Recently I was speaking with a Marketo customer, who recounted an experience she had attending a seminar sponsored by one of the well known sales training organizations. You undoubtedly know the kinds of seminars I am talking about. They’re promoted with emphatic headlines, screaming things like, “GET THEM TO YES!” and “SELLING HUNGRY!”
And that’s just the advertising to get you to attend the seminar. Once our customer was actually at the seminar itself, she described almost cult-like scenes that were right out of Glengarry Glen Ross, the dark and biting satire of salesmen at work (of course, they’re all men in GGR).
But, what really put our customer off about the seminar were the anachronistic and stubbornly old school sales strategies that were elevated to the position of holy writ. For example, she recounted two metaphors used frequently during the session that underscored this point. The first is the hoary old image of “every salesperson being an island.” They are out there on their own, in the jungle, hunting for big game and eating what they kill. (I realize I am probably mixing metaphors here, but you get the picture.)
The second concept was that of the salesperson as “king.” The rep who must do battle every day to bring the goods (the sales revenues) back to the waiting castle. This Knights of the Roundtable imagery has a certain timeless appeal to it, and the seminar companies play that to the hilt. Of course, it is about as relevant to the current business environment as Sir Lancelot and jousting.
These “island” and “king” sales metaphors share a stereotypically outmoded view of the sales process and profession. Even more important, they vividly illustrate the dysfunctional state of today’s sales – and marketing – model. That model has to change if corporations are ever going to maximize their true revenue generating potential.
It Takes an Inter-Connected Village
The fact is that in today’s digitally-networked, social media-driven world, an effective sales person can no more stand alone as a solitary “island” than they can (or should) stand above everyone else as the “king” of the revenue hill. To be truly successful at sales and marketing today, it takes a village – and a fully-connected, very collaborative village at that.
The idea of the singular sales person, living by his own wits, is laughable these days (it probably always was). It just doesn’t work that way anymore. And the same is true for the entire sales function of a company.
Sales can no longer operate in the old battle-hardened silos that we’ve all come to know. In that scenario, the sales team would emerge from its silo only to take the leads from marketing (also ensconced in its own silo), after which it would then go forth to “do battle” with prospects to win the sale.
Far from operating as solo practitioners, sales people need to be hyper-connected today. They need to be connected to their fellow sales colleagues, as well as those from marketing, research, customer support, and technology. Most importantly, they need to be connected to the information sources and online social networks that their prospects are surely taking advantage of right now.
The “king” salesperson idea is even more irrelevant because of the growing sea change in the buyer/ seller dynamic. Today’s buyers have instant access through the web, and increasingly via social media, to valuable information, data, reviews, referrals, and friends’ recommendations. Armed with this information, the buyer now is indisputably the king of the sales deal. That buyer dictates when and how they want information from the company and its sales people.
Taking a Holistic View of the “Revenue Cycle”
The dated view of sales professionals as lone wolfs (“islands”) and masters of their territories (“kings”) is actually a symptom of a much larger problem in how too many businesses – large and small – still view the revenue process. The real problem is that they don’t see revenue as a “process” at all. Generating review is still frequently viewed as a series of disconnected steps in a straight-line continuum – from the creation of awareness and leads by the marketing department, to the closing of the sale by the sales people.
As my colleagues and I have written frequently on this site, there is in fact a clearly defined revenue cycle that demands an integrated approach from sales and marketing teams that are working collaboratively and strategically together. That powerful, holistic revenue process is about as similar to the old school sales seminar described above as an iPad is to a Selectric typewriter.
Today’s radical changed business and technology environment presents both challenges and opportunities for corporations to commit to an entirely new way of creating, managing, and accelerating revenue. And, none of this has anything to do with “islands” or “kings.”
What this really is all about is inciting nothing short of a Revenue Revolution!