In 1461, the so-called impregnable castle at Bamburgh in Northern England fell to an unprecedented artillery bombardment. It marked the irreversible end of an era that had lasted for perhaps thousands of years and set in train monumental power shifts.
The link to sales? Well, we are living in a time of cultural and technological upheaval. Everyone, everything is changing fast: what is acceptable, normal, “OK”, is shifting. A cultural norm is that we expect everyone to be treated fairly, treated well, regardless of who they are, where they come from. We see political operators who treat the truth with an open degree of disdain and casualness. The ubiquity of information via the internet is giving us all unprecedented access to what used to be expert only knowledge and yet we feel overwhelmed by it. We don’t know what or who to trust. Many of us turn to friends, family, social media to make sense of it all. So, customers, influencers, colleagues outside of sales are changing what they expect and will tolerate of us in sales, of everyone.
Yet set against this, as the world changes how they want to work, to be influenced, to be “sold-to”, the sales function often seems to try and operate like the overseers of Bamburgh castle – “keep calm and carry on”. Tweak the old processes, systems, behaviours again and again. Try a new sales methodology if all else fails. Hope it’s enough to see us through the year at least. How long can this last? Are those walls, indeed, already crumbling whilst being patched-up?
In Consalia we think so. Customers want dramatically better sales experiences than they receive in most B2B sales encounters, not minor adjustments. They certainly don’t want to be “sold-to harder”. Our research over 10 years consistently shows that only 5-10% of salespeople meet C-level customers’ expectations. We regularly interview our customers’ customers on video and without exception they ask for an elevated sales experience, often the simple stuff: “I don’t think they (the supplier) really understand our business”; “I just want a proper conversation”; “from where I sit it should be easy to do a bit of Google research on us before you come and talk”. They know this is possible, as they see others doing it. They may even do this when selling to their own customers and yet they don’t get this service from most B2B salespeople. It is not going to last like this for much longer.
Our point of view is that it comes down to the mindsets of the sales leaders and team members: how do you see your role? Are you trying to help your team achieve a greater vision than simply selling a quota? Are you customer-experience minded or simply focussed on selling whatever you can? In short, are you inspiring your team, yourself to excel on behalf of the customer and thereby smash your sales number?
CEOs, MDs, Sales leaders approach us for advice on sales transformation – some do so out of the excitement of a new way to energise the team, some because they know their castle is crumbling and they have tried everything else. Most, of course, are somewhere in between.
A transformational journey can be executed safely and speedily, dramatically upgrading sales performance, team motivation and open-up new possibilities for the future. It does need experience with a change and learning focus to do so. We have developed such capabilities over more than a decade.
What do you want to achieve? Do you recognise this crumbling of the walls? If you do, and also if you don’t, please comment, or send me messages and emails. The dialogue is really critical. Together, we can learn for the sake of the wider sales community. None of us has all the insights. Thanks, Ian