Is Your Sales Force Stuck in the 1980s?

Mike Riksheim

Sales is arguably the oldest profession in the world. As long as there are products and services, there will be sales professionals. So, when working in what is arguably the oldest and most practiced profession, why do so many salespeople struggle?

The simple answer is that it’s easier for humans to keep doing what we've always been doing. Sure, some reps may have had wild success with a specific approach in the past. But buyers and the buying process have changed significantly. And this change continues. When sales isn’t aligned today's buying reality, performance falls short.

We do a lot of work helping clients improve their sales process and methodology. Too many organizations still don’t have a standard sales approach. And if they do, it's rooted in the 1980s or even earlier. In the vast majority of cases, it’s only the heroic efforts of a few that carry the number. The problem for sales leaders is that this isn’t repeatable or scalable.

Think about your current sales process. Do you have one that’s clearly defined and adopted? If so, is it derived from a single source? Or, is it a hodgepodge of components from multiple processes you’ve seen in the past? Does it look like most others you've seen out there, aside from terminology? Is it focused on your industry requirements? Most important, does it align with the reality of you buyers’ decision making?

Think about your answers to each of the questions above. And now, ask yourself, “Does my methodology provide what my buyers need from my organization?” How confident are you your approach is what you need to make your number this year? The next? The ones after?

The typical remedy is to go for an off-the-shelf solution. Never underestimate the appeal of what might look “easy”, at least on the surface. There are so many options out there…that were great…before the Internet. And others seem interesting, but only in certain situations. Do we really believe challenging every prospect, in every situation, makes sense?

Most methodologies we’ve seen show the sales as a linear process. One nationally franchised training firm goes to the point of depicting the sales journey as a submarine with compartments. It teaches salespeople to do some actions with the customer, move forward and ‘seal off’ that compartment, never to look back. Has anyone ever seen a completely linear buying process? Perhaps back in 1985!

Almost every out-of-the-box sales process focuses on what the salesperson should be doing to the prospect / customer. WHO CARES??!!! In truth, it’s  all about what the customer needs and how reps can help guide the decision process. Today’s buyers have endless amounts of information at their fingertips. They know you, your products, your competitors… Most are at a point where they feel they don’t need sales to educate around product. At the same time, the buying center is large and complex and confused. Aligning and driving consensus around the definition of the problem and solution requires heavy lifting.

The most successful sales organizations take a different approach to sales methodology. They’ve created an adaptive sales methodology anchored around their buyer’s deciding process. They understand how the buying journey translates in their specific industry. They know how to identify what a buyer needs based on key deal factors. The very best reps use strong situational awareness with numerous pivot points to execute the different sales motions. And all are linked to helping the buyer move forward in their journey—one step at the time.

Sales will always be part art and part science. As our buyers continue become better educated about their problems and possible solutions, we must evolve with them. Otherwise, everything that comes out of our mouths begins to sound more and more like “…so what’s it going to take to put you in this car—today”? A great line from the 1980s, but a total deal-buster today.

Let us help you get out of the '80s with a new approach to adaptive sales methodology. Contact us for the latest insights around what it takes to win in the new selling environment.

Mike Riksheim

Mike Riksheim

Senior consultant with significant expertise in strategic alignment, talent management, sales enablement and sales training. Mike combines his consulting experience with a practical background as a salesperson and sales leader to help his clients drive performance.