Cory Bray, coauthor of The Sales Enablement Playbook, Sales Development, and the recently released Triangle Selling, has a background in sales, finance, and operations, he’s crafted his experiences into a career in sales enablement.
In 2013, Cory hired a sales coach and has been receiving coaching ever since right up until the day before our conversation. The way he looks at it, nearly every golfer on the PGA tour has a golf coach — regardless of how skilled they already are — which is why he seeks the same sort of constant improvement.
Cory’s journey toward sales enablement mastery includes work in and around an enablement function going back to 2006, and five years of working with a sales coach to improve and expand his own skill set. Today he serves as managing director of ClozeLoop, a sales consulting firm that works with a wide range of start-ups and scale-ups.
In this conversation, Cory offers an overview of his sales enablement philosophy and why he believes in the importance of sales methodologies.
What is The Sales Enablement Playbook about and why did you write it?
Cory and co-author Hilmon Sorey observed mass confusion around what sales enablement was and how to achieve it, so they set out to provide a clear definition and roadmap for their audiences. “That book was written for CEOs and senior executives to understand what a sales enablement ecosystem looks like, and how all the departments work together in order to push forward sales enablement.”
As the market becomes more competitive, it’s easy to become distracted by the latest sales enablement solution. But sales enablement professionals still have a long road ahead when educating the market: buyers often conflate content management or marketing/sales alignment with sales enablement.
While marketing/sales alignment is important, it’s useless without a strong product to offer and a stronger message behind it. The Sales Enablement Playbook is designed to help leaders evaluate effectiveness, audit performance, and optimize processes.
What is Triangle Selling?
Cory describes Triangle Selling as the fundamentals of sales that underlie any sales process. Many organizations reject the notion of a sales methodology because they’ve never found one that works for them. Others operate with a mix of several methodologies. It’s challenging to find success with either approach: leaders can’t coach to them, and they’re not repeatable.
Triangle Selling isn’t the next sales methodology: it’s about the fundamentals that salespeople must apply to be successful. Some of which exist in other methodologies, and some do not, at which point they can augment, not replace, what a company is doing today.
Triangle Selling features a number of different frameworks:
- Measuring rapport
- Structuring meetings
- Driving velocity between meetings
- Demo management
- Pilot growth and upsells
- Earning referrals
What’s the difference between a sales process and a sales methodology?
Sales process and methodology are commonly coupled, though they are not the same thing. A sales process is made up of the steps through which a deal goes from lead to closed or disqualified; whereas a methodology is comprised of activities and conversations, strategies, and frameworks that occur beneath that sales process.
Reason, Resources, Resistance
The foundation for Cory’s recently-released book is the triangle, representing the discovery piece of the sales process. The triangle’s three aspects are Reason, Resources, and Resistance.
“We want to look at Reason,” Cory said. “Why would your prospect buy? They’re either avoiding pain or seeking a reward.” It’s up to a sales professional to determine which is a prospect’s goal: pain avoidance or reward seeking, one of which obviously creates more urgency.”
Next, a sales rep must decide which questions will reveal the most informative answers. “We can ask closed-ended questions to start,” Cory said. “Then open-ended, to drill down and figure out how the prospect is impacted by the product we’re offering. It’s key to find out what the prospect wants.”
Resources are the next component of the triangle. People think of this as money or power, but Cory believes there are actually seven specific resources involved in the selling process:
And last but not least, the last component is Resistance. Handling objections is one of the most challenging aspects of the sales process. Most sales professionals are trained to memorize responses to common objections. But Triangle Selling looks to human psychology to address three kinds of resistance:
- Reactance: the natural aversion to sales process.
- Skepticism: a reluctance to believe a product can solve their pain points-both now and in the future.
- Inertia: getting a prospect out of their comfort zone.
The triangle is nonlinear; the goal is to meet the prospect where they are. “If a prospect thinks they know their Reason and Resources, but they don’t think I can solve it, I’m going to start with resistance, rather than resources,” Cory said. “I’ll then move away from Resistance, toward Resources or Reason.”
Should sales leaders consider incorporating more than one sales methodology?
The only reason to have more than one methodology is to completely shore up the weaknesses in the other.
The main weakness in a lot of sales methodologies is that they were constructed before the advent of the internet. Most traditionally trained sales pros are challenged when faced with how to counter the kind of information buyers now have at their fingertips. “Ask a sales rep from the 60s, 70s, or 80s how to deal with a prospect that just went on G2 Crowd and read a bunch of bad reviews about your company,” Cory said.
What are the components of a good sales methodology?
It’s simple: a good sales methodology is one that’s effective, in part because sales teams follow it and sales managers coach to it. If the company doesn’t follow a methodology on a day to day basis, it’s not going to work.
The absence of a methodology can be a symptom of several underlying problems. “A lot of times when a sales organization is struggling and needs a methodology, there are a few things that are happening,” Cory said. “Their outcomes aren’t what they want. They’re not hitting their targets. Usually, if a rep isn’t closing, they’re not doing discovery well. Those factors lead to turnover. The company brings in new people, but can’t ramp them up because they don’t have common language.”
A methodology can’t be successful if it isn’t aligned with how their business operates. That means sales leaders must consult other executives across the organization to ensure they’re aligned with overall goals.
What’s the importance of a unilateral methodology?
Sales managers are busy. It’s hard to go from meeting to meeting, shifting from task to task. A unilateral methodology ensures a sales leader is consistent and improves productivity.
“In Triangle Selling, we have a framework for discovery questions,” Cory said. “The best questions bridge the gap between your product’s features and a prospect’s problems.”
For Cory, the core of sales enablement is building strong processes and a strong methodology, and then executing. With discipline and consistency, sales leaders can achieve even the most challenging goals.
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