article | June 7, 2017
Use a Proprietary Sales Process to Win More Deals
I recently interviewed Loren Brockhouse, a Senior Vice President of Global Sales who knows how to Make the Number. Today’s topic is about winning more deals, winning bigger deals, and winning them faster. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.
Loren Brockhouse is the Senior Vice President of Global Sales for iiPay, an international payroll provider for enterprise companies. Integrated International Payroll (iiPay) is a cloud-based global payroll solution that reduces dependence on in-country payroll processors; and provides a comprehensive view into an organization’s global payroll landscape. This show is a must watch for executives with sales teams working to disrupt the status quo. Loren will demonstrate how to win more deals, win bigger deals, and win them faster.
Why this topic on this day? Standard, one size fits all sales methodologies no longer work. Your competitors can license the same sales methodologies from the same vendors you can, so there is no competitive advantage to be had by adopting the latest sales methodology from the sales trainee industry.
I have included the full transcript of my conversation with John, or if you prefer, watch a video of the full interview during Loren’s visit to SBI’s executive briefing center.
I’m going to start off with a question to establish a framework as we begin. Do you have a standard sales methodology?
Yes, we absolutely do. We have a proprietary sales process that we’ve wrapped, really, the elements of strategic selling around. We believe that it’s critical that we ask the necessary questions at each stage and that will allow us to differentiate ourselves from our competition, it’ll allow us to speed up the sales process and ultimately show what our points of differentiation are.
We’ve tried to minimize the number of stages so that it would be easier to adopt. Secondly, there would be clear definition between the stages, so the entire organization knew when we were moving from one stage to another, and ultimately, we used those stages to drive resourcing and forecast which is extremely important to an emerging business.
You mentioned proprietary, and we believe that people like yourself should develop a proprietary sales process. If you just go license the latest sales process you can get from a sales training company, your competitors can use the same one, and therefore, you’ve just commoditized the sales process. Why did you personally decide to go proprietary?
Personally, because if you look at the website of iiPay and our competitors’, the websites look the same. The value propositions are the same. That will only lead you to believe that the messaging deck and what the sales people say in the market is the same, so there’s no differentiation, so really, the only differentiation is when you engage with the client, and that absolutely must be felt and seen as something different.
Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more. That customer experience now of truth. I’m the buyer, you’re the seller, and I meet you. Do I have a different experience there than when I talked to the three or four other plays in your space, and if I’m just looking at a website, I mean literally in your business and all business, my business, my client’s business, everybody’s using the same words? So how do you differentiate, right?
My next question for you is regarding how the buyers buy and understanding that well enough to be able to build your proprietary sales methodology. How did you learn about how your buyers make purchase decisions?
We interviewed our clients. We do thorough win/loss reviews, and then we certainly talk to industry analysis well, and because of that, we created buyer personas and with our buyer personas, we didn’t want to create too many. You’re going to see, you know, we’re trying to stay away from complex here, so we really have two themes and about six buy personas, and those buyer personas really drive the questions that we ask at each stage in the process, and the resources that we deploy against each stage.
You mentioned two themes. What are they?
The themes are the financial buyer and then the people buyer, the HR side. It’s a payroll so it’s typically in finance or HR, and those are certainly different people and different personas and then there’s many layers within each of those themes.
The six personas, is it six for the financial buyer and a different six for the HR buyer, or is the six divided among the two?
Therefore simpler, easier to use.
Fantastic. All right, my last question for you in this segment for you before we’ll cut to a break is in terms of resources, what resources does a sales team need when executing the sales process?
Traditional resources that the sales person, the sales leader, pre-sales consultant, and then beyond that, because we’re selling to a committee and we’re really trying to guide them through their buying decision, we believe that at certain stages in their buyer’s journey, we need to deploy operational experts. Those operational experts, when they credibly share our differentiators, it certainly differentiates us from the competition and gives us an opportunity to start eliminating some of the competitors during that buy journey because ultimately, the only way the committee’s going to come together is if they can all settle on one vendor.
Does the sales process specifically call out to the sales person when they should pull in one of these operational experts?
Yes, it’s evolving. Certainly, when we do our strategy sessions as we prepare for each opportunity to reach interaction, we’re calling that out.
Sometimes I’ve heard that before, and I think it’s a great idea. Sometimes refer it to as subject matter experts, you know, when do I pull in my SMEs. One of two things happen, either we don’t use them enough or we use them all the time and they become a crutch. But it’s very situational, I think if you try to hard coat it into the sales methodology at times, it could feel forced.
Yes, it absolutely must be decided during the strip sales strategy sessions, and there should be an iteration on that as you find more information. The other thing with the subject matter experts, and some of them, they have day jobs too, so they have other things they’re trying do to help your business be successful so you must be very selective on when you use them.
Loren, my next question is, is your sales cycle length the same, shorter, or longer than your competitors?
I think it’s very like most of our competitors’. The reason I say that is the buyers are in control. They’re doing 70% of their research before they even invite you in and then you’ve got to go through their process, so I think it’s very similar.
However, we don’t want to settle on that because certainly we want to increase the velocity and drive those opportunities through so we do believe that if we ask the right questions and guide the buyers through their journey at early stages in their buyers’ journey, that we can start to eliminate the competitors, and as you eliminate the competitors, it really starts to speed up the sales cycle.
The reason why I ask this question and in the next two that I’m going to ask you, is that sometimes, I find anyways, that people install a sales methodology just because they think they’re supposed to. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to design it. It’s a lot of work to train the team on it. It’s a lot of work to drive adoption and reinforcement, and there’s only three benefits to doing it, and that is does it increase your win rate? Yes or no, and that implies that you know what your win rate is, which you do win/loss reviews, so I’m sure you do and we’ll talk about that in a second.
