “going high.”

While it may be counterintuitive to what they believe works,  speaking to the top level execs directly actually accelerates prospecting results; namely conversations with or referrals to people who can actually say “yes” (or “no” quickly) to what it is that you sell.

Without someone clearly showing sales teams why they need to start high and then show them how to do it properly, they simply repeat the behaviours of predecessors –  and perpetuate unproductive habits and processes that are passed on from one generation of prospectors to another.

Be a ‘transitionary’ leader. Break that cycle of generational dysfunction.

If you’re an executive reading this, ask your inside sales leader what the job titles they instruct their reps to call on – or just have a peek at the job titles of the people attached to the opportunities in your pipeline. If you see lots of VP, Dir and Manager titles, you may want to have a chat with your inside sales leader about that. Long sales cycles and low proposal to win rates lie ahead. Just sayin’.

(If you’re an inside sales leader reading this, contact me for some stats on the difference that you will make by going high: + show rates, + call quality, + number of calls/meetings, + number of opportunities generated from calls, + $ value of opportunities. It could lead to your next promotion.)

“Matt is the world’s greatest authority on teaching salespeople to prospect and sell to the C-level.” – Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO Selling Power Magazine, Advisory Board Member Sales Enablement Society

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Three things keeping CEOs and Sales Leaders up at night

I’m constantly speaking to CEOs and sales leaders from across the world about their growth challenges and objectives – sharing ideas and insights that dramatically accelerate their and their team’s success. I love it. Totally rewarding.

And, what’s really interesting is how often these conversations are repeated…whether they happen with potential clients in London, Toronto or San Francisco.

These CEOs and sales leaders are frustrated by three things.

  1. There’s lots of prospecting without results
  2. Sales cycles that take far too long
  3. Even when they get to the proposal stage they aren’t getting enough wins.

If that sounds familiar to you I’m going to tell you why.

  1. Your messaging is backwards
  2. Your salespeople are prospecting to the wrong level
  3. They don’t know how to write a proper prospecting letter, email or LinkedIn message that gets the people who can say “yes” excited to meet them.

If you want to improve how your sales teams perform, then maybe it’s time for a chat. Send me a quick email and let’s have the conversation or call me on +1 647 402 2096