Sales Tips: 4 Traits of Adaptive Sales Organizations
By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
The great baseball pitcher Satchel Page is credited with the quote: “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.” As companies try to gain or maintain competitive edges, their sales organizations are challenged to identify and react to change. While revolutionary today, adaptive sales organizations will become table stakes for survival. I’d like to share four (4) major characteristics of Adaptive Sales Organizations:
1. Common approach – Reaction to change is quicker and more concise if salespeople perform tasks within sales cycles in a consistent manner (same skill set and messaging). Uncertainties rule in selling. Sellers have influence without authority over buyer actions while attempting to have organizations buy their offerings. A common approach/process provides a fairly common lens with which to look at all opportunities and sales situations.
2. Measure results – Sales organizations have and will track quota performance to decimal points. We now recognize that YTD position against quota is a trailing indicator, analogous to driving a car while looking in the rear view mirror. Adaptive organizations want to understand how efforts are related to outcomes much further upstream and therefore seek to measure sales actions and buyer reactions in areas that are leading indicators. An example of that would be business development efforts. If a company has an average 4-month sales cycle and for 2 months the number of leads generated is 50% off, there is a looming crisis unless corrective action is taken. Adaptive organizations want to look at increments of weeks or days to identify any shortcomings that could affect revenue further downstream in the pipeline.
3. Identify what is/isn’t working – Sellers below quota are often over-optimistic when qualifying “opportunities.” Their concern is more about quantity than quality in pipeline reviews with their managers. Adaptive organizations seek different data points. If buyer actions can be measured in response to consistent seller efforts, companies over time can identify what works well (making those activities ‘best practices”) as well as what activities don’t work and need to be changed or eliminated. The key is to base decisions on objective measures (buyer reactions) rather than subjective ones (seller opinions).
4. Continuously evolve – Markets, competitors, buyers and economic conditions are in a constant state of flux. What works today may yield poor results next quarter. Adaptive sales organizations have the ability to tweak approaches on an ongoing basis to measure buyer reactions and change on a nearly constant basis. If they try something new, they want to succeed or fail quickly so they can adopt or adapt approaches. Small sample lot testing allows them to succeed when risk and uncertainty are high. When testing is done on leading indicators, companies enjoy longer runways than their competitors.
Adaptive sales organizations eschew Satchel Page’s advice. They look out their windshields using leading indicators the majority of the time, but glance in their rear view mirrors to allow them to make course corrections within feet versus miles as they drive toward hitting or exceeding revenue targets.