Transforming Sales: How to Make Your Way of Selling Into Your Competitive Advantage

In this series, we ask Sales Tech Executives to describe how their solution can transform sales in a significant way.

This week I interview George Brontén, Founder & CEO of Membrain.

NANCY: WHAT ARE THE TOP AREAS OF FOCUS IN THE NEXT 12-24 MONTHS FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT WANT TO TRANSFORM THEIR SALES ORGANIZATIONS?

GEORGE: Before “transforming” anything, ask yourself if you have a sales strategy focused on the right outcomes to help customers improve, and you with them. And have you made that strategy easy for your salespeople to learn, and for sales managers to coach? Do you see the behaviors you need to be effective? Do you have an active feedback loop to see what is working and what needs to be improved?

  1. Define your customer segments, value proposition, and sales strategy
  2. Design your “way of selling” that you can visualize, train and coach to
  3. Train your sales managers and make sure that they can coach well
  4. Train your salespeople on how to have engaging conversations
  5. Make sure they have the best tools available (not just a digital Rolodex)
  6. Analyze and iterate 1-5

NANCY: HOW SHOULD COMPANIES DECIDE WHICH APPROACHES TO SALES TRANSFORMATION ARE RIGHT FOR THEM?

GEORGE: Strategy work alone is not enough. Nor is training by itself. Or more tools. You have to look at sales effectiveness holistically to successfully drive change. And it all starts with understanding your customers and what needs to become YOUR WAY OF SELLING. If you can orchestrate and enable your way of selling with minimum complexity, you’ll do well.

NANCY: WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR ENSURING THAT TECHNOLOGIES CONTRIBUTE TO SALES TRANSFORMATION IN A MEASURABLE AND IMPACTFUL WAY?

GEORGE: Technology needs to help people do a better job. So, first, we need to define what “good” looks like, which takes us back to the sales strategy and process. Well-designed, they help customers make decisions to their, and our, benefit. Technology needs to help enhance focus, skills, drive behaviors, encourage coaching, provide insights, and help us to continually improve.

Far too often, though, tools focus on doing things faster. Automation can be attractive, as it promises to do our jobs easier. But if we’re doing the wrong things, automation only magnifies the mistakes. Take the example with automated “email cadences,” used by many sales teams. Is there anything more annoying than that? Being on the receiving end of email automation is exceptionally frustrating. Stop it, please. That shortcut will not work.

Teach salespeople how to have engaging and relevant dialogues focused on how they can co-create business value for clients. Have sales managers coach salespeople on how to engage more stakeholders early in the process. Use checklists to prevent simple mistakes from being made. Analyze your wins and losses to learn what works and what needs to be improved. Enable a culture of curiosity, constant skills improvement and a growth mindset.

NANCY: HOW IS YOUR SOLUTION TRANSFORMING YOUR CUSTOMERS’ SALES ORGANIZATIONS?

GEORGE: We only work with growth-focused sales teams involved in complex B2B sales. In this type of sales environment, HOW you sell is more important than what you sell. The real challenge is introducing new skills and behaviors, which is hard, very hard. Partly because of this reason, there’s too much focus on “quick-fixes” and shiny objects.

Companies come to us when they need to execute a new sales strategy and need to make it stick past the sales training sessions. Or when they are tired of their old-school CRM and “point pollutions” that slow their people down and cost them a fortune.

We help them make their WAY OF SELLING into visual, educational, and actionable sales processes. This gives organizations a shared language, and reliable KPIs, and moves the needle on all sales effectiveness drivers: win rates, deal sizes, and sales cycles. It also speeds up ramp-up times for new hires and creates more reliable forecasts. We help them make their way of selling into their competitive advantage.

We’ve seen customers triple their win rates, double margins, and exceed 100% quota attainment for teams that were at 50% previously. A holistic approach to sales training reinforcement, execution guidance, and tooling has immense power!

NANCY: YOU MENTIONED ‘POINT POLLUTION,’ WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

GEORGE: Over the last decade, vendors released hundreds of sales tools. Most developed as plugins to large CRM platforms. Each plugin promises to solve one specific problem. Need to improve prospecting? Point solution. Want to automate scheduling? Point solution. Need to manage accounts and opportunities better than your CRM provides for? Point solution. Want to provide org charts for your salespeople? Point solution.

There’s been inflation of tools, and they’re starting to do more harm than good. Too many tools slow us down. And the cost is spiraling out of control. I believe that it’s time to build systems designed to improve effectiveness from the ground up. We also need to question the status quo of expensive CRM platforms polluted by point solutions. Which is what we’re doing at Membrain.com.

NANCY: WHAT ARE SOME GOOD RESOURCES IF SOMEONE WANTED TO LEARN WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK, WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING, OR OTHER FACTORS RELATED TO SALES TRANSFORMATION?

GEORGE: Some companies are starting to treat sales enablement very strategically, which I find to be a fascinating development. The number of professionals on LinkedIn with “Sales Enablement” in their title has tripled over the last three years.

The largest community of practitioners is the Sales Enablement Society (SES). I would recommend anyone interested in sales transformation and sales enablement to join SES and engage in the discussions. There are also lots of great content from smart thinkers and consultants online, like Dave Kurlan, Dave Brock, Bob Apollo, Anthony Iannarino, Jacco van der Kooij, Mike Kunkle, Bob Britton, Tim Ohai, and many more. We also share ideas on our blog, “Art & Science of Complex Sales.”