This Week’s Big Deal: Questioning Sales Management Assumptions

January 14, 2019

The Science of B2B Sales Management

“Sales is not an art; it is a science.”

This comes from Cognism CEO James Isilay in his write-up on The Science of B2B Sales, published last week at MyCustomer.

I wouldn’t entirely agree with his premise. To me, there is an essential element of art (“the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”) to any strong sales approach. But Isilay’s underlying point is valid: There is very much a science to selling, and many of us could stand to better incorporate scientific principles into our B2B sales strategies.

Thinking Scientifically About B2B Sales Management

Isilay breaks down this science from two perspectives: team structure, and sales enablement via technology.

Restructuring the Sales Team: Role Specialization
Building an effective B2B sales team has often been viewed through a fairly simplistic lens: recruit superstar salespeople, lean on their experience and networks, and let them carry your company to growth. Today, with increased competition and complexity in the sales process, Isilay suggests that a different model is more suitable.

He argues that sales managers should be “moving away from the traditional model where each salesperson is responsible for every stage of the sales cycle, from prospecting through to closing, to one where each individual has a well delineated specialist role with clearly defined metrics.”

Given that the NFL playoffs are currently underway, a football analogy seems fitting. One might be tempted to build an offense out of Tom Bradys, but such a team wouldn’t win many games. Yes, Brady is an historically great quarterback and team captain, but who’s blocking for him? Who’s catching the ball? Who’s kicking the field goals?

From this perspective, it’s easy to see where Isilay is coming from. As sales leaders, we might be hurting ourselves by asking a master deal-closer to spend equal amounts of time prospecting, and vice versa. It’s probably not feasible in most cases to hire different individuals to focus exclusively on different stages of the sales cycle, but you can certainly divvy up focal areas based on strengths and competencies.

When acquiring talent, seek to fill gaps that may exist in your current team’s skill set. Instead of simply recruiting the best salespeople, in that traditional sense, aim to hire the best salespeople for your specific needs. Not only can these reps directly bolster shortcomings, but they can also set an example, share knowledge, and progressively move the needle for your team as a whole.

Cutting-Edge Sales Enablement
P.T. Barnum once said that “comfort is the enemy of progress.” His quote rings true for sales teams that are comfortably coasting on the same insufficient sales enablement tools.

“Poor quality contact and lead data is one of the most frustrating aspects of any B2B outbound sales campaign,” argues Isilay, and I doubt many in the field would disagree. It’d be nice if — in line with the team-building tactics above — we could have one person whose sole job was to review, scrutinize, and continually update pipeline data across all platforms… but again, probably not feasible (and who wants that job anyway?).

So we must rely on tools and technology to keep our sales intelligence sharp, while minimizing friction. To that end, streamlining and boosting collaborative functionality were central focuses for upgrading Sales Navigator in 2018, and they will be again in 2019. The idea is to keep your team comfortable in a good way (as in, comfortable with the quality of their information and resources) but not in a bad way (stagnating and falling behind the pack).

Whether you’re using Sales Navigator or another solution, make sure you’ve got the right enablement technology in place to keep your contact and lead data current, robust, and actionable.

Back to the Laboratory

At its core, science is about questioning our basic assumptions. It’s unwise to assume that the same team makeups and tools of yesteryear will still produce optimal results going forward. Thankfully, Isilay and many others are helping shed light on the future of successful B2B sales management, and encouraging us to think critically about the comforts that may be silently holding back our progress.

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