There are two moments in my sales career that crystallize for me that I’ve landed in the exact right profession. The first: there was a time where my first, second, and third line sales leaders were all women. They were my role models, and because of them I could see myself as a seller and sales leader. The second: I was mentored by two top sellers who, in their own styles, showed me how to successfully run my territory – like an entrepreneur.
My journey has had two distinct paths. I was an enterprise sales professional with global companies IBM and Lenovo. I then made a pivot into entrepreneurship, founding a learning and development firm. What I’ve learned is that my skills in enterprise-level selling, combined with an entrepreneurial mindset made the difference.
Whether you’re selling for a blue-chip Fortune 500 company or a startup, you’ll benefit from a mix of enterprise and entrepreneurial selling approaches.
One strategy to help you blend both is to build your territory like a supply chain. When you work this way, you’ll build the structure to support you, plus have the agility to pivot, stay relevant, and differentiate yourself. That translates into more wins, top clients, and a highly profitable territory.
Systems Support Success
It may not seem that entrepreneurship and structure go hand in hand, but they do. Underlying any successful organization—startup or mature—are the systems to support it. Without systems, processes, and structure, everything’s really built on a house of cards. Those elements need to be consistently monitored as a holistic ecosystem if we’re going to create long-term sustainable success.
Today’s modern business environments and buyers require us to take a long view of whole ecosystem. Supply chain approaches can help us to do that.
Put Supply Chain Thinking into Practice with Three Maps
Sales Process. Map your sales process end-to-end. It helps to take a current pursuit or very recent opportunity, and while it’s fresh map out each step you’ve taken along the way thus far. This means looking at everything from prospecting touches and methods to how you qualified it, the buying roles involved, which internal teams and external partners are participating, and what demos or presentations you’ve conducted to date.
Don’t leave anything out. This exercise will provide you with valuable data points and an honest picture of the efforts and their outcomes.
Once you have a full picture of your real-life sales process, now you can align it to your formal selling process, and more importantly, to how your customers buy. If you haven’t mapped out your customer’s buying process, do this first. Buyers have changed so much in the way they buy and in the way they want to engage with us. This process will show where you’re strong and where there are opportunities to improve the chain.
Internal Operations. Map your internal operational processes end-to-end. When organizations see the different connection points within their supply chain, they can find opportunities which can improve the entire ecosystem. I believe this same analysis can also uncover opportunities for sales organizations.
The mapping process applies not to just products, but to software or professional services as well. Modern selling requires us to look past the sales process and into what happens beyond it. How we navigate the post-sale process can mean the difference between a one-time sale and a long-term valuable client that sees us as critical to their success.
Creating a visual map of your various processes can help. Map out your logistics processes, delivery processes, and support processes in as much detail as you can. Include names of people in roles wherever possible because having strong relationships in those roles matters.
You might even get feedback from your best customers to help you with any blind spots.
Ecosystem Partners. Map your ecosystem partners and processes. With your sales process and internal operations in hand, now you can line up your ecosystem partners as part of your process.
This involves knowing your ecosystems: internal, external, and upstream (think the suppliers of your suppliers). These are the support systems that make things go, and free you up to sell. It might even include your competitors. Alliance firms are an example in professional services Alliance firm members are competitors in some cases and collaborators in others. They combine forces to serve a customer in a unique situation that neither firm may be able to take on individually.
These creative partnerships extend the client experience and create opportunities which wouldn’t otherwise exist.
Also, different ecosystem partners enter in at different points of the sales process, buying process, or internal operations. For each element in your processes, note the ecosystem partners you either have or might need to fill in any gaps in the customer experience.
As an extension of this exercise, you might work with a couple of customers representative of your territory and map their processes: buying processes prior to selecting you, and the operational processes once they’ve selected you. This will provide you with data points as to where you’re providing value, and where there may be future opportunities to help them become even better.