Dianne Ledingham, a Bain & Company partner based in Boston and a leader in the firm’s Customer Strategy & Marketing practice, explains why a finely honed sales model is crucial to meeting the sophisticated needs of today's business customer. A successful account model requires salespeople to understand their customers' "sweet spots" so that they can provide the products, services and industry knowledge to help them grow.
Dianne Ledingham: Customers are becoming more sophisticated. The Internet has made so much information available, such that when a company is buying a product or solution, they expect that you're going to give them something more than the basics. They expect that you're going to have industry context and understand their business processes.
And so companies that use to, for example, sell medical devices now not only have to sell the medical device but also have to talk about improving outcomes for patients. Utilities companies that used to sell oil, gas and electric now have to talk about managing energy footprint and what the return is going to be of bringing those commodities and additional solutions to a customer. So the hurdle is much higher than what it used to be before.
To have a successful model, companies have to start by identifying their target customers' sweet spots and the specific offerings they want to bring to those customers. You have to then have to get the right people and the right channel—no more, no less—in front of the customer at the right time. If your sellers—whether it’s your direct salesforce or your indirect salesforce—doesn't know precisely what to bring to whom—and what not to bring to whom—then you won’t begin to get to your organization’s full potential.
When you're thinking about any kind of sales transformation—one that isn't going to move the needle 5% productivity, really thinking about 10%, 15%, 20% productivity for performance improvement—it's going to take some time.
As you think about upscaling some of the roles in your organization, as you think about tuning compensation, you have to do those things aggressively but responsibly, because, after all, the sales organization is driving your top line. So you want to be quite thoughtful and deliberate about where you force change and discomfort and where you ensure that you do that at a pace that allows your organization to flourish and grow along the way.