The commercial culture for selling and acquiring products is changing, and with it many long-established rules for optimizing sales productivity. Under the old school of sales effectiveness, top performing salespeople achieved results by cutting back on activities to focus only on the few critical actions that were essential for closing a sale. The goal was to find the shortest path to success, avoiding time-wasting entanglements with customers and colleagues
Here’s the problem: the shortest-path sales strategy only works if the salesperson is the primary conduit for learning about and acquiring solutions! Today, this is most definitely not the case. Customers are empowered. Online access, digital information and social tools have freed customers from the tyranny of acquisition processes controlled by salespeople for sales advantage.
This new reality is why collaboration is essential for sales success. Highly successful sales people must work with customers, matching their efforts to the customer’s buying process and business needs. As one of my favorite sales leaders puts it, “Collaboration is for closers!”
Collaboration strategies drive results by building a foundation of common understanding and aligned interests. Salespeople build customer equity through proprietary relationship networks, within and across customers, companies and communities. They ask questions, understand the customer’s market, business goals and success metrics, and then offer ideas. Moreover, they work to align the resources of the sales person’s company to meet the needs of the customer, trading information and advice for openness and loyalty. In this environment, successful sales happen quickly, but the new model is more about precipitating sales rather than driving them. When the stars align, sales happen!
Working with clients on the leading edge of new sales models, often enabled by digital channel tools, I have identified five guiding principles for developing a highly effective collaboration strategy for optimizing sales results:
- Collaboration begins at home. Sales people must understand the goals and metrics of internal partners, to build a high-powered network for responding to customer opportunities.
- Put information at fingertips, virtually. CRM can proactively put data, testimonials and marketing materials in front of sales people at the exact moment it is most effective.
- Incorporate connections in sales territories. Customer assignments should transcend geography and segments to include connections managed through social media and personal interactions.
- Build your own best practices. Find out what works for your customers and products, then train and coach sales people, marketers and leaders for consistent execution.
- Leverage a value-selling process. Collaboration leads to sales when sales people work to build sales from ideas to possibilities to solutions, and follow up offering proof of value.
Going forward, best-in-class sales organizations will build collaboration as a culture, competency and process, with best practices and metrics. The best results are enabled with technology, and if you would like to see examples, please check out these ideas offered by my friends over at Highland Solutions:
Teaming to Win – On Demand
IBM Connections and SugarCRM: Case Study of the Future
Fostering Collaboration without Sacrificing Organization