What I have to say probably won’t go down particularly well with a sector of the sales improvement community whose primary purpose seems to be to convert every sales person into a superhuman hero capable of leaping customer objections in a single bound.
Well, it might sell books to people hoping for miracle cures, but the approach is neither realistic, practical nor particularly effective. In the complex and complicated of B2B buying these “heroic” techniques are likely to be counter-productive.
There is no miracle cure (and no instant fix) for improving sales effectiveness. It takes focus, hard work, and doing more of the right things with more of the right people in more of the right organisations. And, of course, it means not wasting valuable resources on quixotic quests…
That’s why I suggest that B2B CEOs and sales leaders who are striving to build truly scalable sales organisations should be looking for pragmatists rather than heroes or miracle workers.
It’s not as if it’s realistic to recruit and run a team of individual heroes anyway. Outside of the comic book market, it’s an oxymoronic concept. The problem with Eagles, as one of my sales mentors kept reminding me, is that they don’t flock.
Heroes tend to believe that nothing is impossible. They see the most difficult opportunities as personal challenges. They tend to divert scarce resources away from otherwise more winnable deals. At the end of the day, they are not always that successful - and as for trying to replicate them - well, good luck with that.
Pragmatists, on the other hand, in their thoughtful and quietly effective way, focus their energies on the opportunities that are likely to be most valuable and in which they have a strong chance of winning. They value their own time (let alone that of their colleagues) too highly to waste it on opportunities that are never likely to close.
- They have a clear sense of which problems to look for - the ones that are most likely to cause the prospect to tale action, and for which they can offer a well-differentiated and provably superior solution
- They understand the characteristics that indicate whether or not a given organisation matches their company’s Ideal Customer Profile, and qualify opportunities out where there is a bad company fit
- They have a clear idea which roles and personalities have the potential to act as change agents within the prospect organisation, and avoid associating themselves with people who are likely to be ineffective champions
- They quickly assess the stakeholder community, identifying and engaging early with the key members of the buying decision team and helping to facilitate their buying decision process
- They seek to influence the prospect’s vision of a solution and their decision criteria, and to understand both the prospect’s decision process and the competitive landscape - and they qualify out opportunities that are unfavourable
- They seek to create and capture mutually meaningful value in every customer interaction, and they never regard a meeting in which they emerge with all the actions and the prospect makes no commitments as a success
- They are realistic in their assessment of the opportunity value, close date, and their chances of winning. They tend to not change their assessments of these key factors as frequently as other less effective sales people
- They come up with forecasts that are based on fact and rational assessment, rather than hope and irrational ambition, and their forecast accuracy rate is almost always amongst the best
- They proactively uncover and address risk factors in the deal, rather than hoping that problems won’t crop up. When an issue does arise, they have usually anticipated it and quickly come up with a clear plan to deal with it
- They are typically unflashy but effective. They tend to be good team players. They have a relentless appetite for learning and self-improvement. They are often modest about their achievements
One last thing: heroes tend not to work well within a defined sales process, and seek to rebel against it. Pragmatists see the value in a defined sales process, and are always looking for ways to improve it.
Pragmatists are a delight to work with and a pleasure to have an intelligent after-work drink with. With all of these factors in their favour, why would any sales leader want to ride the grief curve of managing a team of self-declared heroes?
By the way, the Value Selling System® is an excellent framework for continuously developing a team of intelligent pragmatic sales people. You can find out more here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales and the Founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, home of the Value Selling System®. Following a successful career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and mature corporates, Bob now works with a growing client base of tech-based growth-phase businesses, equipping and enabling them to systematically create and capture mutually meaningful value in every customer interaction.