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A winning sales culture in a complex world

10 May, 2017

The B2B marketplace is changing due to the globalization and digitalization of the business environment across all industries. In parallel, the transparency of information and increased competition make customers demand more complex services to solve their problems, in search of a consultative approach to sales instead of more ‘traditional’ product offerings.

As a response, sales organizations are forced to establish a sales approach to manage this complex environment. This should include areas such as how to manage high risk; ability to provide, advise and tailor solutions; high demand of resources and long sales cycles, all of which are typical characteristics of complex sales.

Sales organizations may have established a structure for complex sales (e.g processes, governance and infrastructure) and trained their sales teams. However, to successfully embed a complex sales approach, a supporting sales culture needs to be established. But what are the key characteristics of a culture that ensures success?    

Winning characteristics of a complex sales organization

We believe there are four key characteristics of successful sales organizations in complex sales. These can be used as indicators of whether your organization is positioned well to win in a complex marketplace.

1. All customers are not equally important

If you treat all your clients the same, you may put yourself at risk. Most companies have a group of customers that are more important than others, even your company. The Pareto rules usually apply to most of us, where 80% of a company´s revenue is generated from 20 % of the customers. It is therefore crucial to identify your most important customers and ensure they get the service and attention they need and deserve.

2. We often choose to ignore or walk away from a business opportunity

Complex sales require large sales efforts at high risk and cost. Successful complex sales organizations make a proactive decision to walk away from leads and opportunities where the sales organizations are not well positioned or do not have full insight into the stakeholders or buying process. Making these proactive decisions ensures efforts and capabilities are focused on opportunities with the best hit rate and the highest impact on sales targets. 

3. We always strive to involve the customers as much as possible

The customer buying process has changed; today customers explore and evaluate options and solutions themselves, before engaging potential suppliers. The challenge is therefore to influence the choice of direction and customer buying criteria in the sales organization´s favor. A winning sales culture always strives to engage customers in the early phases of their buying journey. By offering advice and promote themselves as thought leaders within their field, sales organizations are invited by the customers in the early stages, before any competitor. From this point, the sales organizations invest in the deal and develop the solution together with the customer. This approach will position the sales organization in the best possible way to win the deal.    

4. We always strive to meet the "right" customers

With customer needs for more complex solutions, the number of ways to solve the needs increases. Few companies can offer a portfolio that includes all types of solutions and at the same time sell them with suitable profit margins. Instead, successful sales organizations clearly define the customer needs and requirements they can successfully help solve. Once done, methods and tools are developed and put in practice to identify, attract and engage the “right” customers. By applying this approach, sales organizations ensure suitable customers are attracted to their offerings.

5. We work together to deliver value to the customer

The number of stakeholders involved in the complex sales process is high, and so is the number of functions in the customer organization. This requires the sales representative to pitch offerings not just to the user of the service, but also to purchasing, production, finance, IT etc. Few individuals can do it all, hence sales teams are mobilized to work together to engage the customer and seize the opportunity. Successful complex sales organizations have clear roles and responsibilities in teams with various competences, focusing on product and service, industry, customer, financing etc. This ensures that the sales team can meet the various stakeholders’ requirements and areas of interest. Together the team focus on delivering value to the client throughout the sales process. The more efficient and productive the team work, the bigger their ability to demonstrate added value and the possibility of winning the deal. 

Do you have a winning sales culture?

If your sales organization operates in a complex market, these characteristics can guide you on how to improve your sales culture. Questions to address:

• Do you treat all your customers the same way?

• Do you chase all your leads and opportunities until the customer makes the final decision?

• Do you tend to engage the customer once you have been contacted by them?

• Do you segment the market or customers by industry or size instead of needs and buying behaviour?

• Do you have well functioning sales teams with a common view to deliver value?

If you answered yes to at least one question, there might be scope within your organization to improve and ensure you have a winning sales organization in a complex market. 

Why Ascend?

Ascend knows Sales Excellence and how to drive change and transformation. Our consultants have successfully coached sales leaders and teams to achieve complex sales transformations across several industries. We know it takes the right combination of industrial knowledge, project management skills, value realization capabilities, innovation & creativity as well as people and change management skills to successfully help our clients prepare themselves for the challenging market of today and tomorrow.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to discuss ideas on how to make your change journey a bit less challenging than it already is.

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