“The mitigation of friction which impedes sales.”
That’s Bob Britton, in a guest post on this blog, defining sales enablement. While I’ve certainly heard more extensive definitions, I find Bob’s concept to be pleasingly simple and useful.
Friction, in a physical sense, is the resistance caused when one object interrupts the flow of another. It results in a slowing of motion, and often excess heat.
In a sales context, the definition is not far different. Friction is when anything interrupts the flow of the sale. It results in a slowing or even stopping of forward motion, and can lead to heated exchanges and conflict on the team.
When the cause of physical friction is removed, flow returns and heat dissipates. Likewise, when the causes of sales friction are removed, flow returns and sales are made more quickly, smoothly, and successfully.
Here’s how to reduce friction and increase flow on your sales team.
1. Understand the types of friction that impact sales
Before you can reduce or eliminate it, you must first understand all the ways that friction shows up in your sales organization. Britton defines three key types of friction:
Internal friction can show up in your process, strategy, skills, salesperson activities, and elsewhere inside your organization. If your sales process is unclear, and it lacks embedded methodologies, your salespeople may encounter friction when trying to decide what to do next and how to do it. If your sales process is poorly aligned with your strategy, you’ll experience friction between desired outcomes and the results your process is actually delivering. If your salespeople and sales managers lack skills, they will experience friction in attempting to execute on your strategy and process.
External friction is impediments brought to the process by the customer. It may be their resistance to your product, fear of investment, internal organizational obstacles, a bad fit, lack of understanding, or an inability to make a decision, for example.
Interpersonal conflict includes any conflict or disagreements that impact the effectiveness of your organization. These may also be internal, external, or inter-organizational. Your sales teams may bicker and fight among themselves; the customer’s team may be doing the same on their end, or someone on your sales team may have an interpersonal conflict with someone on the buying team.
Any of these forms of friction can slow down or halt your sales process.
2. Identify your friction points
With a clear understanding of the types of friction, you can begin to identify where the biggest friction points are in your sales organization. If you lack a clear strategy and a milestone-based process, these are your first and biggest friction points to address.
Other big friction points to look for are:
- Poor alignment between strategy, process, skills, training, coaching, and execution
- Lack of alignment between your process and the customer’s needs
- Ineffective steps and lack of clarity in your process
- Missing skills, training, or coaching
- Interpersonal conflict
3. Address friction from the top down
Many organizations invest in what Britton calls “random acts of sales enablement.” This usually shows up as purchasing point solutions to fix issues rather than taking a holistic approach to enablement.
This approach rarely gets to the bottom of the true cause of friction. To truly enable your team–and remove unnecessary friction–you need a top-level initiative aimed at aligning every aspect of your sales organization with the company’s strategy and the customer’s needs.
The right strategy, aligned with process, training, technology, and coaching will create an environment where sales can flow with minimal friction.
4. Support behavioral change
A perfect system of strategy, process, training, technology, and coaching will only be effective if it treats the humans within the system as humans.
Humans don’t like change. Even positive change.
Your system must support positive behavioral change through the use of appropriate, aligned technologies, embedded training, and excellent coaching and reinforcement.
5. Focus on the customer
Customer fears, resistance, and internal obstacles can present challenging friction points. A low-friction sales organization takes all of these matters into consideration and operates to reduce and eliminate all these sources of friction for the customer so that they can focus on the brighter future that you can help them achieve.
6. Address interpersonal conflict
Even a perfect and well-supported sales team may experience interpersonal conflict, both internally and externally. Don’t let conflict fester. Address it head-on and get to the root source. It may be that one team member is difficult to work with, or it may be that two team members simply don’t see eye to eye.
Whatever the cause, it pays to address conflict early and often, rather than letting it grow and poison your team.
7. Use the right technology
Technology can be a huge support to sales enablement… but it can also be a source of friction. Avoid overly complex layers of applications that force salespeople into unnecessary steps or require them to spend time in ways they don’t find valuable.
Many of today’s “sales enablement” solutions are really just point-solutions that you can layer on top of existing technology. Or, they’re giant behemoth “solutions” that are so complex they bog you down in customizations or bog the salespeople down in needless steps.
We designed Membrain to help organizations remove friction from their sales process with a simple, elegant, beautiful interface that salespeople love to use–and that gives managers and executives all the insights and analysis they need to continually optimize the flow of the sales process.
Contact us today for a demo.