Welcome to the first newsletter of 2022. If you are a sales leader, a sales manager, a salesperson, or in some other role where you are responsible for revenue growth, your number one priority in 2022 should be sales effectiveness. The greater your effectiveness, the better your results. The opposite is also true: the less effective you are, the worse your results.
Dozens of distractions might seem to make some meaningful contribution to your overall sales results and contribute to revenue growth, especially technologies that allow a sales force to do some specific task. In 2021, for instance, I watched two companies prioritize setting up Salesforce.com, ultimately to their detriment. They invested hours of their sales force's time in meetings and cleaning up data, taking them out of the field for weeks on end.
It is always a mistake to believe that buying a new scoreboard will somehow improve your score. The only way to improve your results is to improve how you play the game.
Why 20th-Century Sales Approaches Fail
The sales approaches created, taught, and trained in the 20th century were right for that environment, a time when there was greater certainty and less rapid change in our business environments. Much of the time, we try to fight today’s wars with yesterday’s tactics, even when they’re inadequate and even harmful. The older your approach, the less likely it is to be ineffective, i.e. less valuable to your client.
The oldest of these legacy approaches would have you withhold anything that your prospective client might register as consultative insights or advice. Indeed, that’s the point: legacy strategists believe that the information disparity provides a sales advantage, forcing clients to buy what you sell before they can learn what you know. This approach is fear-based, not service-based, and you’d have to try hard to find an approach less suited for 21st-century sales.
Most surviving legacy approaches are built on some variation of solutions selling, a large part of it found in Neil Rackham's work. No one had a greater impact on how I think about sales than Rackham, as I used his model faithfully when I started in sales. While there are still valuable principles, solution selling has been completely commoditized. The predictable pattern of "problem," "pain," and “solution” gives decision-makers, decision-shapers, stakeholders, and buyers an experience eerily similar to watching stale reruns on basic cable—without being able to turn off the TV.
Even the most ardent fans of nostalgia wouldn’t pretend that our economy and business environment has stayed static for close to sixty years. So why would you expect a sales approach to stay fresh and effective for decades on end?
A 21st-Century Approach for the 21st Century
It's incredibly important to understand how sales works. A salesperson calls a prospective client and asks them for a meeting, often failing to secure that meeting on the first attempt. When the salesperson can acquire a meeting, most of the time, they meet with the client alone. Different clients will find different meeting content valuable, of course. But no client ever asks the salesperson what CRM they use or what technologies populate their sales stack, things that some sales leaders believe will magically improve their effectiveness and lead to revenue growth.
Instead, the client hopes that the salesperson sitting across from them can help them understand why what used to work for them can no longer produce the same results. They also hope that the salesperson can provide them with a way to make sense of their environment and find ways to improve their results. Those outcomes were rarely necessary in 20th-century sales, so they were rarely taught. But today, asking a B2B client about their problem so you can pitch your solution doesn't create the value they need from you.
A generation of salespeople are being left behind because they are not being provided an effective approach. Worse, many are not getting the training, coaching, and professional development that would improve their sales effectiveness.
Sales Effectiveness and You
Sales effectiveness is a measurement of how valuable your clients find the sales conversation. The more valuable the conversation, the greater your effectiveness. Having a non-valuable sales conversation will prompt a client to discontinue the conversation with one salesperson and keep trying to find someone who can help them decide for their company and their future results. The true result of your effectiveness, then, is found in your results. A high win rate is evidence of effectiveness, precisely because you created enough consistent value to earn your client’s business.
Your first and most important initiative in 2022 should be increasing your effectiveness. There is nothing that will improve your results more than improving the sales conversations you have with your prospective clients. Whatever the century, the salespeople who are most effective in the sales conversation win more deals, creating the requisite value for their clients. If you focus those conversations on addressing last century’s client needs, you’ll continue to struggle to command your client's time, let alone win their business.
Make 2022 the Year of Sales Effectiveness!