The problem with sales ideologies, part 2/2

In last week’s post we talked about how various sales ideologies simplify or don’t address at all the issues that companies and sales people face. They are usually trying to find the one best solution to solve all problems. Forgetting there is no one sales tactic or philosophy that will work in all situations and that the essence of sales hadn’t changed over-night.

The typically overlooked things discussed in last week’s post were: product maturity, customer readiness and business environment complexity. And as promised, I will look at it the same thing from a bit more practical point of view in this follow-up post and take into consideration:

  • Need for multiple sales channels
  • Ownership – not invented here
  • Easy to agree, very hard to implement
     

Need for multiple sales channels
You need to have multiple channels, which are working for you. What I mean is, it’s not a choice between for example inbound marketing, networking or cold calling. They are all sales tools that can help you get where you want to go. Selling is also not an art form, where you can with absolute certainty define the best way of doing things. You have to work with a combination of what fits 1) the business you are in and 2) the products and/or services you are selling. This requires the use of (and testing out) a combination of different channels, that can support you throughout the customers’ buying process.

Something that makes you feel terribly awkward or useless might still make a great difference for your business.

For example, hating cold calling or really loving in-bound marketing doesn’t say anything about how good tools they are or could be. Cold calling isn’t dead, just because you hate or love it. And inbound marketing isn’t great or bad based on your preference. The conclusion is that you probably need both to succeed. The channels through which you interact with your customers should not be chosen based on personal preference nor sales philosophical blindness.

Ownership – not invented here
There is an important question about ownership both when it comes to the company and the people working for it. For example, if you have been working in sales for say 20 years and you have gotten results every year, you might not be interested in hearing that you have been doing everything wrong during the last decades. You might hear that some new magical model will make everything better. The likely truth is – it won’t. And the best sales people often intuitively combine and implement most of the so called new ways that different sales philosophies try to offer.

The essence of sales is providing improvement and interacting with customers – it has not changed just because someone is trying to sell you a book.

And on a company level you need to find a way of doing sales that works for you – in your context – on your terms. The opposite of this.. is what you can find in the desk draws of Sales Directors and Vice Presidents. Reports from consultants and specialist that seem perfect, but are too complicated or otherwise next to impossible to implement.

Easy to agree, very hard to implement
If we take a deeper look for example in solution selling. It might be easy to agree that it’s brilliant in many ways, or at least it’s very difficult to say that there is nothing to it. So on an intellectual level it might seem like the best thing ever: You learn more about your customers, you strengthen relationships and you get new sales opportunities. All good things, that many sales people strive towards.

And then BAM. Reality hits you in the face with a club of wet dishcloths. You notice that your sales force isn’t ready, your customers aren’t ready and you are not ready. The thing is that it would require an enormous effort from everyone to jump to executing a new ideology. Everything that seems simple and agreeable on a sales philosophy level needs to be defined much more precisely, before it can be put to use.

And even if you would manage to define your new practices on a very detailed level it might still not work, if your sales force doesn’t internalize the philosophical ideas you are offering them. If there is no true understanding, there will be no execution.

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So to sum-up the two blog posts: Frameworks, philosophies and theories are just tools. There is no business or sales religion that will help you solve all your problems. However, there are a lot of great ideas that you can learn from and reflect on. Instead of trying to find something that fits you perfectly, try to figure out what could actually work for you. Don’t follow business preachers with your eyes half closed. Do it your way and own it.