featuredIn Part 1, Alexander Group identified the first two of eight principles that top companies and their sales leaders used to reinvent their approach to customer coverage.

PRINCIPLE 1: You serve diverse buyer segments … act like it
PRINCIPLE 2: Serve different segments with different sales motions
PRINCIPLE 3: Deliver sales messages that matter
PRINCIPLE 4: Focus scarce investment dollars for maximum return
PRINCIPLE 5: Position your sellers to deliver impact
PRINCIPLE 6: Ask sellers what they need
PRINCIPLE 7: De-isolate the sales function
PRINCIPLE 8: Always be learning

In this article, Alexander Group will discuss details on the next two principles of reinvention.

Principle 3 – Deliver Sales Messages That Matter

The messages that sellers deliver to buyers, especially those who value innovation, cannot be taken for granted. When calling high (and is that not the goal?), the message must resonate quickly, or there will be no second chance. Innovation buyers are frequently close to or in the C-suite. Yet, according to one Forum guest, sales collateral coming out of the typical Marketing department is so product-focused that most innovation buyers “tune you out and send you downstream to buyers who care less about ideas and more about price.”

Where this happens the sales organization is subject to “the law of the jungle” where sellers are responsible for their own messaging and only the strong survive. Sales leaders know that the key to success is to lift up the whole sales organization, rather than simply depending on the top 20 percent. While training, coaching and playbooks all matter, success in the innovation and product advocacy motions begins with a message that connects what sellers can deliver to issues that customers must face and surmount. According to a top business school faculty member at the Forum, the attributes of the most effective messages can be described as follows:

Where Marketing was not crafting powerful or useful messages, we found Sales Leaders are stepping in to fill the void.

Kelly Londy, Accuray’s Chief Commercial Officer, took charge about three years ago and found a Marketing function run largely by “brilliant engineers.” While they excelled in articulating product specs, they had failed to describe what made Accuray products different and valuable. Her prescription: integrate the marketing function with executives who possessed “deeper understanding of customers” (yes, that means some sales experience) capable of turning the message development process on its head by looking at products from the customer’s point of view.

When Oracle found the buying point for its products had moved away from IT toward functional heads of HR, Finance and Marketing, they too needed to craft messages that spoke to Oracle’s ability to help solve functional issues without dwelling on specific product details. To accomplish this, Joanne Olsen, SVP at Oracle, transformed the entire marketing and sales ecosystem. She pivoted from product marketing groups to marketing and sales specialist units built around serving the needs of specific customer functions, like HR, Finance and Manufacturing. The result: messages, collateral and sellers that integrate deep understanding of customer needs and expertise in the solutions that Oracle can offer.

At Johnson Controls, Dave Clark, VP of Sales Systems, Service and Solutions found customers (architects, developers and corporations) were increasingly attracted to green technology, bundles of products and services, as well as cost of ownership analysis. This was at odds with JCI’s traditional sales approach and messaging that stressed individual product line excellence. It was time for a change. Clark created a deep account management structure, supported by specialists, to deliver the insight and messaging customers needed to hear. That meant partnering with Product Marketing to craft messages targeted to real customer concerns … operating expense management, capital budgeting, sustainability … instead of focusing on topics of importance to product engineers.

Principle 4 – Focus Scarce Investment Dollars for Maximum Return

If you organize to serve real customer needs without deference to legacy approaches, great things can happen. This matters a lot when revenue growth expectations far outstrip increases in selling expense. According to the 2015 Sales Pulse Survey, the median revenue increase this year will be 8 percent while sales expenses (pay, overhead) are expected to grow by 3 percent. Companies that do not carefully choose where to focus their investment and where to streamline for efficiency are destined to fall behind in the markets that matter to them the most.

At Pitney Bowes, Angela Chiara, Global VP of Sales Strategy & Operations, upended the traditional sales resource investment model to enable far-reaching reinvention when efficiencies found in covering a large but declining market were used to fund growth in new, more robust markets. Specifically, Pitney Bowes …

  • Distilled multiple sales processes into a select, scalable few.
  • Traded out 2000 direct sellers for 270 Account Managers, 160 Inside Sellers and a limited number of trusted Partners.
  • Focused on a limited number of key metrics to manage and track the motions of each set of resources.

The result: an 8 percentage point increase in EBIT in a declining market became available to fund expansion in more promising, higher growth markets.

Bill LePage, SVP of Sales Enablement at Cisco, offered another example of how focus enables reinvention. Cisco found that only 22-23 percent of an average seller’s time was actually devoted to selling despite a company goal of about 40 percent. Digging deeper among sellers and partners with interviews and surveys, Cisco found that Sales Ops, Human Resources, Marketing, and individual Business Units, in their quest to “enable sales,” were actually inundating sellers with messages, materials and training that were confusing, contradictory and often useless. By consolidating all the disparate initiatives into a single Sales Enablement function, dedicated to finding out from sellers what they really need, Cisco was able to …

  • Take $90 million out of sales support expenses.
  • Increase productive seller time by well over three hours per week.
  • Reach and enable over 14,000 sellers and partners by offering easy access to tools and insight that is fresh, systematically updated and consistently useful.

At a time when growth demands outstrip investment in sales, the ability to focus enables sales leadership to do more with less.

Read Part 1 of this series.


Insight type: Article

Industry: Cross-Industry

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Revenue Growth

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