Facebook

Winning Sales Culture Starts At The Top

A winning sales culture starts at the top.

“Culture” is about patterns of behavior and the blend of values, habits and practices that exist in an organization. The habits and patterns of behavior that lead to an organization’s success are established by those at the top of the organization. In a B2B sales organization, we are talking about the head of sales and his or her front-line sales managers.

Having worked with roughly 150 sales organizations over the last thirteen years, I have been exposed to all types of different sales cultures.  A range of cultural labels come to mind as I think about companies I’ve come to know.

Winning Sales Cultures versus The RestLucky sales cultures exist in those organizations that seem to win despite themselves. They have no discernible patterns of behavior or values, but they seem to win (i.e. grow bigger) anyway.  Typical markers of the lucky sales culture include organizations with big, recognizable brand names, shiny silver objects, or partnerships with big, recognizable brands with shiny silver objects.  Frantic cultures exist where the sales organization is always playing catch-up, rarely setting the pace, and mostly reacting to issues and opportunities that bubble up.  They have no operating rhythm and no apparent focus on any one, important thing.  Instead, everything is important, and everyone in the organization is exhausted.  Groundhog Day cultures exist in organizations that don’t ever seem to learn.  They apply the same bad habits and practices over and over again, never changing, and they hope for  better results than they had in the past.  One could also call these cultures “insane.”

I expect you might be able to come up with your own list of cultural labels, ranging from those that indicate high function and performance to extreme dysfunction. Rather than dwell too long on the negative experiences we’ve all had, let’s instead consider what winning cultures look like. I’ve worked within several winning cultures and played a role in helping to shape them.

Winning sales cultures share some important, common characteristics.  They have a discernible rhythm in which important trumps urgent.  They proactively focus on doing what it takes to differentiate and win, making the effort to create maximum value for customers in each and every interaction.  Winning cultures start at the top.  Their senior-most leadership makes a conscious choice to pursue excellence in all aspects of client relationship management.  They intentionally focus their company’s best resources and effort on the clients and opportunities that are best aligned with their strengths as an organization.  They do not make nor will they accept excuses for operating in a way that does not conform with the company’s standards of excellence.  If things ever go badly, people in winning cultures own up to their role in causing the bad outcome rather than blaming others. They fix problems rather than make excuses for poor performance.

Winning sales cultures are customer-focused in all that they do. In their habits and practices, you see evidence that their people are proactive, intentional, focused, and they learn and improve when things do not go according to plan.

It is the beginning of a New Year, and now is a great time to take stock of your sales culture. What label would you place on your sales organization? Can you confidently say that you’ve established a winning culture? If not, what do you / your leaders need to do more of, do less of, change, or stop altogether?

If you have a winning culture today, what can you do to sustain and build upon your team’s winning habits and practices? What will you do to raise your own game?

United Sales Resources provides actionable intelligence and practical advice to sales leaders, so they can drive better sales results. If you would like to discuss this post with Matt McDarby or learn more about how our sales leadership coaching and advisory services help our customers to grow, then contact us for a brief tour or a conversation.  Thank you again for your time!

How to Build A Value Creating Sales Force

If you want to stand out in a sea of sameness, you must build a value creating sales force.

The other day I was thumbing through an old copy of Rethinking the Sales Force by John DeVincentis and Neil Rackham, recalling how far ahead of the market those two authors were when they challenged the traditional notions of value and competitive differentiation.  That book was written in 1999, and it took roughly a decade for many B2B sales organizations to start adapting to the reality that Rackham and DeVincentis illustrated in their book.

A great deal has changed for B2B sales organizations since 1999, but one thing has not changed. Sales forces must continue to adapt to the changing demands and behavior of buyers. You cannot achieve competitive differentiation simply by communicating the features and advantages of the products and services that you sell. You must understand how to create value for customers and know that it has everything to do with how you sell versus what you sell. (Follow the link here to see my post and video on LinkedIn regarding the new drivers of value.)

The big challenge now is how to build a value creating sales force that can continually adapt to the constant and rapid changes going on in the marketplace around us. It may be the biggest opportunity that you and your sales organization have out in front of you for the foreseeable future.  I recently recorded a video addressing that specific opportunity and some of the insights that my team and I have gained over the last six years while working with B2B sales forces to build value creating sales forces. That video appears below, so please take two minutes to watch it. Let me know if what I have to say resonates with you. You can do so by offering a comment in reply to this post, or you can contact me directly at matt@usr-llc.com.

Social Selling: An Evolution, Not A Revolution

Social selling gets a lot of attention these days. If one were to do a Google search right now on “social selling,” that engine will return roughly 687,000 results, many of them containing best practices for selling to buyers who are heavily engaged on social media.

[Read more…]

12 Questions on the Social Buyer’s Mind

What is going through the Social Buyer’s mind?

Have you grown weary of all the talk about social selling? I understand. So let’s forget about social selling for a little while. Instead, let’s talk about social buying.

question_marks

Back in the late ’80s, Neil Rackham wrote about a model for buying behavior known as the “Buyer Cycle” based on the research that he and his team conducted into how buyers make decisions. That simple model served as a sort of de facto standard model for the B2B buying process for over two decades.

