“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically...”
— Marcus Aurelius
Today, let’s look at the first of three key characteristics of successful sales organizations; they view the sales function as a "management science."
Sales is not an art.” If it were, hiring people who were born with the “right” attributes would be all you could control. This works if enough of these people existed. But they don’t. In our upcoming book, The New Power Base Selling, we plot 28,462 B2B sellers along our model of Four Stages of Sales Proficiency and find:
- 24% are “Stage I Emerging Sellers”
- 56% are “Stage II Solution Sellers”
- 17% are “Stage III Compete Sellers”
- 3% are “Stage IV Customer Advisors”
They key takeaway here is — only 3% of sellers have progressed to the most advanced and desirable Stage IV. There are simply not enough of these people to go around. Unlike art, science can be documented and measured, and therefore managed and replicated.
And so it goes with Stage IV sales proficiency. With the right sales methodology, processes, measurements, and compensation, you can develop “freshman” Stage I Emerging Sellers into “senior” Stage IV Customer Advisors. You can also manage sales with similar rigor and process as your company does manufacturing, finance, and marketing. Professionally managed sales systems generate leading indicators of success.
These in turn generate lagging success indicators. Our research shows that sellers who formally measure authority and influence in an account (leading indicator) have higher win rates (lagging indicator). While there are many other leading indicators – the point is that successful selling is manageable, and not just through a “hire and fire” approach.
Best selling organizations also quantify how their best managers quickly and effectively coach their sellers through active deals—without draining their own productivity. Many managers are relieved by a systematic approach to coaching direct reports and account colleagues.
They need help in replicating their own success in someone else. It’s easy for them to see their success mirrored in a good sales process. The clincher? (It’s your HR challenge.) When you give these top sellers a sales incentive compensation plan that incorporates coaching, it’s a win-win for all parties. It’s time to elevate the sales profession by better supporting sellers.
Begin here: If there is one thing you can do today to start 2012 off right, consider selling as a management science. Success can be taught and replicated across your organization. Once you regard sales as a management science, you’re ready to embrace two more key enablers.
Ryan Kubacki is President of Holden International, a global sales training and advisory firm. He is also co-author of The New Power Base Selling: Master the Politics, Create Unexpected Value & Higher Margins, and Outsmart the Competition. Pre-order your copy here.