Operational Excellence Transformations

Typical Approaches and Challenges in B2B Sales

This article was originally published on Linkedin by Vish.

In our last post on sales operating model that Chandra posted, we talked about the need for transformation in sales operating model. In this article, we will deep dive into the typical approaches and challenges.

Organizations spend significant amount of efforts and money on the sales function. According to market research data, direct spend on sales and marketing is usually in the range of 1 ~ 5% of gross revenue in many organizations. Added to this are efforts (and associated spend) by non-sales functions and staff supporting sales activities. Organizations are facing immense challenges to sustain business growth and focusing on increasing the effectiveness of sales through various means. Many of these initiatives focus on digitization, automation, and tool-based solutions along with other tactical and efficiency improvement initiatives..

Initiatives around sales process improvements are not new. Organizations have been investing in Initiatives in various forms – whether training of personnel , various structures and organization design or be it in the forms of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions or in the form of Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) or simply in the form of Sales Back Office.

There are many software-based solutions for sales enablement in the market. These software platforms, bring embedded capabilities centered around workflows and managing sales and relationship information centered around customers, with a focus centered predominately on

  • Responding to customer needs faster
  • Reusing / repurposing internal content
  • Showcasing past success stories

However, with all such investments, especially into tools, it is not uncommon to see significant amount of manual efforts in delivering required outputs. While tools help in some areas, just focusing on tools may add to existing challenges.

We see a range of symptoms plaguing sales functions, that hold back sales from performing to its true potential:

Selling on past Success: The First symptom we see is organizations trying to sell based on past Success rather than understanding of current customer need and context. The Sales assumption being that a customers’ problems context is already addressed elsewhere and therefore applying the principle of Re-use. The conversation is push based on showcasing past success stories and capabilities. Added to this is – is a limiting focus on Not addressing past ‘failures’ or ‘learning’ and rather having a bias towards ‘success’.

Uni-directional sales content flow: – by Pitching or sharing content with customers. This is often reactive – responding to customer asks

‘Our capabilities’ syndrome – that leaves customers to connect those capabilities to their problems and decide; rather than proposing solution options by understanding customer needs or emergent customer problems / issues.

Commercials focused rather than value driven: Another classic symptom is to converse with clients focused on resources and commercials rather than value and solutions

Multiplicity of tools: resulting in low usage, fragmented information, and duplication of information; ultimately leading to more complexity and limited gains.

  • Majority of sales content is never used; some industry research reports suggest that less than a third of content created for sales is used. The result is wasted efforts and time.
  • Tacit to explicit

KPI that don’t count: Usually organizations define many metrics to gauge sales performance. However, many of these metrics are not used at all, or not used in the intended manner. Again, wastage of efforts, investments, and time.

  • Conversion effectiveness : Sales cycles with long lead time. Lead times resultant of multiple iterations of conversations to understand requirements and refine solutions – often resulting in inability to close deals.

Rote approaches: People in the sales function are not focused on the buying – need – value dynamics of the marketplace they are in, and rather on pushing the document / record forward.

  • Internally focused rather than on the customer and their needs and value
  • Outsourcing the intelligence of selling to a tool / process rather than keeping it alive and dynamic

So how does an organization address these challenges and remain relevant in their market place? To understand this, in the following blog we will attempt to address the Shifting context of Sales as a function in the enterprise and then provide our perspective on what is going to be nature of sales in the future

Our new venture, Unmithy (sanskrit: उन्मिति [wun’miti] means value, growth in sanskrit), focuses on transforming business models and operations leveraging digital technologies, analytics, and insights. Chandra Kallakuri and I would like to share our learning and views, and seek your comments.

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