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B2B Sales: Are We Treating Symptoms or Causes?

I have been fortunate enough to get exposure to various functions of B2B Sales in my career. The last few years of my entrepreneurial journey allowed me to go much deeper into understanding the Science behind B2B Sales, trying to diagnose “Cause” from “Symptoms” of Sales issues.

In our “Sales Consulting” practice, I and my team have come across customers reaching out to address their symptoms viz. falling order booking, dipping revenue, higher sales attrition, decreasing funnel, etc. We are learning to diagnose and address the “cause” and not the “symptoms”. Today, through this blog, I am sharing with you the lessons and understanding which we have gained and used, to be a successful provider of sales consulting services in India

There can also be more than one solution for your client’s sales problem. For e.g.- A smaller funnel is a problem and potential solutions for it could be –

  1. Train the sales team (a typical Sales training co. will always think that and suggest this to the customer)
  2. Invest in marketing (marketing agencies, digital marketing cos. will go down this route)
  3. Add more no. of employee’s sales team or add more channel partners
  4. Invest in a technology platform (a Sales/Marketing tech co. will suggest this)
  5. Engage a consulting company (a Sales Consulting company would come out with this solution).

 

All the above solutions (and a few more not listed here) suggested are neither right nor wrong. Just that each provider is (perhaps) pushing her solution (They need not be blamed. Many of them might have ignorance about other possible solutions for the same client problem). Just that symptoms are being treated without putting real efforts in uncovering the cause/s behind it. 

Let’s pick up one Sales Problem viz. “Funnel Creation” to try finding out possible causes:

Let’s split the “Prospect to Order” cycle into 2 segments:

1st – Prospect to Opportunity
2nd – Opportunity to Order.

As we have picked the “funnel creation” problem in this article, we must focus on the 1st element i.e., ‘Prospect to Opportunity”. We’ll discuss the 2nd element in one of the future blogs.

Let’s divide “Prospect to Opportunity” into sub-categories to identify where the real problem or cause lies for Symptom (i.e., Funnel Creation”)

1. ICP (Ideal Customer Profile):

Do the Sales/Marketing/Inside Sales team know which prospect account falls in our ICP? Direction is more important than speed. Everybody in the sales/marketing team should be explicitly aware of our ICP customers/segment. Or else lot of time and organization’s resources get wasted going after prospects which are outside our demographics/psychographics criteria.

2. Database of ICP Prospects:

A sales team is an expensive resource and its time is precious. They need to go after the right accounts, the right opportunities and the right contacts. A huge no. of sales reps spend their time on Google/LinkedIn finding names/email ids/phone numbers of their prospects. If this is happening in your company, that’s a red flag. Think of outsourcing the database and connect to an organization providing Business development services. It will turn out to be much faster, cheaper and efficient. Sales Rep’s time should be maximized in speaking with customers and minimized in these non-sales time-consuming activities.

3. Performance/ Role of Marketing Team:

Is your Marketing team’s key KRA defined as generating leads for sales team? Are they aligned with the sales team in terms of – ICP, content (Differentiated value messaging to different customer touchpoints), etc.? I don’t claim to be an expert in this field and continue to learn from my team and customers. (However, there are more than 6000 Sales/Marketing tech solutions/platforms available and the field is undergoing major change). Lately, many organizations have stopped asking the sales team to do cold outreach to prospects. The sales team remains focused on leads generated by the marketing team.

4. Sales Talent and Sales Team Skills:

Let’s assume the above 3 are working well. But still “Funnel Creation” is an issue. A possible cause could be – “Sales Talent” – Do we have the right talent onboard? A Possible way to find this out could be to go for a “Sales Assessment” of your sales team – Do I have right soldiers to win the war?  

Once you agree – you have right sales talent, next possible cause could be – Are they skilled enough?  Are they enabled to conduct a customer-focused meeting/call? Or they are just “Product Pushers”? Here the solution could be “Sales Training” on right “Call Plan” methodology – to ensure every customer call/meeting goes in a structured manner (from Pre-meeting Preparation to post-meeting debrief). 

5. Deal Qualification:

In the past, I had shared my thoughts on this topic. ( Importance of Deal Qualification in B2B Sales ). In nutshell – Average sales reps get excited about every opportunity whereas successful sales professionals identify their battles. The question we need to ask is – Have we enabled the sales team to qualify for an opportunity? Is it defined? Can we create a “Qualification Scorecard” so that the entire sales team can qualify in/out (or to which information to find out before it to be considered a qualified in) an opportunity in few minutes?

During our B2B sales consulting projects, we learned to slice client problems into smaller elements to isolate the problem area/s and think about the problem/solution in terms of -People, Process, Tool. Eventually, this helps to identify those 20% interventions which would have an 80% impact on your business. You may pick up the remaining 80% problems (that would have a 20% impact) as and when time permits. 

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