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Itec Connect

The Outcome:

A transformed sales operation where the focus has moved to an Account Management model enabling the company to grow its business through a process of cross and up-selling to its substantial base of satisfied customers while still adding new customers.

“I just wanted to write formally to thank you for delivery of a first class project. In every step you have been a pleasure to work with and have delivered on everything you offered – and more.” Nick Orme, Chief Executive, Itec Connect

The Challenge

Two main factors led Itec to consider a change of direction in its go-to-market approach. Firstly, the company had grown a substantial and very satisfied customer base from its long established sophisticated Managed Print services and Document Capture & Workflow solutions and realised they needed to stay ahead of the game. Secondly the company had recently invested in another organisation that provides a range of Cloud based IT solutions which gives Itec a whole new range of services and solutions that it can offer its customers. Combining these two factors led to the conclusion that the selling model needed to be re-engineered to focus more on account management; enabling the better servicing of customers with established services while also taking the opportunity to offer new and different solutions to those same customers.

The Performative Solution

We undertook the design and delivery of an internal Sales Academy for Itec to recruit and train a cadre of new Account Managers. Before commencing the project we completed a process of “Discovery” using the Performative Sales Maturity Assessment as a foundation. The output from the discovery phase informed the design of the Academy which was developed using the established Performative Academy Framework.

Recruitment of Account Managers

The Account Managers would be fulfilling a new role, focused on the existing customer base. It was an ideal opportunity to bring in new talent and create opportunity for internal candidates to convert to sales. To acquire a new team of 12 required:

  • Sourcing of candidates both externally and from internal transfers
  • Initial filtering and interviews before passing selected candidates to customer for interview
  • Conduct and analysis of the results of an on-line sales capability assessment
  • Design and delivery of a comprehensive assessment process leading to the selection of the final 12 successful candidates who were then offered positions.

Product Manuals – Sales Enablement material

With a broader range of product and service offerings to take to market Itec recognised the need to create collateral to provide a consistent sales and customer oriented resource to support the selling efforts of the new account managers and existing sales staff.

The challenge here was to turn technical excellence into commercial superiority and equip the account managers with effective sales enablement tools.

The subject matter experts knew their products inside out, but they were mainly used to conversing with their technical counterparts. They worked in virtual silos and thus were likely to miss opportunities to cross-sell the offerings of their new colleagues.

The first job was to crystallise the Chief Executive’s vision of the documents into useable templates which provided both structure and guidance on the aims of the content of each section.

The authors were then brought together for an intense 4-day workshop to flesh out the templates. Performative provided briefings for the authors to orient their thinking in terms of Sales and Customer perspective, use of language, and consistency of style.

As the documents took shape, Performative provided collaborators and reviewers for key sections to influence the content style and consistency of terminology across the document set, challenging technical phraseology to replace it with jargon free information to help customers differentiate the Itec offering from that of other suppliers and competitors.

After the initial drafts were produced during the workshops, Performative then took on the role of editor to maintain the sales/customer orientation and consistency within and between the documents, prior to their release to the Itec staff.

On-boarding and induction

Itec already had an established induction programme focused on its recruitment of technical apprentices, but it was not suited to the task of introducing the cadre of new account managers to the wider organisation. Hence we:

  • Designed comprehensive on-boarding and induction programmes for delivery primarily by the customer’s management team
  • Undertook delivery of sales related aspects of the induction programme.

Comprehensive account management and sales L&D programme

Custom designed and delivered by Performative specifically to meet the needs of Itec and the planned mode of operation of the account managers. Some highlights of the training included:

  • Teaching the principles of “Empathy Styles” selling, psychology and body language
  • Creation of a structured account management methodology including research and profiling techniques
  • Sales skills such as; the effective use of the telephone, making appointments, conducting first meetings and delivering presentations
  • Territory, account and deal planning processes including qualification and quantification
  • Relationship management
  • Sales pipeline and forecasting process
  • In addition to the classroom activities we also undertook one-on-one coaching for the account managers at several points during the programme.

Following the training programme, periods of self-study and practical work the account managers went through a process of accreditation which included written and practical examinations of the knowledge they had acquired. We designed and adjudicated all some of the exams. All passed the first level accreditation and they moved into the full role of working with their portfolio of customers. Further accreditation levels will be undertaken later.

