Sales and sales strategy is where I come from. It will always hold a special place for me. It's also "the last mile" for organizations. I see, too often, companies that are getting 80-90% of it right only to falter when it comes to implementing their sales approach and methodology. If you want to scale growth, you must master a methodology, and in this episode, I do one of my favorite things - dispel popular myths to provide a no-BS perspective on what works.
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[PDF] Research from Florida State University
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We’ve had a request! People are wanting to know how progress is being made on the pause button. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Doug has tasked Jess with building a pause button. It still doesn’t exist. Maybe when Jess doesn’t have to herd cats everyday.
New research from Florida State University put out findings around sales methodologies. Being that Doug is a big time salesperson, we had to bring this to the show to get his insights and opinions.
What do you think a sales methodology is?
It’s the modus operandi; it’s the approach. It’s the set of rules, the activities, the order, the protocols, the deliverables that you go through as you progress through the sales process. The sales process is the value chain. The methodology is the how. This isn’t how the report talks about sales methodology.
The report talks about three methodologies - high value sellers, relational sellers and provoking sellers.
Let’s take a step back. The research was to define what the best sales methodology is. Doug is pretty sure that a company sponsored this because they wanted to investigate what is the best method. They decided to coin this term, sales agility. Their finding was that there is no one best methodology, the best performing salespeople practice all methodologies. This is what made Doug’s head hurt because you can’t call those methodologies.
Is challenger sales the best sales? The book this comes from is The Challenger Sale.
The finding of Challenger Sale was that they went in with no clear hypothesis. They wanted to identify the clear drivers. It was a big sales research project. As they started putting data together, they started seeing patterns emerge and they identified five different archetypes of sales approaches. They also found that the top sellers got the challenger model. Keep in mind this data was from very high, complex sales and the data was very different for simple sales. What you’re selling is an important element of research.
In this research from the university, high value is two different things. You can’t say provoked comes from challenger. Doug says this because the word provoker started getting used and a provoker approach came out before challenger came out.
A lot of people misunderstood the challenger and took offense at it because people don’t want to buy from jerks. Nowhere in the book does it say to be a jerk. If you find people that have really good command, they could be a jerk and take command but you don’t maintain command with people that don’t have relationship skills. You can’t be a good challenger if you aren’t relational.
Doug also listened to a video on the report for today's discussion that mentioned they were able to replicate the challenge research which he assumes leads to better outcomes. His question is was the research that the best salespeople challenged and we’re also good people to work with? The problem with this is that there’s an element where we’re so reductive that we become useless.
What is meant by this?
No disrespect to Florida State, but Doug doesn’t understand what this research is trying to say. The idea of trying to create new terms of sales agility, when in reality the top performing salespeople are chameleon-like. We knew that 50 years ago. That’s not helpful nor a methodology. That doesn’t get into process or progressive milestones or generating outcomes.
What is interesting is the underlying methodology that could be similar with two different processes. The methodology is getting into the underlying how which has an operational element to it or it just becomes philosophy. Doug’s problem with much of sales wisdom is that it’s religious philosophy. And Doug loves philosophy because it gets into the why.
Good philosophy brings in depth and meaning to what you’re doing.
You have to look at this from two lenses: the individual performer and the organization. If you look at the bulk of the sales training industry, they are in the business of trying to create top performing salespeople. That’s not the same as enabling an organization to build a great sales organization. You don’t build a great sales organization by having individually great salespeople.
You need to understand that no matter what you do, your average salesperson will be your average salesperson. If you put a group of people together and bring their performance together, you’re going to have a top 10% and your average will be your average. From an individual standpoint you should be striving to be great from an organizational standpoint. Here’s the bad news, the likelihood and highest probability outcome for an average salesperson is they’ll be an average salesperson . Will some become great salespeople? Yes. Can you predict who these people are? No.
As Doug was reading through this report he thought that the report was trying to take a very paint by numbers approach to sales coaching. And parts of it might be true, but what good does it do for me was a recurring question.
If you have a good, robust sales organization, you’re going to find that you have a top 10-20%. You’re going to have outlier reps that emerge. All the things you do organizationally like coaching or training will have at best a moderate impact on your great salespeople. With those people you’re going to bring less process and less methodology because it doesn’t make much of a difference. They’re the people that are more likely to break the rules than others.
The sweet spot for sales organizations is what you are doing for the 25th percentile rep to the 60-65th percentile rep to love their performance curve. What you’ll find here is you’ll gain far more juice for the squeeze.
For the past 70 years we’ve treated sales from a behavioral point of view and with more research it’s showing that it’s system and structure. This means salespeople get far too much credit when things work well and they get far and far too much blame when they don’t. The RevOps element of this is structure and approach is two thirds to 80% off the outcome. Does that not mean that the person doesn’t matter. Of course that doesn’t mean that, but if you want to unlock your genius you can’t think about your how.
You have to embrace the complexity. You have to accept that you control part of the process. You don’t control it all.
This research was positioned and presented like there’s this interesting, unique, insightful research that people are going to eat up and that isn’t the case.
- You don’t build a great organization by making great individual salespeople.
- Two thirds to 80% of what impacts the outcomes isn’t talked about enough.
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