GoToCustomer – let’s discuss, how this approach can lead to simplicity!
GoToCustomer is first and foremost a consequent way of thinking and designing your sales system with the customers at the core.
The customers are your central design point. Thinking this way, thinking GoToCustomer, is the most important prerequisite, before you even start to design any kind of framework, processes or enablement services.
A GoToCustomer framework is your foundation, especially in a complex sales environment. The customer’s journey is your design point for all enablement and coaching services. All seller/buyer related interactions are mapped to the customer’s journey with clear milestones. All internal decisions, every sales organizations has to make (e.g. opportunity assessments, resource allocation, delivery checks etc.) are also mapped to the customer’s journey – not the other way around.
It sounds simple. And in fact, it is. But to get there is hard work. It requires consequent, thoughtful execution and change management.
Executing a GoToCustomer strategy based on such a framework can become a challenging endeavor, depending on your organization’s culture.
“We need specific content for specific sales roles”, “content for trainings is completely different”. “I have to create this content, it’s on my check list” and the list goes on and on. I cannot remember how often I got those requests, from many different groups. They have all one element in common: They refer to internal design points, such as sales roles, check lists and products. They don’t refer to the customer. For me, it seems to be an “inside-out muscle memory”.
You can start to work immediately on those requests, which will put you in a reactive enablement role, reinforcing the current state, but not really executing your strategy. The second way is more challenging, but it will lead you toward your goal: executing your GoToCustomer strategy. Discuss these requests with the relevant stakeholders in your organization and develop a deep understanding on the underlying, real problems. Change people’s perspective in these conversations from inside-out to outside-in: What’s the sales outcome, people want to achieve, at which stage of the customer’s journey with which set of stakeholders?
Over time, you will develop a structured questionnaire how to deal with those requests, and how to inspire people to change their perspective to outside-in. Additionally you will identify the root causes of these requests: Maybe, the sales roles are not properly mapped to the customer’s journey. Maybe, you have marketing teams that have to follow a “one size fits all” checklist. Maybe, the trainings and content teams don’t work closely enough together, to be able to adjust their efforts to the customer’s journey, etc.
The bottom line is: People have functional missions. You need their functional expertise – but during execution, not for the design.
- The design perspective has to be the same for all teams: The customer’s journey.
- The execution perspective is based on the design perspective
- GoToCustomer drives efficiency and effectiveness at the same time: You will get rid of unnecessary enablement services and sales people will be more focused on the services that really matter, to make them successful at the customer.
GoToCustomer means simplicity.
Achieving simplicity is hard, but at the end, it’s beautiful.
This post was published initially in a column version @ TopSalesWorld,
This post was published first @ TopSalesWorld – August Magazine.
Picture this – a sculpture from Michelangelo and a sculpture from a craftsman! In both cases, a lot of knowledge, skills, experience and attitude on how to work with marble or bronze are necessary. One produces sculptures, the other creates a piece of art. Isn’t the difference something that makes Michelangelo’s sculpture more meaningful, isn’t it the “je ne sais quoi” that’s touching people and they cannot say why?
Let’s define, what we are talking about: Science is defined as “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject” and craftsmanship as “the quality of design and work shown in something made by hand”. When it comes to art, we should build on Seth Godin’s definition: “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.”
Isn’t that perfect for selling?
Selling is based on e.g. knowledge, skills, talent, experience and attitude. Knowledge covers e.g. knowing the customers and their challenges, knowing the own capabilities, knowing sales processes and selling methodologies. Knowledge is the foundation of what and how we are selling. Skills are the ability to do something well. Then, it’s about talent and attitude. If people have more talent regarding certain skills, they will develop mastery with ease, if their attitude is accordingly. Not only in sales, the own attitude is where it all begins. Additionally, selling means experience, intuition, gut feeling and the list goes on… We are talking about tangible and intangible things.
