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Are you training and coaching your people “principle based selling?” No, I’m not announcing a new sales methodology or trying to infringe on a few companies calling their methods “Principle Based Selling.” We often use the word principle to describe values we hold, for example, integrity, honesty, respect for others. Those are important, but not the subject of this post.

What I’m referring to when I use the term “principle based selling,” I’m focused on identifying the fundamental things that drive sales success for your organization. Do your people understand those base principles, can they leverage them in situations they haven’t encountered before.

What are some of the fundamental principles that drive sales success for your company? Here are some things to think about:

  1. What problems are we the best in the world at solving and why? (The why helps you understand your value.)
  2. Who are the people (personas) and organizations that have those problems and why are these important issues for them? (This guides your prospecting and qualification.)
  3. How do we help them recognize the problem, commit to change, define what they want to do, and engage others in determining the solution/solving the problem? (This drives the insight we provide, understanding their buying process and aligning our sales process to that buying process in a manner that allows us to collaboratively solve the customer’s problem.)
  4. How do we hold and value those customers/prospects? (This drives the customer experience we want to create, both in through their buying process and in their implementation.)
  5. How do we get things done in our own organization-particularly when we don’t know how to get things done? (This deserves its own post but, but it really is about “Where do I get help when I encounter something I don’t know?”)
  6. Why we do things the way we do them? (This helps us understand both how to get work done in our company, but, more importantly, what we stand for and how we want to be positioned in the markets/community. It’s part of what differentiates us and drives our value.)
  7. How do we maximize our own personal performances to achieve our goals? (This has to do with our ability to focus on things that produce results and to stop doing things that don’t.)

There are probably a few principles you can add, but there don’t have to be many. You might, fairly, argue that 7 is way too many. In truth, I probably could combine 4, 5, 6.

Think of it, the whole universe of physics and mechanics is guided by only a few underlying principles/laws. So we don’t need many to guide our salespeople.

But why is this important? Why am I even bothering to write this?

The issue is, our people will always confront situations that aren’t described in a playbook or covered in a script. They will face things they haven’t encountered before–though they may have encountered similar situations, “this one is different.”

Grounding our people in these basic principles gives them the ability to figure things out, to be able to address each situation with higher odds of success.

Ironically, most of the trend in sales enablement and programs is exactly the opposite. We are leveraging tools, technologies, content, metrics, organizational models in ways that actually “dumb down the salesperson.” They become so specialized, so scripted, so process focused that they can’t deal with situations that don’t match what they have been trained to do.

Perhaps this is part of what underlies the plummeting data on sales performance.

The problem is, every sales situation has common patterns, but at the same time, every sales situation is unique because our customers are unique. They are people, human beings, who don’t act logically, rationally, or consistently. They change on a day to day basis.

Couple the challenge of dealing with individuals, who may be constantly changing, with today’s consensus decision-making for complex B2B sales, and the number of possibilities skyrockets, just for that deal. Then look at all the deals across all our salespeople, over time–the number of possibilities we have to “design for,” becomes infinite. (And infinity is a pretty big number.)

Clearly, it’s impossible for us to design processes, develop playbooks/scripts that handle even a large number of those situations. Moreover, since they are constantly changing, the life cycle of any script becomes very short.

The reality is, we cannot succeed by being totally prescriptive with what we train/enable our salespeople to do. We cannot keep up with the pace of change or the variability in each deal/situation.

We have to have sales people with the critical thinking/problem-solving capabilities to figure things out. We have to train them in basic principles, so they have the tools to develop the best answers to drive success in every situation they encounter.

Have you developed the basic principles that underlie your company’s ability to generate revenue and create value with customers?

Are you teaching your people how to leverage those principles in helping them figure out what to do in every situation?