Even with the best intentions the conclusion is inevitable.It came from two of my core beliefs… they ambushed me:
- Strive to challenge your assumptions
- To shine a light in the dark, you must first find the dark
My father may have seen it in me. The seed doesn’t fall far from the tree and I was the seed of a Salesman. He fostered his thoughts but I saw the allure of logic, it seemed to offer a greater truth.
I struggled, I fought, I challenged his assumption
…eventually I challenged mine.
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably. But to be of any use this story must start in the middle. It must leave behind where I’ve been, start from where I am, and evolve to where I will go.
So where am I?
I am in “Sales”. There I’ve said it.
Whether you call it “business development”, “sales consultant”, “sales executive”, “business consultant” or “pre-sales” the Faustian brush of “sales” brands you as a servant of Mephistopheles. So here I am on the dark side. Now I hope to shine a light.
I know I’ve honed my skills of logic and problem diagnostics, I’ve been in technical sales, I’ve seen and fought commoditisation, I’ve met and worked with good and bad sales professionals. Now how does one create a real spark? Fortunately others have tread that path and they align with the parable my father used to tell (whether it is true or not no longer matters).He was in a bar. He’d just got some award for his sales target. After some probing his associate leaned over and challenged him: “If you’r such a good salesman sell me this!”. With that he slammed a box of matches on the bar. “Sure,” he said, and with this simply pocketed the matches. The other salesman must have looked a little self satisfied at first and then frustrated because his game wasn’t being played with his rules. “Well, when are you going to start selling me those matches?” “When you need a cigarette” I imagine he then simply took another sip of his beer, and that the other salesman may have hesitated before saying “OK, you’ve made your point. Now give me my matches back”.
Knowing my Dad he might have said “As much as I’d love to I also need money to buy the final round of beer.”
He was a self professed devils advocate, and in no small part from his influence I moved from science to IT, through pre-sales and eventually set my flag firmly in sales. From the outset I eschewed one end of the sales spectrum at funeral insurance and used cars (probably much maligned). I also had to acknowledge that even in academia there is salesmanship where the commodity is ideas, and the currency a successful grant application. But I struggled at the other end of the spectrum where the melange of “sales” seem to fly under the radar.
Mastering the Complex Sale
The sales canvas that I have to work with in my current role is not pristine. It has been painted upon and re-used several times. We are replete with fabulous innovations and ideas and have had some marked successes, but we must learn to play in the major league or dwindle and fade. The products we offer have real vision, benefit and value, the technical details of which will make the eyes glaze over for even the most stalwart coffee laden listener. We debate constantly about messaging and differentiation. We can see it, why can’t others?
Are we deceiving ourselves? I think not. Our customers are some of the most loyal and best advocates for us. We see them as evangelists that seem to be struggling with the same messages and differentiation that we do. We have used our products to solve some of the most challenging issues in the largest of enterprises. We have solved complex issues, we’ve done so with a complex solution. We do not want to cheapen the value but we are reducing the barrier to entry and complexity of access. All good stuff!
I recently noticed “Mastering the Complex Sale” by Jeff Thull in an airport. I got it from Amazon, I’ve read it front-to-back, and now I want to implement it back-to-front.
Why arse about face?
It really is about perspective.
The book details, in a structured way, the challenges faced by the complex sale from “Discovery” through to “Delivery”. Throughout these early chapters it provides strategies to change the way you think. By the end of this process you are “sold” on the idea. Maybe not the whole thing all at once but enough to be convinced that you need to start thinking in terms of an “Era 3” sales approach and evolve with it
The closing chapters then tell you how to “Build a Value Driven Sales Organisation” and “Prevent Value Leakage”. In a strong sense it practices what it preaches. It has worked with me to develop a natural transition to adoption and then arms me with the means to become a part of the process.
So from the back cover forwards what then is value leakage? and why is preventing it so important?
Let’s get back to our reused canvas. We’re not attached to what’s there, I will have to start to reshape the strategy for sales and marketing. Fortunately the “technology” canvas we’ve adopted is flexible enough to adapt, but to what? I have the opportunity to reuse what I can and throw out what I don’t
The bigger picture
In order to implement an Era 3 sales system needs to have the fertile soil of the other facets of the business to grow upon.
Preventing Value Leakage opens with:
“Value is the lifeblood of the business world. Value – in the form of improved efficiency effectiveness and ultimately , profit – is the only thing that business to business customers are interested in buying”
Value leakage diminishes the business and since the point of egress for a company’s product is sales it is often sales that bears the brunt of its effects. No matter what value is native at the ideal company it leaks through R&D, Marketing, Pre-sales, Post Sales, HR and Procurement. The company needs “alignment” with minimising value leakage before value can be sold. It needs buy in.
The next installment will be how we get the buy in going. It will be a process of defining our value from the opposing shores of our R&D and Customer ends, identifying roughly where the supports of marketing and branding fit and then building the bridge towards the middle.