Strategies that Win Sales--Best Practices of the World s Leading Organizations

Strategies that Win Sales—Best Practices of the World’s Leading Organizations

Mark Marone & Seleste Lunsford

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© 2005 by Mark Marone and Seleste Lunsford

Published by Dearborn Trade Publishing

A Kaplan Professional Company

All rights reserved. The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Marone, Mark D.

Strategies that win sales : best practices of the world’s leading organizations / Mark Marone and Seleste Lunsford.
p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7931-8860-1
1. Sales management. 2. Selling. 3. Customer relations.
4. Communication in marketing. I. Lunsford, Seleste E. II. Title. HF5438.4.M37 2005
658.8 02—dc22


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Today’s global economy is moving at such a rapid pace in terms of technology, competition, and changes in market demand that organizations find themselves in the position of having to be more flexible, respond more quickly, and be more creative to remain competitive. The sales organization is in a unique position as it stands at the forefront of meeting and responding to many of the global challenges confronting organizations today. As sales organizations continue to encounter more of everything that makes it difficult to win a sale—more demanding customers, more price pressures, more competition, more channels to market, and the like—they are forced into making important strategic decisions around how they will organize, what technologies they will leverage, and what sales skills they will require.

From an in-depth analysis of 17 of the world’s leading organizations, this book explores how major market challenges are being addressed and overcome by the various strategies developed and implemented by sales organizations. Companies in all industries, and particularly their sales organizations, experiment with myriad strategic approaches, from exploring the potential of new sales channels and resegmenting the sales force, to targeting new industries or markets. Through hundreds of hours of interviews, we have identified the following seven primary strategic areas that leading organizations utilize to win sales:

  1. Multiple sales channels

  2. Sales force segmentation

  3. Sales technology

  4. Consultative selling

  5. Sales force development

  6. Sales manager development

  7. Sales culture

This book explores in detail each of these strategic areas. For each strategy, we define what it is, we explain the key strategic approach and tactics of it and show why it’s important, and, finally, we present the lessons learned and best practices of leading sales organizations. We make no claims that these are the seven most important strategies nor are they the only important ones, but we do believe that doing these well is important for remaining competitive. They are necessary but not sufficient—that is, they’re not the only strategies you’ll need, but you’d better get these right if you want to consistently win sales.

Following the introduction, the chapters in this book are organized around these seven primary strategies. The introduction first reviews some of the most influential challenges and trends taking place in today’s global market, which provides the context and a foundation for the discussion that follows.

Multiple sales channels are the subject of Chapter 2. Here we discuss how sales organizations have developed expanding multichannel strategies that include e-commerce and the development of distributors and alliances in addition to the direct and telesales channels. This chapter explains why and how organizations encourage certain types of customers to buy through a particular channel, and how they treat multichannel customers and customers that are transitioning from one channel to another.

Our second strategy, sales force segmentation, is the topic of Chapter 3. Here we focus on segmentation and deployment of sales resources to meet the challenges of customer demand. This strategy involves aligning the sales force with emerging and evolving customer segments—by account size, volume, and potential, as well as by geography, product type, channel, and the like. This chapter also reviews our findings around formal and informal team selling, and resegmenting of the sales force.

Chapter 4 discusses sales technology strategy as it relates to customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) system implementations. The chapter focuses on the common pitfalls of CRM/SFA systems, such as resistance to change, past failures, unrealistic vision, ease of use, and not aligning applications with overall strategy, among others. It also reviews critical success factors for implementation and lessons learned from leading sales organizations.

Consultative selling is the topic of Chapter 5. Definitions of consultative selling are presented and we identify when it is and is not appropriate, based on feedback from the organizations that were interviewed. As a concept, consultative selling has been around for well over ten years, yet it hasn’t matured in many organizations. These issues are addressed along with such critical success factors as compensation, recruitment, training, and management reinforcement.

