Dec 032019
 

We have often spoken about how closing a sale is less about closing techniques employed by the salesperson and more about doing the right things in a process-oriented fashion to move the buying journey along.

In this context, are you as a salesperson planning ahead hand-in-hand with the customer to move from speaking to finalizing the deal? Here is an article on this from one angle. It is natural for a buyer to covet the item being purchased as soon as possible when a sales process is advanced. The customer would like to take possession and begin enjoying the fruits of the purchase. The salesperson would also like to make the sale for revenue, for profit and for the satisfaction that comes with assisting.

However, time-lines and urgency are often not aligned.

Professional salespersons know that they need to anticipate and plan for the each of the next and final steps towards a sale and they need to do this with their customers. Planning alone is fine, but it is not as impactful without the participation of the customer and it being aligned to the customer’s real or perceived benefit.

Understand how you can help the customer buy and then what the itinerary is.

Things That Need To Go Away: Wishful Thinking

Photograph Credit: Nik Macmillan

 

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May 192019
 

Several years ago I wrote about customers asking for information. This is often a way to blow off salespeople.

The post refers to the concept of activity versus result. We in sales can show activity, but it should always point to a result. Salespeople ought to want to move forward with their process, with their quota and with sales. Salespeople do not want to have activity for its own sake.

 

Collateral, documentation, etc. have their place. They bring a prospect to an educated point, they raise customer awareness and bring customers to salespeople. If the customer is already speaking to sales then it is time to move forward with our process. Collateral here makes sense only if it is in conjunction with a bona fide sales process, next steps that are time-bound (i.e. exactly when?) and speak to a comprehension of pain and issues.

Otherwise, a customer saying “send me a pdf” is akin to their saying “let me give you something to do so I avoid actually speaking with you or taking action.” Let us be frank. How many times is “send me information” a polite way to say “I am dismissing you.”

 

Customer: “send me information.”

Salesperson Good: “Great! Customer is interested. I will send them information.” Most of the time this leads to a customer disappearing on salesperson.

Salesperson Better: “Thanks for requesting information. However, what exactly are you looking to find out? I want to make sure it is exactly relevant to your need. I may also be able to answer it right now.” Most of the time this either leads to a serious sales prospect (because Better salesperson will dig out pain and make the information relevant and personalized) or disqualifying a false prospect.

 

Salespersons should ask themselves honestly: how many times have you sent “information” to customers and it has not only not resulted in sales, but also there has not even been a follow-through?

 

Sales happen when customers have a reason to act. The Salesperson has tallied the ROI, spoken to the decision-maker and made them know why they need the solution. In such cases, the very least one could do is couple the sending of the information with a Calendar to discuss it. Although, again, why send information that the customer can discuss with their Account Manager/Regional Sales Manager?

 

*Things that need to go away: Confusing activity with actually selling something

Photograph Credit: Geralt

 

 

 

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May 052019
 

Many salespersons have heard the term ‘value proposition.’ What does it mean? Why don’t two people agree on the meaning and definition of the term? Is it because no one has bothered to define it? Is it because it means different things at different times? Is it that due to laziness everyone wants to think what they are doing in the name of ‘proposing value’ to customers is the way to do ‘value proposition’? Perhaps others believe it is all irrelevant.

In this instance and for the purpose of modern selling we are speaking about showing that the TCO (Total Cost Of Ownership) is less than the benefits gained. Let us think of TCO in terms of simple cost (the cost of the air conditioner, software, apparatus, whatever). As such, if we can prove to the customer that owning a solution saves them money (and maybe time and maybe number of errors and other factors) the salesperson has a decent shot at making the sale.

Photograph Credit: Lukas

For this to happen the salesperson must:

Have access to the customer and its processes and workflows. Incidentally, not being given access is a good indicator of where the sales process, and its likelihood of success, resides.
Be able to leverage this access to count, calculate and put a figure (value) against how things are happening now pre-automation, pre-efficiency gained, pre-effectiveness garnered. With me so far?
The mathematics begins now. The seller must quantify the existing workflow and contrast it with the (hopefully) lesser cost of the solution. In other words, if the solution costs $100,000 and the value gained is $200,000 then there is a net ROI of $100,000 or 100%.

Here is an example I shared elsewhere recently that I paste here to demonstrate the sample math:

 

  • Our software module costs $20,000. However, to take the minimum and smallest possible scenario, they have 1 person spending 2 hours/day doing something manually or inefficiently (say shuffling paper from the warehouse to the desk, reviewing it, approving it and then delivering it to their finance department…).
  • This person is paid $40/hour. That is $80/day, which is $1,760/month, which in turn is $21,120/year. So in one year they have broken even with our software (and we didn’t even place a value against the person doing other work once freed from this task or the elimination of potential human errors).
  • Over the 5 years they run this solution they could realize a 400% ROI!

 

This is but an example, but it should apply to any enterprise sale.
The above is important, but sellers need to remember that no matter what humans buy based on emotion and only justify against logic with either a formal process or against a set of data later.

