Creating your sales rep of the future – part 2: five tips to transition smoothly to value selling

By: Marc Metzner Sales Transformation

Determination Business peopleMany sales leaders realize they need to shift their sales force to a value selling model. Yet this transition can be extremely disruptive. How can sales leaders make this change and effectively balance growth through value selling with selling core products? The Alexander Group recently conducted six Executive Roundtables on the topic of Creating the Rep of the Future … Now! Nearly 100 leaders in Sales, Sales Strategy, HR, and Sales Operations from Global 2000 companies participated with us to wrestle with this challenge. Here’s what they had to say.

Begin the transition – Now. The leaders began by confirming the need to transition to value selling. They noted that to sustain growth in today’s more competitive markets their reps need to become “trusted advisors “ who can

  • Use business acumen to deliver value propositions that enhance customer results
  • Sell confidently and innovate across the company’s evolving portfolio
  • Collaborate synergistically with Specialists, KAMs, Overlays, and Sales Support

Unfortunately, the Roundtable Executives noted that many of their sales organizations are still stuck in legacy features/benefits mode, in which reps act like franchise owners. As a result many executives face a real dilemma: If they are not reinventing their reps for higher-value selling, they know they are essentially harvesting their brands…but if they mis-plan the shift to value-selling, they will set up their reps for failure, and create significant revenue disruption.

Five action steps to get started. The participants shared valuable insights on how to begin. This input combined with recent AGI research points to some best practices for avoiding these momentum-killing detours that the Roundtable Executives validated.

1.  Begin hiring strategic sellers now vs. lone wolf relationship managers

  • Rationale: 30% of your reps will never be able to value sell, and another 30% will only change under the pressure of a ready bench
  • Result: a smoother two year change process vs. a disruptive five year transition

2.  Don’t let an overly short-term focus derail your value selling process

  • Rationale: Value selling requires rep “investment activities” to drive longer cycles
  • Result: Balance strategic coaching/support with traditional funnel management to convert many more reps into “trusted advisors”

3.  Develop the ability to pull the plug on long cycles that have not produced

  • Rationale: Market savvy must be applied to focus value-selling on the right accounts and to pull the plug when traction does not emerge
  • Result: Higher ROI, more rapid rep adoption, and lower CFO blood-pressure

4.  Develop and nurture a culture of trust so reps are willing to take on new risks

  • Rationale: Planning for the real risks in migrating to new value propositions and new account selling will speed rep engagement and buy-in
  • Result: Faster ramp-up of trusted-advisor accounts and revenue leads to significant share gains as buyers become more discriminating

5.  Coach managers to consistently teach the “how” and not just the “what”

  • Rationale: Most Sales Managers don’t immediately understand how to coach value-selling, and often end up discouraging their reps from trying it
  • Result: Smart, insightful coaching drives behavior adoption, rep retention, revenue growth, and a virtuous cycle of sales culture improvement

Transitioning to value selling is hard, dangerous work. But it’s necessary for most companies to survive. Begin the transition process now. To learn more about best practices for Sales Transformation and for Creating Your Sales Rep of the Future please visit our website.

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Marc Metzner

Marc Metzner is a vice president in the Stamford office. He has over 20 years of experience working across media, software/SaaS, medical products, business services and manufacturing to improve sales and marketing strategy and effectiveness. As national director of the firm’s Sales Transformation and Benchmarking practices, he leads bi-monthly executive roundtables and benchmarking programs with Fortune 500 sales and marketing leaders on key sales strategy topics. Marc also frequently speaks and writes on best practices for optimizing sales coverage to stay ahead of disruptive industry and technology changes.

Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Marc was a manager in an international Big 5 consulting practice. There he worked on strategy development, market analysis and sales organizational redesign for computer, high tech and telecom companies, as well as strategy and market entry for international companies. Marc has a B.A. from State University of New York, an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management, Yale University.