MANAGEMENT CLINIC: The value of selling value

MANAGEMENT CLINIC: The value of selling value

In my last article (July 26, page 54), I explored the concept of value replacing product differentiation as the biggest change to selling technology to emerge in the past 10 years.

Selling value requires sales teams using more sophisticated skills and processes.

In 1997, a computer vendor flew more than 1200 people and their partners from all over the world to Sydney for a week of merriment. Every business and first class airplane seat to Sydney was booked solid for a week. Upon arrival, the salespeople were wined, dined and fully entertained - not opening their wallets once during their stay.

The Sydney celebration was a reward for making their "Number". Lavish trips of this sort are typical of the rewards offered to those who "do the Number". The Number is a sales revenue target, and today it enjoys absolute pre-eminence as the single measure of a salesperson's success. Those who achieve it receive sharply escalating pay.

As sales managers are themselves incentivised on a larger Number, no one cares how the Number is achieved, only that it is achieved at all (those who do not achieve the Number seldom need to worry about it for long - they are soon employed elsewhere, chasing a new number).

The Number is, however, a lagging indicator of a sales force's success. And, while a sales force required to sell value will not be excused a numerical revenue target, selling value requires leading indicators, because the process of selling value is more complex and more expensive than selling products.

The art of change management for salespeople is, therefore, one of the implementing measures that make leading indicators a part of their everyday lives, without insulting their artistic temperaments, and while recognising that The Number will always retain its importance.

For example, when Jim Massa, Cisco's director of Federal Operations, realised he "had no formal sales process in place", he turned to OnTarget's Target Account Selling (TAS) processes and implemented change management to make sure it was adopted. According to Massa, "TAS has become a living document that provides us with a systematic approach, a common language for developing and executing winning sales tactics. Everyone's accountable."

TAS is used by Cisco's salespeople and systems engineers who collaborate on specific opportunities. Strongly reinforced at the management level, TAS has been embraced by the sales organisation. "Our salespeople are motivated by money and use TAS because it helps them identify and close more opportunities - ie make more money," Massa said. "Our sales superstars are avid TAS users and provide excellent role models for up-and-coming members of the sales team."

TAS has also brought the sales force into line with overall corporate objectives. "We have a much better understanding of the business influences affecting both our integrators and our end users," said Massa. "This knowledge allows us to strategically align with our customer's culture and leverage the expertise of business partners to meet and exceed customer demands." Cisco requires all salespeople and system engineers to attend TAS training. Managers enrol in management coaching sessions that enable them to internally reinforce and coach the process.

Mitel Telecoms competes with some of the world's biggest companies in the red-hot telecommunications industry. "Our products are rapidly becoming a commodity," explained sales director Phillip Ellis, "so it's important our other activities like PBXs for 1000-line customers and call centre implementation accelerate if we're to continue our growth."

Mitel has introduced tools to help sales teams better manage the opportunities before it. "Our average sale is up from $100,000 to $130,000 in the time we've used the sales process", Ellis explained, "and our sales team feels much more confident with the process in place. They know they can try to sell the higher-value solution, because they now know how to plan for it".

The entire organisation has bought into the sales process, Ellis added. "Anyone who comes into contact with a salesperson has had sales process training - even the managing director. It means that everyone in the company knows where we are with a given sale, not just the guys at the pointy end." The result is much better forecasting and a team that pulls together throughout the company. "We've adopted an approach that says we had to change our processes," Ellis said. With average sales up and year-on-year growth since its implementation began, the company's sales process has certainly done that.

Next month, I will conclude the topic of change management for salespeople with a simple review of the "dos and don'ts" of change management.

Carol Johnson is managing partner at Siebel MultiChannel Services. Reach her at

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