 

*Things that need to go away: Thinking of selling as asking customers questions like ‘Is this a good time to move forward with project ABC’?

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Feb 042019
 

Aha! Clickbait. Well, not intentionally, but it looked like it as soon as I typed it.

Someone asked ‘What would it be if there is one thing you would do or suggest in sales?’ Search these pages and you would see an emphasis on hard work, process and sympathy for customers. Otherwise, there are none no matter how many articles, books or advisors scream about the magical silver bullet.

With that said, the best answer this writer would come up with is to cross the t’s, dot the i’s and have a process. Notice that each of the below is several items in one.

1- Do a meticulous job of conducting discovery. There is no solution for a customer without one.

2- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think in their terms.

3- Make sure that both internally (manager, salesperson and the supporting team) and externally (buyer and seller) the languages are the same and the lexicon is shared. Otherwise, the results of the questions asked from the customer and shared and thought about internally are not necessarily translated correctly.

4- Create a TCO

Is this as close to a silver bullet as sales could get? What do you think?

 

*Things that need to go away: Articles about that one top thing that accomplishes it all.

Photograph Credit: Viergacht

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Jul 252018
 

Photograph Credit: Jarmoluk

 

Which senior salesperson has not attended an interview only to be asked a variation of the “do you have contacts/do you know anyone in industry X/at company Y?”

 

It is a common interview question for candidates for sales positions. The hiring manager wants to know whether the candidate for the open sales position is going to be able to do what he or she is being hired to do, which is maintain and expand the business, and preferably to do so rapidly. In that context it makes sense to ask the question with a genuine interest in the answer. After all, companies and their sales managers likely see a salesperson who starts there and soon books business as something akin to a birthday present.

Photo Credit: Robin Higgins

While the question makes sense for the short term, the answer for employers is more complicated in the medium and long term. Studies show that the best marker of a salesperson’s success is nothing more complicated than (a) hard work. Aside from that, what will create a winning condition for the salesperson and the company is going to be (b) having a proven sales process that includes alignment of goods and services with the buyers’ stated or latent needs or pains. This includes studying and understanding the account base’s needs and verticals. Moreover, (c) the company’s sales enablement will play a critical role in the success or failure of the sales process.

Even in the short term any buyer is unlikely to purchase something just because he or she is on the seller’s rolodex. Again, the question is valid. Also again, assuming a salesperson A is better than salesperson B because A knows someone and B does not is short-sighted. Sales leaders should look at the salesperson’s knowledge and commitment to the aforementioned (a), (b) and (c) first and foremost.

As an aside, a few sales leaders may identify with me when I recall seeing sales candidates being emphatic and positive during their interview regarding the many contacts they possesses. The thing is that while it is very likely true, it sometimes is not. It goes without saying that a candidate should never fabricate answers at an interview. It is clear why this is done on the hopefully very rare occasion, but it is important that honesty and integrity be the hallmarks of an interviewer and interviewee. A salesperson joins a company and the contacts do not materialize and everybody feels disappointed. It does not have to be. As said, the name dropping and close contacts are not leading indicators of success to begin with.

The last time I was interviewed for an individual contributor role I was subsequently given a surprise vertical and account base and did well bringing in large enterprises as customers without knowing anyone there to start. We have all met sales folk who knew everyone and everybody and things were not going smoothly for them. These are not blanket statements of course, but rather cautionary tales in the world of sales. As a sales manager one has to be sympathetic to the needs of the company and the sales team.

 

Photograph Credit: Tumisu

 

With that said, what should candidates do when faced with the question? After all, senior sales candidates who are asked who they know and how many contacts they bring with them may feel the same way a new or junior salesperson at the dawn of his or her career feels when every job requires a minimum three years of selling experience.

 

The answer firstly is to rationally explain that the candidate believes in and practices the aforementioned qualities of hard work, implementing a sales process and leveraging the sales enablement processes at their disposals. That is not enough however. Candidates should not stop there. They should proceed with citing examples yielding success based on their personal work experience and additionally delving into how their methodology works, how they will apply it and within which time frame. The salesperson has to explain to the interviewer’s satisfaction how a lack of contacts will be overcome. It is the job of the salesperson to persuade the interviewers that he or she can successfully get around the lack of a ready network. The salesperson has to ‘sell’ a methodology for messaging, prospecting, closing and keeping customers at the interview.

So what is your strategy?

 

*Things That Need to go away: Enterprise sales with an exclusive focus on the very short term only

 

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Jun 282018
 

 

 

 

Dave Brock is a California, USA-based author, coach and consultant who founded and acts as the president of Partners In Excellence. He focuses on the sales, management and corporate culture domains. Given his activities he has a busy schedule and it was pleasantly fortuitous to sit down with him for a chat and pick his brain about the aforementioned topics. The questions were posed both based on professional interest and his area of expertise and his answers were additionally appreciated because he took them spontaneously and answered without advance preparation.

 

Dave, thank-you for your time and allowing me to pose several questions. Could you please introduce yourself and tell our readers what makes you an expert in sales and management.

