I’m gonna say it.
Account Executives are losing touch. Sales reps of 2022 have taken the sales out of sales professionals and become highly paid order takers and product demonstrators. The actual ability of a sales professional should be judged by their ability to turn non-buyers into buyers – not the ability to demo and take an order from an inbound lead. Revenue teams need to sell again.
I have a couple of theories as to why this is happening:
Payoff (ie commission) is no longer high enough to warrant the effort.
When selling document solutions 8 or so years ago, my ability to maximise my earnings often depended on a few large ticket deals throughout the sales year. If I was selling $100,000 worth of product worth $10 – 12k in commission, I’d be damn sure that I did everything I could to ensure I won the deal. With contract cycles anywhere from 3 – 5 years, these deals would often be years in the making. From the first cold call, I’d nature and educate my prospect with my eye firmly on the prize.
In 2022, the commission value for many recurring revenue products are so low that it simply isn’t worth the effort for Account Executives anymore. If it is too hard to convert a prospect, they know that there is another one that will fill the spot. This attitude very quickly leads to potential opportunities falling through the cracks.
The effort that is required to generate new business is no longer understood.
My first sales job involved walking around the Wellington, New Zealand CBD, generating leads. During that job, I knocked on the doors of over 1000 businesses and generated a healthy pipeline because of it. And. because I put so much effort into generating those leads, you’d be damn sure that I am going to follow up on them. Today, many account execs come into a job not even having to do any business development – only relying on inbound leads. Sales professionals only want to sell to people who come to them, as turning non-buyers into buyers becomes too hard and not worth the effort.
So, where am I going with this little rant of mine? The sales process needs to be reintroduced. We are salespeople, not product demonstrators. A good example of a sales process can be seen with the Winning by Design SPICED sales framework.
The SPICED Sales Process Explained
The SPICED sales methodology is a simple yet effective framework by Winning by Design that account executives can use to increase their close rates and improve their overall performance. This customer-centric framework consists of 5 steps:
S – Situation: In this stage, the account executive assesses the prospect’s current situation. This includes facts, circumstances and background details about your prospect.
P – Pain: In this stage, the account executive works to identify the prospect’s specific pain points and needs. This is done by asking probing questions and active listening.
I – Impact: In this stage, the account exec must help the prospect understand the implications of not solving their problem and how your solution can effectively impact your prospect’s business. Can your product boost recurring revenue? Will you help with customer success teams?
CE – Critical Event: The critical event of the sales process involves providing specific deadlines to which you can achieve the desired impact. Agreeing on these critical events is essential to the sales process; unfortunately, they are often missed.
D – Decision: The decision stage is when the prospect decides whether or not to move forward with your solution. This is where you will close the deal and get the prospect to sign on the dotted line.
Whilst the above steps are outlined in a fashion that provides a nice acronym, the ‘ICE’ of the spiced framework isn’t always chronological. For example, the prospective customer may have a good understanding of their desired impacts and deadlines before the first meeting, but this often isn’t the case with in regard to an outbound sales cycle.
How to Use the SPICED Sales Framework as Part of Your Sales Cycle
With the overview above out of the way, let’s now look at how you can use the SPICED sales process as part of your sales cycle.
It’s essential to always be customer-centric when leading a prospect through a sales cycle. It’s about them, not you. No one likes death by PowerPoint. Therefore, it is crucial to understand background information about the prospect and their business. For example, what does their current tech stack look like? What industry are they in? Is there a familiar pain that their industry shares? Is there a common pain that the target persona shares? Is the customer growing as a business?
All these questions will help you understand the customer better and pre-empt potential solutions.
Before we can solve a problem, we need to find a pain. If we can’t find a problem, we’ll have a more challenging time converting the prospect into new sales. So, what challenges is the customer currently facing? Most problems can come down to three specific areas – time, money and/or resources. Additionally, two types of pain can be addressed: quantitative and qualitative. When trying to identify a prospect’s pain, it’s essential to understand both.
A quantitative pain is a pain that can be measured in numbers and is generally more tangible. An example could be, “I need to increase my close rate by 10%”.
A qualitative pain is a pain that can’t be measured as easily in numbers and is more emotional. An example could be, “I need to feel more confident when closing deals”.
Asking probing questions is key when trying to identify a customer’s pain.
When considering impact, it’s important to consider how the prospect will benefit from your product. How does your product solve their pain, and is their pain big enough to warrant them to take action? As sales reps, we need to stop thinking about what we want and think more about what the customer wants. The impact on the customer could be rational or emotional.
Some examples of rational impact could be, “My close rate will increase by 10%”, increasing recurring revenue by 20% or improving sales team performance by 7%.
Some examples of emotional impact could be, “I’ll feel more confident when closing deals”, or other benefits that will impact the customer individually.
The critical event of the sales process involves providing specific deadlines to which you can achieve the desired impact. Agreeing on these critical events is essential to the sales process; unfortunately, they are often missed. During this stage, it’s essential to state the ramifications of not hitting the critical even date. To try and get agreement from the customer on this, you can ask questions like “why is getting this done by x date important to you?” or “what happens if you don’t take action by this date?”.
The final stage of the SPICED sales process is making a decision. Once you’ve gone through the previous stages, this should be relatively straightforward. If it’s not, you may need to go back and revisit them.
Making a decision involves three steps:
1) Confirming that you understand the customer’s pain
2) Confirming that you understand the desired impact
3) Agree on a timeline to achieve this impact.
Once these three steps have been completed, you should be able to decide with the customer relatively easily. If not, likely, there is still some disagreement on one of the aforementioned points.
Understanding other stakeholders involved in the purchasing process is crucial – the earlier you know, the better. It’s also a good idea to understand the decision criteria. To proceed, what criteria do we, as the vendor, need to meet?
The SPICED sales framework is a simple yet effective way to increase your closing rate as a SaaS account executive. By taking the time to understand the customer’s pain, desired impact and critical event, you can ensure that you’re providing a solution that meets their needs. In addition, you can set yourself up for success by understanding the decision criteria and other stakeholders involved in the purchasing process.