I attended the wonderful SAVO sales enablement conference this week. I learned a lot, added gobs to my IQ, met folks doing interesting things with sales enablement, and had a great conversation with the lovely, kind, smart ideas-guy Jeff Summers. I left with some concerns: many folks I spoke with are using sales enablement as a solution to much larger sales problems. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First: SAVO. They are doing interesting, important work, making it easy for sellers to be successful in the solution-placement end of the buying decision. They are working arduously and creatively to develop material to support successful sales campaigns. Their technology is intuitive and they continue to innovate. I was impressed at their level of professionalism and content. And their folks are smart, fun, attentive.
But like others in the sales enablement industry, SAVO still omits the full decision facilitation capability that starts far earlier in the buyer’s decision journey and manages the buy-in issues necessary before making a purchase. More on this later.
WE WERE TAUGHT HOW TO PUSH HARDER
Next: Jill Konrath – keynote speaker – was delightful. She spoke about our ‘Crazy Busy Buyers’ (as per her book SNAP), did a fun role play that demonstrated ‘busy-ness’, and showed clearly why execs ‘delete’ self-serving sales folks. She’s got an important message.
Next: the speakers, overall, were professional. But here is where I get a bit cranky. OK -a lot cranky. At one point I left a session in a huff and went outside ranting to the poor folks stuck being near me: a speaker was offering manipulative advice, saying “It’s about making the customer uncomfortable about where they are,” and “Engineer the (selling) experience for emotional effect,” and “The problem was the customer didn’t understand your value,” and “Put our proposition into language they can understand so we have an opportunity to teach them.” – all assuming the buyer is some form of stupid.
Let’s have a frank chat here. Buyer’s needs are not an isolated event: before they can get buy-in for a purchase, they have a whole heap of behind-the-scenes work to do that has nothing to do with their ‘need’ and everything to do with politics and relationships. Instead of first facilitating the private, non-need related issues, sellers (and sales enablement technology) push/manipulate to place solution. And buyers don’t buy. And resist being pushed. And they aren’t ready.
SALES CLOSE BECAUSE BUYERS ACHIEVE INTERNAL BUY-IN, NOT BECAUSE SELLERS PUSH
As per Buying Facilitation™, sales fail when based on these beliefs:
- the seller has THE ANSWER;
- if ONLY the buyer could UNDERSTAND what the seller believes is OBVIOUS, then the buyer will be smart enough to buy;
- what stands between a need and a purchase is the seller’s ability to get the buyer to ‘admit’ to a need, find the buyer’s ‘pain point’ (I HATE THAT TERM), and route through their ‘resistance’ (the natural result of being pushed against)
Sales, from all sales efforts, only close a fraction of the time. Here’s why: until or unless
- the entire Buying Decision Team is formed and agrees to buying criteria,
- buy-in ensures all people who touch the solution are on board,
- a route exists from choice to purchase to implementation including any change issues that must be resolved first,
nothing, nothing, nothing will happen. This is where buyers go. This is why there are delays. This is why they prefer the status quo: if they don’t get the buy-in or manage the change, the risk to the underlying system is far higher than what happens if they don’t resolve a problem. They maintain the status quo because it’s better than the alternative.
Folks: The last thing buyers need is your solution. Literally. Buyers have a lot of work to do before they can buy. They don’t have ‘pain points’ (if the buyer felt they were in pain they would have resolved it long ago). We just think they do because our focus is wrong.
SALES ENABLEMENT IS A TOOL, NOT A SOLUTION
One more thing: given that the push model is so endemic, one would believe the sales model succeeds! The sales field only has a 7% success rate overall, and, according to Jim Lenskold, author of Marketing ROI: “If only 2% – 10% of our leads are closing, it means 90 – 98% of the leads are leaking out of the funnel.”
We are replicating a failed model and getting the same results across selling contexts. We are entering at the lagging end of the buying decision and ignoring the capability of entering earlier!
I contend that we don’t know where our leads start their journey, or are when we meet them: Where are they on the Buying Decision Team? What is the ‘weight’ of their vote? How far along the Buying Decision Team-gathering process are they? What, exactly, do they do with the data they get from us?) or exactly who they are.
We end up coming in at the end, following the tiny bit we get from them, find ways to push, and have no active capability to help them manage or influence the entire Buying Decision Team – necessary before they can garner the agreement to purchase.
Instead of being manipulative, or pushing harder, or getting them uncomfortable, why not use technology to help buyers make the change management decisions beforehand? No, it’s not sales. No, it’s not solution related. But: Would you rather make a sale? Or help people buy? They are two different activities. And we’re only managing one of them.
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