Once upon a time, sales organizations had very little organizational structure. Then sales teams discovered the power of sales methodologies. These became de rigueur as sales leaders adopted the idea that there is a ‘best’ way to sell. (Naturally, sales training companies filled the void offering myriad expensive, specialized programs showing the path to sales nirvana.)
Along the way, customer segmentation became a requirement and salespeople changed their selling approach, slicing and dicing customer groups with demographics like industry, size, revenue and so on. Recently, buyer personas have become trendy, requiring lots of specific data around the buyer’s role and motivation, in addition to other demographics. Sales leaders and sales reps everywhere these days have been duly buried in new data, collateral, approaches and so on, as they’ve sought to manipulate these additional nuggets of information into a more fully formed picture of buyer personas. Yet sales performance continues its steady decline.
Here we are, overwhelmed with the sophisticated, expensive tools and selling strategies we’ve purchased for decades, convinced all we need is to identify our ideal kind of buyers, and woo them with our favorite sales process. Success must be close at hand! Except it’s not.
What if I told you that according to the LinkedIn – State of Sales Report by Gong.io Research, 65% of sales reps miss their quota and 34% of newly hired reps leave their companies in 16 months? What are your company’s stats on these two metrics? Companies spent $15B in 2017 on sales technology and training, according to that same report. Why does all this investment appear to be making so little impact on sales organizations? Are your company’s training dollars generating an equally dismal ROI?
And what if I told you that new research conducted by the Florida State University Sales Institute may have hit on a revolutionary explanation for this utter failure of sales process and customer segmentation? And further, that this insight should cause you to completely re-examine your sales training programs?
Here’s the lightning bolt: Personas do not determine successful interactions by reps. But buyer situations do.
Let’s consider a simple selling example that most of us face on a daily basis. John is the head of sales. He is also an avid golf fan and enjoys spending time with his family. John greets his family with a hug or a kiss. At golf events, he high fives. At work, he shakes hands. Why? Because from a very young age, John has observed each situation requires a different way to say hello. Imagine if John hugged his clients or shook hands with his wife. Cringeworthy, right? Sales meetings are no different.
Sales cycles can be long or short. Some buyers have assumptions that should be challenged, and others whose favorable opinions need reinforcement. Some buyers are highly motivated and other are not. Can you honestly name a sales methodology that encompasses all of these scenarios? (If you can, email me!)
This is the future of sales – training agile managers and reps to use methodologies that take into account different buying behaviors. FSU’s Dr. Leff Bonney has shown that one size-fits-all sales methodologies fail 75% of the time. It should, therefore, be clear why it’s unwise to train sellers in a single, rigid sales approach and then expect them to use it in all selling situations.
Well, you can do such a thing, but you shouldn’t expect anything to change! Buyer demographics are not as helpful in making successful sales as finding your company’s unique buying situations and then training your managers and reps on how to use them. Go on, I dare you! Step into the 21st century with a bold, new sales approach.
This VantagePoint blog post originally appeared here in the Selling Power blog.