Recently, the Alexander Group hosted a Leadership Summit in London with 12 marketing and sales executives with global or European market revenue responsibility. Companies included some of the world’s top technology brands. The group had a lively discussion on the Summit topic, “Charting a Path to Growth,” and shared candid concerns, questions and insights. This article shares some of the interesting points and insights from the Summit. A complimentary briefing and copy of the full Summit presentation material is available.
QUESTIONS Sales Leaders Asked the Group:
“How do we shift and diversify sales investments to meet our growth target?”
“If sales people spend 24 percent of their time selling, what are they doing the rest of the time?”
“How fast can we enable our sellers to sell new/strategic products?”
“Where and how should we be using inside sales (instead of field)?”
“Where and how should we be leveraging partners (instead of direct sales)?”
“How do we balance the growing complexity of our organization with simplicity and focus?”
“What about sales compensation–how can this motivate the desired (new) behaviors?”
“With millennials, does cash carry the day, or should we be investing in other perks?”
INSIGHTS the Attendees Offered:
“The opportunity for growth is there. We need to focus on execution.”
“We doubled down our investment in select markets.”
“We look to partners to get country-specific functionality in local markets.”
“We can’t focus on price. We’ve made significant investments to help our sales force value sell.”
“You need to segment and prioritize accounts and opportunities to target for solution selling.”
“Customer success is critical. If we only focus on big new deals, we will miss our number.”
“We have developed guided sales plays by product and customer type.”
“We examine major won and lost deals and disseminate these insights to the sales team.”
“We arrange customer and prospect meetings rather than simply provide case studies.”
“Adoption and usage of the product within the FIRST 7 DAYS is critical to create stickiness.”
ALEXANDER GROUP’S Point of View (POV): Who/Where/What/How
As a company scales, it gets harder to sustain and find new ways to grow. A company often begins by adding more product–the What. Sales leadership may try different selling approaches–the How (i.e., new sales training or better CRM). All this energy focused on the What and the How can be remarkable. There is simply not enough time spent on the Who and the Where, leaving the individual sales representatives to discern for themselves. Too often this leads to unrealistic goals not connected to an actionable growth strategy. Worse, when the strategy fails to reach the growth aspirations, too often sales leaders replace it with a new strategy focused on a different What. This behavior of doing the same thing but expecting different results has an unpleasant name (you guessed right: insanity).
Sustainable growth doesn’t happen by accident. Top sales leaders chart the path to growth in three steps, creating a “Win Right Now” strategy: 1) Who and Where–it’s not enough to understand markets, you must identify potential customers, 2) What–articulate the value, which may have nothing to do with the product itself, and 3) How–the talent, processes, and management tools to execute effectively.
Who & Where: Many companies believe they understand their market potential. Product Marketing has run calculations and vetted them with finance. Yet this macro level analysis often provides little guidance to on where sales people should focus their limited selling time and attention. Estimating potential at the account level provides the level of granularity necessary to create actionable plans, and these plans often require giving an unfair share or proportion of sales investments and attention against only the highest potential segments and accounts. To reiterate, all Summit attendees concurred the markets offer ample growth opportunity. The key is to find it and focus on it.
What: To command value, you must convey value. This means communicating what it does, or the outcomes it achieves, and not simply what it is. How will this product/solution improve my business results? Is it substantially different from other offerings in the market? Why should I choose you? Moreover you will need to specify this messaging by use case, application, and customer situation. And more than ever, this message is best coming not from YOU but from your other customers. Today’s buyers have peer and third-party reviews at their fingertips, so get in front of this by providing customer and prospect matchings and meetings.
How: It’s been said, “Don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.” Likewise you don’t ask an account manager to hunt. Finding growth means hunting, even if we’re hunting in existing accounts (hunting in the zoo). Carefully define the sales roles needed based on the 1) target customer, 2) buyer journey and 3) offerings. Most likely you need to define new roles for your growth strategy. Then you’ll need to size up the talent you have compared to the talent you need, and manage accordingly. Many (but not all) roles are moving inside to both save cost and drive efficiency.
Original author: Paul Vinogradov