From Individual Salespeople to a Beehive Sales Organization
By Greg Dvorken
For the most part, sellers are lone wolves. They hunt alone. They eat alone. And then they hunt alone again.
But they learn a lot when they win. And those insights, for the most part, stay in the brain of the individual. And that individual gets better. Sometimes they even become legends inside their organizations.
Sometimes they talk to their team about what they did (if they are part of a sales team), but without an easy way to document what was said, those anecdotes quickly fade and are never seen as actual data points because they were never recorded, much less analyzed. Or worse, those insights walk out the door when the seller leaves. According to a 2018 report by the Bridge Group, the average salesperson tenure was only 1.5 years. In 2010, the same tenure was three years. Not the strongest trend.
And what if you have 100 or 1,000 other sales teams in your organization? How does that federated organization truly get better by the hundreds or thousands of individual successes (and failures) that happen every day inside their organization?
Enter CRM. And then quickly exit CRM.
CRM was supposed to be that collective brain. It was supposed to capture the day-to-day interactions of sellers so that the collective organization could benefit from those individual bits of intelligence. Over $40B a year is spent on CRM software.
But what CRM has become is a chore and there’s no payoff to the seller. So instead of being a panacea, CRM has become a way for sellers to track opportunities from start to finish (or a sandbagging tool to only reflect wins or those opportunities skewed toward winning) because it’s a requirement, and wins are recorded without actually showing the math behind the close. That then becomes an amorphous pipeline with zero insights into actual deal health across the board.
Enter clicks and views. Exit clicks and views.
The next thing became using volume metrics like clicks and views to understand what a seller’s prospects and customers were looking at. If I understand what they look at, and how long they look at it, I can sell to them more effectively, right? Nope.
Volume data has become a popular marketing mantra. It shows billions and trillions of data points. It shows trends. It consumes trillions of dollars of investment in search of a holy grail, but without an actual map or physical target.
More is supposed to equal better. Unfortunately, more has just become more. And more gets confusing really quickly.
Getting back to the seller.
So, let’s go back two steps and focus on the hunter again. The hunter knows the customer the best. They know what the customer likes and dislikes. They intimately understand the pain points in a way that a CRM, banner ad or email just can’t do. To close or to move a step toward closing, salespeople need to demonstrate solutions to those customer pain points, and use cases for those solutions.
Those solutions are located in various places inside a sales organization. If you’re able to wrangle some use cases together, many times it’s because you’ve been around long enough and have collected a bunch of stuff (blog posts, decks, white papers, videos) that works for you. Salespeople typically store that on their hard drives, or in their CRM or their sales enablement platform, or their marketing automation platform, or in their digital asset management platform, or simply in their enormous inboxes.
Sometimes there’s data associated with this content. Sometimes there’s a way to search for this content. But that data is typically based on relevance and volume. Two helpful, but incomplete bits of data that are like empty calories. They taste good, but don’t deliver much nutritional value because volume is volume. Volume does not provide actual success metrics.
The seller’s intent is to maintain an edge. To work from actual success and understand the why (not just the what) behind it. Success is the spinach that Popeye eats. So how do we find the spinach?
Sellers learning from other sellers.
The next thing salespeople do, especially new sellers, is try to find a mentor. Sellers sometimes become managers because they have succeeded. Sales managers have many mouths to feed. But the manager is not the seller. The manager has bits and pieces of context around the individual seller’s situation, but they don’t have the intimate knowledge that a seller has because they aren’t the one in the actual trenches. They are watching the trenches through a pair of binoculars.
Then there’s finding the rockstars inside your organization. Maybe they could help me, the seller, understand their recipe for success? But they became sales rockstars for a reason. They are singularly driven. They do not have time to hold someone’s hand. They certainly don’t have time to post-mortem. And they certainly don’t have time to record their feelings in a CRM system. They hunt. End of story.
But the concept of learning from others by being a fly on the wall of their success would be amazing, wouldn’t it? The ability to peer into someone’s brain without disturbing them. They don’t know you’re there. They do their thing, and you learn from what has worked for them. Sounds like a pretty cool tradeoff — if you live in the Matrix. But in real life, it doesn’t quite shake out that way.
Completing the circle.
So what if you were able to be that fly on the wall? What if you were able to learn from your peers from battle-tested successes? What if that learning never stopped and you were automatically informed of successes that applied to your specific situation? You’d win all the time. Your sales cycles would get shorter. Your company would know the health of your deal because they could see inside your brain. Sellers wouldn’t have to lift a finger. Like Al Davis, the legendary Oakland Raiders coach and owner said — “Just win baby!”
To win as an enterprise sales organization — collectively — you need to think like a wolf, but act like a bunch of bees. What the hell does that mean? Let me explain.
Evolving from lone wolves to wolves in a hive.
The hive mentality of bees works because of constant collective communication. Workers are working toward a common goal — the survival of the collective hive.
Every day there are small movements with thousands of bees inching the organization forward by moving in lockstep. They know that bee #438 needs more pollen to complete their section of the hive. They know that bee #9,352 has completed their section and needs a new assignment. They know this because that information is processed, analyzed and distributed to the hive. It’s built into their DNA to share that way.
Wolves do not share that DNA.
So it’s the organization’s job to use the information that wolves collect every day from their interactions with customers, bring those insights to a higher plane, and then scale that collective intelligence so that each wolf inside the organizational hive benefits from that artificial collective brain through their own success, multiplied by the success of hundreds or thousands of wolves just like themselves.
Hive sales intelligence: the future of sales.
To evolve your sales organization to benefit from the individual success it sees every day, you need to add sales intelligence based on seller-buyer engagement successes, not the volume metrics discussed earlier, but human-to-human intelligence. Then you need to scale that qualitative intelligence so it’s at the fingertips of every seller inside the company.
Adopters of this approach will reap the benefits of hive sales intelligence. They will generate revenue more reliably because it’s based on actual success instead of “perceived success,” which comes from non-nutritional volume data. The incremental insights that come from capturing qualitative data provides healthy sales data to accelerate sales organizations past their competitors. Early adopters of this approach will grow pipelines and close deals faster than organizations continuing to bang their head against the wall of the current state.
This will take a behavioral shift. We’re watching the sales landscape change every day these days. Shocks to the system have become the norm, and new capabilities are necessary to set a new standard for a competitive marketplace hungry for change.
Get smarter. Increase your collective intelligence. Remove fear. That’s the only way to push through as an organization as opposed to a loose confederation of successful individuals.
To learn more about hive sales intelligence to help close deals faster, please contact our team.
Images by Dušan veverkolog, Boba Jaglicic and Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash.