Big Ideas That Can Improve Your Sales Performance

Please ask yourself this question: Are sales reps at your organization equipped with a “big idea” that compels your target audience to buy your organization’s solutions?

I see very few organizations equipping their reps with a big idea, and would like to offer an approach to teasing out a big idea your reps can use to improve selling performance.

The Current Situation – Selling Point Solutions

Most reps identify a prospect, ping them with a message around their point-solution, and follow-up multiple times to try to land the deeper selling conversation. They are usually targeting lower level buyers in hopes they have a self-identified need for that particular solution, and the timing is right. Yes, sometimes the rep gets lucky…the prospect returns a call, the need and budget are both in alignment, the timing is perfect and a deal gets signed.

That’s great when it happens.

Frustrating when it doesn’t.

These stats showcase the magnitude of the frustration when stars for buying point solutions aren’t perfectly aligned. From a survey of buyers conducted by Forrester, 18% of sales reps “only want to tell me about their products and services, and present what they do,” 31% “listen for a key word or two so they can launch into a prepared pitch about how they relate to that topic.” These are sentiments of buyers who feel like the reps are not in tune, and just trying to push their point solution.

Another study by SiriusDecisions finds sales executives are well-aware that their reps are struggling, with 71% citing the “inability to articulate value to the buyer” as their number 1 issue. 32% cite their top issue as the lack of useful and relevant content from marketing.

A Better Approach – Selling a Big Idea

A better approach to selling, especially to higher level decision makers, is selling a “big idea.” You can use this big idea theme to sell various point solutions that relate to the big idea. I’d like to offer a few examples and ideas you might find useful in teasing out a big idea for your organization. I often see big ideas come in 3 types, including an Aspirational State, an Alternative Approach to Solving Business Problems and a Blind Spot.

Let’s break down each type with an example.

With an Aspirational State big idea, the sales rep is painting a picture for the prospect of what life can look like with a significant change. The rep characterizes the customer’s current situation and dilemma, paints a future state vision, and then showcases how their solution capabilities can support the journey to the aspirational state. For example, we helped Alcaltel-Lucent sales reps speak to executives about an aspirational state of being a dynamic enterprise. Most of their prospects were painfully aware of how slow and static they were to change, with the world of change and new competitive entrants passing them by. Alcatel-Lucent knew their vast portfolio of communications and knowledge management solutions could support a new speed of decision making and organizational improvement across larger enterprises, and make their prospects more dynamic. The big idea resonated with higher level decision makers, and opened new doors for exploring how to become more dynamic with capabilities Alcatel-Lucent could bring to the table. The sales reps appreciated the “big problem” they were helping business leaders solve, versus the little problems they were trying to address in their more traditional point-solution selling conversations.

With a New Approach big idea, the sales rep illustrates how the current approach to solving business problems isn’t working well enough, and executives should step outside of the norm with new approaches to solving business problems. A great example of this kind of big idea comes from IBM. They started with their big idea campaign around “Solutions for a Smarter Planet” and have evolved the campaign to “Outthink.”  I love the simplicity of this big idea and how it relates to IBM and how it can serve its customers. In a nutshell, their prospects often “inthink” their approach to solving business problems organically. The world has changed. In this modern “cognitive era,” they can “outthink” their business problems with IBM and Watson to gain much better insights and accelerate the time to value. This big idea puts the sales rep into a position of selling a new, more compelling approach to solving business challenges versus selling point “cloud” and “big data” solutions. Which selling conversation would you rather be having?

With the Blind Spot big idea, a friend of mine spoke to me about a trucking services company with service stations that were losing business to other service stations with less amenities and a much lower costs of fuel. Fuel prices had become a key decision making factor that corporate trucking firms were considering in where their truck drivers would be allowed to refuel. Of course, the low-cost providers knew this and were promoting their lower pricing accordingly. What the trucking companies weren’t seeing was the extra miles the trucks would have to drive to get to the cheaper fuel, creating more driver fatigue. The lower priced service stations were also in locations with a higher crime rates, with drivers often feeling they were at risk and uncomfortable in traveling in these areas.

The trucking services company did its homework, uncovering data about how hard it was to hire truck drivers in the current economic climate and how costly it was to bring new drivers on. They equipped their sales reps in how to show trucking companies their blind spot. They were able to quantify the cost of the extra driving to get to cheaper fuel, and the causal relationship between offering their drivers better truck station amenities in safer environments and the ultimate impact and cost savings through lowering truck driver turnover and improving employee retention.

Creating Your Big Idea

I’ve offered 3 types of big ideas that I’ve seen work magic in improving selling conversations and revenue performance. They’re not safe ideas that are often seen as small, easily achievable and like everyone else. These safe ideas are the ones that are being offered by most positioning, messaging, branding and sales enablement firms.

Your big idea needs to be bold. It needs to challenge common thinking, assumptions, ideas and actions of your prospects. It needs to provide insight that others have not thought about before. It needs to outperform and be big from a “move the dial” perspective, leading edge in terms of innovation and in many cases, difficult for the customer to implement without your support. At FutureSight, we start off with inside-out research to understand our client’s offering and the market domain. Then we focus on the unconsidered needs of our client’s prospects, so our clients are not touting the same commodity benefits already creating noise in the market, ensuring our client’s selling conversations are of high value.

Inside my LinkedIn community – Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group, we’re sharing in more detail around our approaches to help our clients and their sales professionals stand apart from typical point-solution selling approaches.

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