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November 14, 2017

How Sales Enablement Can Turn Your Sales Org Upside Down

111417 - Scott Santucci

GUEST: Scott Santucci, Director of The Alexander Group

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Throw away your 57-step sales guidebook and keep it simple, stupid.

In the most recent episode of The B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we sat down to talk to Scott Santucci, Director of The Alexander Group and founder of The Sales Enablement Society.

Scott sees countless inefficiencies in many sales orgs today, but he has developed a method of simplifying the whole approach through Sales Enablement.  This interview explores what the term “Sales Enablement” means, how to keep the sales process simple, how to implement these practical tips, and how the Sales Enablement Society came to be.

Scott’s Journey

Scott was a top selling rep back in 1999 when he found he was dissatisfied with the marketing department at his company.  After voicing his concerns and proposing solutions in a convincing manner, Scott became the VP of Product Marketing and Management where he improved win rate and average deal size by large margins and significantly reduced the sales cycle time.

Scott was humbled in 2003 when he was fired by his board of directors as the VP of Sales & Marketing.  He admits his head had gotten a little too large and he was convinced he had all of the answers.  Scott reevaluated many things over the next few years and came to the conclusion that Sales is a team sport; it doesn’t have to be conflict oriented.  

In the years in between getting fired from his VP position and his time at the Alexander Group, Scott was a Research Director for Forrester.  During this time, he found that sales reps and the executives they sold to were talking past each other - they were often using different terminology to describe the same ideas, but were never able to fully connect. Scott developed the Sales Enablement process to flip the perception of salespeople as “trained monkeys” who knew little else, to knowledgeable reps that put customer’s needs first.

What is Sales Enablement?

Today, Sales & Marketing can feel like a battle between Catholics and Protestants.  

Sales Enablement, on the other hand, seeks to follow a far more inclusive approach.  Scott describes the Sales Enablement process as allowing companies to unlock  “the growth potential embedded in every single company today by creating an execution fabric to get the rest of the company streamlined around solving problems for customers and equipping sellers to do it.”

Scott believes that it is as important to have a “go to customer” plan as it is to have a “go to market” plan.  He offered a list of questions that Sales Enablement seeks to answer:

  • What possibilities are we making for our clients?
  • Instead of focusing on pricing, how do we prove that what we provide makes your company successful?
  • How do we provide a path to success for these clients  instead of disruption?

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Just because a process is simple, doesn’t mean it is easy to execute.  Chad echoes this sentiment of Sales Enablement by pointing out that “price is a phantom objection” when it comes to not closing a deal.  Losing on price just means that the sales rep didn’t communicate well - it’s difficult work to develop relationships, but that simple action breeds success.

Price is a phantom objection.

Scott describes the crux of selling as “engaging around a business problem and helping to develop that idea.”  For as many opportunities as there are where there are informed decision makers already partially through the buying process, there are as many individuals who are looking for guidance.  This latter group is looking to engage and talk about real problems of business because they don’t know where to go for solutions.

Instead of engaging in conversation, many reps get bogged down in the details and numbers of what they are trying to pitch.  Their pipeline gets incredibly complicated and their focus moves off of listening to customers.  This often is not their fault because in an effort to improve sales, companies roll out complicated plans in their organization.

Businesses often base these plans on the average performance of their entire salesforce when often the top 20% of their reps are driving in far more business than the next group down.  This often frustrates that top 20% and does not translate into success.  Instead, Scott suggests a baseball analogy as a simplified plan from getting out of the batter’s box all the way around to home plate.

A Simplified Plan in 4 Steps

First base

The first step is to define who the “Adult Wallet Owner” is in your given industry.  Who is making the purchasing decisions and are you meeting with them? Define them as individuals, not companies;  Reduce stress by picturing people as people, not executives to be feared.

Second Base

Your verifiable second step is to get “buy in” from everyone else in the company.  That first contact needs to be advised on who else needs to be brought into the decision making process so that real progress can be made.  We can’t expect that first contact to hold all the answers or know all the right questions to ask because they haven’t ever bought your product before!

Third Base

The third step is ensuring that you and your potential customer have a shared vision of success.  Opportunities often get stuck here. The customer can’t see your vision, so they invest elsewhere. They perceive the decision as too risky for them, so they kick the can down the road and become what Scott refers to as NDI (No Decision Incorporated).

Home Plate

The final step is, of course, closing the business.  What may seem like a daunting task suddenly becomes a whole lot easier if you do the above steps.   Closing the deal is the natural outcome of having true 2-way conversations with the right people, developing relationships, and sharing a unified definition of what success looks like.

All-star game

Once the business is closed, it gives you the opportunity to come back for the All-Star Game, and that is the time to upsell your offering or cross-sell it to other parts of the company.  When you can come back and have a conversation about what successes the business saw since implementing your product, you are well on your way to more business.

The crux of selling is engaging around a business problem and helping to develop that idea.

What is the Sales Enablement Society?

Scott started the Sales Enablement Society in an effort to humble himself.  He now knew that he didn’t have a monopoly on all of the answers in the sales world, and he wanted to start inclusive discussions around sales solutions. The Society started as a small group of individuals meeting to discuss ideas; instead of a “Catholic vs. Protestants” debate on what the truth was, the meetings aimed for open discussion on revenue growth.

Charters soon started popping up in different cities all thanks to the dedicated time of local volunteers.  According to Scott, the experiment was for the Sales Enablement Society to be, “an organization dedicated to figuring out what growth is.”

Scott had ambitious goals in mind for the first year of the Society’s growth:  He wanted 5,000 members, 20 chapters, a dedicated platform to create in, a conference, and a dedicated outlet for media coverage.  As “pie in the sky” as these goals sounded, he hit most of the goals and even exceeded some others.  There are now 2,200 members of the Sales Enablement Society in 29 chapters (including locations such as Egypt, Germany, Holland, The United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, India, Canada, and the United States).  Higher Logic even built the Society an Enterprise Class Community Platform where 900 of the members have logged in to create accounts (at no cost to the Sales Enablement Society!).

The conference that Scott had in mind is also becoming a reality; it will sell out and has a partnership with Selling Power Magazine.  At the conference, there will be a roll out of what they call their “Virginia Plan” which will be debated in a war-room setting and then sent back out to all 29 chapters in order to be ratified.  Open discussion over what the Society agrees on and deems foundational is up for debate.  

Scott is insistent that The Sales Enablement Society has no bank account.  It is run with all volunteers and virtually no resources; that is the whole point.  Scott summarizes this volunteer organization’s value by saying, “look what we accomplished… without any money, without any resource, without any organizational structure.  Now imagine what we can do if you’ll let us do it inside our companies.”

sales enablement

Acceleration Insight

In each episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we ask our guests for one nugget of wisdom they would impart to a sales professional.  Scott begins by letting us know that the best way to catch his attention is to be authentic.  He advises people to be blunt in sharing their intentions, be sincere in admitting they don’t know all the answers, and make real connections... because people still buy from people.

Along similar lines, his Acceleration Insight piece of advice is to remember that sales is not about you.  Your number one job is to find out who the “adult wallet owner” is in the industry in which you are selling, and utilize company resources to reach those individuals.  You are just the conductor in this process, not the most important part.  The sooner you realize that, the more successful you will be.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Scott Santucci at The Alexander Group. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.