The term NextGen is all too frequently bandied about in technology around NextGen this or NextGen that.  Why? Everyone wants an edge and is curious about how things are going to change and become better.  There are always huge material benefits and value to being on the leading edge of the next wave of something big.

So rather than attempting to come up with the right naming convention like Sales 3.0 or Sales 3.141592 (inside joke), or some other lame clich√© title… I’ll just refer to it generically as next generation sales and you can come up with the title that you like:-)

Let’s start by establishing some context.  Solution selling has been the de facto B2B technology sales model for quite some time.  In fact, it’s a methodology that I have used myself as a sales rep and a VP of Sales.  While still a meaningful sales approach, it is getting a bit long in the tooth in terms of age.  According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solution_selling), Solution Selling is 30-40 years old.

Have technology buyers changed the way that they evaluate and make buying decisions in the past 30-40 years?  Are there more options today than 30 years ago?  Is there more confusion in the technology marketplace today?  How much control does the sales rep have today vs. 30 years ago?

These are all rhetorical questions designed to tease out the obvious answers, which are all a resounding “HELL YES!”  Given that, how has your sales and marketing function evolved and changed to meet the new world model?  Have you simply attempted to update your sales and marketing terminology but really are using the same old anachronistic approaches and methodologies?  If so, I submit that is most likely the root cause of your current day sales challenges.

What should an effective next generation sales model include?  This is a next generation sales framework that from our real world experience works best:

  • Understand your buyer intimately.  Model your ideal customer profile from how they evaluate and buy, to the key stakeholders and what matters to them.  What are the buying behaviors and signals that you need to recognize during the buyer’s journey and your associated sales campaign?  How do you determine if there is alignment and if not, how do you course correct before it’s too late?  This fundamentally requires a strategic modeling exercise; please don’t confuse this with a simple BANT qualification step. Today’s winning sales teams understand their customers as intimately as if they were family members.  Do you?
  • Challenge your customers with a perspective and your domain expertise.  Customers want your point of view, provided that it adds real value and is grounded in domain expertise. Customers can be wrong.  Customers often don’t know the best way to evaluate and make technology decisions.  Take their hand and provide guidance.  Share with them from your experience strategic implications that they should be considering or thinking about that they aren’t.  They will genuinely value that and it will inherently differentiate you from the competitive “regurgitators” that simply parrot back robotically to the customers what they have heard from the customers themselves during their qualification and discovery process.  This frustrates the hell out of senior customer execs that we speak to all the time. Sales teams that are more effective today than their peers or competitors are not afraid to challenge their customers.  They do so by coming to the table with a distinct point of view with their customers.  This enables them to educate (prove domain expertise and real value add), differentiate by personalizing, and effectively take control of the customer conversation.
  • Collaborate with customers on new strategic business models, not solutions to pain.  When we ask customer execs why they decided on vendor x or solution y today the common refrain is that the sales team or vendor thought outside the box.  Expressed differently, they did things differently than their competitors or other sales team approaches.  When you double click on that, we have found that the common thread is that winning sales teams are collaborating with their customers on solutions to their customers needs and changing business models.  In effect, they are jointly developing new business models that happen to include the seller’s technology as part of what is required to drive new revenue streams for their customer’s business. It is analogous to the sales team effectively structuring a joint venture.  This can even include revenue or profit sharing.  Fundamentally, it is a new and different sales motion.  This isn’t about cost cutting or a compliance/regulation pain being met, this is transforming your customer’s business model to better meet their customer’s business model.  Next generation sales teams understand their customer’s changing business model, and their customer’s customer changing business model and can effectively collaborate and architect new business models and revenues streams that the customer couldn’t do on their own.

This is a simple three (3) part next generation sales framework but taken in concert and executed well, will make a huge difference in your overall sales effectiveness.  I’ve intentionally abstracted much of the complexity out of these three parts because to evolve and get this right as a sales organization is quite complex and challenging.  Happy next generation selling to you and yours!