Assessing Your Team’s Sales Collaboration Maturity

A maturity model helps organizations understand how sophisticated their strategy & process is for a particular capability or business process. The first capability maturity model was created by the DoD in the 1990s, but since then the idea has extended from assessing military contractors to an objective evaluation of any organization’s abilities & processes.

Sales consultants in particular love maturity models because they simultaneously serve as (1) a reference for teaching what is possible, (2) a self-evaluation tool to understand where the team is today and (3) a road map for prioritizing between multiple performance improvement initiatives.

The team at DealPoint created this industry-first sales collaboration maturity model to help sales leaders understand all the aspects of rep-to-prospect collaboration and how improving each of the five identified channels can incrementally lift sales team performance.

Any sales manager who is looking to understand where the greatest gains can be made across their team should use this model to evaluate individual contributors, the team as a whole, and their technology stack.

 

What’s the payoff?

As an organization’s collaboration capability moves up and to the right, two things happen

  1. Sales team becomes more successful at closing existing business (be a bigger fish in your current pond)
  2. Organization is able to move upmarket, winning larger, more complex deals because they have these additional skills required to be competitive (moving up to a bigger pond)

The exact percentage improvement in close rate will depend on the industry’s overall sophistication level vs. this team, but there are some benchmarks of 15% improvement in sales for each successful shift to the right.

 

 


1. Maturity Self-Evaluation

The first step in the Maturity Model is to evaluate where you are today and then look at which channels would yield the most capability gains for your organization.

 

Evaluation Part One – Your Reps

Ideally you can evaluate each of your reps for where they rank for the top three channels. Remember sales reps tend to be very confident people and so may not be that self-aware to give an accurate assessment of their own performance.

So rather than ask “do you rely on personal bonding or are you already a trusted advisor” , use some of the questions below to evaluate their collaboration maturity.

Channel Leading questions

Buyer Journey

  1. Feature tour demo
  2. Mutual discovery
  3. Upfront contract
  4. Shared vision of milestones
  5. Process driven ideal milestones
  • What are the typical milestones for X opportunity type?
  • What is the most common obstacle that prospects share to attaining their vision?
  • Who from the buyer side needs to be involved and when to close a sale?

Sales methodology

  1. One-to-one transactional
  2. One-to-one solution sell
  3. One-to-many solution sell
  4. Many-to-many solution sell
  5. Ongoing partnership
  • How many people can you name on the buying team of a typical deal?
  • Who is on your selling team for X industry / opportunity?

People

  1. Personal bonding rapport
  2. Credible educator
  3. Subject matter expert
  4. Trusted advisor
  5. Industry influencer
  • What percent of leads are referrals?
  • How many followers do you have on social media or industry pubs?

Evaluation Part Two: What channels should you prioritize

Once you’ve evaluated your team’s current performance level, look at each channel and prioritize where to focus your performance improvement efforts.

In general, moving all channels in lockstep from left to right will yield a greater performance boost than focusing on one channel at the expense of the others. Ie: moving all 5 channels from Ad Hoc to Managed is more effective than moving a single channel like Buyer Journey all the way from Ad Hoc to Optimized.

Be aware too that not every channel is equally valued by every industry. If you’re selling a commodity in a mid sized market, and there’s plenty of room to grow, then improving data gathering and buyer journey will have a greater impact on sales than investing resources developing your People from rapport-based reps to industry influencers.

Channel Leading questions
Buyer Journey
  • Is there an enterprise play if you could get a place at the table?
Sales Methodology
  • Do you have a value-add component to your offering?
  • Would this revenue stream grow if you got closer to customer needs?
People
  • Is there a lot of competition in your space or a lot of uncertainty from new technology?
Forecast & Coaching
  • Are you growing rapidly?
  • Is your team generally accurate with their sales forecast?
  • Did your predecessor get fired for incompetent forecasting?
Tech Stack
  • Can reps easily do all of the above, or is technology holding them back from better execution?

 


2. The Tech Stack: Thinking from the Prospect’s Perspective

 

While technology by itself cannot drive positive change in process, we included a channel for Tech Stack because technology can help (or hinder) a process improvement program.

Our maturity model assumes a minimum baseline of email, some kind of web conference software and a CRM.

Collaboration is a two way endeavor. So when evaluating your tech stack, think about the sales cycle from your prospects’ perspective.

They already have a full time job, with problems and priorities of their own. Your sales rep is asking them to carve out time to consider your solution, and then worse, asking them to burn their precious political capital inside their organization socializing your solution and getting key decision makers onboard.

That’s a big ask.

As collaboration capability improves (ie: moves to the right), the technology stack should be more and more supportive of both the rep and the prospect.

Adding file share is a first basic improvement over emailing everything. A more substantial improvement is offering dedicated collaboration tools for the use of prospects. This can start as a basic deal room, growing in maturity with more automation and integrations to manage milestones and guide the sales process more and more smoothly.

 


3. Forecast & Coaching: Hope is not a Business Strategy

 

The number one cause of sales manager terminations is failure to provide an accurate sales forecast.

With well defined collaboration process, the sales operation team gets forecast indicators not only from the reps actions, but from the buying teams as well.

For example, today, we might score an opportunity at 75% if the Rep says “They passed BANT”

But with better collaboration, reps are able to penetrate deeper into the buying team and use their engagement as a buying signal.

Likewise, managers can use historical collaboration data to benchmark deal performance at a more granular level, and then use those trend lines to coach reps or to proactively identify & save blocked deals.

 


4. People: Charm Gets You Only So Far

 

The most basic Ad Hoc collaborator relies on individual sales talent to move a deal forward.

Individual skills of persuasion & closing are a perfectly acceptable way to hit quota, but it’s not reliable for organizations that need to scale, nor does it work in complex environments where the rep may never meet higher level decision makers, and are thus unencumbered by the rep’s personal charms.

More sophisticated collaborators plan first on establishing trust & credibility in a reliable and consistent manner, and then having a mechanism in place to transfer that established credibility deep inside the buyer’s organization.

Credible educators are able to share good insights with their buyers. These don’t have to be created by the rep, but they should be well curated and easily digestible by prospect and by extension the entire buying team.

As reps become better at collaboration, they are able to give more and at a higher level of value, until eventually instead of negotiating price with a procurement team, they’re discussing strategy with the CEO…. and the sale just comes as a natural by-product of a shared best practice.

 


5. Buyer Journey & Sales Methodology: Real Life vs. Training Theory

 

Collaboration is the core of solution selling, and most if not all sales frameworks emphasize collaboration with the customer.

There are two aspects to consider with collaboration maturity and sales methodology.

First is the implementation of a framework. If a sales leader imposes a framework from the top down on a team that does not have sufficient collaboration maturity to actually adopt the framework into their daily process, the result will be failure.

Make sure that your coaching, playbook (buyer journey) and tech stack are all ready to support the methodology, each being at least Defined, and preferably Standardized before seeking to implement a new system.

The second key aspect is awareness of key players in a deal.

Most reps understand that more complex the deal, the more buyers there will be on the buying team, and instinctively they realize that they should be engaging with as many of those decision makers as possible.

However, actually having collaboration process in place to account for multiple buyers is lot rarer.

Reps should also recognize in the spirit of collaboration that they are part of a larger selling team, and try to make it easier for the buying team to know their counterparts on the selling team.

This many-to-many relationship can be hard to manage, especially for the buying team (who have other priorities, like their day job), so a team with a  more mature collaboration capability recognizes this and makes it easy for the buying team to see the extend selling team.

This has a side benefit of enhancing your overall team credibility, especially if a competitor is in the running.


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