We’ve worked with several clients recently to develop insights their sales teams can use to engage customers in a more consultative dialog. Inspired by The Challenger Sale, these companies, and many others, are seeking to differentiate not only what they are selling, but how.
The most important element in “getting the Challenger approach right requires organizational capabilities as well as individual skills” (“The End of Solution Sales,” HBR). In our experience leading sales transformations, an organizational approach focused on aligning Sales and Marketing teams is required to equip companies to move from a product-selling focus to a solution, and even a consultative, selling focus. As opposed to simply holding a “training event,” a combination of capabilities (e.g., marketing and sales processes, new selling tools and collateral, conversational and selling skills, sales coaching) must be enabled to effectively identify, deploy, and sustain an insights selling-based approach.
Focusing on insights, below are some key lessons learned:
Think Beyond Basic Sales “Hooks” – Think Big, and to adapt the classic IBM slogan, “Think Different” (or at least differently). This requires sales and marketing teams to examine holistic customer business and industry challenges, not just to create new messaging on product or solution-level features and benefits.
Combine Inside-Out and Outside-In Thinking – An insights selling-based approach requires deep outside-in thinking, incorporating the voice of the customer to approach customer problems and challenges. To be successful, this should be combined with an inside-out perspective to determine how existing solutions, products, and services can be packaged together to address these problems in new and creative ways.
Packaging Matters – Having a conversation based on insights is different than just providing another sales “pitch” deck. “Conversation Prompters™” can be developed to provide sales teams with the questions, insights, and messaging to enable these conversations.
Reinforcement and Coaching Matter More – Deploying new insights requires expanded sales coaching capabilities. Sales managers must be able to recognize “what good looks like” and provide constructive feedback. No matter the sales approach or process, we typically find that the coaching capabilities of sales managers are underdeveloped but are a critical component to lasting improvements in sales effectiveness.
Grainger didn’t come up with “planning the unplanned” in a two-day workshop, but companies can certainly seed the ideas and concepts to be further developed by a cross-functional marketing/sales team. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are Insights.
Members of the Sales Management Association can check out our recent webinar on this topic: The Perfect Sales Call Webinar.