3 Problems with a Predictable, Scalable Sales Model

The key to scaling a sales team is having a defined sales process with clear guidelines that dictate behaviour. This way, adding to the head count yields a predictable ROI, and the only barrier to expansion is finding great talent capable of executing the plan. However, this "predictability" is one of the key traits that top salespeople look for in a competitor, because it is easily overcome.

Consider sports legends and their greatest battles. Muhammad Ali vs. George Forman, Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, or Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo. These people didn't fight fire with fire. In "The Rumble in the Jungle", Ali didn't meet Foreman with brute-force. Instead, he waited until Foreman tired, and then beat him with superior movement. Federer never tried to overpower Nadal, he used his fluidity to gain the advantage. McGregor knew Aldo tends to overextend when fighting bigger opponents and practiced the straight left punch in anticipation.

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The point is, these athletes studied their opponents, learned their predictable behaviour, and adapted accordingly. Flattening the sales force is good for scale and accountability, but it leaves a world of opportunity for competing salespeople to differentiate themselves. Before discussing how technology helps disrupt predictable behaviour, here are three ways top salespeople use predictability to their advantage:

1. Learning the language of the competition.

The best salespeople understand their competitors' strengths and weaknesses, and learn to position themselves favourably. When speaking to customers, they are hypersensitive to the telltale signs they are second to the table. Great sales discovery questions typically reveal the situation, as the salesperson listens for patterns of behaviour, such as competitive terminology. A predictable, repeatable sales process falls foul to a better prepared, more fluid salesperson, who prioritises competitive objections and skilfully differentiates themselves from the same old pattern. Click image to tweet...

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2. Adapting the strategic path to market.

If a competitors’ strategy for growth is increasing the head count of a formulaic sales process, then it's a golden opportunity for disruption, because their parameters are set. There will be a price bracket that salespeople cannot breach, a standard response to known objections, a lack of flexibility to do the right deal for the customer, and often a complex sales and support process. A company that reaches this point, likely, has a market leading brand and product, but customers soon feel undervalued and yearn for a more tailored and interpersonal approach. The desire for a more personal service outweighs product features and benefits, and the best salespeople not only identify this predictable dynamic, but position themselves favourably to fill the gap.

3. Learning the pattern of deal loss.

Top salespeople are fastidious in understanding their losses and mistakes. A comprehensive post-deal review highlights areas for improvement, and if a pattern of failure is identified, a solution is quickly found. The data can reveal a problem, but it is the skill of the sales professional to diagnose and neutralise the cause. For example, data might show a good cadence of communication with all members of a buying committee, yet an unquantifiable factor is causing consistent losses. Perhaps a poisonous member of the buying committee, an objection from the competition that wasn't adequately answered, or failure to establish the necessary value. The best salespeople combine data with their own customer profiling and adapt their approach to overcome predictable stimuli.

How Does Technology Feature in Predictable Revenue Models?

Technology helps automate, streamline, increase efficiency, and highlight anomalies. However, it can damage efficiency (box ticking exercises reduces selling time) and perpetuate a predictable sales model. The best salespeople recognise this and use data to highlight weak points. They interpret the data better than anyone else and understand these markers of predictability don't replace strategy to market, Sales EQ, and the soft skills of human interaction. Click image to tweet...

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As a business scales, there is a tipping point where sales teams must split the generic sales force into clusters to take a more specialised approach to market. This keeps the teams accountable, deepens relationships and knowledge of industry sectors, and increases the focus on specific customer needs. If this doesn't happen, the company and its cloned sales team are sitting ducks for a disruptive sales strategy that can, and will, take advantage of the inherent, predictable weakness.

Check out my previous article about predictable pricing strategies. It discusses how large corporations must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset when launching new products to avoid being disrupted by leaner, more flexible strategies.

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