There is a battle being fought in B2B sales, fueled by disagreement on how sales organizations should improve their results. One side believes doing so is a matter of increasing efficiency, while the other side believes improvement comes from greater effectiveness.
The side that believes greater efficiency is the right approach looks to technology, sales automation, and marketing automation. They measure time and effort, believing their pain point comes from two little of both. The side that believes the key to improving B2B selling comes from increased effectiveness looks at close rates to gauge the sales force's performance. This side desires to create highly effective salespeople who win at a high rate.
In full disclosure, I am on the side of effectiveness, a perspective I will explain here to bring you to my side on this continuing battle for the heart and soul of sales.
The Case for Efficiency
Those who believe salespeople don't have enough time for selling are right. B2B salespeople spend just over thirty percent of their time in the sales process. No one would argue against the idea that giving them more time to spend with decision-makers would allow them to improve their results.
Even though the sales stacks grow ever larger, there doesn't seem to be an increase in time returned to the sales force. For example, despite the pursuit of efficiency, there hasn't been a remarkable increase in quota attainment. However, there are technologies and resources that return time to the sales force. These include data providers who remove the need for salespeople to research the contacts they need to cold call.
The Case Against Efficiency
There is a case to make against efficiency. First, the sales organizations with the tallest sales stacks would do well to measure the time their sales force spends in front of their computers versus the time they spend in front of B2B buyers. The potential benefits of these tools are balanced by the time it takes to use them. Rather than an advantage, many sales organizations simply break even as far as their sales force’s time is concerned.
Second, the sales organizations that have employed automated prospecting sequences have made it nearly impossible for salespeople to get prospective clients to open their emails. The tools that allow companies to automate connecting on LinkedIn and send a pitch less than a second later have made it difficult for real salespeople to connect with their qualified leads.
Third, and most important is that much of the emphasis on efficiency ignores the fact that salespeople still to create value for their prospects in the sales conversation. Most sales organizations don’t have value-creation strategies outside of their products and services, making it difficult for the B2B sales teams to close deals. Many lack a sales coaching system, which is just one tool to help salespeople develop business acumen that translates as value for clients.
The Case for Effectiveness
Would it be possible for a salesperson with nothing more than a phone, a legal pad, and a pen (even one that isn't a Mont Blanc) to win a new client? Imagine you have stripped every tool that the efficiency side extolls. Is it possible to acquire a first meeting, engage in the sales conversation, create value for the client, and create a preference to buy from that salesperson?
Would you believe that armed with all the tools designed to improve their results, a salesperson who has been given back their time could still fail? Could this salesperson still have an exceedingly low win rate and still not meet their quota?
The answer to all of these questions is without a doubt yes. This illustrates that the dominant variable in a salesperson's results is their effectiveness. The salesperson walks into their prospective client's facility by themselves. They handle the sales conversation and their sales process all alone. They either create value and win a deal or they fail to create value and lose to a more effective salesperson.
There is evidence that B2B sales training improves results, as does leadership training for sales managers. Rather than building up your sales stack, you are better off with a set of effective B2B sales strategies that allows your salespeople to hit their targets. You can also improve effectiveness by hiring salespeople that match your B2B job description.
The Case Against Effectiveness
If there is a case against effectiveness, the gist of the argument would be that it takes a lot of time and effort to build a world-class, high-performing sales team. The underlying belief shared by some sales leaders is that some salespeople are better than others, something they accept as a truth. This is true even when they invest in sales enablement.
The side that isn't interested in effectiveness might tell you it is easier and faster to employ tools to increase revenue. Those who believe that efficiency will save them will tell you they have more activity, even if a good bit of it is automation.
I am not a Luddite and, like you, I use many technologies, but I also worry about productivity and efficiency. I acknowledge that many tools for improving efficiency are outstanding, and at the same time, I worry about salespeople wasting their time.
My primary interest is how effective a salesperson can be when they are across the table from their clients, where the decision is being made. Another interest concerns the interactions between sales leaders and their sales force. The reason I am on the effectiveness side is because there are no substitutes for these interactions or for the interpersonal skills that create rapport and develop relationships and trust that are necessary to win deals.
If you are set on scaling up sales, it's important to get the order right. The first thing you should do is build an effective sales approach. Only when you have optimized your sales process and approach does it make sense to scale. It is a mistake to start with scaling just any approach.
Efficiency and effectiveness are two sides of the same coin in B2B sales. Those who focus on efficiency alone may not have the desired results, but those who focus on effectiveness without considering efficiency may not have the resources to scale up their sales. The key is finding the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness to maximize sales results.