Selling internally is often harder than selling externally. First, that’s when sellers complain about processes, templates, specific questions they have to answer to get delivery commitments, resources, etc.
Second, selling internally is – especially in complex sales – equipping the relevant stakeholders within the customer’s organization with a shared vision of success, to help them to sell internally.
And there is a third dimension, our topic today: Selling internally as key to success for sales enablement professionals. I mentioned the need to be excellent when it comes to selling internally in half a sentence without going into detail at the Forrester Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale this year – and it was tweeted and tweeted and tweeted…
Did I hit the nail on the head?
I’m running a variety of different strategic initiatives with my team, across the organization. What’s the most time consuming part of my role? Selling our visions and initiatives internally, followed by conceptual and execution activities. I made this calendar exercise, when Dan Pink published his new book “To Sell Is Human”. He created the term “non-sales selling”, which means exactly those activities – persuading, convincing and moving people, building agreement networks, getting buy-in to get initiatives supported and sponsored with resources, budgets and ideas.
So, sales enablement has a lot to do with selling internally. It’s selling a vision, a shared vision of success from the very beginning until the value is delivered with measurable results.
Our internal customers are front line sales people, first and second line sales managers, sales executives, operations managers, or marketing and portfolio management colleagues, HR business partners, process managers, IT architects and the list goes on and on…
Thinking about selling internally, the “customers” are front line sales people, sales managers and executives, presales, solution sales, operations managers, marketing and portfolio managers, HR managers, process managers, IT architects and so forth…
It sounds like a pretty complex sale, right?
Let’s discuss lessons learned – I will start with my six main lessons learned:
- Practice what you preach – Follow a GoToCustomer approach:
Address the organization’s problem in the first place (not what you want to do!), consider the different patterns how to solve it, and the different expectations of your impacted stakeholders, design a phased approach how to achieve the future state and the customer’s desired outcomes. Define those desired outcomes with your internal customers as part of a big picture and connect measurable KPI’s to this future vision of success. Additionally, provide a business case, depending on the volume of your initiative and your organization’s policy.
- Answer the question “Why do we need to change?” – You will need a story!
It’s key to success, especially if your initiative is touching comfort zones and addressing change and transformation. Work with scenarios – first of all, what will happen if we do nothing? Then, what will happen if we change? Where is the difference between current state and future state, how does the transformation look like and how do we measure success? Don’t forget to connect the metrics to your sales leadership team’s top KPI’s. Use research data and analysis and case studies – data are your best friends. What are other organizations doing, what are world class sales organizations doing? What’s different to your specific situation? Work from the outside to the inside, but never forget to add your organization’s specific color. Every journey will be unique.
- Focus on the shared vision of success:
Let’s assume, the problem and the impact are agreed, the “why change” question could be answered, create a shared vision of success. This is a story to communicate your vision to different stakeholders, it should include the big picture, the path how do we come from the current state to the desired future state and what’s each stakeholder’s contribution to be successful in each phase. This step is building trust, showing that your approach is well thought through, that you know the upcoming challenges along the transformation. Perfect to ask for specific support in each phase.
- Define “time” and results:
In case you have a tactical initiative, you might be able to deliver results within one or two quarters, let’s say you set up new sales messages in new content types and you provide the related trainings. But in case you are addressing a change initiative which is changing sales methodologies, sales management methodologies, selling processes, strategies etc., define “time”. You will have initiatives that will last between twelve and eighteen months to achieve the promised future state. You will need senior executive sponsorship over this entire time frame. So, provide defined progress and results in a phased approach to help people to understand that you are on track.
- Create a clear picture regarding change and transformation impact:
Change and transformation programs have certain curves. Often, the curve makes the situation worse before it’s getting better and better. Your stakeholders have to be prepared, they need to send the right messages at the right time and they need to prove sales leadership. If you change the sales methodology, you will face those situations. To be able to manage those situations successfully, strong and clear messages that are reinforcing the change are key to success.
- Offer your sales enablement services as a business within a business:
That’s the shift from activities to services. It’s what you could implement after you rolled out successfully a new initiative. As soon as the results are delivered and the impact is achieved, why not designing a sales enablement service (platform, process, content, training, coaches, etc.)? We created such a service for account planning, offering a process, a methodology, content in terms of “how to” guidelines and templates, webinar trainings and dedicated account coaches. A great idea to be implemented after pilots and first projects were successful. Take all your lessons learned during these phases to design a sustainable, mature and valuable service.
Chime in, share your thoughts and add your lessons learned to the list!