By Zlatica "ZK" Kraljevic

A Fortune 200 company offering highly specialized software products and services, worldwide, had decided on a total overhaul of its corporate marketing and sales strategy to capitalize on revenue increases derived from selling a value-added mix of products and consulting services, as opposed to traditional sales of individual products. The company was aware that this 180 degree shift in their approach to market implied the selling of significantly more expensive bundled services and would require a different set of internal skills and experience.

On the plus side, the existing sales workforce (including business developers and consultants) was highly specialized and knowledgeable of the technical side of the business. On the downside, these were technical professionals accustomed to one-on-one sales among peers, that is, other technical professionals in client organizations. The company called The Anders Frontier Group (TAFG) to assist with targeted and accelerated workforce development.

Finding

Over a period of 10 months, TAFG helped design and implement a pilot program that covered two regional groups of technical sales and consultants operating in 6 countries. The initial assessment indicated that while the company enjoyed significant market share and had a well-established brand worldwide, sales cycles were longer than expected. This was a direct result of peer-to-peer sales where the decision-making process had to overcome multiple levels of approval, starting with a request from the technical end user and moving up collecting the necessary signatures to process a new purchasing order.

The discovery phase also helped determine that sales operating costs were higher than expected. Upon closer examination, it was uncovered that the sales and consulting professionals were operating on a reactive mode to market; every time an end user in the client organization called for a demonstration of a new product, one or more sales professionals would get on a plane without assessing the return on the investment. Finally, the discovery phase also indicated that technical sales professionals were apprehensive and had expressed concerns about their ability to use the proper metrics when selling to CEOs and CFOs in client organizations.

Incorporating these findings to the pilot program, TAFG developed and implemented a new strategic sales program that achieved 5 primary goals:

  • Develop new tools to increase sales teams’ understanding of their clients’ decision-making process

  • Establish a process to systematically estimate ahead of time the return on investment of each call for action

  • Increase awareness of the cost of time and money incurred by the company with each sales call

  • Provide tools to help sales teams screen and prioritize incoming client’s requests and work with clients to maximize the impact of their sales presentations

  • Coach technical sales professionals on how to prepare C-level presentations, using meaningful metrics to highlight the benefit of company proposals to various clients’ organizations

  • Develop and deliver an on-the-job training program consisting of workshops (at home and in-country) that combine theory with real-life illustrations of how to sell to C-level executives and board of directors in different cultural settings

The TAFG pilot program also included field support, where a senior TAFG consultant would participate as an observer in real-time presentations to CEOs and CFOs in different countries, providing analysis and feedback while the experience was fresh in everyone’s mind.

Outcome

Within 10 months, the pilot program had achieved the following:

  • Technical sales and consulting professionals were confident and highly motivated in their new role selling at C-level in clients organizations in 6 countries

  • Sales operations costs had been significantly reduced as cost-awareness increased and high impact sales was starting to predominate

  • Revenues were predicted to surpass the 30% estimated annual goal increase

Capabilities – Workforce Skill Development; Complex, Multi-Country Project Management; Process Improvement; Strategic Marketing & Sales; Customer Relations Management; Multi-Cultural Operations

Recommended reading: “Borderless Leadership: Global Skills for Personal and Business Success.”