CEO Confidential

3 Realities CEOs Must Accept to Succeed in the New Era of Sales

“What keeps you up at night?” If you are like most CEOs, you want to know how to grow your business by getting new customers. In fact, when asked which was more important, growth or operational efficiency, 72 percent of CEOs cited growth as more important, according to the 2015 KPMG’s CEO Study. But growth may not be as easy to come by as it has been in the past for some companies.

Significant shifts in the business-to-business (B2B) buying process have transformed selling as we know it, and hard work, charisma, and a bloated database of personal contacts is no longer enough for a sales force to drive significant growth. If you want your company to win in today’s selling era, there are new realities you have to embrace to experience explosive growth. Below are three of the most critical sales realities facing B2B companies today.

1) Buyers don’t want to speak with sales people.  

When executive buyers were recently surveyed on how they want to make buying decisions, 59 percent said they want to do so without the involvement of a sales person, according to the 2015 B2B Buyer Channel Preferences Survey. Executives want to buy; they just do not want to spend all of their time working solely through a sales person, that’s all. Then whom do they want to speak with? They prefer conducting research on their own first and then perhaps engaging with subject matter experts, current customers of yours, and senior executives from your company. The desire is to get closer to the source of the information without an intermediary (i.e. a sales person).

So what does that mean for sellers? In the future, revenue generating opportunities will, with greater frequency, be handled through processes that look different than traditional sales. The challenge in the new world of sales is that small sales are transactional and do not have enough margin to support a sales person. In this new era, only big sales will be sold and that will require the involvement of the buyer’s senior executive and yours, and the role of sales people will shift from controlling the entire process to focusing on getting initial executive contacts, keeping the process moving, and facilitating meetings that bring together subject matter experts and executives from both the prospect and selling organizations.

2) Sales metrics and processes are more integrated with non-sales functions.  

The number of people involved on the buyer’s side of a large sales transaction has increased from three to seven in just the past five years, according to Garter Group. For sellers that has meant an increase in subject matter experts involved in the process, providing knowledge and support from different areas of the business. The sale would never occur without their assistance, but now, how do we recognize them? What about the sales people? Compensation in the past was based on a simple commission model. That worked when things were simple, but now it is a challenge because sales is no longer as independent from other business functions.

This means that work needs to be compensated differently because it will be shared work in the process. The new generation of sales people will have a role as part of a team, which eliminates the need for an “eat what you kill” compensation model. Recognizing this change in individual performance, you will need to make changes in individual compensation plans to reflect more of a team approach. Similar to marketing or other integrated group positions, these positions will be compensated in a more traditional format of base salary with bonuses and benefits rather than individually recognized for singular contributions of acquiring or growing an account.

3)    The new era of sales requires new leadership skills.

If your sales leaders grew up in the sales world of the last three decades, then their understanding of sales processes, seller motivation, and sales management may be based upon data and beliefs that are becoming quickly less relevant. That means that your leaders need to adapt quickly to this new world of sales, or risk becoming decreasingly effective in their roles. As the executive survey from “The Challenger Sale” by Dixon and Adamson indicates, three-quarters believe their sales leaders do not have the necessary skills to be successful in their role in the new environment.

The challenge is in either accelerating the transition of your sales leaders or replacing them for the new era of sales. In this new fast-paced sales era, not adapting to the quickly changing market means extinction. One way to help your sales leadership and sales team adapt to the new environment is to build a framework for your entire organization to make decisions. Companies with a solid framework for how the entire organization makes decisions will win in the new era of sales. The framework will help everyone, including those who are tangentially supportive of sales efforts, row in the same direction.

The world of sales is moving so quickly that most senior executives are feeling the challenges of revenue growth moving up in priority. If you want your company to win in today’s selling era, embrace these new realities to set your company up for success.

By Tom Searcy, Founder & CEO, Hunt Big Sales.

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Tom Searcy
A sales strategy company that helps CEOs double the size of their company. Searcy is the author of RFPs Suck! How to Master the RFP System Once and for All to Win Big Business, co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company, and How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett: Lessons from the World’s Greatest Dealmaker, as well as the book Life After the Death of Sales: How to Thrive in the New Era of Selling.
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