Now, let’s look at different selling scenarios:
- Transactional: Let’s recap the crafted sculpture, a book, a software license, or a well-defined service. This kind of business is processed with inside sales teams, on line and often – without sales. But with customer service (see also Dan Pink’s “To Sell Is Human”). The customers drive this process, they find everything they need on line. Maybe, they contact the customer service hotline more often than the sales team. It’s a standardized, very efficient, optimized, sequenced process. In this sales scenario, we are talking more about science and craftsmanship, not so much about art.
- Complex: Let’s look at an outsourcing deal. The customer’s stakeholders may all have the same challenge to solve, but they usually have different responsibilities and different view points how to get there, and they are measured differently. Even though these stakeholders analyzed a lot on line, very often, they are more confused than they would ever admit. Now, a sales person can create a lot of value by engaging with the stakeholders very early, ideally before the problem occurred or they are aware of the problem’s impact. That’s about sharing insights how to solve such a challenge, why they have to change now, to achieve their desired outcomes. Value creation from a sales perspective is also to provide context, to put things into perspective and to create a shared vision of success, a buying vision, a big picture, the whole stakeholder landscape can agree on. What makes the difference in the buyer’s eyes? The creativity, the passion, the empathy, the commitment, the attitude of the sales person, the value that was created so far for the buyers – all intangible things. Art makes the difference, but based on a solid foundation of science and craftsmanship.
Let’s sum it up:
- Transactional selling: There is way more science and craftsmanship than art, due to the fact, that there is no longer an asymmetry between buyer and sellers. Success factors are efficient processes to create most effective results. Art is just icing on the cake.
- Complex selling: Science and craftsmanship are the foundation, but art is the critical success factor in this scenario. It’s not about detailed processes and check lists, but about customer journey oriented milestones and core principles, that empower sales people and their managers in complex situations, and keep them accountable for their decisions and outcomes. Art in this context is creativity, imagination, bravery, boldness, passion – all the intangible skills and talents and a certain attitude of a sales person to own and to fight for the customer’s outcomes.
What does it mean for sales enablement?
In a transactional sales system, the world is complicated, but not complex and enablement is focused on science and craftsmanship. In a complex sales system, science and craftsmanship are a foundation, but enablement has to achieve more – to equip artists to make a real difference for the customer. So, enablement in a transactional environment is focused on scalable efficiency, but a complex sales system requires more, it requires also scalable learning to make a difference.
- Sales content, based on content management framework: In a transactional sales system, the content supports standardized product and services, mapped to customer challenges, tailored to buyer profiles – and can be automated in structured play books along the sales process, stage by stage. The need to customize content is low, it’s already tailored to the defined predictable number of typical buyer roles.In a complex sales system, content tailoring can get very complex along the customer’s journey, telling the story from the customer’s perspective and in different vertical colors. Content for different “why change now” scenarios is critical for success, tailored for a different set of stakeholders to create a shared vision of success.
- Skill development: In a complex sales system, there are many more sales roles to be equipped than in a transactional sales system. Also, the focus is different: products and solutions are only a foundation. People in a complex sales system need business acumen, investment rather than efficiency thinking as wellas principles how to navigate a complex customer stakeholder network, how to analyze the customer’s specific challenges, how to create a shared vision and how to map the own capabilities to specific situations.
To sum it up – enablement in a transactional sales system is focused on tangibles, enablement in a complex sales system has a stronger focus on the intangible things, on everything we call “art” – to make a real difference at the customer.
Changed buyer behaviors – that’s changing the whole game fundamentally. Considering latest research as for instance from The Sales Challenger “shows that customers aren’t even contacting suppliers until they are, on average, 57% of the way through their purchase process. This means customers have already determined their needs, completed due diligence, and have even begun to do some comparison shopping before contacting your reps.” Reasons are for instance the increasing access to information via internet and the economic pressure for buyers to become increasingly risk averse and focused on cost.
The bottom line of all these changes is, that we as vendors won’t be successful any longer if we are talking to our prospects about us, the vendors, about our products and services based on our internal design points. This kind of information is available for buyers online, almost everywhere.
So, what’s the purpose of your sales force?
It’s adding value to enable buyers to make the most valuable decision. Enabling a sales force to add significant value to buyers, that’s a strategic and holistic sales enablement responsibility.
