Today’s post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of sales and leadership training company Carew International, as well as a frequent keynote speaker, columnist, and blogger. Find him online or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Sales leaders are always searching for the fastest, surest route to improved sales performance.
Many ponder the role of digital sales automation and enablement tools in their quest for sales growth. Do sales enablement tools represent the solution to our sales pain, or are they a distraction from other high-impact factors?
The answer will be different for each organization – and largely depends on where the greatest gaps in your organization’s sales process exist. A thorough examination of your current sales capabilities and pain points is essential to select the best route for sales performance improvement across your sales team.
The Link between Sales Performance and Sales Process
First, consider the weakest links in your sales operation and organization. Do you see flaws, bottlenecks, or limitations in the operations process itself? Or are you seeing a low percentage of “wins,” suggesting selling skills may be the issue? Insight on this initial consideration will help you set priorities.
Sales enablement and automation tools – like CRMs, market intelligence, and prospecting tools – really focus on the efficiency of your process, saving sales professionals’ time for “high-value” customer interactions and expanding each sales professional’s capacity for all sales activities. These tools can also be very effective in identifying problem areas and weak spots, like logistical problems related to shipping, billing, or reporting.
On the other hand, skill development addresses the effectiveness of your sales team during customer interface – building customer relationships, diagnosing customer needs, and delivering winning sales presentations.
What Does Your Sales Team Need to Win More?
Do your salespeople need more opportunities to sell – or better skills and a higher close rate when they do get opportunities? In conversations with sales leaders, I often approach this consideration with the following baseball analogy: Which is most needed by your sales team – more “at bats” (opportunities) or a better hit (close) rate with the opportunities that cross the plate? A severe weakness in either realm will significantly hamper sales growth efforts. If a batter can’t hit the ball (or close a sale), it doesn’t really matter how many at bats (or leads/opportunities) he or she gets. Likewise, the best batter in the world won’t score any runs (or close any sales) if they don’t get chances at the plate.
Both baseball and sales require specific skills for success. Whereas, on the baseball diamond, field skills and batting average define the player, in sales, professionals need core communication skills and processes to build relationships, diagnose customer needs, cultivate trust and credibility, and maximize influence with customers. But, in both cases, enablement tools can create an environment for success – that point leading up to and surrounding application of skills and knowledge.
Coaches observe every pitch/at bat for strengths and weaknesses, things a player can improve upon, or things they did well. Sales managers use the ride-along approach in much the same manner – to observe strengths and weaknesses. Baseball managers also watch the data very intently for trends and patterns, as should sales leaders. Sales enablement tools, much like Sabermetrics in baseball, can show rep trends across myriad metrics related to stages in the sales cycle, buyer types, purchase habits, etc. This insight can indicate if skill development is needed to further define which skills are the priority.
Prioritize Your Greatest Sales Performance Needs
Sales and baseball are both endeavors that rely on key insights as well as exceptional skills for winning sales performance. In a perfect world, sales leaders and sales professionals alike would love more opportunities and a higher close rate, but limited time and resources typically force us to prioritize and focus on our greatest need – be it improved selling skills or sales operations.
Sales enablement tools can identify trends and gaps, increase the efficiency of your overall sales and delivery operations, and potentially improve customer satisfaction as a result. Sales skill development is deployed to improve the win rate with the sales opportunities presented to your team, improve customer relationships, and extend the customer life cycle.