Is it enough for new hires to merely shadow the founder and absorb knowledge like a sponge in the sales world? Does the tribal wisdom of the founder, gained over countless calls and negotiations, translate seamlessly when scaled?
Collin Stewart of the Predictable Revenue Podcast sought answers to these pressing questions in an engaging conversation with L’areal Lipkins, Founder and CEO of Lipkins Consulting Group.
Their discussion provides a roadmap for businesses to transition from founder-led sales to a more structured team approach.
The Underrated Science of Sales Training
While the enthusiasm of a founder can be infectious, it’s not a substitute for structured training in sales. Many companies often underestimate the complexity of sales, viewing it as more art than science.
In reality, as businesses scale, the nuances of each sales process become vital.
Contrary to the prevailing belief that sales require only charisma and relationship-building, L’areal underscores the essential role of systematic onboarding. Departments like HR and Operations swear by their Standard Operating Procedures, so why should sales be any different?
Collin’s candid reflection about his reliance on “osmotic learning” echoes a common oversight in the industry. It’s not enough for new AEs to passively absorb knowledge. Active, structured training ensures consistency, efficiency, and scalability.
In the growing phase of a business, the stakes are high. A lack of standardized training can lead to many individual sales processes, making managing and determining what works strenuous.
The key takeaway? Building a sales process isn’t just about finding more people who can talk the talk. It’s about creating a cohesive strategy grounded in systematic training and transparent procedures.
Adapting Sales in a Dynamic Landscape
The pandemic reshaped many facets of business, including sales. While pre-pandemic methods once ruled, the new market landscape demands adaptability. Established processes might no longer fit in today’s evolving environment.
Collin’s mantra, instilled by his mentor, champions the sequence: people, process, technology. While tools like Salesforce and HubSpot enable sales, they must complement, not dictate, the process.
L’areal echoes this, highlighting the importance of having the right team. Beyond processes, the right culture and team alignment play vital roles in sustainable sales outcomes.
Lipkins delineates her approach into stages:
- Strategy: Understand the business direction, target audience, and sales objectives.
- Stages: Tailor CRM platform stages to the business’s unique market approach.
- Steps within Stages: Detail the granular steps within each broad stage.
- Scripts and Skills: Equip the team with scripts and the skills to execute and adapt based on real-time scenarios.
In this dynamic market, success hinges on a robust sales process backed by a skilled team.
Navigating Modern Sales Challenges with Strategy and Authenticity
The need for genuine engagement, adaptability, and strategic thinking has never been more pronounced in today’s environment. Here’s how experts are navigating these waters:
The Importance of Genuine Understanding
Sales success transcends mere rote memorization. Drawing a parallel to music, it’s one thing to play someone else’s guitar solo and quite another to create your melody. Similarly, sales professionals must internalize and personalize their approach rather than just parroting scripts.
Embracing Sales Frameworks
Scripts are valuable, but the frameworks behind them empower salespeople to be flexible. The real game-changer is adapting to scenarios and making pitches resonate with potential clients.
The Post-2020 Sales Landscape
The recent pandemic reshaped the way we think about sales. As the world went digital, many traditional outside sales experts grappled with the new dynamics of virtual selling. Having experience from before 2020 doesn’t guarantee success in the modern landscape.
Sales Strategy as the Foundation
A clear strategy is the backbone of any successful sales initiative. Starting without one is a recipe for inefficiency and misalignment, leading to missed opportunities.
The Risk of Broad Targets
While startups might feel the urge to cater to a broad audience, doing so often limits their impact. A concentrated, focused approach typically yields better results than a jack-of-all-trades mindset.
Differences in Market Segments
Different market segments demand different strategies. Whether selling to SMBs or large enterprises, it’s crucial to recognize and adjust to the unique needs of each segment.
Strategy, Positioning, and the Sales Process
1. Unpacking Sales Strategy:
Sales strategy is an amalgamation of understanding the ideal customer profile, the cost structure, and the sales process to be followed. It helps businesses determine customer acquisition channels and establish a clear roadmap for reaching potential customers. Notably, the strategy must align with the product’s price point and the market segment it caters to.
2. Customizing Value Proposition:
For a sales pitch to resonate, it’s vital to recognize whether the potential customer already uses a similar product or service. If they are, the approach should pivot from a direct comparison to emphasizing unique value propositions. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t practical; every prospect’s requirements and perceptions differ.
3. Reassessing Product-Market Fit:
Startups often make the mistake of using the same strategy when entering a new market. However, achieving product-market fit might necessitate repositioning, altering sales materials, or changing the product.
4. Mapping Sales Process Milestones:
After defining the sales strategy, it’s essential to chart the more significant sales process stages. This involves identifying critical milestones that ensure a deal is progressing as intended. These milestones provide an overview, but the steps within each stage determine its success.
5. The Significance of Detailed Steps:
Most companies fall short in detailing the steps within each sales stage. While they might have a broad overview, the specifics of executing each step effectively, such as conducting a discovery call or transitioning leads from an SDR to an Account Executive, often remain ambiguous.
6. The Pitfalls of Inconsistency:
For a sales process to be effective, consistency is crucial. Account Executives need to be clear about their roles, especially during pivotal interactions like site visits. A lack of uniformity in following the sales pipeline stages can lead to missed opportunities and inefficiencies.
The Necessity of Customer-Verifiable Stages
Scaling a sales team is like herding cats—each with their way of chasing deals. Diverse approaches can add value but often complicate management and success metrics.
So, how do you bring order to the chaos?
