WERNHER VON BRAUN
RESEARCH IS WHAT I’M DOING WHEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.
Von Braun was a German-American physicist and rocket engineer whose team launched the first US satellite into space. The quote often produces a chuckle, but there is more than a grain of truth in it. As business leaders, our egos can prevent us from admitting we don’t know what to do next. As Proverbs 16 reminds us: “Pride goes before the fall.” When a team is stuck, it’s essential to recognize that before we go out and try to DO, we must first take a step back and investigate where we are. This is difficult. It may feel like someone asking you to take a coffee break while you’re taking enemy fire in the battle. However, every move counts, and as in chess, there are no free moves. Making the wrong sales calls or wasting time on the wrong activity puts you further behind in the long run.
So, where to begin? Wernher was right in that it starts with research. Making fact-based educated decisions will get you to your goals faster. Your business research will focus on four key areas:
- Sales data
- Market data
- Customer feedback
Mapping sales data is often overlooked, but it’s the easy first move. So much of what is working (or not working) with your current sales team is likely a result of misaligned goals, roles, or activities. Within the sales data, you have the information you need to map territories, simplify sales activities, or set up a better forecasting process for your organization.
It is fantastic to get to a place where salespeople understand where they need to hunt and what they really want as a business, but getting a salesperson to where they feel good about turning down bad business… is priceless! Not all customers are created equal. Prospecting should focus on one or two areas versus the classic spray and pray approach.
An area that is often more difficult — and typically completely forgotten — is gathering market data. You can forecast with current sales data, but for increased accuracy, overlapping that data with predictive indicators gives you a much clearer picture.
Digging into segmentation allows your team to focus their energy on the key segments that will produce results instead of going after everything that moves. Many market segments may not be worth the effort. Finally, understanding gaps in the competition’s product or service portfolio may help you identify categories for the team’s focus. All these action points help you determine where to strategically spend sales energy.
People often have a limited understanding about how to solicit customer feedback. Sales discussions tend to have a tactical focus. Sales questions are leading (towards the product or service), while research questions are exploratory (seeking to understand). Some examples of exploratory questions include: “what parts of your buying experience are good or bad? How do you think it could be better?” or “what data do you need to make a decision?”
Asking these questions is the start to improving and simplifying the buyer’s experience. There are also simple ways to build feedback loops into how you gather data over time. The result will be a faster sales process.
Another area commonly overlooked is the assessment of the current team. Understanding who is successful and why helps you view your organization differently. Do you have one person with lots of experience in your company who is currently filling multiple roles? Maybe he or she can do it because of their history in the business, but hiring a replacement would be like hiring a unicorn.
To assess your team, we recommend Objective Management Group’s, sales assessment tool. The deliverables are not personality tests but statistically relevant criteria testing to discover what will make someone successful in your business. OMG has assessed 2.3 million salespeople globally since 2011 and businesses worldwide have used the tool to build seats and align skills.
Why are assessments important? None of us will ever outperform the algorithm with over 2.3M samples. You might beat the house for a short streak, but play long enough and the house always wins.
of all salespeople are elite performers
of salespeople are ineffective
of recommended candidates reach the top half of salesforce
of non-recommended candidates fail within 6 months
“I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research, and you learn the basic facts.” – Bill Gates
Most importantly, we need to remember the purpose. A sales team’s typical top-level goals are revenue growth, retention, hiring, or serving customers. Achieving these goals requires improving the sales team or processes. Data allows for faster, more confident decisions. With this information, you can begin to accurately predict revenue and drive the continuous improvement needed to level up the organization. It will enable a team to build a more robust vision and align the organization around a common strategy and direction. Without it, you will repeat conversations, drift down rabbit holes, and waste time and money.