Every sales performance expert learns that adding rigor and process to average selling improves results.  Not nearly as many know that rigor and process won’t accomplish the most important thing.  The detail / rigor that methodology adds often diverts attention and management energy away from the real work of selling: getting a buyer to see value in your proposal.

I sold sales skills and methodologies for almost a decade, and have helped many companies implement them. I have lived in methodology for a quarter century. I’m rock solid in my support of these tools, but I have also come to learn what they can’t – and don’t—do. Typically, they allocate training time and coaching energy about as shown on this inverted pyramid:

The bottom two represent selling results.  Without that, everything else is selling motion: activity — with or without progress.  If your people are already good at the bottom two, the top items are a great refinement. If they stink at the last two, fix that before investing in process rigor. Building customer value is not a skillset reserved for product training.  There are some elements of elite product training directed at customer value, but value-building conversation skills are the big results-getter.

That Sounds Radical, Mark. Can You Back It Up?

Let’s look at some research:

CSO insights has just updated their list of twelve behaviors practiced by the highest-performing sales organizations (World Class Sales Organizations, or WCSOs for short). WCSOs are elite performers, with 23% higher win rates, 23% higher rates of quota attainment (they achieve success more widely across the sales force). Retention is 7% higher, and they make revenue plan at a 5% higher rate.  Summary:  you want your organization to be one of these WCSOs.

Here are the 12 behaviors of WCSOs.  The organization scheme is my own.

Organizational Alignment Around the Customer Journey:

  • Sales, Marketing, & Services
  • Sales Operations, Sales Enablement, & Sales Management
  • Consistency Across Channels
  • Data strategy that aligns and coordinates all functions

Value Focused selling:

  • Mutually-valuable customer conversations
  • Purposeful, [value-evoking — my emphasis] customer conversations, using a call planning tool
  • Effective value messaging

Their People are a Priority

  • A quality talent strategy
  • Use of formal assessments in hiring and performance management
  • Effective sales coaching
  • A culture of continuous development (vs. “train-and-coast”)

Plus one outlier:

  • A rigorous forecasting process. (I happen to believe in one particular kind of rigor: value-informed forecasting, but that is only a subcategory of this more general behavior CSOi describes).

Look at that list again:  Sales process and methodology doesn’t appear in a top 12 behavior list. Playbooks aren’t there either. Your marketing stack barely does: it’s only a subset of value messaging. I’d venture to say that every one of those world-class organizations use process and methodology, but so do average-performing organizations. The results as I see them:  customer value focus dominates the mix of WCSO indicators. It forms the backbone of at least nine of the behaviors, and informs the rest.

Here’s another research tidbit specifically on value-building:  Rain Group has found that “Value-Driving Sales Organizations” have 20% higher win rates, and are 25% more likely to grow revenue.  There are more results along the same lines, but you get the idea.

Bottom line: value-focused selling is more highly correlated with sales excellence than a fine consensus selling methodology.  Sales leaders, and sales enablement pros: what does that mean to you in your role? How might it affect your plans for 2020?

What’s at the Core of Sales?

Value is the basis—it’s at the core — of all commerce.  And sales. Perceived value determines if a prospect will open an email, click on a link, accept an invitation to meet, sit through a demo…or choose your proposal over the status quo. Insufficient value is what prevents transactions.  

Since value is at the core of sales, you need to audit how effectively your salespeople build it in your customers’ minds.  I have bad news. Most sales people are good at going through the motions you trained them to perform, but are not that good at building value in your customers’ minds.

Practitioners of multiple sales methodologies have told me the same thing over and over (and I’ve experienced first-hand in almost a decade of work with one leading B2B methodology).  Sales people are pretty good at the methodology details (the vast majority of top-of-inverted-pyramid training/coaching time and energy you drilled into their heads…after which they somehow got the impression is the most important), but are sloppy about understanding customer-perceived value…the core.  Sure, each methodology labels it differently, but the failure point is the same: understanding, then building value inside a prospect’s mind.  

Every sales force has the same challenge…so do probably most of your competitors.  What does that mean to you in your role? How might it affect your plans for 2020?

Put the Pyramid Right-Side-Up: Value As The Strong Foundation

The foundation of selling is changing perceived value of your offer as compared to any other option, including status quo. Don’t build sales process and methodology on a weak foundation.  Make you salespeople superior at understanding – then building — customer value. Build from there.  Methodology then becomes a force multiplier.

Oh yeah.  Once they are good at building value, they’ll be better at avoiding discounts. VPs of Sales, CFOs, CEOs and board members:  what does that mean to you in your role? How might it affect your plans for 2020?

I’m not anti-methodology.  I’m for getting the biggest bang for your buck.  I’m for adding value to your sales team’s adding value. What are you for?

Like or share if this resonates with you.  Comment below if the mood strikes you. Contact me if we should talk.

To your success!

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