The dominant theme to this year’s Conversations that Win conference was made clear on the main event of Day 2: a trip to Alcatraz and a tour of the infamous prison. The now-beautiful historic park, and site of one of the most intolerable places in US history, had an underlying message that Corporate Visions CSO/CMO Tim Riesterer shared in his keynote.
Our buyers – all of them – are shackled to the status quo, all for various reasons – fear of failure, difficulty of change, poor communication, etc. Conversely, our reps – nearly all of them – are not producing messaging that is capable of motivating a buyer to buy.
The point Tim made was absolutely right. Whether we know it or not, our reps are leaving buyers stuck to the status quo. The key to unlock them from a “no decision” conversation is your messaging. And without messaging that is actually capable of breaking the status quo and convincing a buyer to change, you will not consistently succeed.
Yet, while we invest in messaging and tools, and see benefits, the approaches that we see organizations use to ensure consistency in how reps execute these messages are the same that we’ve used for decades.
Reps are still practicing infrequently, if ever, with only 41% of organizations surveyed by Corporate Visions mandating some amount of practice. The same reps are taking inconsistent, perhaps even ineffective messaging into the marketplace. Reps are failing to break through the status quo, and ultimately create deals that end in no decision.
Even if we create the right best in class messaging across our individual industries, we will not likely see the lift we expect. Teams often fail to codify their messages with practice and accountability, reverting back to their comfort zone when challenged with a real prospect interaction. We witnessed this exact behavior at Dreamforce, and can see the growing divide between what enablement is trying to get sellers to understand, and what reps are actually doing.
The question remains: how do we actually get reps to practice and use what we teach them?
Shifting gears, I saw another highlight in a speech by Shawn Achor, who shared his Harvard-backed research on what actually makes people feel happy. As it turns out, a level of happiness can be constructed from simply ritualizing happy tasks, from sending a peer a heartfelt email or writing down a happy memory every day. The result is a new brain chemistry, but more importantly, a habit.
Just like Tim’s prison example, unpacking Shawn’s keynote is crucial to really getting at how we start to make change in a sales organization. While you can have the key to unlocking yourself from the status quo, you still need to know how to use it. Even if you know how to make yourself happier, it will not happen until you actually ritualize the methods in the same way Shawn profiled.
Shawn wrote down a happy memory every day for 21 days. Your reps are engaging with your core messaging once per year. Shawn is, fairly objectively, happy. Your reps are missing goals and performing worse year over year. Perhaps psychology has the right answer.
Until we start to fundamentally raise the efficacy of our reps, to make them better at taking messages, skills, and tools and molding them into powerful conversations to move buyers, we will continue to see the decision gap get larger.
Like Alcatraz, the model we’re using today to drive messaging into organizations and ensure that it sticks down the road is outdated and falling apart. Do we shut it down and make something better, or let it go on for another year?
Thanks to the team at Corporate Visions for the opportunity to speak and learn at this year’s Conversations that Win conference!