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Sales Acceleration, Some Thoughts

by David Brock on January 29th, 2015

I’m preparing for a video discussion with Andy Paul.  He’s been an ardent evangelist on the topic of Sales Acceleration  (You need to read his latest book, AMP Up Your Sales.).   I know we will be spending a lot of time discussing the topic, but I thought I’d use this post as a stalking horse to start thinking about the topic of Sales Acceleration.

First, I’ll choose to define it in my terms–Andy, I’m sure will straighten me out–but I think sales acceleration is simply “how do we accelerate our ability to achieve our goals.”  There are all sorts of levels we can address the issue, organizationally or individually.

Here are some initial thoughts:

1.  We have to know what problems we are the best in the world at solving, and who has those problems.  Too often, this is not clearly defined, or we are not as disciplined as we should be.  But the intent of this is to focus all our time, resources, and efforts on the customers most likely to have a need (sometime) to engage us in helping solve their problems.  Focusing viciously on this and not being distracted by customers with legitimate buying requirements, but where we are poorly positioned–likely wasting their and our time.

2.  In qualifying these customers, we need to focus on their urgency in changing.  By definition, 100% of the customers in our sweet spot will need our solution at some point, but the challenge we face is understanding who needs to take action now.  Now this is a bit tricky, and is why focusing on disqualification is so important.  If we’ve done (1) well, most of the customers will be interested in learning about what we do, gaining insight about opportunities and abilities to improve.  Customers tend to scan and look at things, often far in advance of their need to buy.  (Read this great post by Hank Barnes on the Squishy Buying Cycle.)

This is where both marketing and sales can build presence, relationships, knowledge, through educating and nurturing, but as sales people we need to separate out those who will buy sometime from those who must buy now.

Critical to this is helping the customer understand their current state is unacceptable, they can no longer operate the way they are, they can no longer forgo opportunities to grow, they must take action now.

We usually don’t focus very well on this, choosing instead to get customers to buy into a vision of how great things might be.  But being aligned with those dreams doesn’t accelerate sales.  Finding customers who find their current state unacceptable and must change now is a fundamental to sales acceleration.

3.  Executing a sales process that is aligned with the customer buying process is the final core element to sales acceleration.  The sales process is our best experience of the critical activities we undertake in helping the customer move through the buying cycle.  It identifies major milestones and outcomes on which we and the customer must agree, before going further.  A well designed sales process enables three things:  Maximizes our ability to win, Reduces our sales cycle, Maximizes our deal value/margin.

If the sales process is well designed and enables us to achieve these things–then using it is critical to our ability to accelerate sales.  Not using it causes us to waste both our and our customers’ time, as well as exposing us to risk or failure.  This is why I tend to get impatient with sales people who think they are different and don’t need or use the sales process.  To me, they are committing not to perform at the highest possible levels, but rather to mediocrity.

Scan back through these items, they have profound impacts on our organization, and on our individual performance.

For example,  Item (1) is largely defined by our organization’s business strategists, market strategists, product management, product marketing and even marketing.  They drive the definition and development of the products and solutions we sell.  Without them focusing us rigorously on providing us rich answers and insight to these issues, we won’t be as effective as we could be.  It takes great courage and intellectual honesty to say, “This is what we are the best in the world at doing—and these are the areas where we are not.”  It takes deep customer understanding and research to define who has these problems–not just a surface level, but a robust market/organizational view.  Then once we’ve characterized the organizations, we must dive deep into the personas.

All this tells both marketing and sales what, where, and how we should focus.  We have to craft our content, our marketing, demand gen, prospecting on those problems and those organizations.  We must do this continuously, educating, nurturing and building our knowledge and our customers’ knowledge.  From a sales point of view, 100% of our prospecting is focused within this space.

As we move into the sales/buying process, it’s not just a matter of sales execution, but we must have the right enablemenent tools, tuned for where the customer is in their buying cycle, enabling us to help them move forward.

Sales acceleration has both organizational and individual impacts.  To really accelerate sales, we have to do the whole thing very well.

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2 Comments
  1. I think I’m going to make “Sales Acceleration” and “Sales Coaching Culture” my buzz phrases for 2015. Much like your Hacking Sales (and Management) posts, which were some of my favorite posts of the year so far, this is spot on.

    In addition to the “problems we solve” angle, I would add “opportunities we enable.” The important part of either, which you mention, is “and who has these problems[opportunities].” I believe the next great frontier of sales analytics is going to be the improved enablement of Trigger Event or Sales Signal sniffing (opportunity sourcing). There are companies already that push alerts, news, industry trends and such, but I think this is going to continue to evolve (Big Data) and further empower Sales Acceleration.

    Just like predictive lead analytics, and jumping ahead to #3, and predictive collateral analytics, are advancing, and will help velocity and win rates.

    I realize we can get into a slow death spiral by not disqualifying fast enough on #2 (Jacques Werth addresses this pretty clearly in High Probability Selling), but today, through use of data, insights and sharing other customer situations and outcomes, sales reps have an opportunity to *create* urgency, or should at least try, if they see a real fit. At some point, you have to assess likelihood and if it’s low, move on (or into nurturing mode, versus selling mode), but the crux of insight selling, and where I’ve seen it work, is to actually create interest and urgency, where it didn’t previously exist. Easy? No. Possible? Yes. The tough judgment call, especially for optimistic sales people, is to assess the likelihood after trying, and respond appropriately.

    Certainly agree that for Sales Acceleration to occur, you need aligned strategy and tactical plans, and great execution. Reminds me of my recent post on why we don’t see more full-scale Sales Force Transformation work. Alignment is hard. Execution takes discipline. And today, in our crazy-frantic, ADD world of busin…. Oh look! A squirrel!

    • Mike, great points, we have to be opportunity finders/problem solvers. I tend to look at them synonymously, but it’s critical be explicit. The easiest way of bringing fresh insights is through helping our customer discover new opportunities. Also, the notion around creating urgency, helping customers own that the pain of doing nothing is greater than the pain of change is a foundational element. Until we have the customer committed to this in the qualifying process, every thing else is moot.

      Thanks for forcing me to be explicit on this. Regards, Dave

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