Harvard Business Review *– The Secret to Smarter Sales or “Don't Throw The Baby out With the Bath Water”
HBR’s latest issue “The Secret to Smarter Sales” is interesting and stimulating (excitement and horror) in the positions it takes about selling. In many ways it turns selling dogma upside down and inside out. However, with careful thought, there are many ways you can take advantage of these insights without too much disrupton.
I would like to comment on what I see as the key areas of this article:
Breakthrough Ideas and Comments:
1. The idea that no one person embodies the characteristics of a “coach” is excellent.
2. Skeptics were the best category of person to sell to. However, is your organization set up to be patient? Does this imply a slower sales cycle while increasing size and win %? Does that matter?
3. People pushing back and dissecting your offer as a buying sign or sign of interest is an excellent point to be aware of and not turned off by.
4. People are also more likely to go with the idea or offer that has the least to be skeptical about. In other words, the areas they are skeptical about can't be those that are most critical to their internal buying criteria or perspective.
A Story: I am involved in a sale where I raised the idea that putting a band-aid on a problem is fine as long as they knew it wasn't the real solution, which was to reorganize their entire sales structure. The SVP of Sales misinterpreted this as me not wanting to help him with the band-aid because I was only interested in the bigger issue (which was too much for him to tackle). His HR person, my coach, the person who introduced me into the opportunity, realized that I was saying we can start at prospecting and build from there. He didn't. He also wanted somebody with more experience in his industry vs. seeing the benefit of bringing in somebody less conditioned and with new ideas. She got it. I don't think he did. He was also uncomfortable with, or threatened with my directness. She wasn't. We will see what happens?
5. Selling something that is disruptive, where there is no set pattern to buy, or budget allotted connotes that you need to sell to someone with the ability to move things and make things happen along with the characteristic described. It would also imply they need to be in power, be part of the circle of influence or unafraid to exert themselves overtly or subtly.
Not Necessarily New but Noteworthy:
6. The fact that “60%” is already done and researched so people need to be more of a subject matter expert with insight and advice is an excellent point. It is not necessarily new but new enough to emphasize and be aware of.
7. There is an old saying “there is margin in mystery” meaning people will pay more for things they don't know or have the resources for. Putting this into a sales approach of consciously finding companies who are in that position is a good one.
8. If you want your business to grow, sell to growing businesses is something I first heard from Len D’Innocenzo and Jack Cullen over 18 years ago. It is teeming with sales opportunities.
Questions (not saying I have the answer but I am curious):
9. It seems this information is most relevant for people selling larger enterprise type services with an inherent longer sales cycle. Is it as relevant when selling something smaller into smaller organizations?
10. Not that it has to, but does this approach shorten sales cycles?
11. Can you do what the article says within the structure of a traditional sales process or do you need to completely blow up the process. For example, can you learn to probe and look for the characteristics described in the article? (see table below. Solution Selling Insight Selling comparison is part of the HBR article referenced in the title of this blog).
Tactics and Other Thoughts:
12. You still need to penetrate the account to get to the right person and you still need a, or several people to coach you throughout the process
13. Begin asking questions and put them into your S.PRI.N.G. Dialogue:
- is there precedence for this type of situation that can be followed or used as a guideline
- how have decisions of this nature been made in the past
- who in your organization has the ability to or has already done this
- who are the skeptics, teachers and go-getters in the organization (don't use these words of course).
14. In terms of prioritizing your opportunities, add the criteria outlined in the article to your existing and new opportunities to decide how real and attractive the opportunity is. Use your coach or coaches to get the information you don't know. Ask these questions about:
- how they make decisions, not just the process but do they push back
- how do they handle a contrary opinion
- are they open to debate
- where do they gather their information, etc.
15. You still need to be able to put a solution together that has relevance to the client. To say that solution selling is dead is a misnomer. Your insights are your solutions.
16. Regardless of the best style to sell to, they still need to to be able to drive people and an organization. There needs to be a certain level of assertiveness and hopefully power. In DiSC talk they have some D (dominant) or i (influential) in them.
17. You still need to be a very skilled salesperson to navigate the sale. In fact, you probably can't get to this level of sophistication until you have.
What are your thoughts? Let me know by commenting or emailing or calling.
* Harvard Business Review, July-August 2012