Additional activities

In support of the Chief Executive, as he moulded the organisation into its new identity and culture, we provided:

  • Initial design of the compensation scheme for the Account Managers
  • Design of the Account Management process and responsibilities
  • Design of the Account Managers’ reporting process
  • Design and delivery of the support and coaching programme for the Director of Account Management

Following successful completion of the main programme we continue to provide reactive and pro-active support as required.

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Courtesy of Microsoft & Bing

21st Century Sales – don’t let the myths stifle your success

Courtesy of Microsoft & BingThe overarching myth is that selling in the 21st century is in some significant way different to the approaches of earlier times. You only have to consider the many cold calls made to your home phone or the PPI/accident compensation texts to your mobile to realise the worst techniques of the past are still alive and kicking albeit under a different disguise.

Then there are the “new” approaches to selling that you might find under titles such as; Modern Selling, The Challenger Sale and Sales Enablement. When you explore these ‘new’ phenomena you will probably find they simply describe how professional selling has always been conducted. Current technology has certainly provided new tools but we question whether technology enables you to be more effective and productive, and if it always make doing business easier?

This post will help anyone struggling with questions such as; “is the B2B sales person a dying breed?”, “is the cold call dead?”, “what is best in 2015; in-bound or outbound marketing?”, and “can technology solve all of my marketing and sales issues?

Myth One – buyers have changed significantly

We have written on a number of occasions about the savvy well informed buyers that many consider a significant feature of the commercial landscape of the 21st century. You know them; they are 57% of the way through the buying journey before engaging with suppliers. Belief in this fact has led to a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’; if your sales people don’t put in the effort to engage early then of course the buyer has no choice but to make the journey towards a decision on their own. When the buyer eventually needs to contact suppliers they will have made many decisions for themselves leaving the suppliers in a position that all they can do is react and comply.

However, the evidence is that sales people who do engage early in the buyer’s journey, or better still before it commences, are seen as a valuable resource to the buyer and they will get a bigger share of the business that is going to be on offer.

Debunking this myth is the foundation to dealing with the others.

Myth Two – B2B sales people are a dying breed

They certainly are if your go-to-market strategy is based on the assumption that the buyer will come to you when they are ready. In this case all you will need are good sales order clerks empowered to give discount and offer special terms to secure the business. However if you take into account the fact that 75% of the orders for new business go to companies who engage early then you need well equipped B2B sales people who will be out hunting for you if you don’t wish to be left scrapping over the remaining 25%.

To make sure you are out there fighting for all 100% of the business you need sales people who are able to engage early and ideally before the prospect even realises they have a problem to solve. Sales people need to be equipped to help the prospect through the awareness stage which includes the vital process of education; when the prospect needs to learn about the various solutions that might be appropriate.

Fresh off the press research from SiriusDecisions states that B2B buyers want to interact with sales people at every stage of the buying journey. The findings “challenge the common industry view that b-to-b sales representatives’ roles and importance are declining due to a disintermediation by digital buying behaviors.”

Myth Three – The cold call is dead!

The truth is, the cold call was never alive. What has changed is that people are now very unwilling to take unsolicited calls, which generates that feeling that the approach is dead. However, even when times were different and most people did accept unsolicited calls, they rarely produced anything of value. This is a classic example of mistaken identity where activity was assumed to equate to progress.

Unsolicited calls are still a very useful tool in the prospecting kit bag but those calls need to be well researched and informed by the facts. When the call is made the caller must demonstrate an understanding of the individual prospect’s business, potential business issues and the state of the prospect’s industry. The caller needs to be able to educate the prospect based on their wider general knowledge of the issues at hand and the potential solutions.

Myth Four – outbound marketing is dead; inbound is the only way

Our view is that some businesses will do better from outbound, others from inbound but most will benefit from a blend.

In a recent conversation with Michael Packman of Nexus B2B he explained how their research had led them to create a blended or, as he calls it, a hybrid solution which provides both outbound and inbound in the appropriate proportions for each customer. Michael runs what I consider to be one of the very best outbound lead generation businesses so I feel very confident in his findings.