Chapter 6 reviews the sales strategy focused on “reskilling” the sales force with the abilities needed to support the other strategies and to function as a differentiator in the marketplace. Reskilling refers to a reevaluation of the sales skills that are required for winning sales in today’s business environment. Some skills are new, but even for those that have been around, there is now a higher standard and expectation being applied to them. Furthermore, organizations leverage a strategic approach to resource management to achieve the needed upgrades in the sales force. This involves competency profiling, recruitment, selection, development, retention, and performance management.

Chapter 7 focuses on the important strategy of sales manager development. In the past, organizations have not emphasized training and development of their sales managers. This chapter discusses the implications of not developing managers and, more importantly, the benefits of improving the leadership and coaching abilities of sales managers. In light of internal cost pressures, additional sales channels, and more complex customer segments, organizations are helping managers better manage by looking to technology tools, business processes, and resource development.

The final strategy, developing a sales culture, is discussed in Chapter 8. Culture must be strong and influential and appropriate for the goals, strategies, and business environment of an organization. Rather than merely accepting what they have and possibly fostering bad cultural components, successful sales organizations proactively create, maintain, and evolve their culture. It’s all about being flexible and ensuring a fit with the business. This chapter reviews the common pitfalls of sales cultures and lessons learned from successful sales organizations.

In Chapter 9, we present our findings from our survey study of customers. We asked customers how they buy, what drives their decision to buy or not to buy, and what they value in their salesperson and their supplier organization, among other things. What customers really want and what salespeople say customers want may not always align. The important lesson is that for organizations to successfully develop all other strategies discussed in this book, they need to know what their customers value, how they buy, and what leads them to buy—or, more importantly, not to buy. This chapter offers interesting and valuable insights into customers’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors about buying.

Finally, Chapter 10 draws conclusions regarding the best practices in developing strategies that win sales. As previously mentioned, the strategies discussed in this book aren’t the only strategies that sales organizations can pursue to overcome challenges in the marketplace. The ones discussed here, however, were those found to be critical for success for the sales organizations we studied. An overall sales approach that encompasses all of these strategic areas when pursued together represents a comprehensive and systemic approach to winning sales in today’s marketplace.

While the findings provided in this book will benefit sales professionals at any level, the lessons learned and best practices regarding each of the strategies are more specifically geared to the sales leaders, strategists, and managers. As you read through each of these chapters, consider what best practices can be applied to your own organization. If you are pursing each of these strategies, what can you do to make them more effective? If you haven’t yet developed and implemented all of them, where should you begin? We hope that this book will answer both questions by providing the information you need to make your strategies better and laying a framework for developing those strategies you may be considering.


We would like to express our thanks to those who were instrumental in making this book possible. While this book benefited greatly from the assistance and support of many individuals, we alone assume all responsibility for any errors, omissions, or shortcomings. Ed Del Gaizo conceived the idea to study strategies of successful sales organizations and provided intellectual and moral support during the early stages of the project. Others who provided tremendous help during the interview and data collection process include Katie Clark, Jeanne Schaaf, and Keith Malo. Jeanne, who helped recruit many of the organizations that participated in the study, collaborated with us on the customer survey study that is the subject of Chapter 9. We would also like to thank Bill Jackson and Jerry Keenan for reading parts of the draft and contributing their expertise. Without the support of our managers, Michelle Bonterre and D.L. Karl, this project would have probably lingered much longer than it did. They allowed us to take time away from our other duties without (much) objection to spend time traveling to conduct the interviews and to lock ourselves away to write.

Special thanks go to Jan Birberick for her untiring dedication and assistance in setting up and coordinating interviews, handling correspondences, reading drafts, compiling references, and doing lots of other things while putting up with our often times unclear direction. Finally, we would like to thank the organizations that participated in this study for their time and insight that made this such an immeasurable learning experience. We hope this book returns the favor and provides some valuable insights for other companies interested in developing or improving on their own strategies that win sales.