How Sales Can Achieve Better Success at Key Inflection Points

A sale, like any other endeavor has key milestones that can be used to judge progress and to measure effectiveness along the way.  At ShadeTree, we call these milestones “inflection” points.  Identifying your organization’s key inflection points and measuring performance of your sales team to convert opportunities along to the next point/step is an important step in achieving a repeatable, successful selling process.

Many sales managers have an intuitive sense about their unique inflection points.  More formalized selling organizations measure, report and manage to success at each point along the path to deal closure.  Identifying your organization’s key sales inflection points is one of the first steps in moving from an ad-hoc or informal selling process to a more mature and managed sales process.

Examples of inflection points in a sale are:

  • Initial call
  • Presentation
  • Demo
  • Proposal
  • Approval

What are the key tools used to have more success at key inflection points?

Once your key inflection points are identified, the next step is to examine what tools your organization brings to bear to ensure success at each stage of the selling process.  The goal should be to provide support to the sales team to move the opportunity to the next stage.  Factor in the fact that different buyer types will require different types of messaging and types of media (email, phone, web, video, etc).  Gerry Murray, Research Manager for industry analysts, IDC, details the issues and best approaches to developing content the sales team will use in the webinar at this link.

CRM systems can also be helpful for conducting research to gain awareness of prospect activities, campaigns, a prospect’s co-workers and opportunity/order history.  The graphic below details the tools and information that a well-equipped sales person might utilize.

Making The Critical Transition To Sales-Ready Use

Having a directory full of whitepapers, case studies, competitive kill-points and customer quotes is awesome.  Getting sales people to memorize/use that information is challenging… if not impossible.

Having consulted with over 100 sales organizations at ShadeTree, our research revealed that the majority of sales people use very few of these tools.  As Gerry Murray points out, reasons include lack of accessibility, poor content, lack of relevancy (to the sale) and lack of credibility.

ShadeTree’s research revealed that salespeople struggle most in the early part of the sales cycle, in getting interest and attention.  Here, accessibility and usability – in the context of a conversation (phone call or sales meeting) – were the areas where existing content failed most frequently.

  • Accessibility being defined as a salesperson having the right information in the right place so that it is easily accessible for them
  • Usability being defined as information that is easily useable during a sales call

For example, a whitepaper is virtually useless during a sales call… there is no time to read a document and then deliver the take-aways for the prospect.  On the other hand, a competitive kill point summary, by competitor, listing the fact that “Competitor X’s” widget was tested by an independent laboratory and found to be 20% slower than your widget is something that is usable.

Going even one step further, the results of this “competitive differentiator” are even more impactful when they are translated into a buyer-specific context.

For example, executive buyers are rarely interested in “feeds and speeds”… they are interested in results.  Taking the example above, the 20% performance difference that your widget has over “Competitor X’s” widget… means “something” in business terms… perhaps that your prospect would need five less full-time-equivalent (FTE’s) on his shop floor… which equates to $150,000 less fixed costs per year to operate your widget than “Competitor X’s” widget.

This type of re-formatting and delivery of information is sometimes referred to as sales-ready-messaging.  A sales team equipped with sales ready messaging will defeat a competitor’s sales team that relies on a salesperson-by-salesperson improvised approach… 9 times out of 10.  It truly is a guns-vs-knives type of fight.

Which side of this fight do you what to be on?

Key take-aways:

  • Identify and summarize your organization’s key selling inflection points
  • Identify the key selling tools that could be used for benefit at each of these inflection points
  • Reformulate your collateral and selling materials to meet the usability requirements of your sales team
  • Deliver the information in a method that meets your salespeople’s accessibility requirements


Incite: to stir up or provoke to action