When you drill below the surface of this issue, outbound vs. inbound, another issue is exposed. Although people talk about inbound marketing replacing outbound marketing a subtle change occurs in the expectations where “inbound” not only replaces outbound marketing it also replaces the need to sell. If this is what you want then there is no issue but beware of the hidden change that could occur.

So we bust two myths for the price of one; inbound will generally be most effective when blended with outbound marketing, and inbound marketing is not a substitute for selling.

Myth Five – technology can satisfy all my marketing and selling needs

I am no Luddite, in fact I have worked in the IT industry since 1969, and I have made extensive use of technology in my own businesses since I first started in 1980. I was sending e-mails to selected customers from 1982 and commencing in the same year I provided a cloud (wasn’t called that then) service to companies with mobile sales forces.

So, if not a Luddite what am I? Answer; sceptical. Having mainly worked on the supplier side of technology I know only too well that we can get carried away with the claims we sometimes make. Most technology companies are fundamentally genuine in the claims they make but all are commercial businesses who need to make sales to survive and it is this simple commercial fact that sometimes applies a rosy tinted filter to reality.

In the interests of keeping this short; technology can be extremely useful in marketing and fairly useful in selling. In certain circumstances, technology can all but replace the need for human involvement e.g. when you are ordering something on line. However in B2B sales human-to-human engagement is essential and some of the reasons why have been covered earlier.

Don’t be seduced that technology can do it all and don’t be seduced by the cost argument – technology may be cheaper than human beings but when you find the orders are not flowing as expected the outcome might prove very costly.

Myth Six – technology enables my sales people to be more effective

Always? As a result of technology your sales people can access huge amounts of data both internally and externally about your prospective customers and their markets. All very empowering! However, we see a lot of cases where sales people are literally swamped in data.

Before making a call they check; CRM, LinkedIn, Social Media, Google, credit rating agencies, maybe Companies House and they will typically access internal documents such as call reports. After the call they send a meeting invite, populate the calendar, send a confirmation e-mail, prepare some material for the meeting (perhaps a PowerPoint), and check with marketing for case studies and other sales enablement material. Then a further set of activities follow on from the meeting, and so it continues.

All of this activity looks like work but the ultimate test is whether it makes the sales people more effective and productive or just busy.

Technology should be used sparingly to empower the sales people to make better calls and conduct better meetings but ensure the proportions are right. If your sales people are spending more time in front of the screen than they are on the phone or in the customers’ offices the proportion is probably wrong. The other thing to ensure is perfect alignment between the needs of the sales function and what marketing is delivering to support it. All too often sales people have to spend time re-working things to suit their needs.

A myth is defined as something fictional or unproven
– not a great foundation for business success!

The ACD of buying behaviour

Many organisations that we work with struggle as their customers often prevaricate when it comes to simply saying yes we will go ahead and buy what you have proposed. Although not the preferred answer, even a no would be acceptable because it is at least certain. What none of us likes is the uncertainty of will they won’t they.

Understanding what happens in someone’s mind when considering whether or not to buy can help the seller both to understand why there might be a delay in the decision and more usefully what can be done to minimise or eradicate that delay. The three main stages in a buying process are Awareness, Consideration and Decision. The solution to eradicate or at least minimise delayed decisions can be found in the earlier stages of awareness and consideration. Waiting until the prospect has entered the decision phase to influence how it might proceed is too late and the seller has, in the main, become a passenger in the process. That said, many “purchasers” don’t have a process for making the decision so there is nothing obvious the seller can do to apply influence.

By the way; I am of course fully aware that the majority of people reading this wear both hats; sellers and buyers and understand the ACD of buying behaviour can benefit all.

Looking at the three stages and what happens in them gives a valuable insight to what sellers can do to influence buying behaviour. The messages in the article are designed to be of equal use regardless of which hat you may be wearing; seller or buyer – no one wants to waste time prevaricating over a decision any more than they would wish to wait for that decision.

Awareness

This is the point or, more likely, series of events that makes a prospect aware that they have a problem that may need to be solved. Imagine; you have had an occasional mystery noise from the car but ignored it. Then there comes the rainy night when it won’t start but eventually it does, then it does it again, then it runs badly in hot weather. Eventually you will conclude that this series of issues might just be clustering together into a real problem. You are now aware.

