The Role of Sales? Create Value One Conversation At A Time

Today is the Chicago Cubs home opener at Wrigley field. Now, I have to confess that I am not much of a baseball fan but I do love my neighborhood Cubbies and look forward to a summer afternoon watching the team inside ‘the friendly confines’.  So what does all this have to do with sales and customer relationships?

Years ago, I watched Sammy Sosa when he was playing for the Cubs.  Sorry to say it was a big disappointment.  Whenever I was in the ball park, he struck out. Where were all the storied home runs that were making all the headlines?  And so I learned one of the lessons of baseball: if you are swinging for the fences, either you will hit it big, or you strike out.

Those of us who work with customers should remember this as a cautionary tale.

The role of the sales force is to CREATE value for customers, not just communicate potential value of the product or service being sold.

At the low-end of the spectrum, “product selling’, the sales force should be working to take cost out of the buying process for customers.  At the top end of the spectrum, as a “trusted adviser’, the sales team is creating exceptional value through a consultative solution selling approach.

Now back to baseball.  Richard Roeper, looking ahead to the 2010 baseball season, wrote recently in the Chicago Sun-Times, “there’s an increased emphasis on defense, speed, fundamentals and smart baseball, as opposed to just relying on behemoths to hit three-run homers…”

You can add a lot of value in baseball by being able to go out week after week and hit base hits, and executing on the fundamentals.

In sales, you can add a lot of value by listening to your customers and prospects, by doing the little things that add value, build relationships and doing it repeatedly day after day.

In either case, you may not get a lot of glory, or a lot of headlines but at the end of day, you will add more value by executing on the fundamentals day after day. It is a long season after all.  Will you be able to execute after the All-Star break as well as you did before?

Customer relationships are built one conversation at a time.  Loyalty is built when trust is rewarded by good service consistently executed. Sales do not have to come from big audacious efforts to hit a home run, but come more often from consistently hitting base hits.

Play Ball!

Assess Your Sales Organization – 8 Questions

I just read a GREAT blog post by Melissa Raffoni on the HBR Now blog. I have long believed that many organizations are leaving money on the table because they do not have a clear sales strategy or an effective sales organization to execute the sales strategy.  Too often as I talk to executives about sales and what they are doing to improve sales the extent of the work being done is to consider training or compensation and there are so many other elements that can to be considered and leveraged to improve the sales team effectiveness. Melissa in her blog considered the question of sales effectiveness and by asking good questions suggests some of the opportunities that are out there for companies to capitalize on.

Here are Melissa’s questions. Can your organization answer these questions?

  1. “Okay, tell us again, what’s your value proposition? Why should customers choose you over the competitors?” It’s so basic, isn’t it? Yet, I continue to be amazed at how difficult it is to answer this question well. With the constantly changing competitive landscapes and customer needs, every company should take a second look at what they are pitching and why it still resonates today. I’m sure, for most, the value proposition needs a face lift.
  2. “What is your sales process and how does your organizational structure map to it?”
  3. “Do you think your overall cost of sales is where it should be? What makes you think that? Are you comparing to an industry standard or mapping to a projected financial model?”
  4. “What key measures are you using to track sales effectiveness? Do you have a sales dashboard?” Is it cost of sales as a percentage of revenue, close ratio, sales person productivity? Something else? You can’t really optimize if you don’t know which lever you want to move.
  5. “If you believe there are two ways to drive sales–increase the funnel and/or increase the close ratio–what are you doing to achieve those increases?”
  6. “Is sales compensation driving the right behaviors?” Is there enough of a variable compensation component to make a difference?
  7. “It’s a new world, how are you taking advantage of it?” Partners are willing to talk, new talent is on the street, customers are looking for high ROI offerings, social media is changing how people communicate. Are you experimenting?
  8. “Do you have the right people?”

Check out Melissa’s entire blog post here: Eight Questions To Assess Your Sales Organization

Selling In A Tough Economy

Tonight I am moderating an panel discussion for the Ross Business School Entrepreneurs Group.  I am looking forward to a great discussion as we have three entrepreneurs sitting on the panel, each from a different industry, each with a different entrepreneurial story to tell, and each being impacted in different ways by the economy.

In the process of preparing for this discussion, I have been looking on the web to see what others are saying, interviewed several small businesses and even posed a question on LinkedIn. The white paper Selling In A Tough Economy is the summary of the “Top 10” ideas and recommendations that came out of these discussions.