Back to the Future – The B2B Sales Imperative

By Warren Shiver on Jun 2, 2017

2 Minute Estimated Read Time

“Whoa, this is heavy…There's that word again; "heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?" -- Back to the Future

A recent HBR article, The New Sales Imperative got me thinking about the classics. Seems like the “new” B2B sales imperative looks a lot like the old one. It reminds me of NBC’s great slogan in the 1990’s when they would show reruns of their must-see lineup on Thursday nights (the era before Netflix, streaming, etc.), “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.”

I’m not quite sure of the original source, but we were working with sales teams to define their buyer-aligned sales process with supporting “customer evidence” back at OnTarget in the late ‘90s for clients, such as Microsoft, IBM, and HP. There are reasons that good ideas are enduring, especially in sales where there are such clear scorecards.

Back to the Basics

We are often asked about the latest sales trends and pushed by clients, especially those focused on Learning & Development, to offer the latest sales technique, program, or approach. Increasingly, we are recommending a back-to-basics approach for many of our clients.

A few examples:

  • Corporate Sales Development Programs – In a nod to the ‘70s and ‘80s-era tech businesses (IBM, DEC, Xerox, etc.) that all offered extensive new hire programs for sales, there is a current trend at technology companies looking to grow their sales teams through in-house sales new-hire development programs. These programs originally taught foundational selling skills and process, and in some cases lasted as long as 18 months. Incidentally, the programs also spawned the creation of the modern sales training industry with alumni, such as Neil Rackham (Xerox), Mike Bosworth (Xerox), and Jim Holden (Teradyne), who packaged sales methods that are still popular (and relevant) today.*
  • Buyer-Aligned Sales Processes – As mentioned above and described in the HBR article, this is a concept that’s never gone out of style. A buyer-aligned sales process is the foundation of solution and “prescriptive” selling approaches where you simply map out the customer's buying journey and process, and then align your sales activities, resources, and tools. We see many companies revisiting this approach after implementing a CRM technology and realizing that they do not have a consistent sales process (which manifests in poor pipeline health, forecast visibility, and missed quotas).
  • Sales Transformation – In the sales effectiveness/training industry, this is probably the most overused and misrepresented term. A Google search yields 75 million results compared with 30 million for “sales training.” A majority of our clients are typically doing well (not facing bankruptcy or major declines) and are looking for “tweaks” to improve performance, not a wholesale “transformation.” Certainly tweaks come in all shapes and sizes but typically cover one or more areas of our Way of Sales: Strategy, Process, Enablement, and Management. For more information on the essentials of a true sales transformation, see our book 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation on the topic.

 Others that come to mind? Maybe it’s back to the future after all…

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* For more information, check out our latest book,

Photo: From the book BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorian with Randal Atamaniuk, published by Harper Design, 10/20/15.

Warren Shiver

Written by Warren Shiver

Warren Shiver is the founder and managing partner of Symmetrics Group, a management consultancy focused on end to end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Through Warren’s leadership, Symmetrics Group has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process and well-designed enabling tools. Clients and consultants appreciate Warren’s uncompromising focus on quality and measureable impact and how he embodies the firm’s core values.

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