Anneke Seley, author of Sales 2.0 recently posted an interview on her blog which she conducted with Jon Vander Ark, a co-leader ofMcKinsey’s Sales practice.  (Vander Ark is one of three McKinsey co-authors of Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders.)  Part of Anneke’s interview addresses an important change occurring within the practice of professional sales; this change is commonly referred to as the “Science of Sales.”

In the interview, in response to Anneke’s question on the ‘science vs. art of selling’ debate, Jon makes this observation.

“… the best organizations are investing heavily into the science of selling, adding deep analytical capabilities in sales ops and building more quantitative skills into their sales force.

Jon adds this clarification in response to a visitor’s supplemental question, “Successful selling absolutely involves a mix of science and art. I couldn’t agree more. The relationship part of selling is extremely important. It is also not enough. The current state is that many sales forces are strong on the art and relatively weak on the science.  

In the B2B world, Sales has lost ground with Purchasing over the last 20 years. Purchasing has invested in TCO, LPP, Clean Sheet, and a host of other scientific tools. Unfortunately, Sales hasn’t kept pace.

Now is the time for Sales to complement the art of selling with more a scientific approach, allowing it to win new customers while staying out of the commodity trap.”

For CEOs and Sales Leaders reading this post, there is a clear takeaway for you, which is to prioritize the transformation of your company’s sales model.  This means focusing (at a minimum) on these core areas:

  • Demand Generation
  • Prospect Targeting
  • Messaging / Value Proposition
  • Selling Process
  • Opportunity Management
  • Performance Metrics and Measurement

CEOs – Recognizing a Failing Sales Model

Listed below are five examples of an old-school, “this is the way we’ve always done it” approaches to selling.  If you find these kinds of behaviors in your company then it’s time to get proactive, start asking smart questions of your sales leadership and begin prioritizing the things you need to change.

  1. If you continue allowing Sales to wing it, i.e. escaping personal or team accountability, you will fall further and further behind your numbers.
  2. If your approach to addressing poor sales results is swapping out one short-term, recycled sales leader for the next one, you will keep loosing ground.
  3. If your sales reps continue to function as franchisees – self selecting targets, refusing to prospect and ignoring the CRM and basic reporting requirements – you will not reach your revenue goals.
  4. If Sales maintains distance from the rest of the organization – particularly marketing, finance and delivery – you don’t have a team and these individual units will never reach full potential.
  5. Unless your sales leader is demanding investments in sales analytics, sales operations, marketing automation, process and selling methodology, and training, your team is all about old school selling and they are falling further and further behind.

Now, what to do about it?  Recognizing you have a problem is step number one to recovery, as they say!   If you see signs that your sales model is weakening and increasingly dysfunctional – and you are ready to do something about it – here’s two suggestions.

First, spend time on 3FORWARD’s Insights page.  We post daily links to information by the best B2B sales thinkers, strategists and experts around the industry.  Invest in your education on the trends, best practices and strategies and you will start getting a sense of where your gaps are the greatest.

Next, talk with us about your situation, your goals and your challenges.  We are always glad to be a sounding board for CEOs and Sales Leaders trying to improve their results.   With no office politics to deal with, we will give you an unbiased and objective assessment on where you stand compared to the best in class and suggest steps you can take to begin improving your results.    The only cost is the time you invest in the discussion.

As Jon Vander Ark says, “Now is the time for Sales to complement the art of selling with more a scientific approach, allowing it to win new customers while staying out of the commodity trap.”