Harvard Business Review recently ran a story focusing on what entrepreneurs get wrong. In our view, we like to focus on how we can help entrepreneurs get stuff right — especially in the critical growth stage of their companies.
One key point that proves perilous for other entrepreneurs, as noted in the HBR story, is how many ignore the fact that “salesmanship is central to the success of any young company.” In our work, we continually mentor emerging growth companies in the B2B space that fail to incorporate the same rigor and best practices orientation in their sales efforts as they do in their product development efforts. Just as the entrepreneur strives to create unique intellectual property in their product and services, so should they strive to create a sales best practices engine that can also be characterized and justified as corporate intellectual property. In the B2B technology solution space you sell very little without direct face-to-face customer interaction and communication.
Professionally influencing a customer to write you a check over your competitor is all about sales best practices. It’s about how clearly you understand and can articulate your customer’s needs and how you can uniquely solve their most pressing problems. It’s about creating a compelling “ROI” model that cannot be refuted. It’s about succinctly explaining your value proposition in a way that differentiates your company from the competition.
Today we see so many entrepreneurs who shortchange the selling process by not creating a compelling value proposition for the sales team to leverage. By doing so they are bypassing a critical step in the creation and development of a sustainable and scalable business and sales model. Very simply, well-conceived value propositions should be the cornerstone of a winning business model and successful sales strategy.
Value propositions represent the single narrative that defines the benefits and value of a company’s product and services. They serve as a blue print for all marketing, sales and product development activities. Most importantly well-constructed value propositions communicate a company’s value to a broad range of constituents to include customers, investors, partners and employees.
Entrepreneurial companies so often lament over why they are standing still with no momentum in sight. The very simple answer is that these entrepreneurs are not able to clearly and enthusiastically explain the value of what they do for customers (their value proposition) and the penalty is always very disappointing sales and customer adoption results.
Another key element of a successful sales process is team focus. Intelligently determining what is vitally important to a sales team and being very intentional about allocating time and energy to those key business initiatives. The ability, every day, to consciously master the filtering and prioritization of where time, energy and resources are spent is a critical component of a high performance sales team.
Gaining the ability to quickly decipher what is urgent and important in contrast to acting on tasks that might be important yet not urgent or worse, urgent and not important. What is urgent and important is intimately understanding who the customer is, what your value proposition is, how you reach and message to your customer and how you recruit, hire and train an inspired sales team. Of equal importance is creating best practices in sales compensation plans that drive the right behavior, tools and metrics that measures sales activity and serve as a catalyst to predictable sales performance.
Well-constructed and clearly defendable value propositions, coupled with team focus, represent two of several integrated components of a best practice sales architecture. The playing field is littered with interesting companies that stalled and went away. We believe anemic attention to the sales process represents a very common thread in tracing business failure. At the cornerstone of transforming an interesting company into a great company is entrepreneurial teams that are capable of doing many diverse business functions and tasks well. I would put listening to the customer, product development activities that match the customers’ priorities and a commitment to sales best practices at the top of the list.
By: Mike Shook, Managing Partner at Accelerence