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Aligning Your Sales Strategy with Your Customer’s Journey

Aligning Your Sales Strategy with Your Customer’s Journey
Use a sales system to know what resources to invest in to succeed in sales
By Joe Galvin,
Vistage Chief Research Officer

While CEOs continue to manage the new challenges that have arisen from COVID-19, many are strategizing, investing and preparing to reignite their growth engine to successfully transition from recovery to the start of the next growth cycle. To build a world-class sales organization, leaders need more than just a team of stellar salespeople. They need a clear understanding of how and why their customers buy. Only then can they appropriately align their sales resources, position sales leadership and invest in support capabilities to best connect with their customers. Professional selling is about understanding your customer, their requirements and how they want to buy before you can begin to position your capabilities with any predictable or repeatable success.

Our most recent report, Building a World-Class Sales System: The CEO’s Guide, outlines a series of frameworks for small and midsize business CEOs to consider as they prepare their sales teams to capitalize on the pent up buying demand that will be released as the pandemic passes. CEOs must have an objective view of their sales function and then use that perspective to design, tune, and optimize a sales system that sets up their organizations for success.

A sales system guides CEOs in their strategy selection and decision-making as it provides them a consistent lens for evaluating sales performance. The core of the sales system is aligning sales resources with how customers want to buy:

  • For customers looking for a commoditized product that fits their needs, companies need to align resources like inbound sales teams, a high social presence and a developed sales process for managing from demand generation through fulfillment.
  • To engage with customers that require highly complex solutions, businesses need to look at how they remain competitive through the evaluation process for new customers, as well as how their sales strategy aligns with their existing customers’ decision process.

Below we look at one member’s approach to complex sales.

Case study: Using customization as a competitive sales strategy

Patterson Pope, a provider of smart storage and other high-density storage solutions, serves as a model for using sales resources strategically — and it has the sales numbers to prove it. The company has grown from 13 employees, two locations and $2.5 million in revenue in 1994 to more than 200 employees, 10 locations and $60 million in revenue today. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, it serves companies across industries such as health care, higher education, athletics, military, law enforcement, museums, industrial, libraries and general business.

Because the company’s solutions involve high levels of customization, every sales deal is unique. While that results in long sales cycles (six months on average), it also gives the company a competitive advantage. “The more intricate our solution is, the less competition we have and the more valuable our solution is for the end-user,” explains Patterson Pope CEO Denny Hammack, a Vistage member since 2015.

Denny Hammack, photo courtesy of Patterson Pope

Patterson Pope designed a movable shelving system and smart locker solution for a prospective new customer that is a high-end clothing retailer. They are looking for a solution to store and transport garments across its campus for research and design. The solution Patterson Pope designed uses RFID tags that can track the location of all garments 24/7 and will enable their potential customer’s employees to request and retrieve garments with their mobile phones.

For an existing client, Wake Forest University, the company created a storage solution to address COVID-19 safety concerns. It installed smart lockers in the university library so that students could collect books without making physical contact. The system also sent students a text when their books were ready for pickup.

Hammack insists that his salespeople focus exclusively on sales — and never on administrative tasks — so they can dedicate themselves to understanding their customers and building deep relationships with them. To support this structure, salespeople are aided by a team of marketers, designers, consultants, project managers and account managers. “Our model is to put people in the right spots, where they can do what they do well, and do that exclusively,” explains Hammack. “We don’t want our salespeople to get tied up in a lot of minutiae.”

The company is also unique in that it gives salespeople the freedom to sell according to their individual style and strengths. For example, when three salespeople based in Charlotte asked to team up and split their commission, Hammack didn’t hesitate to say yes — even though the structure was outside of the company’s norms. Similarly, he doesn’t require salespeople to stick to a specific script when selling; rather, he asks them to live the company’s values of teamwork, adaptability, flexibility and respect when interacting with customers.

His logic? “If a customer absolutely loves working with us,” he says, “we’re going to win 9 out of 10 times.”

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A Research Perspective