Sales execution is the point of the value creation spear. It is the gear closest to Value Creation. Sales = revenues. Revenues are a proxy for value creation. Incremental revenue creates incremental value. The Value Creation gear turns.
Incremental revenues are hard to achieve. Why? Because revenues only increase when existing or new customers switch business to you. When they do, incremental value is created. But why should they? Existing customers do more business with you when they are persuaded that they are better off. This is often known as “digging the same hole deeper” or increasing customer “share of wallet.” Likewise, new customers switch only when they are persuaded that that they are better off doing business with you than the incumbent.
What does this mean? It means that existing and new customers are only impelled to switch because they believe that they will make more money doing business with you than their next alternative. For Grease clients, this means that the Sales Execution gear turns. The more incremental revenues Grease clients realize, the faster the sales execution gear turns, and the more value is created.
Here’s how it works. The Sales Execution gear turns when four essential elements are aligned and robust:
- Gain customer access
- Offer a superior value proposition
- Manage customer relationships
- Deploy Proposal Selling through Storytelling® (PSTS®)
Companies big and small trot out sales budgets and forecasts each year based on
optimistic hopes and instincts, and then miss them for a variety of credible reasons. It
all comes down to the following question and answer train:
- Why don’t incremental customers buy from you? Answer: they don’t want to.
- Why not? Because they aren’t persuaded that they should switch from the status quo or their current supplier relationships to you.
- Why not? Because your value proposition and proposal don’t have a sufficient cutting edge to impel them to move.
Without a superior value proposition, you’re playing for a tie when you sell. You build that superiority when you think hard about your strategy and business plan, and then develop a convincing demonstration of your edge for customers.
With a superior value proposition, you now need customer access, which depends critically on how you manage your customer relationships. If your business is a sole proprietorship you might be able to get by with a whiteboard for managing your sales pipeline and customer relationships, but every other business needs CRM software to track relationships and opportunities. Today, there’s a plethora of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software apps that are right-sized for your business.
The ability to reach the customer, particularly the decision maker, is the rarest of skills. This is because it’s hard to do. Most sales folks don’t know how to do it and don’t like to do it. This derives from the ambiguity of the challenge and the high failure rate. Those who master the skill are known as “rain makers,” and are highly compensated.
The road to the decision maker is often circuitous with many gates to open, each with its own gate keeper. The difficulty is passing muster with each gate keeper. There are several requisite skills:
- Always tell a story no matter who the gate keeper is. If it’s the receptionist, tell him or her a story as to why you are there or why you are calling. Treat all gate keepers as if they were the decision maker.
- Always ask for help, as in “This is John/Jane Doe; I need your help.” The usual response is: “how may I help you?” This approach empowers the gate keeper who usually is the key to the decision maker’s schedule. Presume that the gate keeper controls the decision maker’s calendar. Then ask what a convenient time might be for the decision maker to take a call from you or meet with you. Remember that you have already empowered the gate keeper by sharing the same story as you are going to relate to the boss.
- Always be concise and clear. Remember that the clock is running. “Be quick but don’t hurry.” (John Wooden)
Customer access gives you an opportunity to propose your value proposition to customers and prospects. In Grease’s experience, your proposals succeed most often when they are framed as stories. Grease Consulting’s Proposal Selling through Storytelling ® (PSTS®) shows you how to do that.
This skill is essential not only to Sales Execution but also to Communications Clarity (in Organization Effectiveness) because it promotes communicating clearly throughout the organization and speeds effective decision-making. Storytelling is the way we process information. Stories are structured to ensure that the listener (e.g., customer) is engaged. Animate your value propositions with stories. No story, no sale.
All compelling stories have a villain, a burning platform, a complication, or a problem that engages the listener, who will hang around for the outcome or solution. Just as you do when you read a book or go to a movie. Without a villain you walk out of the movie or put the book down. It is essential to get the complication right. Only then can you save the day with your proposal, solution, or recommendation, which solves the customer’s problem and puts out the fire on the burning platform.
Sales won’t grow without oral or written proposals that are stories. Stories won’t always guarantee the sale, but at least you can be sure that you are clear and the customer “gets it.” And, stories alone won’t cut it unless they are anchored by rigorously developed value propositions ratified by the customer and supported by the customer’s expectation of financial gain. Without stories animating a value proposition, you’re toast.
To learn more, step over to STORYVILLE®.
From our clients:
Gladstone engaged Grease to advise a number of our portfolio companies on how to enhance value creation and best practices of sales strategy and execution. Grease has advised several of our companies, most recently Alloy Die Casting… With Alloy Die Casting, the challenge was to develop a High Level Sales Plan, and recommend improvements to the company’s internal effectiveness so as to remove impediments to sales execution.
President, Gladstone Investment Corporation