But over the past 25 years, a lot has changed in the way buyers buy. The most recent driver of change has been the advent of social media. By way of their social media connections, buyers have real-time, all-the-time access to information regarding challenges and opportunities facing their industry, potential solutions to their problems, and all the news that’s fit to print about potential suppliers. The pace, flow, and focus of buyers’ decision-making has shifted as a result.

Who is the social buyer?

For the purpose of clarity, social buyer in this context refers to anyone (whether a middle manager, C-level executive, business owner or otherwise) who uses social media to inform their purchasing decisions.

Before the birth of social platforms, buyers identified issues or opportunities affecting their businesses in a deliberate way. They went through a protracted phase in which they discovered challenges and steadily moved from their once satisfied state to a state of dissatisfaction.

In contrast, today’s social buyers are always conscious of issues affecting their businesses, and they are empowered by information available via social platforms to identify and classify them quickly. In short, the pace at which a buyer moves from satisfied with the current state to dissatisfied has accelerated because of social platforms. The social buyer is in a state of nearly constant evaluation and change.

The social buying process is complex, but sellers must understand it if they want to have a prayer of being successful. Rather than dive into a blow-by-blow narrative of what each phase of the social buying process looks like, it might be more productive to think about the questions to which a social buyer seeks answers as they progress through their decision-making processes. In so doing, we may discover opportunities to create value and insight for them.

What is the social buyer thinking about?

Here are some common questions that social buyers turn to their social networks to find answers to.

1) How do we compare to others in our industry?

2) Is there evidence on the social platforms I use that others in our industry are dealing with the same issues that we are? Which opportunities are they pursuing?

3) Do we need to take any action now?

4) Have others I’m connected with found a way to cope with the issues we’re experiencing? 

5) When did those people reach the point where inaction was no longer an option?

6) What can I do on my own to capitalize on this opportunity? 

7) Can I find like-minded businesspeople on LinkedIn or another social network who’ve dealt with this sort of situation before?

8) If I cannot do this on my own, who out there has relevant experience? 

9) Can anyone recommend potential suppliers?

10) Can I find proof that those suppliers can deliver the sort of result I need?

11) Once I’ve identified a solution/provider, how will I know if I can trust them?

12) Who has experience working with a specific provider? Does anyone have any success stories? Horror stories?

The point of thinking about these questions is to discern whether and where there is opportunity to create value or insight for a social buyer. If we can put ourselves in their shoes, how might we approach them differently over social media? How might we react to buyers’ questions or comments in LinkedIn groups or on Twitter? Can we be different from all the other “social sellers” who are quick to jump in with answers about their products or services without first considering where the buyer may be in their decision-making process?

I won’t supply the answers to these questions here. After all, I told you we were going to forget about social selling for a little while. I will, however, look forward to your feedback on this view into the mind of the social buyer. Let me know what you think in the comments.

This article by contributor Matt McDarby was first published on the HubSpot blog.

United Sales Resources to Launch Sales Leadership Advisory Services

Sales Leadership Coaching Firm Will Offer Advisory Services And Content Library Starting In Early 2015

12/1/14 — ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND — United Sales Resources, LLC (USR) announces today that it will launch new sales leadership advisory services and a world-class knowledge base for its customers in the first quarter of 2015.

“We are very pleased to announce our new advisory services offering, as it will create a new path for our customers to take advantage of our research, expertise and insights on effective sales leadership,” said USR’s founder and President, Matt McDarby.

When released in early 2015, the new offering will empower sales leaders of all levels of experience and capability to lead more effective sales organizations and to accelerate their company’s growth. The new Sales Leadership Advisory services and knowledge base will distill the USR team’s sales leadership expertise into actionable intelligence, insight, and practical advice for business leaders seeking to grow their sales.

“We listen closely to our customers, and we have learned from them that there is a great need for practical, real-time advice focused on the issues facing sales leaders today. If they have questions, for example, about structure, sales process, pipeline management and forecasting, improving performance, or perhaps simply winning their company’s next big deal, we want to be their go-to resource for guidance. Think of it as a way to have support from a world-class sales leadership advisor any time you need it, regardless of the issue or opportunity you need to address,” said McDarby.

USR’s Sales Leadership Advisory Services will include access to an online knowledge base that will be available to customers starting in January 2015. The knowledge base will include exclusive content, research, and tools geared toward sales leaders seeking better sales performance and results. Advisory services and the knowledge base will be available on an unlimited basis to customers in exchange for a monthly or annual subscription fee.

About United Sales Resources, LLC

United Sales Resources (USR) helps small and medium-sized companies to win new business and grow.   Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, USR provides world-class research, coaching, and advisory services to companies seeking better sales performance and results.  For more information, please contact United Sales Resources at (888) 877-1956, extension 102, or visit our website at www.usr-llc.com.

Media Contact: Matthew McDarby United Sales Resources, LLC, 301-325-4851, matt@usr-llc.com