How many sales “experts” do you think there are -- people proffering advice about what works and what doesn’t, offering a specific sales solution that will help right the course for any organization? Hundreds? Thousands? I couldn’t even begin to come up with a number.
Sales and sales management advice abounds. I know this because I read a lot of what gets posted on the Internet!
There are countless numbers of people offering up solutions for sales success -- for individual sales professionals seeking to improve individual performance or, like us, offering assistance to owners, CEOs, presidents and sales managers looking to improve their sales process, coaching, leadership, analytics, organizational effectiveness, methodologies, and other sales drivers or performance levers. It’s definitely a “noisy space”.
I’ve often quipped about how dangerous it all is.
More often than not, blog authors (and even business book authors), write based on anecdotal evidence.
The stories might be interesting, but the approach often fails in reality. Why? Because those folks applied a technique once or twice that worked really well, and then they wrote about it as if it’s the silver bullet of all sales techniques that will work anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances, in any organization.
That just simply isn’t the case.
Good sales advice, in fact, should go something like this: “In this situation, if you are experiencing this issue, here are some suggestions to consider.”
In other words, sales advice should be situation-specific.
The fact is, true success in sales comes from not having “a way of doing things” or following a stock solution, but by having a sales process in place that will allow you to determine what should work and what will get you the results you want in your specific situation.
Think about the differences in these selling environments:
Although the “fundamentals” are similar, the “application” of the fundamentals needs to be tailored and adapted to the situation and circumstances.
Formal sales processes have come a long way. In the old days, they were manipulative, feature-focused and intimidating. Salespeople were hired based on instinct -- on vague competencies like “killer instinct” and “smooth-talking” -- rather than hard science that assures a good fit.
Today, we know better. Research proves the positive impact that a formalized consultative based sales process has on sales performance, and we’re able to share that data with organizations so that they can be successful, too. Most companies today have some sort of sales process in place, whether they realize it or not.
But, here’s what worries me: In an era where the importance of a formal sales process is so widely appreciated, why are so many organizations still struggling to get results?
Research at Florida State University shows that 51% of sales executives are disappointed with their sales processes. Objective Management Group, my partner organization, finds that only half of salespeople are achieving their quotas, and that number is trending downward.
Something is off, and according to the author of the FSU study, the problem lies in our approach to implementing sales processes:
As an industry, we cling to this incorrect notion that there’s a single best way to sell. We select a sales process or methodology that we believe is a ‘best practice,’ and we tell our sellers to repeat that same sales approach with every customer in every circumstance. It’s a fundamentally flawed strategy.
Our research shows that the best salespeople don’t adhere to a single sales approach – they use several different approaches, depending on the buying situations they encounter. Meanwhile, average salespeople tend to follow a single sales approach regardless of the situation, which works when the approach fits but fails when it doesn’t. By enforcing a single sales process in our sales forces, we’re actually mandating that our salespeople fail by design.
No doctor believes there’s a single best way to heal people – they assess each patient’s illness and prescribe the appropriate remedy. No football team goes onto the field and runs the same play on every down – they choose the best play based on the circumstances and the opponent. No military leader believes there’s a single way to defeat the enemy – they react to the situation they encounter on the ground. Yet, we send our salespeople into battle with a single sales approach and then wonder why they get slaughtered. It’s madness.
It is, indeed.
At Cashin Sales, we believe that the era of the “best practice” sales process is over. What needs to come next is a new era of sales process development that’s customized to individual companies and situations, not a “one-size-fits-all” Band-Aid that you slap on every sales situation and challenge.
Think agility, not rigidity.
If you’re ready to start that process of building a sales process fit specifically for your organization and customers, one that truly gets results, we’d love to hear from you.
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.