I’m a parent, and have faced that common moment-of-truth debate: should every kid on the soccer team receive a trophy, simply for participating? Should we keep score in Little League baseball? I’m also a capitalist: I believe in healthy competition, coaching for everyone who needs it, and rewards for the strongest achievers. In professional selling, which is my research focus, there are obvious winners and losers: even on high-performing business development teams, the tote board on the wall or the CRM dashboard loudly proclaims who wins the watch, who gets the steak knives, and…you know the rest.
This Glengarry Glen Ross reference touches on what is sometimes a sore spot for contemporary sales leaders. Pressured by executive management to constantly hit a higher quota number, and to accomplish more with fewer resources, it is not uncommon for sales VP’s to resort to “kick the dog” behavior. They transfer the stress down the food chain to their individual contributor sales reps and account managers, who out of desperation and panic do whatever it takes to seal the deal—egardless of whether the customer benefits from the sub-standard real estate, enterprise software, or complex industrial machinery being peddled to them.
Figure 1: Best-in-Class Sales Competencies You Need to Master
Source: Aberdeen Group, July 2014
My own experience and professional belief system, and predictably, my configure / price / quote research, support both tenets from the opening paragraph above. There are indeed stronger and weaker performances turned in by enterprise and channel sales organizations, but successful selling does not have to exist only at the detriment of the customer. Indeed, Aberdeen conducts plenty of customer experience management research suggesting that delighting the client is the best way to consistently hit sales quota. In other words, when sellers are able to deliver the CPQ competencies shown in Figure 1, everybody wins: both buyer and seller.
- Better product knowledge equals better holistic selling that yields more closed deals, and stronger customer relationships. Properly deployed CPQ solutions include the collection and availability of myriad product and marketing assets that are, ideally, available on a cloud-based platform to all relevant selling job roles. Reps with better content repository access to product features, advantages, benefits, pricing, and competitive intelligence will be better received and respected by their buyers. This will turn into stronger relationships based on trust and honesty; no wonder Best-in-Class companies are 63% more likely than Laggards to report very or extremely high proficiency here.
- “Know thy customer” is a virtual mirror image of this first point. Every contemporary sales effectiveness best practice, from sales intelligence to social selling, proves the ROI of digging deeply into what customers need to succeed, and building the solutions we offer around those account-specific desires. CPQ users are 81% more likely to report an ongoing “process to improve the customer discovery methodology,” complementing the Best-in-Class trend in Figure 1. Both of these strong cohorts recognize that a properly deployed CPQ solution, integrated with the enterprise CRM instance, has an infinite capacity to record all interactions with buyers – this includes marketing, sales, and service-based customer touches – that can feed into how the CPQ engine helps reps adjust their products, prices, and contracts to mimic what has historically been most successful for their own company…and also for customers’ success.
- Professional sales reps are expensive: my research shows that it costs over $30,000 and takes more than seven months to replace a full-quota B2B contributor, so the 67% gap between Best-in-Class and under-performers in retention success speaks volumes to how top sales leaders more effectively enable success for their team members. My pending “Would You Buy from a 20th-Century Sales Rep?” report will prove that arming sellers with better tools is an ROI slam-dunk. CPQ is a prime example of a weapon provided to elite warriors heading out onto the sales battlefield: Best-in-Class firms are more than twice as likely as Laggards (52% vs. 24%) to plan on increasing their CPQ spend over the next twelve months.
- Behold the power of the spoken word. People still buy from people. Behind the most successful sellers are technologies that enable faster proposal development, more error-free quotes, and, especially, asset repositories that support better sales conversations, higher win rates, and happier customers. Best-in-Class firms lead under-performers in deploying centralized repositories of sales proposals, contract templates, product configurations, and even “correctly queued marketing materials that are tied to specific products.” Speaking intelligently about our product benefits and enjoying the on-the-fly capability to tailor our conversation to each individual buyer’s needs: priceless.
Next, our final post: CPQ Technology + Best-in-Class Processes = Sales Superiority