The above scenario is common in a domestic setting but there is another more common scenario in the business world. As business leaders and other decision makers typically have a multitude of competing issues to consider, the process of issues “clustering” to create an actual problem may take quite some time. This is where the role of a sales person or account manager can provide a valuable service to the prospective buyer. The sales person who understands the industry that the prospective buyer is in will be familiar with the typical issue and problems of that industry so can play a valuable part in raising awareness and in many cases before the problem stage is reached.

Consideration

LI Choice
This will include; can I ignore it or must I fix it, when does it need to be fixed by, can I fix it myself, how much will it cost to fix/ignore, how will I finance it, what impact will the decision have on the business? There will be many other factors especially when making complex business decisions or potentially costly personal ones.

We have written in previous articles about the research which suggests that a “buyer”, especially for a complex or bespoke solution, will on average be 57% of the way through the buying journey before they engage with potential suppliers. We have also publicised another piece of research that found some 75% of new business orders go to suppliers who engage before the potential buyer has reached the 25% mark in their buying journey. We have drawn a number of conclusions from these two sets of findings:

  • The supplier who engages early will be in pole position to win more of the available business
  • The suppliers who wait for the buyer to engage them will be left fighting against pre-conceived ideas, or just fighting over the crumbs and in most cases will need to compromise on price and margin to win the work
  • The buyer who engages early benefits from the suppliers’ knowledge and experience to inform the process of consideration
  • The buyer who engages with suppliers late in the process may fail to get the optimum solution as the engagement process typically focuses on price not value. Critically, they may also address only symptoms and miss the root cause leading to new symptoms popping up. (the operation was successful, but the patient died)

Most cases of prevaricating buyers are found in late engagement scenarios. This is bad for both sides; the buyer is delaying solving the problem which often causes waste (time, money and other resources) and the seller does not have a clear picture of future revenue as the sales forecast cannot be relied upon.

Decision

Hopefully this won’t offend too many of our readers but most people are poor at decision making. The cause is the lack of a systematic process for evaluating and selecting a solution. That process should mainly focus on clinical matters such as; performance, reliability, quality, service levels, etc. It is also natural that the process will include an element of emotion as the decision maker will be concerned about the consequences of making a mistake and this leads to risk aversion behaviour driven by fear, uncertainty and doubt.

A common mistake made by both sellers and buyers is to try to mitigate the risk by doing a financial deal. How odd – “I am uncertain about your offer but if you make it cheaper I will go ahead”. Who is kidding who!? How can a lower price suddenly make a risky purchase acceptable? Similarly, how can a lower price make something that was not ideal for the job at a higher price an acceptable option?

The decision process is always smoother and more predictable, for both parties, when the initial engagement point occurs early in the buying cycle. One key reason is this gives more time for the parties to work together which means more time to test the potential relationship; principles, ethics, capability, delivery mentality, etc. It also allows time for the seller to meet and understand everyone who will be involved in the decision and for the parties to work out a mutually acceptable decision making process.

Another important factor in decision making arising from early engagement is that it gives suppliers time to understand the real problem, not just the symptoms, which in turn enables them to offer the correct solution. Some of the more cynical amongst us might consider this allows the suppliers to have too much influence over the thinking of the buyer to which I would say the buyer always has the ultimate sanction – “NO!”

In summary:

  • Engage early – this is good for both seller and buyer but is more likely to be driven by sellers.
  • Engage widely – both sides need to meet all key people who will be involved in the delivery and operation of the solution as part of the process of deciding the best fit for a successful implementation.
  • For the buyer – choose your preferred supplier before starting to look at solutions; someone that understands your problem and empathises with its impact on your business. A key reason leading to delayed or failed decisions stems from confusing the selection of the supplier with the decision over the product or solution. The initial effort should focus on building the working relationship including how and when a decision will be made.
  • For the seller – decide who you want as your customers and proactively approach them. By all means accept introductions and referrals but beware of compromising your market strategy – you don’t have to say yes to everything!
  • Once the parties have agreed they wish to work together then they can focus jointly on designing and building the solution. This can now be done from a position of mutual trust and interest which is the best way to get the optimum solution while controlling the risks.

Get the ACD right and the decision will flow naturally from the process with a contract close behind!

Key to Success, image courtesy of Microsoft.