If we start from a position of agreeing that as human beings we are all different, then we must also concur that all prospects/customers/clients are also different: In terms of their commercial requirements, they each have a unique set of values, their own way of doing business – and how they expect the buying cycle to be managed. With me so far?
So, with all of this in mind, why is it that some people – many people actually – believe that a “vanilla” or “generic” sales methodology will serve the needs of all? The reality is that there is no single one way to sell – different situations, industries, roles, cultures, etc. require a totally different approach.
Let’s begin by thinking about sales roles. There are effectively three “stages” of a sales cycle, which requires us to recognize that there are actually three identifiable sales functions – or as I prefer to refer to them, “sales phases.”
Phase One: lead generation/prospect attraction.
Phase Two: prospect conversion/closing the deal, and finally,
Phase Three: client/customer retention and development.
We then need to think about the skills needed in each of our phases, because they are completely disparate: For example, when you are working in Phase One, logically you need to be skilled at cold-calling, or email marketing, or referral selling. Most social media pro-activity is also focused on creating incremental opportunities.
During Phase Two, if we follow the “traditional” sales/buying cycle path, we need to qualify the opportunity, create a solution that precisely fits our prospect’s requirements, present that solution, negotiate, and close. That all sounds rather simplistic but we all understand that complex sales can be far more … well complex. Here most sales methodologies come into their own.
Finally, Phase Three. This is the phase where most companies are weakest, preferring to concentrate the majority of their resources on Phase One. Phase Three demands that we have the ability to first build and then develop a robust customer base, which promotes strong two-way loyalty and is founded on a totally symbiotic philosophy. This is what differentiates highly successful companies from the also-rans – and for also-rans, read much less profitable.
So far, I have merely illustrated how out-of-the-box sales team development can never provide a precise solution in terms of skills development. We then need to look at industry/sector specialization. And what about culture? Do we all sell the same wherever we are located in the world? Of course we don’t.
Be assured, one size will never fit all – in fact, it won’t fit many…