Welcome back to our blog series on the Eight Essentials for Scaling Sales Success. Last week, we discussed the importance of understanding your organization’s ability to execute the strategy. While identifying your sales organization’s capabilities to execute on the strategy is very important, it is just as important to identify its limitations. An organization’s success in executing the strategy will go only as far as its weaknesses will allow. This brings us to our fifth essential for scaling sales success: Closing Capability Gaps.
Everyone who has worked in sales has experienced times where there were gaps in the organization’s capabilities. For example, I recently worked with a customer who was transitioning their sales approach from a transactional, territory focused model to a more strategic, account focused model. This organizations’ sales force was accustomed to opportunistically working transactional deals, often identified through RFPs. The goal of the new model was to drive higher value opportunities through earlier and deeper customer engagement. The challenge this created was that the sales teams didn’t have:
- A process for targeting and developing accounts
- The strategic selling skills to develop higher value opportunities
- The executive relationship development skills to build ‘high and wide’ relationships within their target customers
Like many challenges within sales, the world of sports offers an excellent model for closing capability gaps. Imagine a professional baseball player who is struggling to hit the ball. Once the hitting coach has identified the player’s problem, he must educate the player on what he is doing wrong and offer a solution to correct it. However, simply pointing out a flaw and offering a solution will not ensure the player will agree or conform, especially when the player has been swinging the bat a certain way for many years. The hitting coach must also act on his job title and coach the player to swing the bat a new way. Then the player will have continual instruction and reinforcement from the hitting coach until the new swing doesn’t feel so new anymore.
Just as a professional baseball player is hesitant to change his swing, so is a sales organization hesitant to change or add something new to their approach. Therefore, you must:
- Educate them on what it is they need to do and how you want them to do it. This can be done informally through team meetings or through more formal training sessions. Make sure that educational opportunities focus on: why the new approach is important, what you expect from the teams and how the teams should execute on the new approach.
- Coach them along the way. Have regular check-ins and meetings to ensure that they are progressing with the new action. Frequent direction and feedback will help ensure that they learn the new action, apply it and close the previous capability gap.
In the example I discussed earlier, the customer first identified the sales reps that demonstrated the right attributes and experience to develop into strategic sellers. They then developed a comprehensive account business plan that detailed the process for strategically targeting and developing these key accounts. The next phase will be a program designed to build and strengthen their executive relationship development skills within their target customers. Each of these educational elements is also supported by a dedicated coaching effort to inspect and reinforce the expected changes. Utilizing education and coaching in combination is allowing this organization to close its existing capability gaps and drive their new sales approach. In the coming months, I am very excited to see this team reap the rewards of this change.
Completing the process of educating and coaching your sales organization through their weaknesses will help to close the capability gaps that are preventing you from successfully implementing the new strategy. Check back next week as we discuss the sixth essential to scaling sales success: Drive Momentum Through Your Managers.