As we enter 2021 most revenue teams are trying to find rhythms for the “new normal” after a year that has seen much disruption. In this environment team members are craving inspiration and focus, and best in-class sales leaders prioritize inspiring their teams in the following ways:
- Inspire a Maximize Mindset
- Inspire a hunger for insights
- Inspire a disciplined approach to learning
- Inspire customer centric collaboration
Inspiring these aspects requires creating a compelling vision for these things within the context of your organization and translating that vision into practical and manageable steps that teams can implement. Here are some suggestions on how to do that:
Inspire a Maximized Mindset
In our sales practice, we see sales leaders wrestling with two forces at this time of year: Incrementalism and wishful thinking. World class sales leaders battle these two forces by helping all team members thoughtfully answer the question “what is possible” in a way that helps them stretch for outcomes that are both realistic and inspiring. Many sales organizations are recreating their annual sales kick-off meetings using compelling virtual experiences to help expand their team’s view of the “what is possible” question and then personally translating that into goals and action plans. This results in personal ownership by team members of what must be achieved and taking the best approaches to achieving it.
In our sales practice we use a framework called 3-1-3 which helps teams and individuals frame their answer to what is possible in a:
- 3-year vision
- 1-year annual plan with concrete goals
- 3-month sprints with concrete actions by segment or account
Translating the answer to what is possible into this framework forces teams to think into the future and translate it into practical steps they can take and then adjust to reach their destination.
Inspire a Hunger for Insights
As the pandemic accelerates, the digital economy is showing that both B2C & B2B customers either want efficient digital experiences or sales teams that add value and insight at every stage of their buyer journey. Research suggests that buyers are less willing to engage with organizations that don’t allow them to educate themselves online. This has reframed the role of sales from providers of information to value creators for their customers. This requires insight driven teams that take a solution selling approach to ultimately construct superior value solutions based on the prospect’s definition of value. In this type of sales environment winning revenue teams are fanatical about capturing, codifying & curating 3 types of insights, and sharing them amongst their team members.
- Marketplace insights – Trends in the marketplace and their likely impact
- Sector specific insights – Trends in their industry and their likely impact
- Account level insights – Insights that people who work there might not even be conscious of
When revenue teams develop this kind of hunger it changes how they spend their time and the quality of the dialogue they have. Teams move from sharing information to active dialogue where the implications and impact of certain information is absorbed, shared with enthusiasm and debated to ensure that how to translate it into the buyer journey is understood. Information is then not just sought from standard sources which are a commodity, but teams are commonly sharing important differentiated insights from sources “off the beaten path”.
Inspire a Disciplined Approach to Learning
In today’s marketplace, winning teams are those that “out learn” the competition. While this starts with individual learning and everyone owning their own development, revenue teams that win learn together through a set of disciplines and a culture that is positively reinforcing “Learn together, win together”. Modern collaboration technology and video capability have created the ecosystem within most organizations to facilitate this in a cost-effective manner, yet the culture and behaviors required to see it come to life rarely capitalize on this. Best in breed sales effectiveness has structured “macro” learning events that are built around a focused methodology or model and balance content delivery with experiential learning, peer learning and practice. To see learning move beyond an event to a daily discipline these programs are sustained and extended using the following “micro” that is easily accessible in the flow of work.
- Best Practice Sharing is a powerful team discipline. Training teams on how to share things that work from the field in coherent and impactful ways is a key element driving the success of high impact revenue teams. Scalable user generated content creation is often more credible throughout the sales team. Most collaboration platforms can be easily structured to house this content in an easy to navigate manner. Note: using advanced video platforms like stream in Microsoft 365 can also convert the speech to text and make it easily searchable.
- Leader and/or Peer Coaching is another critical element. One of the myths in organizational learning is that “experience is a great teacher”. In reality “evaluated experience is a great teacher” and creating a team environment where that experience evaluation or coaching is a natural part of the environment is critical to making incremental improvement daily. These coaching behaviors unfortunately rarely occur naturally in organizations and require training, structure and communication for a sustained amount of time to become habit.
- Postmortems are a powerful learning discipline if executed well, but this discipline is often avoided because it rarely feels like a learning event and more like a performance evaluation. An alternative would be to frame the postmortem using a “batting average” approach. In baseball the difference between a great batter and an average batter is .350 vs. .250. Great players are 10% better than average players yet great players still don’t hit the ball 65% of the time and research would suggest that on average sales follows the same basic statistical rules. Postmortems then serve a similar role to analyzing game film:
- How to look for signs of what pitches (opportunities) to swing at, and more importantly which ones not to.
- When to swing for the fences vs. get on base (solve the total problem vs. meet the immediate need)
- What the appropriate thing to do is given the context the team finds itself in (executing the go to market strategy)
- What adjustments should be made in the technique given the situation (good situational judgement)
This framework moves us past the evaluative question of why we didn’t get the sale to “what can we learn” about this situation that should inform how we handle future situations.
- Tell the stories of success, close calls and user adaptions: Stories that give the highlights and challenges of how actual customers are using your product are the most credible tool a sales team has and often the most impactful knowledge in the field. Telling the stories of why customers buy, combined with how they use and adapt your products and services to meet specific needs serve a dual purpose. They educate your sales team on solution knowledge and help them internalize it in more meaningful ways and provides authentic tools to your team that helps them build credibility with clients and prospects.
For these four disciplines to work they require a different culture and mindset around winning and achieving together because they require broad participation and perseverance to see the impact. Inspiring this type of disciplined approach to learning is not for the faint of heart and without focus and dedicated resources is likely to fade into another “thing we tried” around the 6-month mark.
Inspire Customer Centric Collaboration
According to Gartner, 77% of B2B buyers rate their recent buyer experience as “very complex or difficult” and according to Temkin Group, 86% of buyers surveyed would pay more for a better buyer experience. Capitalizing on this opportunity is no longer possible in siloed marketing, sales and customer success functions. The emerging best practice of thinking and collaborating as a single revenue team is a trend to pay attention to but there are many basic things leaders can do to inspire this type of collaboration within your existing structure.
- Have all team members interview customers before implementing a significant change to get their feedback on the impact it will have.
- Have line managers and senior team members spend some time responding to customer concern calls.
- Make cross-functional teams and working groups your default for tackling any customer interface, process or policy issue.
- Job shadow across functions. Have your marketing team go on sales calls and sit in customer launch meetings. Have your sales team members follow a brand or campaign manager around for a day.
- Go through customer centricity training as a team that creates a common framework for collaboration and places a heavy emphasis on how to collaborate to improve the customer experience.
The goal of all these activities is to create appreciation for both the impact on the customer and how the total buyer relationship with the company works.
The type of inspiration we are suggesting here is not a trivial endeavor and will require resourcing to implement, but the dividends are substantial. The most inspiring leaders start by asking themselves “what is possible” and marshalling resources to support themselves and their teams in achieving that. This is a delicate balance between not overwhelming the team with new initiatives they can’t absorb while not falling into the trap of incrementalism yourself. As you start 2021 invest some energy in the question “what is possible” for you and your team and work it through to a plan that is compelling in its scope and its perceived achievability.