Everyone knows when you sell for Broadridge you have a good territory, a fair quota, and a competitive compensation plan. Lots of accounts, presales support, excellent customer service, a CRM tool, an easy-to-use process to get a quote out the door, and a sales manager who treats you well. You just get it. Many also know that Broadridge provides lots of sales training, exciting sales contests, and a President’s Club award trip for people who make their number. The company recently took its top producers to the Amalfi Coast.
So when you see that Broadridge is Number 1 on SBI’s ranking of the 10 best companies to sell for in 2016, you may figure the reason has to do with these excellent working conditions. But that’s not why. The attributes of an outstanding environment to sell in are not the reason any company makes this list. Attributes are just that: specific qualities and unique characteristics that determine a company’s personality.
Understanding that quality well enough to build a sales force around it has long been a goal of top companies. And it is becoming more valuable. That is because as the competitive advantages change— for example, when products become commodities and cost structures get cloned—companies that do not know the method of building great sales teams will be at a disadvantage.
Easy to Do Business With
Which brings us back to the exceptional selling environment at Broadridge. The truth is, while the most sought-after sales talent does not generally sign on to a company because of sales contests and award trips, these things can teach us about the attributes of a company’s sales team. We can answer the question, “Why is it that some companies are such powerful magnets for the world’s best sales talent?” Listen to what a customer of Broadridge recently told an SBI consultant: “Broadridge is easy to do business with.”
Wait a minute: Being easy to do business with makes a company great to sell for? It does. Customer-obsessed Broadridge studies how the executives inside their customers and prospects make purchase decisions, to ensure sales reps sell the way customers want to buy. It makes sales reps use a sales process designed with the customer’s buying journey in mind, which results in shorter sales cycles and better close rates than most B2B companies. And now we begin to understand the real reason Broadridge offers all the sales tools it does: to ensure sales reps make it easy for customers to place orders.
That is, the sales environment is just a tool for reaching a goal, and the goal is revenue growth derived from happy customers. Making the number obviously requires more than a superb sales environment, but we are only glimpsing the explanation of sales greatness. During an expert panel discussion in a recent focus group, the sales rep responsible for the customer quoted here said, “The best perk of working at Broadridge is that they are easy to sell for.” And the Number 1 reason the sales rep gave was Chris Perry, the president of global sales, marketing, and client solutions at Broadridge: “Our head of sales is smart and driven. He provides the best environment for selling I have ever experienced.”
Here is the simple attribute of every company on this list: It is easy to buy from and sell for. It is not difficult or complicated. Astoundingly, many companies still don’t get that, though it was the central insight of the SBI research team when assembling the list of the 10 best companies to sell for in 2016.
“The key to creating a great company to sell for,” says SBI partner Mike Drapeau, “was not a prescriptive set of sales programs, best practices, or methodologies. It was the simplifying of the buying and selling process.”
Reaching deeper than hiring profiles and compensation plans ever can, sales strategies that simplify by bringing clarity to the buying and selling process are why “A-Players” love their employers and almost never leave. It is why job applicants will do whatever it takes to get a job at these places.
In the past, plenty of average places to sell for have managed to make their numbers without mastering this understanding. And no doubt, many will continue to thrive. But all evidence suggests that this track is about to become a lot more difficult. Deep changes in buying behavior are likely to boost the advantages that first-rate companies to sell for already enjoy in the marketplace and penalize companies that fall behind.
It is not just because sales effectiveness is growing more valuable in most industries. That trend has been going on for years. The remarkable point is that while most trends eventually fade away, this one is accelerating. SBI’s 2016 research report finds a strong correlation between a company’s assessed level of strategic alignment in the revenue growth maturity model and two key metrics: customer acquisition costs and customer lifetime value. Customer acquisition costs are down 30 percent for companies with excellent sales strategies. And the customer lifetime value of these accomplished sales teams is up 26 percent.
Companies will continue to gain a competitive advantage by attracting and retaining the best sales talent, which is reason enough to become a great company to sell for. But there is a shift regarding who is considered to be the best sales talent. The definition of an “A-Player” sales rep or sales leader has changed. The reason is that knowledge and skills have become commodities. Knowledge and skills that must be learned—solution selling, value proposition messaging, social media prospecting, and so forth—can be mastered by anyone anywhere who attends online courses or sales training workshops from the dozens of vendors that offer them.
As knowledge and skills become commoditized, talented salespeople who make it easy for their customers to buy are emerging as the new “A-Players.” More and more companies recognize that they need sales talent that is good at shielding the customer from complexity. It may be difficult to develop a proposal, adjust product specs, redline a legal document, or modify payment terms. But the customer does not need to witness this.
The best companies to sell for are not those with the most complex customer
experience, but those with the simplest customer experience. SBI partner Scott
Gruher, who directs SBI’s delivery team, has aptly summed up the new reality: “It is not simply those who have the most experienced sales teams; it is those who have the sales talent to shield customers from frustrating complexity. Strategic alignment across a company’s functions is the source of a great customer experience. And this is what allows the company to be easy to buy from and sell for.” You got it. There are new “A-Players.”
Many companies struggle with finding and hiring these top sales employees—as well as deploying them in ways that make the most of their unique gifts. But the top companies to sell for, mostly, are already there. Making it easy to buy from and sell for them is the essence of what they do. Consider another company on the list, national healthcare provider Concentra. The company asks customers and prospects the following questions: “Do you prefer to engage with our representatives in person, on the web, or on the telephone? How does a salesperson add value for you? What would you like a salesperson to be able to do for you that they can’t do today?”
Or look at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Here is a typical sales rep comment: “The company performed a time study to understand what tasks I am required to perform that do not benefit the customer, and eliminated most of them. That allows me to invest more time in my customer relationships.” The extras available to the sales teams inside these companies are pretty darn cool. But it’s the CEO and the head of sales, working in alignment, that make them great companies to sell for.
You’ve realized by now we are talking about strategic alignment, the way the executive team behaves from moment to moment when leading their functional teams. More companies are seeing the connection between the strategic alignment of functional teams—such as product management, marketing, and sales—to revenue growth and sales excellence. Chris Perry, the top sales executive in the financial services industry vertical, has been president of global sales at both Thomson Reuters and Broadridge. “The continuum from the CEO through product development, marketing, sales, and service is what makes it easy for customers to recognize our value and buy from us,” Perry says. “That in turn makes it easy for our sales associates to be successful.”
Brian Walker, CEO of furniture maker Herman Miller, recently appeared on the SBI Podcast. “We think about talking to the sales force in a language they actually believe they can use with their customers,” Walker says. “It certainly gives them confidence.” The term strategic alignment is everywhere. Yet as companies increasingly grasp its importance, they also realize they have no clue where to begin applying strategic alignment to sales. How does strategic alignment make a company easy to buy from, and as a result, great to sell for?
In case you are a skeptic, the 10 best companies to sell for in 2016 do outperform other companies on key sales metrics. The SBI research team performed pattern and trend recognition, used deductive and inductive reasoning, regression analysis, and predictive analytics. They found that these
companies are four times more likely to make their 2016 number than sales organizations that are not strategically aligned. The top factor: being easy to buy from and sell for.
It’s puzzling. Why don’t CEOs and sales leaders realize that great companies to sell for are also the ones that make the number? And then make the necessary investments? The SBI research team exhaustively investigated several
hypotheses and concluded that some CEOs and sales leaders just don’t get it. They simply don’t understand that the best companies to sell for make their
numbers, year in and year out.
A corollary: Some sales reps and managers don’t get it either. Otherwise, why would they work for companies that make it difficult for customers to buy, and for reps to sell? It defies common sense.