Digital Sales Enablement

Selling is a team sport

Robin Griffiths

In the previous article in this series, we examined the knowledge sales people need at each step of the sales process and the challenges this can create in terms of the sheer volume of information involved. Then we started to explore how Digital Playbooks can solve the problem.

This time we’re going to take a look at the importance of collaboration across sales teams and how new digital ways of working can make this more effective.

It’s no longer about the Sales Hero

In the past, many companies relied on a small group of experienced and highly successful ‘Sales Heros’ to drive the revenue numbers.

In the B2B world, however, customers are looking for vendors to solve ever more complex sets of problems for them, which demands input from multiple players within the vendor organisation. So sales teams may comprise an account manager, new business sales rep, solution specialist (may do the product demo), representative from professional services etc.

It’s official, selling is a team sport!

That doesn’t mean you no longer need highly motivated, talented and knowledgeable people to lead the charge on a deal – you still do! What is does mean is, even for relatively modest deals, a number of people from different parts of the business have to work together effectively to be successful.

But how do you work with colleagues in a structured way to prepare for customer interactions?

Key collaboration points in the sales process

Let’s take a look at some of the points in the sales process where collaboration is becoming critical to success.

Exploratory Meetings

Getting traction at an initial meeting is, of course, fundamental to moving forwards. But how do you do this?

You demonstrate knowledge of the customer’s marketplace. You ask insightful questions that show you understand their business and regularly work with and solve challenges for other, similar companies. You position your company as being potentially relevant to a strategic objective, goal or initiative they have.

You don’t get a second chance at an exploratory meeting. You need to prepare carefully in advance and get input from other experienced sales people and perhaps your manager.

Needs Discovery Sessions

This is your chance to really demonstrate your company’s expertise to some of the key influencers and decision makers in the prospect’s buying team.

Although it’s called ‘Needs Discovery’ actually it isn’t about asking the prospect what their ‘need’ is. If you only do that, you simply reinforce the way the prospect may already be thinking about solving the problem – which may have been suggested to them by a competitor!

An effective sales team comes pre-prepared with knowledge of the area of the customer’s business concerned, the key workflows and some of the typical issues similar companies face. This means the sales rep can work closely with the solution specialist to orchestrate the discussions, drill-down into the apparent need, undercover the true business issue and pain, and explore potential solutions – in a consultative way.

Unfortunately, preparation for Needs Discovery sessions often comprises a half hour conference call or a quick chat in the coffee shop right before the meeting! And don’t fool yourself that you’re all ultra-smart and can wing it – customers know when a team walks into a room unprepared!

Demos

How many of you have booked a sales specialist to do a customer demo and then don’t quite get around to talking the demo through in advance?! Hands up, we’ve all done it and the results are always ‘sub-optimal’ to put it mildly!

The customer ends up getting the standard canned demo and you fail to make the all-important connection between the customer issues you’ve uncovered through needs discovery and the capabilities of your products and services.

If you’re lucky, the customer will ask you to show them certain features of the product to figure out for themselves if it will solve the problem. But 9 times out of 10 they will simply remain quiet and will leave the demo having no idea whether the solution you’re proposing could meet their requirements.

Presentations of the Proposal and Business Case

This is your big opportunity to play back to the customer the issues they are looking to address, the pain they feel, how your solution will solve these problems, and what value the customer will get. The stakes are high as the key members of the decision team are in the room.

You need to make sure you assemble insights, key messages, value delivered, points of differentiation etc. and communicate all this as effectively as possible in the meeting.

Right now, the main tool sales teams use to work collaboratively together on something like this is PowerPoint. The starting point is often an old presentation for a similar deal, which gets adapted and sent round by email for review and comment. Often key members of the team don’t engage.

The result is, the presentation slides aren’t properly tuned for the individual sale and the different members of the sales team don’t get aligned on what they are going to say in front of the buying team. So once again, the buyers have to figure out for themselves how well the proposed solution solves their challenges and why it’s the right choice for them versus the alternatives.

Powering preparation with digital sales enablement

Implementing a sales enablement platform provides a common place for sales team members to find and share insights and ideas.

Building a Digital Playbook and deploying it to the platform takes sales preparation to the next level.

With an interactive Playbook built as an HTML5 app, new possibilities open up. For example, you can allow a sales person to browse insights into market themes, questions to ask, typical challenges a certain type of company and / or persona faces, and then mark what they might want to use in an upcoming call or meeting.

They then send a copy of the relevant content to a space in the Playbook where they can assemble and develop their thinking for an individual opportunity. You can think of this as a type of screen or ‘deal blotter’ where you pull together and keep a record of your thinking on a deal as you work through different steps in the sales process.

The breakthrough here is you are combining knowledge (delivered just-in-time at the relevant point in the sales process) with an easy way to use these insights, questions and messages and adapt them for use on a specific sales opportunity – all in one place. And as this is an HTML5 app which uses a local datastore synchronised with the cloud, your latest prep for a customer meeting or call is always available on your phone, tablet or laptop.

Structured collaboration

As a sales rep’s thinking and prep for individual deals is stored in the cloud, it’s easy to give other members of the sales team access to the ‘deal blotter’ for a specific deal and allow them to contribute to the preparation effort, in a structured and efficient way.

You can engage and get input from your boss as you assemble the right insights, questions to ask and positioning for your company before an Exploratory meeting. You can work closely with sales specialists in preparing for Needs Discovery Sessions and Demos. And you can get everyone contributing to and aligned with what you’re going to communicate at Proposal Presentations.

Next time: The much vaunted demise of PowerPoint to support customer conversations…

Robin Griffiths

Specialist in proposition development and creator of the Proposition Mapping™ methodology. Robin's career includes Founder and CEO of Force12 Software, and Director of Cambridge Consulting Engineers.