In B2B, Sales is your #1 customer.
“No, no, no… Sales is not our customer! They constantly insist that all the deals we lose are due to features, price, or because our literature sucks. It’s like they’ve never heard the phrase: ‘The selling starts when the customer says NO.’
Do you see how this thinking takes you exactly nowhere?
Bottom line: If you’re in a B2B market the chances are that you won’t be successful unless your Sales Team is successful. It’s like a marriage. There is misinterpretation of action, lack of communication, plenty of opportunity for frustration… but you are co-dependent. If you can make it work- Bliss. If you can’t- Hell. What’s more, since you can’t divorce Sales, you have to make it work. Here’s how to work toward that happy marriage.
Create a Partnership-Driven Feedback Loop
You’ve got to create a partnership-driven feedback loop with sales. Otherwise, there is just a long list of demands for stuff that sales says they want, which they may or may not actually need, and which they probably won’t use. Of course, you can’t do it all, so both parties just continue talking past one another.
So, how do we get that collaborative, ‘partnership-driven’ relationship going? Do two things:
Create a Sales-Centered Journey Map
You have to establish that partnership-driven feedback loop on the back of a tangible artifact- a sales-centered customer journey map.
To create that initial map, work with sales leadership and a couple of the best sales staff to hash it out together. Use the journey map model discussed in my prior article (Mapping the Customer Journey) to focus on how sales interact with prospects & customers within each segment and for each Persona that requires a different process.
This intensive discussion(s) will reveal what really happens throughout the sales process, which resources really get used or not used, and where gaps exist. You establish a common language with sales, understand the key articulation points in the sales process, and thus can then talk specifically about what can better support the sales team.
In the end, the priorities will become clear to everyone. Moreover, you’ve also established a baseline from which ongoing discussions can stem—the journey map anchors discussion, rather than simply orbiting around this week’s wish list.
Establish a Rotating Sales Roundtable
Next, set up a regular sales roundtable session (at least quarterly) to hash through what is working or not working and how the customer world or competitive tactics may have changed that suggests the need for something new.
You should have a core group for these sessions that includes non-sales folks too (e.g. product, marketing, customer service, and perhaps others). Importantly, you should invite one or two extra sales people to participate in each session who haven’t participated before- in order to keep things fresh. These folks participate for one session, then are replaced in the next.
The session focuses on the sales-centric journey map. This keeps the discussion focused and results in a changed map where everyone can see and agree to the key influence points and tactics needed for each event in the customer’s journey.
To gain enthusiasm from sales for these sessions, keep the focus positive. Ask for sales success stories. Everyone loves to share their successes. It makes them feel expert and highlights their accomplishments. You use discussion of those stories to dissect the elements that created success, and which may create success in other situations as well. Everyone wins.
With this kind of regular, refreshed, and focused dialog, the discussion changes from “We need a full brochure with everything in it!”, to something more like:
“So, at this point in the process the prospect is typically assessing us against competitors as part of their evaluation committee. So, what have you seen that works best? How can we make sure every committee actually gets just most critical comparative information/ demo/ thought leadership/ etc. that will make our advantage apparent?”
That’s the kind of focused dialog you want with sales. The kind that is partnership-driven.
Hang out with sales people. Get to know them and establish mutual trust. You will learn far more about the intricacies of prospects and the nature of the challenges faced than your CRM system can ever give you.
(But, yes, you’ve got to look at the CRM data too.)