Below is an interview with Selling Power magazine publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner and Tiffani Bova, Salesforce growth and innovation evangelist and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business.
Gerhard Gschwandtner (GG): What is growth IQ?
Tiffani Bova (TB): Achieving growth has become far too complex and high-pressure for businesses to rely on smart ideas alone. Repeatable, reliable growth depends on “growth IQ” – your capacity for making the right series of choices at the right time. I like to approach growth as a thinking game. How can we expand our approach to include what is possible – not just what we are successful doing today?
GG: Why is it important for sales professionals to have a growth IQ mindset?
TB: There is no greater disrupter to the profession of sales than the customers themselves. They have shown – through their buying habits, usage of technology, and willingness to choose brands based on value and experience over “products sold” – that, if we don’t rethink the way in which we sell, we won’t win their business. Sales organizations have a difficult transition to make because they are being challenged on multiple fronts. Having a mindset that is open and willing to adapt to new technology capabilities, new processes, and increasing cross-team collaboration is what is necessary to succeed.
GG: Why is there so often a misperception about the role sales plays in a company’s ability to grow?
TB: Companies do two things: they make stuff and they sell stuff. While that is somewhat of an obvious oversimplification, it captures the often-underappreciated role sales plays in a company’s growth. However, it has become far more complicated to define what is considered under the domain of “sales” today. With more and more sales happening online without human touch, more channels with which companies can market and sell, and some companies showing rapid growth with no formal sales force at all, it is important to remember that selling – regardless of how that happens – is the fuel that powers any business. What is important now is to make sure that companies realize it is no longer about how we want to sell that is important – what is important is how our customers want to buy.
GG: What does it mean to focus on sales optimization as a growth strategy?
TB: Historically, when pipeline and deal close rates start to slow companies pull a number of familiar levers. They might spend more marketing dollars, cut costs (including salespeople), or hire more salespeople in an attempt to reverse course. What they forget is only slightly more than half of sales representatives (53 percent) are meeting or exceeding their quotas according to CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Study (2018).
While this is concerning in its own right, even more concerning is that this is the fifth straight year of decline. If that isn’t enough to get leadership’s attention, this might: According to the State of Sales study by Salesforce, nearly two-thirds (64.8 percent) of reps’ time, on average, is spent in non-revenue-generating activities, leaving only 35.2 percent for functions related to selling. How can that be possible considering all the time, money, and effort companies have put into training, implementing technology, and enabling sales teams to be more effective? Well, much of the changes required to achieve productivity gains should be focused beyond technology.
Yes, it is true technology such as CRM is extremely important – it enables performance improvements, but it’s not the only requirement. Optimizing sales is also about rethinking the people and process side of selling, which, in some cases, requires even more significant change than deploying a new sales tool. Doing an inventory of what sales processes are in place today and determining if they are still applicable is a great place to start. Then, and only then, can you begin to optimize your current state to help propel you to your future state.
GG: What can sales professionals do today to start adopting a growth IQ mindset?
TB: The best piece of advice I can provide is to reevaluate as much as you can about current sales processes – especially in the habits which have been built up over time. As the old saying goes, “What got you here won’t get you there.” Without the willingness to take advantage of all that technology enables us to do in serving our customers better, sellers stuck in the past will be left behind by others who are willing to adjust. A salesperson’s future competition isn’t just other companies; it is other sellers who are using AI, analytics, and predictive insights to re-imagine the value equation they deliver to customers.