It needs to increase your average deal size because if you’re using a sales methodology, theoretically anyways, you’re creating value during the sales campaign, and you can capture that in your purchase price. Then it shortens your sales cycle because you’re in tune with the buyer, so instead of creating friction between buyer and seller which can elongate the sales cycle, you’re making it easy to buy so it goes faster.
Audience members, just always keep this in mind. The reason to install a sales methodology or sales process is to improve your win rate, is to grow your average deal size, and it’s to shorten your sales cycle. You’ve got to know what those numbers are, pre-launch. If you have the sales methodology in place right now, you should be benchmarking those numbers on a fairly regular basis, we advocate chorally.
I just asked you about sales cycle length, let me ask you about win rate. Is it the same as or do you win more, do you lose more versus your competitors and how you think through that.
We win more when we’re operating in our ideal account profile. When we’re working on those opportunities that are more likely to buy from iiPay, we’re certain winning more. The key is to target those and lose early if it’s not the right fit, and then ultimately run that sales process, ask those critical questions at each stage, differentiate yourself and start to eliminate the competition along the way.
Now, and I understand completely that we want to play where we’re going to win, so our ideal account profile, we’re going to be careful on where we’re spending our time. This ideal account profile, ideal customer profile some people call it, is that something that is the responsibility of the sales team or is marketing kind of qualifying things for you in giving the sales team accounts, like how does that work?
It’s a joint effort. Alignment between sales and marketing is critical today. Sometimes, I think that more the sales function is more marketing than it is sales at times, so tight alignment’s critical, so we work very closely with our marketing team to identify those ideal account profiles.
And they change overtime. The buyer persona’s changed, the ideal account profiles changed. They change because the economy changes. They change because your organization evolves. So, you absolutely need to look at them at regular basis and then have the discipline to focus on them and not chase every opportunity.
What would you say to your peer sales leaders that says all revenue is good revenue, I’m going to chase everything.
You’re going to have to run extremely fast and put a lot of people out there to chase everything, and you’re not going to get as good a result.
Yes, I agree with you. Now let’s talk about deal size in terms of your deal size relative to your competitors’. Are you selling bigger deals, are your deal size roughly the same, are you selling smaller deals?
They’re just slightly bigger now. We still face a brand recognition challenge, so we must do a lot of work to make people aware of who we are so that we’re credible during the buyers’ process but against our point solution competitors, our deals are slightly larger.
The biggest challenge is really the do-all HCM vendors that want to not only provide payroll services but they want to provide everything else, and when you have an inexperienced buyer, not inexperienced but inexperienced that they don’t make many purchasing decisions, and they operate in a committee of 10 to 12 people across three to five departments, getting them to come to consensus is extremely challenging. When the do-it-all HCM vendors come in, they start to confuse the buyers because they have so many things to offer, and they slow down the sales process. To overcome that early in the sales process, you must ask the critical questions to tighten the scope that ultimately eliminates the big HCMs from the process.
Yes. You know, that was very insightful answer. This whole idea of an experienced buyer, right? Who we’re selling to, the people you’re selling to, the people my client sell to, are experienced professionals; however, this decision to buy a payroll solution, they may make once in a blue moon, so they’re inexperienced as it relates to that.
Right, and understanding the customer well enough to understand is this the first time they bought something like this? If that is the case, the way you defeat the bad guys is educational process, not necessarily on why they should buy you, although that comes later, but how to decide.
Yes, absolutely. I was in London two weeks ago and the project lead confided that she had never implemented a new solution before, and that was gold for us.
In this last segment, I want to talk about the practicality of all this which is getting the sales people to adopt the sales methodology, so what’s your experience here?
Early in my career mixed. Later in my career, I think you learn over time that there’s a process to drive adoption, so what I found is that you must start with why. They must know why it’s important to them, why it’s important to their prospects, and why it’s important to the organization. Then I think once they start to understand the why, they start to understand the need, and then they need to see results, and once a sales person sees the results, they start to believe. Once they start to believe, they’re some of your best adopters.
You know, it’s a great answer, start with why, literally. Like okay, Mr. sales person, here’s why you care about this. I think sometimes we skip that step. We say hey, this is the way we’re doing things and do it or else. Right? And that often doesn’t work. Sometimes forcing things down people’s throat is not a good way to do it.
We talked earlier about keeping it simple, sometimes people are automating these sales methodologies through technology because it might be easier to use if that’s the case. Do you do that?
Yes, we absolutely configure our salesforce.com around our sales process. We’ll put the questions that are required at each stage to move it to the next stage so that they start to manage the buyers’ journey through the CRM. It drives them into the CRM, they start to see it as a tool to see if they’ve missed things when they have their touchpoints and such.
Also, we will do our QBRs and monthly forecasting meetings through Salesforce as well, so we really get them to live in Salesforce and see it as a tool that they can use, and rather than me asking a question about an account, I go to Salesforce and that’s the trade-off. If it’s updated, I don’t need to hound them for information.
All right, my last question for you is regarding metrics. What metrics do you track as it relates to the benefits and the proficiency in use of the sales methodology?
The standard. We certainly track our win/loss rates, we track deal size, we track the velocity, and we track the lead source. We found that the lead source is one of the best predictors of velocity and success. As we continue to iterate on that process and we operate in this environment where there’s multiple departments represented and many buyers, and they must come to consensus to make a decision, we’re starting to collect data points on the buyers during the sales process to see which buyers, which actions actually will influence the likelihood that we win.
We’re collecting the data now, I’m very eager to see that output.
Loren, that was a great demonstration so I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your wisdom.
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