Hunting Analogies Are Killing Your Pipeline

If you’re a sales director or senior chances are you’re on the wrong side of 40. It’s also a fair bet that you:

– grew up in a household that didn’t think twice about liberally spraying aerosols

– had a short but intense addiction to Tetris

– and knew at least one neighbor that had an electric sunbed in their spare room

Fast forward 20 years and hopefully none of these statements reflect your life today.

Now think about your professional life. If you grew up in sales, you’ve probably had at least one boss who asked you to ‘hunt for new business, ‘fish in existing accounts’ or ‘farm the database’. I bet you even still use some of those expressions with your team today. Yet, cloud adoption continues to gain pace and brings with it a knock-on effect on the way services are consumed. With such a fundamental shift in consumption and purchasing in both the B2B and B2C spheres, are these hunting analogies really still relevant? Or put another way, if everything else in your life has moved on, is it time to evolve your sales technique, and your management style too?

The weak link

At Strategy to Revenue we increasingly work with companies who recognize the impact of cloud and want to be on the front-foot, when it comes to capitalizing on the opportunity it affords. Our work is focused on helping their sales and customer service teams, by giving them the knowledge, skills and training they need to sell cloud solutions and subscription services. Equally as important, we help them ensure their business, and in many instances their vendor-channel relationship, is set-up in a way that enables, supports and rewards the correct sales behaviors. But here’s the rub: no matter how evolved their business strategy, or their sales enablement approach, it invariably fails if one critical point isn’t addressed. As lynch pins that connect business strategy and execution, if time isn’t spend on ensuring sales managers and sales directors are on-board with this new way of selling, the strategy is likely to fail. So, if you hear hunting analogies within your sales team, here’s why you need to stop them, now:

Dangling a hook and seeing what bites seems to be a pretty laisse-faire way of driving new business.

Hunting for new business

Sales people today are rarely ‘just hunters’. Their role is much more nuanced than that. As consumers, it is us that are typically on the hunt. We’re constantly hunting out the newest, the latest and the greatest, and if we’ve got anything about us in the workplace we adopt this approach in our professional lives too. We research online, we compare, we ask around. Only then, once we’re sure, do we make our move and contact a company. At this point, the sales skills required are not those of the hunter. They are far more nurturing. Potential customers want to feel reassured they’ve made the right decision in choosing your company from their long list of potential suppliers. They want to feel safe to ask the questions they’re not sure about, and get the expert advice they need to decide to buy. In short, they want to build a relationship with you, don’t waste the opportunity. Open dialogue which demonstrates your company’s points of difference and how you can work with a prospect to tackle their unique challenges is the order of the day. Tracking them down out of nowhere, when they’ve already left digital footprints across the internet leading to your door, seems an outdated analogy which does little to reflect the nuanced behaviors you really expect from your team.

Land and expand

Another classic. The implication is that you’ve conquered one part of the organization and now your team is going to infiltrate the rest. But here’s an important question. What if they don’t want or need you? In a subscription-based world, badgering your way into a new area of the business can mean that just as easily as they’ve switched on your service, your newly conquered customer can turn you off. Bye-bye recurring revenue and the opportunity to expand your relationship when the timing really is right. In a cloud-centric business, building a rapport with the customer that shows them how to use your service, how they could expand their use of it, or get more value from it often falls to the customer service team. If done correctly it can lead to incremental revenue spend without tying up the sales team, simply by maintaining an open dialogue. A great example of this can be found here. Instead of ‘landing and expanding, try ‘building on initial success’, or ‘delivering more value’. It’s a small but important difference in phraseology and attitude which could lead to a win for both customer and supplier.

Fishing in customer accounts

Dangling a hook and seeing what bites seems to be a pretty laisse-faire way of driving new business. There’s also an implied arrogance in doing nothing more than ‘bating’ your customer to buy more products or service. There’s no place for this in today’s customer centric world. Instead, start talking to your sales team about nurturing and growing. Show your customers what you can do to help them achieve success. Take time to understand their business and its challenges and build a long-term relationship that ties their success to yours. Now, think about the way you operate personally. If you need a problem fixing, you’re likely first point of call is the person that helped you resolve your issue last time, not the person that sold you a service and then immediately started to look over your shoulder to hunt out the next sale they could make.

The sales behaviors that got you to this successful place in your career, or helped build the business you work for today are not without merit but they are ‘of their time’. As you evolve your business model to more of a utility model, consider how to introduce the new sales behaviors that are better suited to today’s business environment. Focus less on hunting and conquering and more on nurturing and growing. Help your team by giving them the skills, knowledge and training to secure these types of deals. Ultimately, leave the hunting analogies where they belong – in the past, gathering dust with the electric sun-bed and the CFC sprays.

Neil Whitelock is a senior consultant at Strategy to Revenue, the award-winning sales enablement company

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