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Inside the Sales Lab

Increasing sales effectiveness in a deep recession.


Ian H Smith

We have entered a highly-challenging economic recession, made worse by a seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic. Together, these interrelated issues are now making new business development increasingly difficult for every industry, every organisation - from the tech startup to NHS and other public sector entities that have to sell their offerings to survive and prosper.

Breaking the Hermetic Seal

It does not matter whether you are a startup trying to monetise an inherently conservative large enterprise or government agency, as an early adopter customer - or you are a public agency, such as the UK National Health Service (NHS), where part of your organisation has to openly compete for and win business with another part of the NHS network.

Big or small, known or unknown, getting through to empowered decision-makers in the buyside is becoming harder than ever for the sellside startup, enterprise or public sector agency. The big challenge is 'Breaking the Hermetic Seal' - the barrier that surrounds buyside decision-makers.

Demand Creation Selling

So, a recession - combined with a pandemic - has obviously significantly raised the bar for sellside success. The buyside will increasingly ask (implicitly, if not explicitly): "what bad things will happen to me (us), if I (we) do not buy this product or service right now?".

Of course, this means creating, communicating and validating a compelling 'Return On Investment ("ROI")' argument that calculates the 'Cost of Delay' or "cost of Doing Nothing' for your product or service offering. Easy to say, hard to do. But if the empowered buyer is surrounded by a Hermetic Seal, how do you get to break it and get your compelling message across?

The answer is: a 'PiercePoint'. This is the first step in a 3-step sales method called 'Demand Creation Selling'. And it is the opposite of 'Demand Fulfilment Selling' - where the difference is inherent in the name. Here, we are creating demand, not simply fulfilling it. Steps 2 and 3 are: 'ProofPoint', and 'DecisionPoint', respectively.

Creating a compelling message about the 'Value Proposition' that resonates with an empowered, but hard-to-reach decision-maker. This is simply a focus on effective lead generation from a cold start: make the Value Proposition stand out in words and pictures.

Having aroused the interest of an empowered decision-maker with a PiercePoint message, the ProofPoint becomes the validation of claims made. This is where 'Mutual Value Discovery' and 'Interactive Decisioning Tools' (within our Design Thinking Platform) come into play.

When engaging a buyer in Mutual Value Discovery workshops, with meaningful Design Thinking Platform-based Interactive Decisioning Tools, the seller achieves sufficient rapport, receptivity and trust with the buyer to reveal the true DecisionPoint. This is the people, path and politics to a win.

Mutual Value Discovery

Our Sales Lab helps market-facing business development and sales professionals to win new business through engaging prospects and customers in Mutual Value Discovery engagements. This is all about getting beyond abstract, risky responses to Request For Proposal (RFP) documents, wherever you can.


Although formal tendering is not entirely avoidable, it is important that the sellside keeps in mind the idea of 'land and expand': for example, in the public sector, works well if an initial Mutual Value Discovery leads to a relatively lower-cost starting point. This often means initial Deal Values priced at numbers below any mandatory public tendering limit. 

Remember, it is Demand Creation Selling - not Demand Fulfilment Selling. If your Value Proposition is truly innovative, it is hardly something that can be articulated in an arm's length procurement Request For Proposal (RFP) - in isolation of any sellside input. 

Built on a 'Design Thinking', our approach to applyingf Demand Creation Selling and Mutual Value Discovery is rooted in creating strong receptivity, rapport and trust among all key stakeholders on both the buyside and the sellside.

Our methods and tools pay great attention to exploring and validating a clear 'Return On Investment (ROI) Model' - to defend value over price and counter 'Deal Slippage'. This is where the ROI for a Value Proposition should have a quantitative calculation for both an 'Economic Basis of Decision' and also, more qualitatively, a scoring for an 'Emotional Basis of Decision' (brand trust, etc.)

Sellers have to defend value over price. Buyers are motivated by achieving measurable value outcomes through achieving more for less. As a Salesforce Registered Consulting Partner, our Sales Lab helps challengers to translate solution Value Proposition into tangible ROI Models, tailored in the Design Thinking Platform, that resonates with conservative, wary buyers.

Our work is built on a foundation of combining a method and technology foundation - based on Salesforce Sales Cloud and Salesforce Lightning Platform. We help a broad range of organisations and cultures - ranging from early-stage tech startups to those NHS organisations who have to sell solutions to other NHS entities, in competitive environments.

Design Thinking Platform

We enable challengers to engage prospects and customers in a structured approach, combining an optimum method and platform to maximise receptivity, rapport and trust between all buyside and sellside stakeholders. This is where we deliver our cloud app - the Design Thinking Platform: a customisable solution built on Salesforce Sales Cloud and Salesforce Lightning Platform.

The 5-step Design Thinking method allows prospects and customers to engage with challengers, often well ahead of completeness of solution, and enables both the validation and part-funding of crucial stages in the evolution of product or service design.

As illustrated above, it is the 'Models' which matter most. This means 'Return On Investment ("ROI") Models', and as described in more detail in the 'Mutual Value Discovery' section below. ROI Models enable buyers to explore and validate needs that may be prioritised through applying the combined ideas of Eisenhower and Churchill: the 'Urgent/Important Matrix' underpinned by 'Action This Day'.

Through tailoring the Design Thinking Platform instances, each 'ROI Model' for a particular solution is embedded into a 'Custom Object' (Module) within this Salesforce-based technology. This enables the calculated difference of Current State ('As-Is') versus Future State ('To-Be') attributed to the buyer making a timely investment in the solution in question for a Deal forecast.

The ROI Model is built for both a quantitative 'Economic Basis of Decision' and a qualitative 'Emotional Basis of Decision', where the balance between these two 'Scorecards' depends entirely upon the context of the solution being considered. Underpinning all of this is the ROI Model for the 'Cost of Delay' or the 'Cost of Doing Nothing', providing a vital counter-argument to deal slippage.

Reliable Sales Forecasting

The best way to cure the sales forecasting reliability problem is to simply shift the validation of Deal Value and Close Date from seller to buyer. This means enabling the buyer and seller to collaborate around a ROI Model for the Value Proposition in question and where the Design Thinking Platform instance for the buyer is extended with our enabling components.

The psychology of moving forecasting from seller to buyer further reinforces the timely justification for investing in the challenger's new product or service - as a truly compelling Value Proposition. In enabling the buyside to engage in a 'Power Validation', the sellside is empowering decision-makers and influencers to build a solid case for timely purchase of the Value Proposition.

Sales Enablement = Sales Coaching

'Sales Enablement' is all about increasing the effectiveness of professionals engaged in the high-value, high-touch sell. Of course, a solid foundation of 'right message, right content, right tools - right time' is part of the key to success here. This means helping sales teams to create compelling Value Propositions, underpinned by solid ROI Models - tested and iterated - early and often - with empowered buyers and friendly advisers.

But what makes this unique from inside our Sales Lab is 'Agile Sales Coaching'. This means one of our experts offering 'outside-in' Coaching at every stage of the buying and selling cycle - at the right time - personalised and made available incrementally and affordably , as 10-minute online sessions.

Combined with the progressive implementation of the Design Thinking Platform, our Agile Sales Coaching sessions deliver continuous improvement in sales effectiveness, in the real world of buyside-sellside interactions.

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