When my three-day new Keurig coffee machine – the epitome of the latest and greatest home-brew technology – went down on Christmas morning, I knew I had to act fast. So I dug out my 20-year-old Mr. Coffee maker, dusted it off, plugged it in, and found that it worked like a charm. Christmas saved.
I couldn’t help but see the parallel between this mishap and what’s going on in sales today. How often are you listening to and looking at the latest and greatest sales technology and tools, believing these to be the answer to your growth challenges?
But is it possible that the real answer may have more to do with classic training challenges and requirements?
“Saying” vs. “Doing”
In a recent market survey, my company gave more than 430 respondents a simple proposition: Out of two possible choices, select which selling activity or tool has the most impact on moving a prospect to action and closing profitable deals.
For each item, respondents could choose between “saying” activities (for instance, “sharing market insights”) and “doing” activities (such as “top-notch ROI tools”).
I’ve provided a percentage breakdown for each item:
- Gamification Tools (14 percent)
- Sharing market insights (86 percent)
- RFP response tools (7 percent)
- Linking your prospect’s business initiatives to your business value (93 percent)
- Top-notch ROI tools (32 percent)
- Sharing a distinct point of view (68 percent)
- CRM systems (18 percent)
- Contrasting a prospect’s status quo with a change scenario (82 percent)
- Contract applications (6 percent)
- Understanding key metrics executive decision-makers use to run their business (94 percent)
- Email automation tools (11 percent)
- Managing the tension in your sales negotiations to help secure more value (89 percent)
These responses reveal that, in terms of perceived impact on positive selling outcomes, what to say and how to say it is more important than what to do and how to do it.
But are companies actually following up with a rigorous program for making sure their team is articulating value in the field, every time?
Another recent Corporate Visions market survey suggests not. Here’s the evidence:
- Only 41 percent of companies ask their salespeople to practice their messaging using either stand-and-deliver or role-play scenarios. The rest have no expectation that salespeople will actually demonstrate proficiency with the story.
- 34 percent of respondents say no one is responsible for coaching and certifying that salespeople are proficient in delivering their company’s value messages.
- Only 9 percent of companies regularly expect their salespeople to record themselves delivering value messages, so they can be reviewed, coached and certified by subject matter experts.
This lack of rigor around practicing and improving value messages has consequences. And it could begin to explain why salespeople are performing at only 70 percent of their capacity in the most critical buying conversations, according to a skills self-assessment conducted recently by my company.
Which brings me back to my Christmas Day coffee machine fiasco. There sure are a lot of shiny new toys out there, and in the sales world, many of them really do play a crucial role in helping reps structure opportunities and move deals forward. But state-of-the-art tools and process technology will only do so much for your customer conversations. To actually realize ambitious growth goals, companies need to stay focused on what matters most in terms of positive selling outcomes—articulating value in front of prospects and customers.