“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity”
I don’t know if that’s the best definition of luck, but I would say it’s a pretty good definition of success. The most successful sales organizations are what we call “opportunity ready.” Time and again, research and work with customers show that being opportunity ready requires two things: adoption of a common sales methodology, and adoption of a common set of sales tools.
A Common Language
For the last two centuries, give or take a few decades, the business community has used English as a common language. Traders in the 17th and 18th centuries may not have had much appreciation for the British Empire, but having at least the fundamentals of the language down gave them a distinct advantage. They could transact business in almost any port in the Western world. In the last century or so, knowing the English language meant they were “opportunity ready” in the Eastern hemisphere as well.
In much the same way, having a common sales methodology allows sales professionals and their managers to understand each other, regardless of the differences in their personal backgrounds and personalities. When they talk about an opportunity’s progress through the funnel or how to resolve the “red flags” that may keep an opportunity from closing, they don’t need to spend time resolving differences in perceptions. From the moment they sit down on opposite sides of the table (or phone line), they are ready to talk about how they can keep opportunities moving forward.
Common Sales Tools
Likewise, sales professionals have used tools to create a competitive advantage for a long time. The first Sumerian merchant to use an abacus had a leg up on those trying to total up “invoices” in their heads. Fast forward to the 1980s, a time when almost every sales professional had some variation of the “Day-Timer®,” which helped them not only keep track of their schedules, but also vital information about their accounts.
These sophisticated but manual systems were gradually replaced by customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) systems sometime around the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. These systems were intended to make it easier for sales professionals to manage their accounts and to provide greater visibility into the organization’s collective sales funnel. Enticed by these promised benefits, it’s hard to find an organization today that hasn’t made a significant investment in CRM and SFA.
So, if the Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices Study demonstrates the positive impact of a common methodology and the use of sales automation tools on performance, why are so many sales organizations still struggling?
The Missing Link
Experience tells us that so long as a sales methodology is something other than the latest fad, it’s not difficult to convince serious sales professionals to adopt it. But these days, that’s not enough to create a sustainable competitive advantage. That advantage goes to those organizations that successfully link their sales methodology to their CRM system so it becomes part of the methodology and not something extra sales has to do.
More than once, we’ve heard business leaders claim that their CRM system is flexible enough to adapt to any methodology they choose. Now if only the sales team would use it! If that mirrors your thinking, it’s a pretty good sign that your CRM alone is not a natural part of your sales process.
Is Your Team Opportunity Ready?
For our customers, being opportunity ready means connecting the sales methodology tools they use every day, e.g., Miller Heiman Green Sheets and Blue Sheets, to their CRM system. Now, not only are sales professionals and frontline sales managers using the same language to manage the funnel, that language is reflected in the CRM system, making it easier for management to trust the data. Everyone in the organization can spend less time working through their individual differences in perceptions and more time on the customer’s needs.
You can contact us for an assessment of your state of your organization’s Opportunity Readiness.
With Credits to Miller Heiman