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How Appian Invests in its Sales Team with the ValueSelling Methodology

Chako Bio Chako Dickinson

Chako

When I joined Appian, my role was to launch our chosen sales methodology and lead the global rollout. This kind of commitment to invest in sales training has become pretty rare in companies. 

Early in my career, I was lucky enough to be at a sales organization for 11 years, first as an individual contributor and as a manager before we adopted a sales methodology, then as a manager with a formal sales methodology, and then again after a leadership change, without a methodology. The contrast of experiences provided me with powerful insight.  

Other sales organizations I've supported operate under the assumption that they hired experienced salespeople so they didn't need a methodology. This thinking overlooks the fact that a methodology provides a construct that gets the organization on the same page with regard to how we approach customers. When sales, marketing, and other customer-facing departments work in tandem to support and nurture prospects and customers, the resulting customer experience is powerful. In addition to the strength of our technology and platform, our sales organization becomes a critical Appian differentiator as well.

I’ve experienced how challenging it is to work in a sales environment without a methodology. After working in sales management for 15 years and sales enablement for 10 years, I’ve seen how a common language and approach to customer interactions makes it possible to provide a much more meaningful and cohesive buying experience to prospects, and an efficient way to communicate internally.

Director, Sales Transformation - Joined Appian in 2021

Why a sales methodology matters.

This investment in the sales organization showed me how Appian is willing to invest in their people to hone their sales craft and improve the customer buying experience. That’s something I’m super passionate about. To join Appian on the ground floor of this investment, figure out how to roll it out, and train our whole team was something that sounded super exciting and a great combination of my career experiences. 

The ValueSelling Methodology has become part of the fabric of our Sales culture and the approach has been adopted cross-functionally across the organization. Every new sales hire is trained as part of their year one learning journey and we are beginning to understand how this helps our teams work together more strategically. 

A sales methodology doesn't necessarily teach someone how to sell; anyone joining our sales team will bring to Appian the knowledge, experience, insights, and personal style that has already brought them success throughout their career. 

A sales methodology provides a common framework in which we have shared expectations and a common vocabulary. It’s a simple, consistent, repeatable process that allows sales teams to be really efficient in internal and external communications.

I'm now certified to train our teams, and we continue to make sure all customer-facing roles are following the same approach in order to ensure that we’re approaching our customers in a consistent way that focuses on their needs. This includes Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), Solution Consultants, Account Executives, Partner Managers, and Customer Success Technical Delivery Managers. 

The goal is not signing a contract, it’s the customer realizing value. 

ValueSelling starts with understanding the customers’ business issue, which is their main priority and the metric by which their success will be measured. We ask probing questions to understand:

  • Problems standing in the way of achieving that business issue
  • Their idea of what they want in a solution, the value, both business value and personal value, of solving the problems they’ve identified
  • The power: who needs to be included in the conversation to approve and execute the opportunity
  • The plan: what elements does Appian need to see and the customer needs to have in place to ensure we are able to build and deliver value even after a contract is signed? 

We’re aiming to mitigate the customer’s risk in saying yes, because there’s a lot at stake. If they make a six-figure mistake, their credibility, profession, and job could be on the line. As salespeople, it’s our job to increase their confidence, mitigate that risk, and get them excited about implementing a solution that is aligned to their top priorities.

One of our virtual training sessions with the Sales team!

Be supported by your sales team and pod. 

Sales teams at Appian don’t work alone. They’re part of a pod of people who work together towards helping each customer be successful. For example, a pod typically includes the following roles:

  • Sales Development Representative
  • Account Executive
  • Solutions Consultant
  • Manager
  • Customer Success team member

Pods can also include the Partners, Legal, Proposals, Renewals, Industry, and Marketing teams. 

Because pods involve people with different professional backgrounds and skill sets, the common methodology and vocabulary become extremely important as a translation layer between them. Otherwise, the customer experience gets disjointed if they deal with a different approach from each person in the pod. 

Since rolling out the ValueSelling Methodology, we’ve heard success stories in how pods are able to specify each customer’s problem and strategically determine how we can support them. When it works well, the ultimate goal is to make our teams more efficient to really uncover the customer’s perspective and the customer really feels the difference too. 

We’re continuing to invest in other teams aligned with ValueSelling as well, like Value Engineering which is an operating model for driving economic value assessments that link to the ValueSelling Methodology. 

I led our customer panel on the value of working with Appian at a Sales team Kick-off in Orlando.

Customers care most about the value Appian can provide them by helping address their problems in the context of their most important priorities and the resulting value when working with Appian. Successful salespeople are curious and interested in uncovering the link between the capabilities they offer and their customer's most pressing needs. A supportive structure like this methodology is an essential element in an environment that sets salespeople up for success and ensures customers make value-driven decisions that they’re excited about.

Read more about the Appian Sales team from Belita Ferreira who leads our international SDR team. 

Chako Bio

Written by

Chako Dickinson

Chako Dickinson is a Director, Sales Transformation at Appian