It’s effective to start with a framework for developing a disruptive sales pitch and in the book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson describe the SAFE-BOLD Framework and how to embrace it when building a teaching pitch. The SAFE-BOLD diagram was created by Neil Rackham and KPMG a tool for helping companies develop compelling sales pitches.
Problems When Developing a Disruptive Sales Pitch
The process to develop a sales or disruptive sales pitch often goes astray from the outset. In many organizations, it’ like having a committee draw a horse—it usually results in a camel. The reason for this is that the people who will use the outcome and the people involved in the process are usually not on the same page. Or worse, they represent opposing views within each group.
Creating a bold disruptive sales pitch is consistent with the Challenger Sales methodology because it helps customers see issues and opportunities they were unable to conceive on their own. In addition, Challenger Sales Reps are comfortable creating constructive tension and staying “in the heat of the moment.” This means they are comfortable introducing the elephant in the room, promoting disruptive concepts, staying in tense moments and saying “no.” In other words, bold presentations empower Challenger Sales Reps.
Unfortunately, many sales organizations do not have a sales team comprised primarily of Challenger Sales Reps. A good portion of sales teams in some organizations are represented by sales reps that are relationship builders – and these types of reps tend to be averse to conflict. To complicate matters, many organizations include functions outside of sales as part of the process to build a sales or teaching presentation. And, some members invited into the process will want to keep the status quo and will not want to push the envelope in the new direction. Usually these individuals reveal themselves by advocating that the language be “toned down” or to “soften” the edges to maintain consistency to historical practices – i.e. not upset the apple cart.
Disruptive Sales Pitch – The SAFE-BOLD Framework
The SAFE-BOLD Framework is great for quantitatively and objectively rating and ranking the strength of a teaching pitch. A SAFE-BOLD teaching pitch needs to do four things well:
The idea needs to be big. The customer must perceive this as something big – i.e. not incremental change but something that elevates the organization to the next level. In economics, this equates to shifting a curve, versus riding along a curve. The spectrum for scale ranges from small to large.
It needs to be an “out-of-the-box” idea — something that pushes the envelope. Terms that do not fit this mold are “faster, better, cheaper.” The range for innovative spans “following” to “leading-edge.”
In short, it comes down to the risk/reward concept where the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. The focus here is on a huge upside. The continuum for risk is “achievable to outperforming.”
Here, the idea is “no pain, no gain.” Bold ideas are hard to do. If they were easy, everyone would do them. The difficulty may reside in scale, complexity, uncertainty, scope, or some other variable. The difficulty span ranges from “easy to difficult.”
In an effort to normalize responses, it’s often useful to establish a clear definition for the terms that define the end-points for each attribute. Another effective practice is to require a one-sentence description of why a score was given. Also, when evaluating responses, it’s better to look at the median score for each attribute instead of the average because the average distorts reality. Ideally, the majority of data points will cluster around a number. If that does not happen, there should be some discussion about the sentence description that supports the score (since there is probably dissension within the group.)
DIsruptive Sales Pitches are made to the evaluating group and graded on the Bold-Safe Framework. Another twist on the process is to include a select group of individuals to present their own sales pitch for the group to rate. These individuals may be sales people, sales consultants, product marketing, product management or a management member. The lynch-pin is that if the individuals within the group that rates the ideas are not on the same page (i.e. building a bold teaching pitch) then the process becomes an endless loop.
Below are a couple of scenarios that virtually guarantee a project will be set-up to fail from the start:
- The sales presentation is built via a small team but no one on the team is in a customer facing role, has a significant portion of their compensation tied to revenue or is a bold thinker.
- An organization casts a wide net when composing a team to build the sales presentation or teaching deck (so no one is missed) and individuals from all functions and at all levels in the organization are included in the process – a “more eyes the better” type of thinking.
More often than not, both of these approaches will result in mediocrity at best.
A Best Practice Approach For Developing A Disruptive Sales Pitch
A best practice approach in building an effective sales pitch or teaching presentation is to include fewer people in the presentation development process, but more (and relevant) people in defining the outcome. In other words, define the desired outcome with those that will use the sales or teaching pitch, and then reverse-engineer to what is required in order to reach the desired outcome. It sounds easy but trust me — trying to harness the desired outcome team to agree on the final work product will be a challenge in and of itself. Once this outcome is defined (the goal and objectives) then the larger group needs to step away from the process team. The process team does not have carte blanche to develop a final product but they DO have the charter to create to a milestone. For example, the first milestone would be the development of a draft storyboard. At this stage, the storyboard should be evaluated to determine if it is on or off-course. This agile development method will decrease the number of wasted cycles pursuing concepts that are wrong from the start.
What to Watch Out For When Developing a Disruptive Sales Pitch
Building a sales or teaching pitch is not going to fix a dysfunctional team or eliminate the politics in an organization. Ideally, a teaching pitch is part of a sales play, and the entire organization has bought into a “True North.”
Even if an organization has established a vision, objectives, strategy and an organization structure to support it, there may be some issues. This is particularly true if musical chairs is then played, allowing the entire organization to “pick new seats.” Because a BOLD teaching pitch is very well suited for Challenger Sales Reps, the question becomes whether the organization has Challenger Sales Reps or not. If the organization was following a solution selling methodology and hired and trained relationship builders, how will the organization facilitate their transformation to Challenger Sales Reps? If there is no plan in place, the relationship builder is not going to change. They will try and soften the edges off the BOLD presentation to the point that it becomes ineffective.
A tell tale sign that the old thinking and relationship builders are still in the house is when there are cries to pull the “who we are” and “what we do” slides from the back of the pitch to the front. Relationship builders want to establish credibility with who we are versus a Challenger Sales Rep who wants to discuss market trends, issues, opportunities, what is happening in specific industries and the impact on financial metrics.
Without some edge, it is extremely difficult to separate an organization from the pack. When there is no differentiation, it leads to commoditization – i.e. selling features and getting beat-up on price. Been there, done that, no fun. The SAFE-BOLD Framework for developing a disruptive sales pitch allows an organization to lead with insights. Doing so builds credibility versus trying to establish credibility through size or customers. However, this Go to Market Strategy is not for every organization. Sales reps that are relationship builders will seek to reduce or defuse tension, and that is counter-intuitive to building a BOLD sales or teaching pitch. Challenger Sales Reps, on the other hand, constructively use tension to their advantage, have a strong business acumen and are empowered with a BOLD sales or teaching pitch.