Is the Enterprise sales model broken?
I've been tuning in to a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk content recently, and one thing he said really struck a chord with me; "Apply your time to where there is fertile ground."
Essentially he states that too much time is wasted by salespeople trying to convert those who don't want to buy from them when that energy should be refocussed on finding the people who do want to buy. The principle is solid, but what about with enterprise account planning, where people are given fixed accounts to go after based, not on fertility, but customer profile and thus perceived, potential spend? I sense another analogy coming on.
Picture the scene...you've just become newly single and, being desperate to get married and have children, recognise that time isn't on your side.
You round up a group of likeminded friends, all with the same goal in mind and head to the nearest nightclub. As you enter, you scour the room - there are hundreds of potential partners here! You get a smile from the bar from an attractive sort. Drink in hand, you set up to introduce yourself, only for your friend to step in front of you.
"You can't talk to them," they say.
"Whyever not?!" you ask.
"I've had a look around the room and, whilst I appreciate time is ticking for you, you should be aiming a lot higher. In fact, you should be aiming for them..." your friend exclaims.
You follow their pointing finger to a well-lit area of the bar. Your eyes grow wide at the group they are pointing to - some of the most attractive people you've ever seen. You check yourself a moment. As you step back, you notice that all of the other singletons in the club all have their eyes transfixed on this group. You watch for a moment, pondering whether you're even in their league and notice they're all sat, boy-girl-boy-girl.
As the evening goes on, you hear them talking amongst themselves. It turns out, they're all dating the person sat next to them. They've all been together for 5 or 6 years, they happy together and they're planning for their future. Moreover, it becomes clear, they're friends really like their other halves, and both of the couple's parents holiday together in France every year.
You think about your options for a moment. Your friends have made it clear that they won't let you speak with anybody who isn't in that elite group. So, have you got time to wait for one of the partners to slip up, so you can be there to pick up the pieces? The club closes at three AM and they've gone six years of dating without slipping up. The percentages aren't on your side, so it seems like a bold, "all or nothing" gamble. Maybe you try to steal a moment of their time, and try to convince them you're a better match? Who knows, maybe they have an open relationship or see polygamy in their future.
So, with your core goals and a sense of urgency in mind, you think back to when you first stepped into the club. You got signs of interest from other parties, from someone who everything suggests does want to engage with you. Why on earth would you not speak with them, if only to practice your best lines, brush the cobwebs off and boost your confidence? What if, when you speak to them, you realise they want all the same things you do? What if they're more your type? Is it not better to have a partner with whom you're well-matched, who will love you for you and who is aligned with your core goals and values? You'll never know if that's the case if all you take into consideration is looks.
Moreover, just because that elite group look amazing. What if they're vacuous? What if they're unkind, don't want children or have already had all the children they want? Maybe they're bitterly divorced and they enter into any relationship with you tarring you with the same brush as their former partner. What if they always want to change you and, in moments of quiet, you spot them eyeing up passers-by? If they're willing to leave their current partner for you, what happens when someone better inevitably comes along? The point being, how can we know either way without speaking to as many people as possible.
So taking all this into account, apply that logic back to sales. Focus on the wins that match your objectives. If you only have a year, focus on the deals you can engage, win and close in that timeframe. Speak with your employer and seek to understand their expectations and tailor who you target accordingly. But more than anything, sell to people who want are open and able to buy from you, or you're going to spend a lot of time chasing unobtainable grails.
Does your strategy give you the best chance of achieving your immediate goals?
WRITTEN BY ED HALSEY
Any opinions expressed here are my own and not the views of any of my employers. They are personal views based upon a 15-year career in insurance across underwriting and sales roles at mainstream insurers, consultancy firms and technology providers.