Thought Leadership Interview #1: Kevin Temple of Enterprise Selling

I’m pleased to bring you the first in a series of interviews with thought leaders in B2B Sales and Marketing. First up is sales expert Kevin Temple of Enterprise Selling.

If you like what Kevin has to say, all of his contact information is included as well.  I wish to thank Kevin for his contributions to Fearless Competitor too.

Many more thought leaders are coming soon, so stay tuned.

Kevin Temple | The Enterprise Selling Group | 916-939-1939 ||  LinkedIn Profile | ImperativeSelling Blog

Question 1: CSO Insights recently found that quota achievement was at its lowest rate ever, lead generation budgets were flat or cut, and quotas were being raised. Jim Dickie see this as the Perfect Storm.  As a sales expert, what are you observing in B2B sales?

(KT) I would concur with their observations. In context, I’ll highlight that when the economy sours, that would seem to be the time to sharpen skills and become extremely methodical in squeezing every dollar out of every opportunity. Yet, sales methodology training is down 40-65% in the last year. One of my customers had a painful first quarter in 2009, as did many with the economy tightening up. However, they invested in a major initiative to improve qualification, cross selling, and managing the evaluation process. As a result, they increased their average selling price, their services to product ratio and decreased their sales cycles in 2009. While the economy is a factor in tougher sales, not investing in sales skills and leadership skills is the bigger factor in the gap between expectations and actual results.

Question 2: The economic challenges of today are a major problem for B2B sellers.  You wrote a great article entitled “Leading a Sales Team During a Down Market.”  Can you share the lessons with us?

(KT) The key message is that during a robust economy many selling sins are hidden and overlooked in the face of good news, meaning revenue growth. So when the economy sours,those neglected, or atrophied, skills become an opportunity for growth with process improvements. I give several examples in the article, but one common example is the skill to qualify and disqualify. During a robust economy, many sales people play the numbers game. Talk to ten prospects and one will buy from you. When the economy sours, that ratio might change to 20:1 for example. This is when it becomes critical to learn how to disqualify out the opportunities that don’t have a chance of closing. First because they take time with no sale resulting, but second, because they rob the seller of the time to work on an opportunity that could close. The customer I cited earlier was able to close 20% more deals per rep in 2009 because they invested in qualification/disqualfication skill development.

Question 3: Changing of the status quo is a major impediment to progress.  How can sales leaders implement change without incurring undue risk?

(KT) There is a significant amount of research on this subject, primarily coming out of Harvard. We’ve identified five key leadership actions that increase the probability of successful change in sales transformations. The research out of Harvard indicates that just missing one of these critical leadership actions increases the risk of failure. So the best investment a sales leader can make is understanding the components of change leadership. The article on our site entitled, “Transforming from Product to Solution Selling” provides a succinct overview of these leadership change actions. They include excellent communication and vision setting, establishing supporting coalitions, establishing early wins for the change campaign, overcoming obstacles in the ecosystem, and implementing a rigorous review process.

Question 4: How can a sales leader assess his or her personal need and fit for improvement in sales process?  What tool(s) do you offer?

(KT) That’s a big question. But it might have a simple answer. The answer lies in the pain or gain that is on their mind. If it’s a struggle to meet their quota, or the growth expectations seem out of reality with actual results, than its time to find better ways to achieve your business results. On the other side, if the sales leader desires to achieve higher levels of responsibility in their career, they should learn how to improve their team now under any circumstances. The lessons will apply the rest of their career.  I have not found a sales team that wasn’t overlooking several opportunities for improving their performance, so its highly likely that every reader of this article can increase their productivity by 10-20% just by looking inside the practices of their teams. As for tools, we provide a comprehensive checklist to identify the opportunities for sales improvement, and we provide services to map out their existing sales process and identify the opportunities for improvement. This is particularly helpful for senior leaders that may have several sales channels but not the luxury of understanding each operational process in detail.

Question 5: If you had just three things you could say to a VP of Sales today – the key take-aways, what would they be?

(KT) #1. You can get more performance out of your team, but it takes an investment in problem identification, skill development and a well defined leadership plan.

#2. As a leader, you must go to bat for the development of your team. The sales leaders I’ve seen prosper in the last year, made successful proposals to invest in their teams when all other spending was put on hold.

#3 Now is the time. The average longevity of a sales leader is less than two years. Many explained away their recent performance with the economy. So with the economy coming out of recession, those sales leaders that can’t demonstrate a return to two digit growth are likely to find nowhere to hide.

Kevin Temple | The Enterprise Selling Group | 916-939-1939 ||  LinkedIn Profile | ImperativeSelling Blog

Bringing the advantages of dynamic selling applications to the world’s best companies.

What do you think about the challenges of sales today and Kevin’s advice?  Do you agree or disagree?

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Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor, is President of Find New CustomersLead Generation Made Simple.” He’s also the author of two highly acclaimed lead generation and sales white papers, How to Find New Customers and Definitive Guide to Making Quota, as well the ebook, Prospect Driven Marketing.

Find New Customers helps business develop and implement programs to improve the way they find and acquire new customers using best practices in lead generation.