Today's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.
Traditional selling is based on a simple premise – a customer has a problem and a vendor has a potential solution. It's the vendor's responsibility to capture the preexisting demand surrounding the customer's problem. I call this approach demand capture. It's all about out-strategizing, out-positioning, and out-smarting the competition. All good stuff as long as the customer has real demand that needs to be captured.
This is what traditional selling has been all about for years and years. In fact, your existing sales lexicon is most likely jam-packed with demand capture language. Consider all the times you've been told to solve the customer's pain or ask questions like "what keeps you up at night?"
According to the International Monetary Fund, the economy is only going to be growing around 4% this coming year. Yet most organizations have growth targets of 7-10%. So how are you going to make up that difference, beat your hungry competitors, and hit your numbers? Simply stated, what happens when there is not enough demand in your marketplace?
The Shift from Demand Capture to Demand Creation
This is the time for you and your sales organization to switch to demand creation. You need to go from finding customers to making customers. So instead of talking about a known problem, you'll need to start identifying unknown opportunities or gains. It's all about creating demand where there isn't any. That means generating budgets, producing new vision, and stimulating new thinking.
This is transformational for the sales profession, which has remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s when Thomas Watson first rolled out the IBM typewriter. With the recent convergence of a number of emerging trends, we simply have no choice but to move away from our current over-dependency on traditional demand capture to demand creation. It's no longer about just selling better; rather, it's about selling differently. Let technology and lower cost resources like call centers handle your demand capture needs.
How to Transition Your Team to Demand Creation
To make the transition to demand creation selling, we need some fairly dramatic changes.
Change #1: Update and upgrade your product messaging and sales conversations.
Product marketing messages need to be upgraded and focus on trends and your industry innovation. Instead of demand capture sales conversations like "Here is our offering, and here is what it can do," your conversations should be more substantive and sophisticated. A demand creation conversation might sound like "Here are the unique things you are not doing but could do with our assistance." These types of conversations also need to happen with higher titles within your customer’s organization.
Change #2: Ask sales managers to revamp their approach to coaching, incentives, and funnel/pipeline management.
From a more logistical standpoint, Management needs to have increased visibility into the funnel earlier in the buying process so they can have visibility in the demand being created and can offer support. Sales tools need to be more than just template-based checklists; they need to include built-in intelligence and coaching guidance for measuring the amount and quality of demand being created. Reward structures and sales incentives also need to be changed to encourage salespeople to stop relying on RFPs and take proactive actions outside of existing procurement plans.
Change #3: Ask salespeople to leave their comfort zone.
But perhaps the most significant and far-reaching change is the new type of sales professional needed. Although rarely discussed, most of today's sales professionals have a tendency to hide behind the caliber of their product offerings, their pricing, or their company. They won't be able to do that with demand creation. They must leave their comfort zone and differentiate themselves by how they sell.
Without a doubt, this new type of selling is now with us to stay. The only remaining question is will you change now because you want to or later when you have to. If you choose to change later, just make sure you aren't too late.