The problem with sales ideologies, part 1/2

There are people who are eager to announce how solution selling is dead or cold calling is dead or marketing is dead, just to mention a few examples. Many of these writers have excellent points and there should always be a dialogue about what works best and what doesn’t – that’s how things develop.

In many sales ideologies the issues, that companies face, are simplified or not addressed at all.

Something that has puzzled me is how people are trying to find the one best solution to solve all problems. One example, that especially comes into mind, is when the Challenger Sales concept first was launched. Some people fell in love with it enormously, and it seemed like everything else was considered outdated or even stupid. However, in many sales ideologies the issues, that companies and sales people face, are often radically simplified or not addressed at all.

In my opinion, some of the most important overlooked things are:

  1. Product maturity
  2. Customer readiness
  3. Business environment complexity
  4. Need for multiple sales channels
  5. Ownership – not invented here
  6. Easy to agree, very hard to implement

This post focuses on the first three – so stay tuned for next week’s post.

Product maturity
First of all; the maturity of your product is a major factor on how you can and should organize your sales. One way of selling can work exceedingly well when the market knows you and your product, but if you are in the phase of market-making for something totally new, there is no way you can successfully use the same channels or sales tactics. You need to arrange your sales model and tactics in accordance to your products maturity. Or you will eventually hit a brick-wall, called frustration or failure.

Customer readiness
Secondly; you have to consider customer readiness. This is something that I have seen multiple times with companies wanting to take on a more solution selling minded sales strategy. If you decided that from now on we will be solution sellers instead of product vendors, the customer needs to want the same thing. Otherwise you are just pushing onto them a way of selling, that is not in relation to how the customer wants to buy from you. So If the customer doesn’t want to deepen the relationship, if they just want to buy products and nothing more, it is very difficult to engage in a solution selling mode. You wanting to solve their problems and not just sell products, is not enough for that to actually happen.  And when an important customer is reluctant to deepen the relationship with you, it can simply mean that they are much more important to you, that you will ever be to them.

Business environment complexity
Thirdly; you need to consider the complexity of the business environment you are operating in. If the complexity of what you are selling is simple enough, you can often define a best- or good-practice of how to do things. This naturally makes it easier to define a well-structured and very detailed sales model. However, when the complexity of the business environment increases, it might be impossible to define a best way of doing things. At this point you can’t define how you are doing sales on a detailed or task level. You need more general practices and processes that support sales activities in a flexible way. A more complex environment requires management practices and tools that help people to do their job without getting in the way. No one sales tactic or philosophy will work in all situations. The business environment topic is also discussed more in our White Paper.

No one sales tactic or philosophy will work in all situations.

Thank you for reading this post. This topic feels a bit more personal and emotional than many other subjects that I have written about earlier in this blog.

Next week I will go further into the problem with sales ideologies that offer a simple solution to a complex problem. I will look at it from a more practical point of view and discuss sales channels, implementation and ownership.