Asymmetric Selling

Jun 24, 2021
Author: collin stewart

TIME IS NON-LINEAR

The Native American perception of time, Joe Paranteau explains on a recent episode of the Predictable Revenue Podcast, is non-linear. It is circular and ever-moving, like a clock or a sundial. Joe has found it helpful to think of the sales process as a non-linear occurrence. At the end of the sales cycle is both new and continuous: a project launch and the forging of a deeper relationship. But that doesn’t mean you never look back. Quite the opposite. The concept of honour is very important in Native American culture, and in looking at time as a continuum the people honour the past as a historical guide to inform the present and future. In sales, Joe likens this to looking back at win rates, conversion rates, and other insights to continue improving the process.

Non-linear time also helps salespeople to “sell through the close,” rather than feel like their responsibilities end when the sale is made. The more effort a salesperson puts into growing the relationship, building a strong customer success plan, and making the buying process smooth, the more likely the deal at hand is to spawn more.

MILITARY INFLUENCE

Native Americans serve in the military at a greater rate than any other ethnic minority. Joe explains that it’s part of their warrior culture – so in spite of the fact that he once said to himself he’d never join the military, he was drawn to serving and eventually did for a while during and through the end of the Cold War. Later, when he started his professional sales career he started learning about various traditional methodologies and sales (especially in b2b tech) became more complex, he kept thinking back to his time in the military. 

During the Cold War, the United States had one primary adversary, the Soviet Union. But this was not the soldier against soldier warfare told in history books. Joe and his comrades were learning how to fight a nuclear war that they weren’t certain would ever come with unprecedented tactics. And ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the enemy has never been in uniform. This is where the term asymmetric warfare comes from. Merriam-Webster describes asymmetric warfare as “warfare that is between opposing forces which differ greatly in military power and that typically involves the use of unconventional weapons and tactics (such as those associated with guerrilla warfare and terrorist attacks)”.

Joe noticed parallels in the buying process. Gone are the days of a salesperson knocking on a company’s door and meeting the buyer one on one. There is more complexity, a larger buying committee, and more influencers and detractors both known and unknown. Stakes are higher, competition is greater, and you need a new set of tactics to reach your goal with customers. So, Joe coined the term asymmetric selling.

sales strategy

ASYMMETRIC STRATEGIES

Asymmetric selling strategies must occur inter-departmentally and across lines of business, include one if not both of the infrastructure arms of the company at some point (HR & IT), and unite all the different groups. Your value proposition must also be flexible when selling like this. Instead of having one generic value proposition, you must tailor it to suit the KPIs that are driving a business overall, and then KPIs that matter to the leader or department with whom you are speaking. For instance, at the C-level, executives are concerned with the foundational metrics of the business like revenue, profit, market share, and available capital. As you get further downstream in the business, you encounter different metrics depending on department and industry like budget variance, manufacturing cycle time reduction, and opportunity win ratios. At the infrastructure level, leaders will be focused on ROI, employee engagement costs, uptime and downtime, etc. 

You must also determine in which direction you are selling. Are you speaking to a mid-level leader and selling to executives? Are you selling across to infrastructure? Are you selling down? This will help you determine which KPIs to include in your value proposition to ensure you show each prospect how you can not only help them do their job better, but equip them to be able to sell you internally up, down, or crossways.

FINDING YOUR CHAMPION

It is always tough to determine whether you’ve pegged the right person as your champion until a sale is made or lost, but a great champion will exhibit some common behaviours. They will be invested in the conversation, and they will help you with your asymmetric selling.

Joe explains that it’s sometimes easier to identify first who isn’t a good strategic champion within an account. If someone tells you “I’m the decision-maker, just deal with me” and is reluctant to engage any of their colleagues in the conversation, Joe sees a red flag. In his experience, this type of person usually doesn’t have the influence of organizational capital they are implying they have. They also don’t have the inquisitiveness or curiosity necessary to make an engagement a win for all areas of the business that could benefit. 

When people you speak to are able to traverse organizational lines and loop other people into the conversation, that’s a good sign that they could be a strong champion. So, ask your prospect: how do you think this would impact {another department’s KPIs}? If they know and answer, great! If they don’t know, ask them “how can we find this out?”, “who in the org might know this?” and see what they say.

Sales Leaders

WHAT SALES LEADERS NEED TO DO

First and foremost, you need to teach your sellers to be more curious and to ask good questions. Do ride alongs with your reps and show them how to do that. Then ask them: how do you know what’s important to the customer? What KPIs are you using that align with the value of the sale for the company? What might you do to find that out? That way, if you’re missing anything at all then you know where to dig deeper. And once you’ve thought all of this through, you know you have good coverage of all the different influencers across departments in an account.

THE IMPACT

The impact of having a great, asymmetric sales strategy is bigger deals and less competition. By understanding who at the organization your solution could impact and whose life it could improve, you drive alignment across the account and help more people reach their goals – leading to a larger deal size. But, perhaps more importantly, you stand out from the crowd. Most salespeople want to take the easiest path to the quickest win. You will be more curious, engage longer, and link what the customer needs to a strategic business outcome. In Joe’s experience, very few sales reps operate at this level, and very few leaders can say they’ve invested the time and energy in coaching their reps to get there. If you get this down, you will be among the elite sales teams of the world.

CONCLUSION

As solutions have become more and more complex over the last decade, so have sales. A sales rep can no longer knock on a company’s door and have a face-to-face meeting with a sole decision-maker. Instead, the battlefield of sales resembles asymmetric warfare – the decision-maker, champions, influencers, and detractors are invisible and unknown. Salespeople need to be curious to find out who they’re really dealing with, and their strategies need to be flexible enough to appeal to one or many across departmental lines. Either way – If you’re not adapting to the unique needs of your buying influencers, then you’re missing out on driving larger, and more strategic opportunities and Joe Paranteau’s asymmetric selling methodology can help you do just that.

EDITOR’S NOTES:

How Costello’s Phill Keene Uses, and Advances, Predictable Revenue Methodologies to Map Complex Organizations

The more things change, the more they stay the same: Aaron Ross and Drift’s David Cancel on the future of sales

We had a blast at our annual summit Own Your Growth!

In case you’ve missed it. We’ve gathered all the talks on a youtube playlist, just for you

Let’s focus on what’s truly important, and rebuild your revenue strategy!! 

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