I’m tackling the answer to this question by focusing on just one angle—building up a model sales process to work naturally with sales automation. It’s of particular interest to me because I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life doing just that. Because I describe sales predominantly in the language I’m defining in these posts, you might guess that a conversation between myself and a sales trainer or sales guru of the standard stripe has no option but to get very loud and even confrontational. They usually invent their clever terms and are unlikely to agree with my pursuit of a common, consistent language.
But that’s OK—as Paul Young sang, “Everything Must Change.”
We designed our first production CRM application in the early nineties. It was very much sales centric. Basically, the three cornerstones of CRM technology are marketing, sales, and service. Our business was sales—we were a national distributor of high technology products and our foray into CRM was designed to make our sales team flourish. To make the story short, the sales methodology we devised centered around the sales opportunity, which we called an IBO (Identified Business Opportunity). There was strong workflow for lead conversion and the sales process to win deals. So when we commercialized the program, that’s what we promoted to people who were interested in purchasing the technology.
One of our salespeople talked to a large distributer of lumber. This customer needed better control over customer information. When told about our razzle-dazzle opportunity management system, our contact said, “Don’t need that, we don’t have sales opportunities.” My reaction was disbelief, but the customer said their sales team’s primary focus was in nurturing customers using their product. If this was done effectively, then there would always be repeat business and no need to go to a competitor.
This experience led me to the notion of “relationship focused” selling—look after your customer base and they will be locked to your solution and not someone else’s. Our sales automation methodology (embedded in the CRM application) targeted the sales opportunity and encouraged building sound skills and strategy to overcome competitive challenge. We were pushing an opportunity-focused approach to building sales.
Relationship-focused is founded on the assumption that the customer is more inclined to deal with you if he or she knows and likes and even trusts you. Human nature is such that that really becomes a no-brainer. But if a competitor is just as likable and trustworthy as yourself, what breaks the impasse?
The answer? Your selling skills. You make the best persuasive case that your solution is the best, and back that up with a winning personality that no one can turn down. At least, that’s the theory of the relationship- and opportunity-focused selling styles.
Selling through attention to the best sales practices and methods (the science of selling) is referred to as opportunity-focused selling.
Salespeople usually employ both selling styles in their deal making, but are usually more comfortable with one or the other. We’ll have a lot more to say about this in future posts.
Oh, and that lumber distributer mentioned earlier—turns out they did have sales opportunities, mostly big ones. Take a look at Rainer Gerlach’s article on the account as the opportunity to see how this is managed.