Last week, in part one of this three-part series, I made the case that CRM alone is not enough for an effective sales system.  This week, let’s talk about what B2B selling organizations need instead.

What We’re Going For:  The Goals of a World-Class Selling System.

Any selling system you implement is going to show positive results if it:

  1. Drives effective selling behaviors, not to be confused with mere activity tracking.Be Behaviors that align selling process with a customer’s buying process are the difference between activity quantity and behavior quality
  2. Change deal outcomes: Your selling system should proactively identify which opportunities in your funnel are at risk…and more importantly, then tell individual sellers what to do about it.
  3. Replicate Winning Behaviors. Uncovering new effective selling behaviors, then replicate them sales force-wide.

These three goals should be the common thread between your CRM implementation (last week’s topic) and a world-class selling process.  

The Good the Bad, and the Reeeaally bad.

Before we get to the more aspirational implementations, let’s consider less effective ones.

Look at the three goals of a sales system above:  Drive effective behaviors, change deal outcomes, and replicate wining.  Now evaluate the sales systems below on how well they are able to deliver on those three goals

The Good:  Process

In “good”, selling actions (for example, discovery meeting, demo, proposal, etc.), and playbooks are established and used.  A best practice is that selling process is tethered to the company’s marketing stack, etc. This coordinates marketing activities and assets to the selling process.

Selling actions are not tightly connected to a customer buying process (see “better” and “best” further down to see what I’m talking about) , but when well-formulated, they were designed to parallel a “model/average” buying process (remember, it takes methodology to consistently engage with the customer to confirm/align with their individual buying process).

In “good”, there is little real aspiration to improve deal outcomes by applying specific selling behaviors, and the “model sale” is enshrined as the standard; replicating success is capped at this ideal standard.

The Bad: Activity-Based Metrics

When managers start to track seller activities that don’t clearly align with – or meaningfully influence — the customer journey, “process” becomes a hindrance to selling success.  If your sellers are measured primarily on activity-based measures like call volume, demos conducted, proposals lobbed, lunches bought, miles driven, number of deals in the funnel, you start chasing mirages.

In “bad”, metrics emphasize quantity, not quality.  Activities tracked tend to be the easy-to-measure kind, not the success predicting kind.  The activities emphasized here don’t drive effective selling behaviors, don’t change deal outcomes, and don’t replicate winning.

The Ugly:  Activity Before Progress

Sometimes “the bad” is so ineffective that management’s conclusion is to double down on it.  In addition to inefficient activity-focused measures, selling organizations apply reward systems to inefficient behaviors, and draconian compliance measures (sellers must enter activities into CRM or be disciplined). In addition to ineffective selling activity, sales forces are incentivized to engage in “manager repellant” data entry activity. Reports are clogged with garbage, which yield such poor results that managers opt for even worse measures.

The three goals of a great selling system are in a different world from this activity-based tar pit.

Good, Better, and Best

Now let’s explore the more desirable end of the spectrum

CSO Insights has clearly defined several levels of process maturity in their research. According to their findings, these levels achieve progressively better outcomes – on several levels (contact me for more detail and access to the research).  Let’s look at some of the alternatives…what makes good, better and best.

Good:  Process

“Good” was described above.  It’s well-structured selling actions (for example, discovery meeting, demo, proposal, etc.), with playbooks and good marketing stack alignment.

In “good”, selling actions (for example, discovery meeting, demo, proposal, etc.), and playbooks are established and used.  A best practice is that selling process is tethered to the company’s marketing stack, etc. This coordinates marketing activities and assets to the selling process.

Again, deal pursuits are fit to the model sale/expected customer buying process, not extensively customized to a particular pursuit.

CRM for this level is little more than a compliance tool, not particularly valuable as a salesperson effectiveness tool.  The operating assumption is reliance on the process design, not seller acumen—certainly not customer acumen.

Better:  Methodology

At Miller Heiman Group, we distinguish “selling activity process” (as described above) from another kind of process: methodology. Methodology is another kind of process which aligns sellers and buyers…specifically, selling process (above) to customer’s buying process.  Methodology bridges the huge gap between selling activities and behaviors that create customer-perceived value…and then leverage customer value into a compelling case for change.

In methodology, “discovery meeting” becomes a customer-centric process of value discovery and development. “Demo” becomes “connecting our solution to a well-articulated customer value gap by demonstrating only those aspects of our solution that add value to this customer”.  As you can imagine, selling organizations who implement methodologies have higher sales success and better customer relationships.

Today’s CRMs don’t really support methodology out of the box, but methodologies like those from Miller Heiman Group can be incorporated using add-in modules.  Using these, sales professionals begin to use CRM voluntarily, because methodology integrated into CRM finally offers a sales-success payoff for using the tools.

Best:  Dynamic Methodology

Today, the state of the art is methodology with analytics that:

  • Help Sales managers look at opportunities and give high-value opportunity coaching in real time. Managers diagnose, then drive winning behaviors, that change deal outcomes.
  • Give managers a real-time tool to glean best practices from their sellers, then characterize them and replicate them through the entire sales team.

The definition of dynamic methodology is about to change.  Soon, these same dynamic coaching capabilities will be converted from “intitiated by front-line sales managers via personally generated insights”, to rules-engine mediated coaching initiated by the CRM system itself to more quickly and widely distribute management attention to all deals.

The Best is about to get much better.  Real-time dynamic methodology, first with a sophisticated rules engine, and eventually with a machine-learned, dynamic coaching schema, is going to transform the sales performance world.

Your thoughts?

Last week, I asked if CRM is the tail wagging the dog.  As you can see, process/methodology maturity should be your goal, and CRM should be your execution tool.

Agree or disagree?  Have any additional thoughts?  Please share them below, or reach out directly.

To your success!


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