The Ends Are the Means

Even at the most successful companies, executives want to know whether their sales teams are performing optimally. Am I getting the best bang for the buck that I spend on my sales force?  Can I drive higher sales productivity out of my existing teams, or do I need to invest in new sales staff, leadership, systems, or channels?  Can I meet my sales goals without making any changes?

Sales Performance and Maturity Chart

A useful tool for benchmarking sales performance is a Sales Maturity Model, which is a yardstick for a company to compare themselves against the best practices of other companies and set realistic targets for sales productivity based on their current maturity level. Traditional Sales Maturity Models have identified a number of characteristics that describe each maturity phase including sales metrics, sales processes, sales tools, and sales methodologies.

And yet companies aren't setting their sights high enough. A new sales discipline has emerged over the past few years — broadly referred to as Sales 2.0 — that aims to align a company's selling strategy to their customers' buying behaviors.

In this Viewpoint, the author proposes a new Sales Maturity Model that incorporates the goals of Sales 2.0 to provide a better framework for companies to measure their sales performance against the latest industry best practices.

With a tip of the hat to Bruce Tuckman's model for group development, this new sales maturity model is composed of five "-ends" that are characterized by sales messaging that is:

  • Intend — product-based
  • Spend — feature-based
  • Recommend — solution-based
  • Comprehend — objectives-based
  • Blend — buyer-based

The key characteristics of each stage in the Five-Ends Model are summarized in the below table — the capabilities for each stage are additive, meaning you build upon the previous maturity stage and add new capabilities that give you entirely new productivity gains:

5 'ends' Sales Maturity Model

For the past decade, the focus of most companies has been toward “solution selling” —shifting sales teams from a product-based pitch (Intend/Spend) to a solution-based pitch (Recommend). Many services-based companies have one step further to present their company as a “trusted advisor” (Comprehend) to their customers. Each step up the Maturity Model brings new capabilities to the company’s sales team: new sales metrics, new sales tools, new skills, and even new sales channels.

But the capabilities in the Blend phase are recent and unique — a suite of approaches, techniques, and information that was not available prior to the advent of more sophisticated collaboration tools like Salesforce.com Chatter or social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Companies in highly competitive markets, who have made incremental improvements in their sales productivity, have only one way to go in order to differentiate themselves from their competition: invest in these new Blend capabilities and transform into a Sales 2.0 selling organization with Social CRM tools that augment their core CRM processes and applications.

And companies that are still working their way up the Sales Maturity Model can build an “edge” to their business through small experiments with Blend-like capabilities, while they focus on improvements to their “core” business using capabilities from an earlier maturity stage.

In short, the Five-Ends Model is the means through which any company can develop a sales strategy and roadmap, set achievable goals for sales productivity, make smart investments in new capabilities that move its sales team up the Maturity Model, and provide a new sight on the horizon that leverages new Sales 2.0 capabilities to differentiate and win customers.

About the Author

Eryc Branham (ebranham@acumensolutions.com; @tre3group on Twitter) is a collaborative selling strategist, adviser, and entrepreneur. He has held executive positions at Salesforce.com, Oracle, nGenera (co-founded by Don Tapscott, author of the best selling book Wikinomics) and has launched three companies, including Opcentric, a consulting firm that was one of the first Salesforce.com partners in 2000. In addition to serving as a managing director of Acumen Solutions, an international consulting firm, Branham leads a sales strategy advisory firm called TRE3 Group.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the October 2010 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

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