Are You Giving Your Sales Force A Knife For A Gunfight?


In the movie “The Untouchables” Sean Connery’s character, Jim Malone, is targeted for a hit by Al Capone. The hitman breaks into his house and threatens Malone, pulling out a revolver, says, “Isn’t that just like a (derogatory term for an Italian) . . . brings a knife to a gun fight.”

In case you were wondering, here is the scene I'm talking about.


My question to you?


“Are you sending your sales people on calls armed to have you-focused pitches rather than the customer-centered conversation required today?”


Before you answer, ask yourself these questions:


  • Do you have a specific executive in mind, or are you targeting a “CXO?”
  • Have the people responsible for creating messages and materials to be used by sales people with your targeted executive ever had a one-on-one conversation with someone at that level . . even once?
  • How do you plan to gain access to that targeted stakeholder when your competitors are also trying to influence them as well?
  • How well equipped are your sales people to match specific customer problems and relate your value in a compelling, contextual relevant way to a given executive?
  • How do you know that the problems you helping are, in fact, relevant to the executive level that you are seeking?

As part of our “outside-in” sales enablement research agenda, we are getting the point of view of your buyers about how they are engaged by sales organizations, and what they think is truly differentiating. Basically, the overwhelming majority of executive-level buyers tell us that how a vendor engages with them differentiates them a lot more than what their products and services are or do.


Buyers want to work with vendors who will work with them to solve problems and the suppliers that follow the product first mentality are destined for a life of constant negotiation with procurement organizations. So, when you look at all of the collateral, tools, engagement strategies, incentive plans, and training programs you create — at their core, are they more about your view and products; or are they about helping your sales people understand and solve the problems your customers are having?


re: Are You Giving Your Sales Force A Knife For A Gunfight?

Thanks for this, you have captured what so many companies miss out on, what business are you in?

re: Are You Giving Your Sales Force A Knife For A Gunfight?

Thank you for your comments Allan, and of course I agree with you.For most B2B businesses, their brand only comes to life at the point of sales. My research mission is to surface these realites so that executive management can work on devloping a sales support environment that is more condusive to adding value to customers.I cover the technology industry because we can leverage the insights of buyers.

re: Are You Giving Your Sales Force A Knife For A Gunfight?

I work within the vehicle tracking industry and as much as ive seen some very good sales people, I would love to introduce a standard and a code of practice as I feel that for the last 10 years the industry is tainted like the "Blagging Car Salesprson" that is only in it for a quick sale and lacking in a professional standard. This has been encouraged by employers greedy for the fast WIN with poor thought to a continous customer for life cycle. I have no idea how to go about introducing this but would value your thoughts on standardising my industry.

re: Are You Giving Your Sales Force A Knife For A Gunfight?

Scott, you hit on the fundamental reason that Sales Enablement exists – to drive better sales conversations. As a marketer charged with Sales Enablement among my primary responsibilities, I know I have to constantly remind myself of this to ensure I'm NOT expending my energy on tools and initiatives that prove useless where the rubber actually meets the road. I do think also, that in more complex selling environments, customers ultimately need and want to be led. That is the job of the sales rep – to listen and to lead. I've seen many companies succeed with Sales Enablement when they begin to get a solid picture of what types sales conversations are taking place across the life cycle of the buying process - what is actually taking place and what conversations need to look like to take that deal across the finish line. From there, those responsible for Sales Enablement can determine what sales reps and buyers need during those conversations in order to take the next step forward. By starting with the critical conversations, you can then work backwards to align the right information, people, content, and resources that are needed to support those specific conversations. This approach also helps organizations to focus their Sales Enablement efforts on what is most important. At the end of the day, Sales Enablement exists to drive better interactions between buyers and sellers. One more thing to note - this isn't a Marketing project. We need to engage with the sales force on this one. This includes direct contact and on-going feedback. One of the easiest ways I know of to continue the feedback loop is via Sales Enablement technology that provides usage date, allows for two-way communication, commenting, rating, etc. – ways for sales to talk back both directly and indirectly. The types of conversations going on next year may look very different than those happening today, so maintaining a way to not only get insight today, but on an on-going basis will help keep those responsible for Sales Enablement in the loop and able to react quickly when the conversations change (or, to play off of your analogy, the bad guys show up with a new weapon).

re: Are You Giving Your Sales Force A Knife For A Gunfight?

Thanks for the great feedback Colleen. Conversations are no doubt the single biggest design point, but they present a few challanges.1) Everyone knows HOW to have conversations - human beings are just wired to do that....but...2) We are also wired to be comfortable in our own settings. Unfortunately, good coversations are repiprical - two way. Meaning that if you place sales people into a situation about subject matter they dont know - its going to be hard to have that effective conversation.Thus, the core issue here is that we've got a situation where we have to provide sales people with the "knowledge pack" so they can have the right conversations. This includes: detail content that can be tailored to an individual, experiential information to allow confidence, and contextual information to allow the required empathy that's required to give sales people the comfort and confidence to initiate conversations with exectives.