reprint from 2006*
Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company is a leader in facilitation training and meeting facilitation. With a network of over 200 facilitators under contract, LSI provides organizations with dynamic, professional facilitators who facilitate executive strategy retreats and problem resolution sessions and lead training classes in facilitation, leadership and consulting skills.
Despite the organization’s high quality products and services and its strong competitive position, early in 2005 several factors led Wilkinson to conclude that the organization needed to transform its salesprocesses and approaches.

  • Year-over-year revenue was stagnant.
  • Most of LSI’s new business was coming from Internet inquiries and call-ins rather than from proactive contacts by the sales team.
  • Too often the sales teams “winged-it” on conversations, which made turning lookers into qualified leads, hit or miss.
  • Product and sales training focused merely on the features of the offerings and not sales process or tools to use when working through an opportunity. Salespeople were left to their own devices to figure out a sales process.
  • With everyone doing their own thing, coaching reps was difficult. For example, some reps had trouble identifying where opportunities were or what steps needed to occur for opportunities to close. They would have great meetings or calls, but the opportunity just seemed to peter out. Other reps, though, needed help with prospecting. They felt they lacked the credibility to make calls outside their comfort zone of HR professionals.

Wilkinson recognized that LSI’s fast growth had come from “early adopters” and that the organization sales had stagnated because they had not successfully penetrated the major market buyers. While the “wins” were usually buyers who understood intuitively how to use LSI offerings, the “misses” were often losses to either an internal training team or “No Decision, Inc.” With these misses, his client relationship managers either had trouble positioning offerings in ways the buyer would grasp or had trouble cost justifying the engagements.
Wilkinson needed the following capabilities to ramp up sales:

  • A customized best-practices LSI sales process, from first initiation, through customer success. This process had to contain pipeline milestones, deliverables and needed to be 100% auditable for sales management in coaching sessions.
  • Sales messaging that would give the client relationship managers the tools to have quality, consultative conversations which would be mapped to the pipeline milestones established in the sales process. Since the core of the sales process is the sales interactions (conversations between client relationship manager and buyer), the core of the conversational, consultative messaging included:
    • How to obtain targeted buyer’s business goals and explore needs;
    • Actual diagnostic questions for each targeted buyer, that would help the client relationship manager extract the buyer’s issues that are currently preventing them from achieving those goals;
    • How to help client relationship managers build value by architecting the questions for them that would uncover the financial impact of the issues; and
    • Then, product positioning that would help the buyer build a vision on how the use of Leadership Strategies’ offerings would help them achieve those goals.
  • Tools and know-how for managers to review each client relationship manager’s documentation of their selling efforts in the form of customer correspondence. In doing so, managers would have visibility into each sales process and could monitor activity levels and competence in key areas with development in specific areas as needed.

LSI contracted with consultant Adam Shapiro to gain the above capabilities. In June 2005, Shapiro worked closely with the company’s sales and marketing leaders to develop the sales-ready messaging for LSI key products and services. A month later, Shapiro taught a customized workshop to all customer-facing personnel at LSI, using the actual sales-ready messaging tools the reps would employ post-workshop.
Wilkinson has been thrilled with the results. “We had an incredible September – the best in the company’s history. September was followed by the best October and November in five years.” One customer relationship manager who was having a difficult time closing opportunities and having executive interactions, “has been lighting up the sales board,” says Wilkinson.
“LSI has terrific offerings for increasing the organizational effectiveness of employees and delighting customers,” Shapiro says. “Their customer relationship managers just needed a way that described the offerings in terms of usage so the mainstream market would get it.”
LSI now has a repeatable, auditable sales process that gives salespeople confidence during their sales interactions and a roadmap for success.
“Adam has done a terrific job for us,” says Wilkinson. “By taking the first month to customize our messaging, he was able to deliver training that was far more impactful then anything we had experienced before. He has superb consulting and training skills and diagnoses issues quickly. Because he lives the selling approach he espouses, he served as an excellent model for our customer relationship managers and sales manager. We were so impressed with Adam’s skills, we extended the contract to have him sit along side our sales manager during the first month of opportunity reviews. Through the value he continually delivers, he truly serves as a trusted advisor for our organization.”
*NOTE:  Admittedly, this success story is a re-post from a few years ago.  It was lost in the transition from Typepad to WordPress.  I continue to work with Leadership Strategies providing strategic and tactical sales and marketing consulting and training.