The answer lies in crafting a sales process that’s both structured and flexible, pivoting around customer-verifiable steps. These are tangible milestones that you and your customer can confirm, increasing the reliability of your sales cycle. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
The nature of the product, be it fast-moving goods or commercial construction, demands its own unique set of verifiable steps. Once these are defined, embedding them into your CRM can change the game. Now, you’re no longer relying on a sales rep’s gut feeling or arbitrary percentage estimates; you’re making data-backed decisions. As deals progress, so does the probability of closing them based on real milestones.
But creating a sales process is not a set-it-and-forget-it deal. After 90 days, evaluate. What’s working? What isn’t? One effective way to identify gaps is by comparing successful deals against those that slipped through the cracks. This can highlight common issues like targeting the wrong decision-makers or skipping crucial steps, allowing you to refine your process accordingly.
By consistently fine-tuning your approach based on these verifiable, customer-approved steps, you equip your team with a roadmap that eliminates guesswork, fosters alignment, and, most importantly, sales success.
Taking a Sales Pit Stop Could Speed Up Your Next Deal
Recognizing the Hamster Wheel
Recognizing the urgency to meet sales quotas and other short-term goals often leaves little room for reflection. This urgency is the hamster wheel many sales teams find themselves on, running endlessly but getting nowhere.
Key Insight: “Sometimes you must slow down to speed up.”
The Power of Pausing
Why should sales teams bother to pause and reflect? Because minor tweaks can lead to massive changes. Imagine hanging onto a stagnating $30,000 deal while effortlessly closing another worth $250,000. A simple analysis can reveal why one succeeded while the other floundered.
Key Insight: “It’s not just about knowing how to sell; it’s about adapting to a more educated prospect base.”
The Importance of a Shared Playbook
A team of salespeople, each following their playbook, may show results, but it’s hardly a team. Teams share strategies, playbooks, and, most crucially, processes. It’s this shared process that enables practical training and coaching.
Key Insight: “Without a shared process, coaching becomes like trying to navigate without a map.”
The Courage to Act
Knowing what to do is different from having the courage to do it. That’s where actionable coaching comes into play. Without a unified process, coaching is akin to navigating without a map, leading to lost opportunities and wasted efforts.
A Fine-Tuned Approach to Call Reviews and Scoring in Sales
In the modern sales landscape, effective call reviews and scoring aren’t just a wish list item; they’re essential processes. Here’s a nuanced approach to getting it right:
- Process Adherence: Ensure reps stick to the foundational script or framework before diving into nuances. Any deviations here can signify a need for more basic training.
- Tonality and Confidence: While it’s easy to focus on what’s being said, how it’s being said is equally crucial. The rep’s tone can make or break a sale. Confidence in the voice can often lead to faith in the product.
- Control of the Conversation: Sales calls are a two-way street. Are your reps leading the conversation or merely reacting to the prospect? Effective management maintains the flow and steers towards objectives more efficiently.
- Custom Scorecards: One size doesn’t fit all. Whether SDRs or Account Executives, each team requires a unique scoring chart that aligns with their specific responsibilities and tasks.
- Identifying Pain Points: Account Executives should be smooth talkers and adept listeners. Recognizing a client’s needs is critical for setting up the call and qualifying the opportunity.
- Closing the Loop: Feedback isn’t helpful unless it’s operationalized. When managers provide feedback, there must be a targeted coaching conversation to help the rep internalize and apply the advice.
- Self-Assessment and Managerial Feedback: Reps should evaluate their performance based on predefined metrics. This self-assessment should be matched against managerial reviews to identify discrepancies and areas for improvement.
- Single-Issue Focus: After identifying multiple areas for improvement, zero in on just one. This makes the feedback more digestible and actionable for the rep, ensuring progress is made incrementally but steadily.
By dissecting your call reviews and scoring methods, you set up a multi-dimensional approach to self-improvement, which is vital for achieving consistent sales success.
The Imperatives of Onboarding and Leadership in Sales
Two critical elements in achieving a successful sales cycle are process and training. While clients often approach with a focus on one, the reality is that both are deeply interconnected. A robust strategy is meaningless without the proper training, and vice versa.
In the realm of onboarding, a one-size-fits-all approach is often inadequate. The timeline can range from a 90-day standard to as long as a year in complex sales environments. However, over-committing to the time frame can lead to stagnation and can be as damaging as an inadequate onboarding process.
The key lies in customizing onboarding programs to meet specific needs and timelines, informed by your industry’s unique challenges and opportunities.
But perhaps the most overlooked yet critical factor is leadership. Sales processes often fail, not due to inefficiencies in the system but due to a lack of effective management. Sales managers must be equipped to enforce a process and adapt, coach, and provide real-time guidance. The leadership’s quality can make or break even the most well-defined processes, affecting everything from individual performance to the entire organization’s bottom line.
In today’s complex sales landscape, transitioning from founder-led efforts to a well-structured team isn’t just about recruiting charismatic people; it’s about systematic training, a flexible yet structured sales process, and dynamic leadership. As Collin Stewart and L’areal Lipkins stress, these elements are critical, especially in a market that demands continuous adaptation.
Success hinges on a cohesive strategy that combines onboarding, ongoing training, and real-time management. With these aligned, your sales team won’t just adapt to the modern selling environment; they’ll excel in it. The goal is a balanced approach that refines itself continually, adjusting to market needs and organizational growth.
In sum, your roadmap to sales success is not a one-size-fits-all solution but a living, evolving strategy led by capable people.
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