The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the
Way People Sell
Chapter 1, Looking for Solutions
Learn why it is important to identify and define the sales process for your salespeople in this chapter excerpt from "The New Solution Selling". Also, find out about the two different types of salespeople and discover why both types are important to the success of your sales force.
Using the sales process
WHY SALES PROCESS?
Not all salespeople are created equal. Some people are born sellers. They have that amazing talent that is hard to describe. We look at this group of intuitive and talented individuals, approximately 20 percent of the sales talent pool, and we call them Eagles. Sometimes these intuitive salespeople are called unconscious competents. They're good, but if you ask them why they're good, they'd have a hard time telling you why. That's the classic response of the unconscious competent.
We call the second category of sales talent Journeypeople. This group makes up the balance of the talent pool, or about 80 percent of the sales talent in the marketplace today. These people are ready, willing, and able to sell, but they do it quite differently than the Eagles. Journeypeople can, and many of them do, become good salespeople. However, the real key to their success is having a process to follow and knowing what to do next.
Executives and sales managers frequently tell me they would love to have their sales force comprised totally of Eagles. My response to them is, Are you sure? The facts are that if you did have all Eagles, it would be prohibitively expensive. Also, you'd have a chaotic environment. It's difficult to find and keep intuitive, top-of-the-line Eagle salespeople because of competition for their services and sometimes because of burnout.
Eagles are the high flyers, the rainmakers. They are the ones who do things independently and who generate business. But they can't be expected to deliver all the business we need; there aren't enough of them. The 20 percent of the revenues that the Eagles don't deliver has to come from somewhere, and it must come from the Journeypeople. A company's overall sales success depends on the success of its Journeypeople. We need to help them become successful. Figure 1.1 shows the differences.
What is the typical career path of Eagles? What do most companies do with their best salespeople? If you answered, They promote them to managers, you'd be correct. But this creates a problem. Usually, when you promote Eagles (who don't consciously know how or why they excel) to sales management, they can't help the Journeypeople they now manage. Often they simply tell their salespeople, Just watch me and do what I do. Eagles resort to this tactic because they don't have a sales process to follow. After all, a sales process provides both what to do and how to do it. To compound the problem, when an Eagle is promoted to management, a good revenue producer is lost from the sales force.
In the end, both management and the new sales manager become frustrated because of the lack of results. If management doesn't end up firing them, these people usually quit and go to work for another company doing what they're good at, selling. If you're party to something like this in your company, stop it. The key to stop promoting the wrong kind of people to sales management is to implement a good sales process.
Eagles are an important reason why I'm so passionate about sales process. When you convince an Eagle to use an effective sales process, you have the best of all worlds—he or she is unstoppable. On the other hand, I'm equally passionate about Journeypeople and their need for sales process. Journeypeople using a proven sales process can win most of the time when competing against an Eagle without a process. A good sales process allows Journeypeople to emulate Eagle selling behavior, maximize their individual sales performance, and learn how to become tomorrow's sales managers.
THE 64 PERCENT DILEMMA
Would you consciously assign your least capable salespeople to sell to your most difficult prospects? Probably not, but I find a number of companies doing exactly that. We call this challenge the 64 percent dilemma (see Figure 1.2).
The concept is based, in part, on Geoffrey Moore's analysis as explained in his book Crossing the Chasm. In Moore's book, buyers
are separated into market segments based on their behavior. Depicted on the vertical axis of Figure 1.2 is a group of buyers called innovators, or early adopters. This group makes up about 20 percent of the market. As a group, they typically want to be the first to have new things, and they're the easier group to sell to.
Also depicted on the vertical axis is a category of buyers called pragmatists, conservatives, or laggards They make up about 80 percent of the marketplace. These are slow-to-act, conservative buyers. They demand things like references, proof, and ROI (return on investment) analysis before they will make a decision. As a group, they're the most difficult to sell to.
On the horizontal axis, you have Eagles (20 percent) and Journeypeople (80 percent). When you combine the two categories of buyers with the two categories of sales talent, you have a classic matrix with some interesting findings.
Look at the 64 percent quadrant. This is the challenge, and it's why we call it the 64 percent dilemma. This is where companies have Journeypeople selling to the most challenging and difficult-to-sell-to buyer segment. In other words, 64 percent of the time you've got less than your very best salespeople selling to the toughest buyer segment. Why do that? The solution is a no-brainer. Companies and individuals should stop kidding themselves and stop the insanity by putting a sales process in place to help solve this dilemma. I hope that by now you're convinced of the importance of sales process. Just in case you aren't, keep reading.
Buyers want to do business with salespeople who understand them— their job and their problems. They want to do business with someone who has situational fluency—in other words, a person who has a good understanding of their situation as well as a good working knowledge of the capabilities necessary to help them solve their problems. What buyers don't want are pushy salespeople interested only in selling their products and services. Buyers want a consultant who is going to add value to their situation. Otherwise, buyers would just go to your website for product information and price quotes. Salespeople must add value to the situation or they won't survive.
Figure 1.3 illustrates the four elements that help salespeople gain situational fluency with their buyers.
If situational fluency is what buyers are looking for in salespeople, what are sales managers looking for when they hire salespeople? What I hear them say is they want salespeople with great selling skills; they want great closers. They look for closing skills and people with successful selling track records. Granted, success in the past is important, but I try to get them to see that success in the past doesn't ensure success in the future. This is particularly true if it involves selling into a new industry and dealing with a lot of new products, new technologies, or new services. The good ole boy, backslapping, tongue-wagging salesperson doesn't get the job done anymore.
I am not minimizing the importance of good people skills and good selling skills. In fact, in Solution Selling we incorporate key selling skills as a part of the overall process. Solution Selling develops situational fluency by integrating the knowledge competencies (situational knowledge and capability knowledge) with people skills and selling skills. Solution Selling is the only sales process that integrates all four of these components.
Continue to the next section: Difficulties in selling and sales management
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This was first published in July 2008