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Big Ideas for Sales In 2013

As 2012 draws to a close, I decided to ask the folks whose posts we feature on this blog to share one big idea for sales in 2013.  The parameters were broad, simply answer the question “If you were having a  conversation with a friend and they asked you for one thing they should do, or focus on, in 2013, what would it be (in one or two paragraphs)?”


Here is a list of the topics that will allow you to jump directly to specific items or just browser through the entire post.


Trust
from Hank Barnes, SAP

I want to title my section,  “Erosion of Trust has Customers Proclaiming  They ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’” in homage to my friend, Jamie Anderson, who has a terrific blog series on Forbes linking trends to classic music lyrics, I am going to try to do the same (albeit without the depth of knowledge of lyrics that Jamie has from his past life fronting a successful band).

To me, the biggest issue sales needs to address in 2013, with their marketing counterparts, is trust.  As the Who proclaimed in their classic song, customers are saying, loudly, “We won’t get fooled again.”  Trust is a huge issue for business. Edelman has a whole site dedicated to covering the issues and the erosion of trust in businesses.  Most consumers trust their peers more than the companies they do business with, by a wide margin.  This has to change.

To rebuild trust, it is time to shift the focus from “outpromising” the competition to making commitments that we can meet (and possibly exceed) that are centered around helping the customer be successful.  Don’t overload them with product they don’t need.  Don’t push expertise you don’t have. Don’t over promise.  This  won’t be easy, because skepticism abounds (it was even true for The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”).  But every interaction that is authentic and trustworthy will work to move you another notch up the trust ladder.

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Buying Process Maps
from Greg Alexander, Sales BenchMark Index

The single most important thing for B2B sales organizations to focus on in 2013 is creating Buying Process Maps. A Buying Process Map outlines how customers and prospects make complex purchasing decisions.  Most B2B sales organizations either don’t have these built, or, have maps that have not been updated in a long time.  The problem with this is buyers have changed how they buy significantly, and continue to do so.  A sales organization that is selling based on how buyers used to buy are going to miss their numbers. Here is a generic version of a Buying Process Map that readers can use as a starting point:

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Big Insight from Great Questions
From Dave Brock, Partners in Excellence

Big data is big—figuratively and literally.  Big data promises to change who, how, when, and why we engage customers.  It has the potential of enabling us to reach the right customers at the right time with the right message and the right offer.  However, without the right questions and insight, big data is only big.  It’s difficult for us to comprehend what it means and what we do with it.  To harness the power big data offers we need to be able to ask the right big questions.

Rich analytics starts with asking tough questions, or developing a set or premises—-these are tested against the data.  Without these big questions or test premises, data is not transformed to context and meaning.  Likewise, understanding what the data presents requires big insight.  It requires the ability to understand, interpret, and act on the results big data.  Big data just provides reports—it doesn’t interpret those reports to provide meaning.  It doesn’t tell you what you can do with it.  It just provides results.  Consequently, big data represents potential—but until we understand what it means and take action, it is meaningless. Additionally, asking the wrong questions when using big data will give us answers.  But those answers will push you further in the wrong direction.

Big data requires people skilled in asking the right big questions.  It requires people with big insight and the ability to transform the insight into results.  Developing and embedding these capabilities in our organizations is critical to leveraging the power and potential of big data.  If you don’t know what questions to ask, then don’t jump on the big data train, spend some time to figure out those big questions, then dive into big data and gain the benefits from the insights you uncover.

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Sales/Marketing Partnership
from Bob Apollo, Inflexion-Point

In 2013, perhaps more than in any previous year, sales organisations need to invest in building a true partnership with their colleagues in marketing. The walls that still exist between sales and marketing in so many organisations need to be completely demolished, and everyone involved needs to agree how they are going to work together to identify, attract, engage, qualify and convert more of the right sort of prospects. The niggles and lack of respect that so often characterise the relationship need to be replaced with truly constructive cooperation.

This will involve abandoning outmoded concepts like “marketing owns the top of the funnel – sales owns the rest”. In today’s complex buying environment, in which prospects are choosing to engage with vendors ever-later in their decision-making process, revenue generation has to be seen as a team sport. Marketing and sales must feel jointly responsible for the quality and quantity of all the opportunities in the funnel. How are we going to get there? Sales management can take the lead and set the tone, but the initiative must involve everyone in the organisation.