Here is what I mean:
- Adding value means, that we need to get in touch with our prospects and customers much earlier, long before they design their RFP. We need to talk to them and to add value to their problem solving process with creative ideas, while they are in the beginning of their discovering phase.
- Adding value means to translate product and solution benefits into business value tailored to the customer’s specific challenges. The translating step is mission critical – and translation begins with understanding the person’s context, you are translating for, right? Because you are the messenger and there is the recipient – your customer, and you need a tailored message.
- Adding value is not about cost savings alone! Never ever. Cost savings alone are never ever a differentiator if you want to be perceived as a strategic partner or as a trusted adviser. You will need a whole compelling story not only covering cost savings, you will also need growth and innovation aspects.
- Adding value like this requires to think backwards from the customer, to model the customer first. It’s NOT finding a problem that matches to the own product and solution benefits.
- Adding value means to model the customer first. It means understanding the whole customer situation in terms of context, relevance and their stage along their problem solving process. Modeling the customer has to become key in ALL sales and sales support activities. Understanding the customer’s context means also to understand the whole network around the executive stakeholder, knowing all impacted roles that have to be considered and to be addressed the same way. A deep understanding of what a customer needs to get fixed, what a customer wants to achieve in terms of value and what a customer wants to achieve for himself/herself – that will become key to success – and a key differentiator. Performed the right way, the deal volume will often increase.
Easier said than done – how do we help sales people to add value like this?
There are a variety of issues we have to tackle along the whole sales support value chain.
- Modeling the customer starts with the strategic account planning procedure if you are running a named account strategy based on a wallet share approach. Focused on a market share approach which is more topic focused and less account focused, it’s also an important tool to prepare each call and each meeting.
Most important: The methodology of modeling the customer has to remain the same along the whole customer’s problem solving process. Be aware, customer’s stakeholder might change, also their needs – your methodology of modeling the customer remains the same.
- Adjust sales trainings and coachings that help sales people and their managers to change the game from push to pull:
Attending sales trainings, I have always the feeling that a certain push approach is somehow „implemented“ in people’s behaviors, well trained over decades. I think the training challenge has to be tackled on different layers: one is the conscious way in terms of explaining buyer’s changed behaviors, introducing methodologies etc. But more important from my point of view is the more unconscious way which helps people to recognize that they are pushing! Ask them – of course, nobody is pushing! Showing them a mirror in role plays, they will recognize how they are pushing. Whenever I have seen those approaches in trainings, they were really powerful and led to light-bulb moments for the sales reps! As the first step to change is always awareness, these light bulb moments are so important. Then, sales coaching has to support from awareness to change.
- Adjust your sales content accordingly. Check your sales content and analyze how much the content is focused on “what to sell” in terms of solution features and benefits and how less the content is addressing stories and approaches how to address business value. Check also how much of your sales content is focused on internal decision gates, which are not necessarily the customer’s decision gates.
- Knowledge management: How do you organize your content on your sales enablement platform or within your CRM? Is the content structured by internal design points or is the content structured by customer industries, reference roles or challenges? How are the entry points for sellers to discover content? Are they guided backwards from the customer, yes or no? How flexible is your system to change that?
I think, we will see many customer focused possibilities to structure and to present content, to tailor content easily with preconfigured and structured content modules. We will need more and more playbooks, dynamic playbooks to do more with less. These playbooks should guide sales people in two ways: in the phase of ideation, the very early phase of the customer’s problem solving process and also later, if a lead has become an opportunity and needs to be supported with the right content at the right time.
But be careful, don’t design playbooks on internal design points, map them to the customer’s problem solving process first.
Prerequisite here is of course a well structured and efficient content management approach. All your sales content needs to be defined precisely, tailored to a specific purpose, to customer oriented decision gates, to internal and external target groups. Content localization is another topic that needs to be fixed before designing dynamic playbooks in a global environment.
What are your thoughts? What trends do you see?
How do you enable your sales force to add value to customers?
I’m looking forward to learn more about your thoughts!