Episode TwoHundredFiftySix

A Buyer’s Journey of Infinite Paths: Trust-Based Sales Teams

Guest: Chris Geddes, Director of Enterprise Sales Strategy at Microsoft

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About This Episode

Let’s get rid of golf and commit to soccer.

We don’t want a bunch of individual reps aiming for their own targets but a true sales team that wins or loses when the customer does.

I recently chatted with Chris Geddes, Director of Enterprise Sales Strategy at Microsoft, about trust-based selling on 3 horizons.

Chris has worked for Ernst & Young, BC Hydro, Nokia, and Xbox before he began designing long-term enterprise sales strategy for Microsoft.

“I’m working out where we need to get to the ultimate end destination…and then we have a roadmap on how to go forward,” he said.

Let’s dive into the conversation!

How to design a roadmap backwards

Chris starts with a vision of the endpoint, then lists out 3-5 things that it will take to get there. Each of those milestones are built on 3-5 other achievements, and that’s more or less the technique.

The need for a new strategy originated in the cultural transformation from the hard selling phase of the 80s and 90s to Satya Nadella’s present goal of helping the world. 

“There’s something bigger and more impactful that we can do,” Chris said. “We have a place in this world to help, and if we do the right things consistently and live those values, then revenue will be the byproduct of that.”

The 3-legged stool of trust

Trust is the defining concept of this vision for the future. It stands on these 3 legs:

  1. Customer centricity. If we do the right thing to bring the customer to success fast, our success will come as a result of that.
  2. Partner centricity. Anything we build in this future state needs to work for the success of our partners.
  3. Seller centricity. We have to do right by our own salespeople.

“The word that brought those things together for me was trust. Trust is about the relationship with the customer, with the partner, with our own sales teams. It’s about the confidence that we can do what we say we can do,” Chris said.

The 3 horizons of building trust

With these guardrails, if you will, shaping the end vision, Chris also strategized how to build up trust over time across 3 horizons.

  1. Horizon #1 is operational effectiveness.
  2. Horizon #2 is innovation.
  3. Horizon #3 is Chris’s specialty: What is a market-defining new offering that we should invest in so that we can capture that market now?

A practical illustration of the problems Chris is trying to solve by doing away with conflicts of interest is how salespeople are compensated.

The seller wants to sell as much as possible, while no customer ever wanted to spend as much as possible. “If we can align ourselves, the customer, and the partner perfectly to delivering the customer’s desired outcomes, we’ve got something really special,” Chris said.

<“What if we empowered our sales people to do what they do best in the whole world, which is to address tricky customer problems or opportunities with our products and services?” — Chris Geddes>

Trust-based selling is nonlinear

It takes work to overcome the legacy mindset of selling as much as possible at all costs.  These are linear, closed, and opaque ways of thinking.

Trust-based selling focuses on the customer’s needs, buying cycle, and preferences. “Your process should grow and shrink based on what they need,” Chris pointed out.

Removing institutionalized blockers means getting straight in the negotiation phase, being willing to brainstorm, and not selling things customers don’t need. 

Once upon a time, Microsoft sold boxes of software, but now the shift to cloud-based solutions has also helped shift to the right values of trust and integrity.

Chris said sales teams used to act like golfers, everyone aiming for their own target. They are growing more like soccer teams, however — a true team in which everyone succeeds or fails together.

If a seller is told to lean into the team but compensated as an individual, what will happen? They won’t share opportunities or work for the customer’s benefit, that’s for sure.

Without addressing the compensation piece, you can’t have a true team. If you don’t address the process and make it about the customer’s needs, you can’t really live up to this vision of putting the customer success before your own.

Pivoting like a startup

So, all of these things have to be addressed at the same time, which produces a huge and normally unbearable level of risk for an organization: change your culture, your process, your roles, your teaming, and your compensation all at once.

Most companies will balk, and rightly.

“We minimize the risk of the change we’re proposing by tackling the whole thing on a tiny scale,” Chris explained. He’s doing an experiment with a very small, finite number of places to test out all the changes at once. 

“If it works, fantastic. If it doesn’t work, we’re going to operate like a startup, we’ll pivot, we’ll move, we’ll change, we’ll think about things in a different way,” he said.

Instead of rolling this out for the entire massive Microsoft at once, he’s going to just launch the rocket and adjust its heading in real time.

A buyer’s journey with infinite paths

If we’re replacing the entire playbook with the nebulous concept of “customer needs,” how do we sell anymore?

Chris identified the prescriptive process as designed to minimize risks to the seller’s reputation, rather than to align to the customer’s objectives. On the other hand, if seller objectives are the customer objectives, then any steps we can skip together deliver benefit to the customer.

This way, the nonlinear aspect of the process becomes merely sensible when you don’t have to do A, B, and C before you can do D, if D is best for the customer.

2 outcomes of the soccer team model

  1. A team will always outperform a group of individuals. (If your whole class could help you with your math test, you’d get a better score, right?)
  2. The strong performers will create a team full of strong performers. (It’s the Holy Grail of training opportunities to move the whole performance curve to the right, isn’t it?)

A soccer-team mentality isn’t the best teaching the weakest. It becomes the best teaching the best.

Let’s be honest, sales is already a nonlinear process. Calling it like it is just frees salespeople from the conflict of interest that’s been holding them back.

“What if we empowered our sales people to do what they do best in the whole world, which is to address tricky customer problems or opportunities with our products and services?” Chris said.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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