Twenty years ago, I told my family I wanted to buy a piece of bare land and build a house on it. My wife thought I was crazy.
The land had no source of water, no access to waste water disposal, and it was covered in woods. Everything would have to be built from scratch, and everyone in their right minds urged us to do what everyone else was doing and buy something already built.
But what we wanted didn’t exist. We knew the neighborhood we wanted to live in, we knew we wanted to be on a hill, and we knew what our needs were in terms of bedrooms and bathrooms and other features. We could find homes that fit a few of the criteria, and some that could possibly have been customized to meet our needs, but nothing that I was confident would meet all of our needs for the next twenty years and beyond.
My wife, eventually agreed with me.
In all my life, I’ve never been content to do “what everyone else was doing,” not if I could see a better way.
I think of it as “going upstream” and, in fact, that’s the name of one of my companies: Upstream.
At Upstream, we started by creating an alternative to installing and managing expensive hardware to access the internet, which is how “everyone was doing it” at the time. We introduced the world’s first proxy server, which allowed clients to install a piece of software on any computer in the network and access the internet that way.
The business quickly became profitable. From there, we've expanded into other “upstream” services that solve business problems in new ways.
I’ve told the story before about how that business morphed into other offerings and how that eventually led me to Membrain. Each of the evolutions along that path was driven by the same thing: What I wanted didn’t exist. So we made it. I went upstream.
Before I conceived of Membrain, I had a very expensive problem. I was hiring and firing salespeople repeatedly, to the tune of about $100,000 each time, with no return on the investment.
I wasn’t alone. I heard the same problem echoed by other business owners and sales directors almost every time the subject came up.
Eventually, painfully, I came to realize the problem was not with salespeople, but with me. I was assuming too much about them and about my own sales process. Everyone was.
I discovered that salespeople needed a structured and proven sales process, and guidance through it. I envisioned a sales technology platform that would enable a milestone-based process, track progress through the process, deliver sales enablement content and behavioral reinforcement on an as-needed basis, as well as encourage coaching and provide the right sales analytics right out of the box.
What I envisioned didn’t exist.
So we made it.
Going upstream is a core value at Membrain. It’s at the heart of our own product, but it’s also an essential skill we urge sales professionals to learn and sales leaders to train and enable.
When you sell the same way that “everyone else is doing it,” you simply cannot excel. The way everyone else does it leads to price deflation, commoditization, and blending in with the competition.
Top salespeople do it differently. They go upstream to have value conversations with prospects. They help their customers to see what’s missing in their own business and in their assumptions and go upstream to create uniquely valuable solutions that meet their needs in a way that no one else has shown them.
This is an essential sales skill that is rarely taught, even more rarely taught well, and almost never reinforced.
In order to nurture “going upstream” on your sales team, you must go upstream as an organization. While most sales organizations settle for “what everyone else is doing” when it comes to training, managing, and technology, top organizations refuse to be ordinary.
They take a customer-centric approach and invest in effective sales strategy. They invest in their sales process(es), in training, and in purpose-built enablement technologies like Membrain that work differently–and better–than the mainstream alternatives.
They don’t buy the 800-pound-overpriced-gorilla CRM that promises to solve all their problems like everyone else is doing. They seek out products built to serve exactly the needs of a strategic sales organization operating in the type of environment they’re operating in.
We’re proud of how Membrain serves the complex b2b sales environment, and even more proud of how its simple, intuitive, beautiful interface enables organizations to customize our process-based features to meet exactly their own upstream needs.
Twenty years later, we still live in that house we built, and we still love it. The neighborhood is ideal for us. It’s just the right size and the floorplan suits us. The light comes in through the windows just exactly right. When I’m at home, I wake up glad to be where I am every morning.
And even though everyone thought I was crazy, we spent less to build it than a comparable home would have cost to purchase pre-built.
I’ve never regretted the decision to go upstream, personally or professionally, and, because of that, “going upstream” lies at the heart of our company values.
If you’re ready to take your sales organization upstream, we’d love to show you how we can help.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn