It’s a New Decade. Time to End Old Sales Thinking.

Something curious happened in Sales. Without any research into whether it works, sales leaders decided that sellers needed a single set of guidelines to execute. This idea became so ingrained in the sales culture that its perceived as a check box, a must-do in order to improve your sales team’s results. The first “modern” selling approach appeared in 1988, and it was called SPIN (also known as Consultative Selling). However, since then, according to our research, sales methodology training has had the lowest return on investment of any outsourced sales investment.

Despite these dismal results, sales trainers, sales enablement leaders, and sales executives have felt compelled to do something. And without a different path forward, that still usually means implementing a methodology. If your organization had nothing in place when you implemented your current methodology, you probably saw a lift from the training. But it was probably not the ROI expected. And as time has marched on–as the competition for sales budget dollars has exploded–that ROI is probably shrinking instead of improving. Why?

A Different and More Complex Buying Experience

In 1988, the relationship between Sales and Marketing was like when Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People. Marketing was responsible for awareness and branding—such as advertising, offers, and slick brochures. And Sales was the primary source of knowledge for customers and prospects. Everything Sales needed to close a deal could be carried in a briefcase. Imagine that!

But, then things changed. And, we all know the story, or do we? The internet disrupted everything. True. Buyers are now 60% done the buyer journey before they talk to Sales. False.

We would argue that the internet not only disrupted the buying process but also the buyer journey. And, we further argue that the buyer journey isn’t the model that organizations need to consider. Why? They buyer journey is linear, with defined steps to get to close. But the modern buyer experience is non-linear, with the buyer(s) choosing to dip in and out of your content—not to mention everyone else’s–in a way that makes sense to them. And, you can’t map that.

For example, within a single organization, Buyer #1 may know a salesperson in your company and reach out as a first step. Buyer #2 may have met you at an event and subsequently went to your website, while Buyer #3 might have Googled a topic and found you and many other competitors. To make the situation even more chaotic, Buyer #3 is reading high quality, but conflicting, information that is confusing the ever-living heck out of him or her.

The Impact on Sales Training

So, what does this have to do with sales training? In short, everything. Modern buyers expect you to meet them where they are, not where you are. So, your sales team better be prepared to do so. Below, are three recommendations to help:

1. Ditch methodologies and train for buying situations. As you’ve heard us repeatedly say, the results of a multi-year, independent study proves that no methodology wins (or they all do depending on your buying situations). So, if you do not understand the common buying situations in your organization, you cannot understand your buyers. A single methodology is sometimes a hammer for a nail, but often it’s a hammer for a screw. Your top performers already know this. It’s time for the rest of the sales team to understand it, as well.
2. Align Marketing and Sales around your buying situations. Sure, the industry has been preaching Marketing and Sales alignment for years. But we’re still talking about it because most organizations haven’t actually achieved it. The 2019 Sales & Marketing Alignment Report revealed that aligned organizations are “67% more effective at closing deals and 58% more effective at retaining customers”. That should be about all the incentive you need to right the ship in 2020.
3. Don’t forget your sales managers. Two different 2019 surveys showed that training managers will be a priority in 2020. But how you train them matters just as much as how you train your sellers. Top managers are intuitively agile. Plus, the average cost of an underperforming manager is $3.5M per manager, per year. So, training managers to coach to situations through activities is a key for success.

As we welcome you to 2020, we’ll leave you with this quote from a 1923 Ford Motor Company sales training manual:

“Sell the vehicle according to the shape of the prospect’s head. High foreheads leave room for larger development and indicate people who are less likely to resist new ideas.”

Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it is the correct way.

We wish you a prosperous new year and better decade!