Implementing a Strategic Sales Philosophy
By Scott Karren
Lots of people say they support solution selling. In fact, it is hard to find anyone who does not espouse some sort of solution selling. Problem is that like TQM (remember Total Quality Management?), solution selling is often no more than a slogan.
Serious about changing the way your organization approaches change? Below are the five key requirements for managing the change from supportive selling to executive selling:
Leadership: An individual with authority has to champion the change. As in most change or reform efforts, their will be lots of opposition; both in the form of active opposition and passive resistance. Individuals may succeed, but without leadership, results will be uneven and fleeting. Leadership was why Edward Deming would not consult with Ford on quality until their CEO made a commitment.
Religion: The field has to get religion. When teaching sales people, this is the "aha" moment. While they may lapse into tactical sales, they know what is required of them and try to incorporate it into daily pitches. Not only the sales people, but the management has to truly believe in the need for change and the method. The sales force and management must all adhere to the same philosophy.
Customer Knowledge: Even the best reps do not know enough about their accounts. Profiling is despised. Business reviews are done after the fact. Account plans are dismissed red tape. No executive engagement is possible without detailed, accurate information about the customer. Without customer data, solution selling is just platitudes.
Business Acumen: Data alone is not enough. To establish equal business stature, the CAM must be able to connect the data point or benchmark to a business action. This acumen is the core of Executive Conversations' Executive Focused Selling courses. Regardless of whether it is called context, market knowledge, expertise or intuition, CAMs must fluently display this ability to transcend data and deliver insight.
Tools: Reducing time to insight and increasing performance levels for the field are improved with tools and systems. Great CAM tools such as PCAP, Exectuive Conversation's Priorities, and web seminars not only provide the field with tactical support, but also reinforce acumen, customer knowledge and religion. Tools take the concepts taught in training and create action in the field.
Management: Sales people do what they are paid to do. Regardless of slogans, lectures, or PowerPoint presentations, field personnel will give solution selling little more that lip service without active management both from the field and from headquarters. Long-term commitment, management accountability and metrics are required for successful implementation of Strategic Selling in the Channel.
CAUTION: do not try solution selling at home, it should only be used by channel professionals.
Scott Karren is the CEO of Channel Ventures, a specialized consulting firm that works with vendors and partners to build profitable channels. Mr. Karren has led his companies to successfully complete over 1,000 channel projects impacting over $150B of channel revenue.