I recommend that you start by developing a mutual, documented agreement about what an “ideal prospect” looks like for each of your key target markets. You can download a copy of the template here. These completed ideal prospect profiles enable marketing to more precisely target the right sort of prospects, and equip sales to implement consistent opportunity qualification criteria. Perhaps most important of all, the act of creating them offers a great opportunity for sales and marketing to demonstrate how effectively they can collaborate.

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Tablet Enhanced Sales Force
from Savo Group

Think about this: The iPad was introduced only three years ago! Most budgets are planned and set looking ahead three to five years. Very few sales and marketing leaders anticipated the significant impact tablets and smartphones would have on field sales strategies.

As an organization that has rolled out iPads to its entire sales team, and witnessed many clients rolling out iPads to their own sellers, SAVO has compiled a list of best practices that they share with customers prior to their iPad deployment. Below are five best practices that should help any organization succeed as it prepares to introduce tablets to its salespeople in the coming year:

  1. Provide training
  2. Set expectations
  3. Address CRM
  4. Use more video
  5. Don’t let “great” get in the way of “good”

Contact the SAVO Group for more information on how to enable a tablet-enhanced sales force.

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Test One New Sales Initiative in 2013
from Anneke Seley, Reality Works Group

I know from personal experience that running a sales organization is demanding.

However, in order to stay competitive in today’s sales and marketing reality, sales managers cannot get stuck in the mode of doing the same things every day, every quarter and every year.  In order to stay ahead, we need to adopt what we’ve described in the Sales 2.0 book as a Sales 2.0 mindset. Sales 2.0 is a measurably better way of selling for both the buyer and the seller that’s enabled by technology and integrated and aligned across an organization so the customer’s experience is consistently positive and relevant. Those who have embraced Sales 2.0 combine the art of selling – creating meaningful long-term and mutually profitable relationships with customers – with science – establishing measurable and scalable sales that are predictable.

What does this mean for your organization in 2013? For organizations that are evolving from Sales 1.0 to Sales 2.0, there are always new opportunities to test that can improve your company’s results, but it can take some discipline to get out of your status quo, business as usual comfort zone. By talking to customers, peers and subject matter experts across industries, attending networking events and conferences, reading blogs, watching videos and following innovative thinkers on social platforms, or just leaving the office to give yourself time to think, you can identify just one new thing that will make the difference in your 2013 performance.

In addition to the other ideas in this post, here are some examples that are showing encouraging results for forward-thinking organizations:

  • Personalizing customer contact with measurable, scalable Social Selling, especially when integrated with  phone & e-mail outreach (aka “inside” sales)
  • Customizing your sales team’s Incentives and approaches to motivation, enabled by Gamification
  • Optimizing Recruiting and Hiring using Sales 2.0 practices and technology to stand out from the crowd of companies with sales team growth goals
  • Accelerating Onboarding and insuring consistent Sales 2.0 process using robust Sales Playbooks that cover everything from messaging to systems to step-by-step checklists for customer contact and frequency
  • Leveraging sales team productivity with automated, consistent and personal Content Marketing
  • Optimizing sales performance while improving responsiveness by adding Specialization and Segmentation to your sales organization (e.g. With Sales Development/Lead Qualification, Inside Sales, Renewal Sales, etc.)

What new sales initiative are you planning for 2013?

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Summary

There you have it, some great advice and ideas from many of the people I admire most in the sales industry.   I personally want to thank all of them for letting us share their thoughts and ideas on our blog in 2012.  As we move into 2013, we’ll continue to share their ideas here and in other SAP properties (e.g. blogs.sap.com/innovation).

For me personally, this will be my last post on this site.  Beginning in January, I’ll be moving to Gartner to become a Research Director focused on advising technology companies on Product Marketing strategies and tactics.  I suspect you’ll find me posting on the Gartner blog network in the near future on the impact of Customer Experience demands on product marketing strategies.

My best to all of our readers in 2013, may your selling efforts be more effective for you and your customers.

Learn 5 Selling Strategies for 2013 with our complimentary ebook.

5 Selling Strategies

A new framework for sales effectiveness that every sales leader and sales rep should know to deal with changing buying and selling dynamics driven by customer power, social media, and organizational complexity.

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