I am the CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE, a consulting company focused on business strategy, strategic alliance, sales and marketing.  I am also the author of Sales Manager Survival Guide. I am a theoretical physicist by training. I got into selling after being Chief Product Officer at a failed start-up. I realized there is more to business than great products. I started selling mainframe computers to money centre banks in New York City. I went up the food chain with increasing managerial and executive responsibilities at IBM and then went on to do turnarounds of several tech companies as EVP of sales or CEO.

 

Could you tell us more about Partners In EXCELLENCE. What do you do and how long has it been around?

I started the company in 1991.  We have fifteen partners scattered around the world today.  We focus primarily on helping Global 750 organizations improve performance and execute their business strategies at the highest levels.  About fifty percent of our clients are in technology and industrial products, about twenty-five percent are in professional services and the rest are in the not-for-profit, retail, CPG, basic materials, et cetra.

 

Could you speak about the book Sales Manager Survival Guide? Which topic does it zoom in on?

The book focuses on the role of the Front Line Sales Managers. For all the literature on sales out there there is very little that helps sales managers. It’s a practical guide on how to maximize the performance of their teams.  This fall I am following it with the Sales Executive Survival Guide, which focuses on the top executive and how to achieve overall organizational excellence.

 

In cases where the sales numbers disappoint, is it sales managers who fail more often or is it their teams which fail? I know the goals are one and the same, but where do the fault lines lie?

The right answer is, it depends. If there is a failure at an individual level it is both the sales manager and the individual.  The sales managers may have hired the wrong person or may not be coaching and helping the person achieve the highest levels of performance. It is usually a systemic failure attributable to the sales manager or higher up in the organization If the whole team fails.

 

 

One thing I want to ask you about is regarding sales managers who sell without having a personal quota – as opposed to helping their teams sell. You write about this topic. The sales manager often sees no choice and is faced with quarterly and annual deadlines and pressure, as you know.

The only way the manager achieves his numbers is if everyone on the team achieves their goals. If the manager dives in to try to do all the deals himself he will ultimately fail.  The sheer volume of the deals will kill him, he loses the respect of his team, et cetra.  His job is to maximize the performance of the team period. He doesn’t do that if he takes away the selling responsibility.

 

I believe this may be a manager self-consoling and rationalizing, but what about managers’ feeling that by doing they are also coaching? That is, his or her team members can see them in action, learn and emulate them in the future.

There is a certain amount of showing that is helpful, particularly if you are looking at new capabilities, but at some point the salesperson has to practice, execute and be coached about how to improve. More importantly, the manager has to help the salesperson learn how to think and figure things out themselves.

 

This is quite true and we agree, Dave. I have seen the power of what you say in action with my teams and it is a near-universal truth. One of my favourite topics is sales enablement. Could you give us your definition of this concept and expand on what you see as the most important elements that companies and managers need to provide their sales teams in this regard?

Sales enablement is a very broad topic and not just limited to the sales enablement function. In a very real sense, the entire company must enable sales. For example, develop great products, serve customers well, and create great customer experiences, et cetra. The manager is really at the lead of enabling his team.  The sales enablement function supports sales with training, tools, programs and content. I disagree with the trend of many sales enablement organizations which are trying to displace the sales manager in doing those things.

 

Another perennial favourite of mine: it seems to me that often companies trip themselves up and get in their own way through rivalries, politics, jealousy and people not wanting to look bad and the C-level doesn’t seems to care enough to put an end to these distractions and to focus the team on the mission or is powerless to do so. How do you see this issue within the corporate and selling department context?

There are many organizations that are covertly or overtly anti sales. This is an attitude driven from the top and ultimately leads the organization to perform at a level far below its potential. There are other organizations that have terrible cultures that don’t promote collaboration, team work, accountability; they perform below their potential. There are organizations that inadvertently ‘love their sales people to death.’  By this I mean they try to be so helpful they actually detract from time that salespeople spend selling. This relates to one of the biggest issues we see in organizations which is internal complexity creating a huge sales burden. It’s well intended, but it detracts from sales productivity.

We recently worked with a Global 50 organization. Their salespeople had nine percent time available for selling! The rest was spent getting things done on behalf of the customer or deals internally. They didn’t realize this happened and figured out how to be helpful but free up the salesperson to sell. Large sales organizations have complexities in selling. People do their jobs, but the internal complexities detract.

 

That nine-percent statistic is astounding. I have often had to go to argue and make a case in my own career for either my team or my own ability to be able to sell efficiently, but still nine-percent is such an extreme. With that said, when you write covertly or overtly do you mean unintentionally or intentionally?

Perhaps that’s another way to do that. No organization will ever say they are anti sales, but when you look at behaviours, priorities, et cetra they are anti sales. Too often, they think it’s their “hot product” that is driving success, not realizing that hot products aren’t sustainable and don’t drive growth.

 

As a follow-up let’s talk about how companies, in my experience, understand that commissions, bonuses and other incentives are motivating, but do not understand how aforementioned issues and corporate challenges are demotivating. I have seen one too many eager and energetic folks enter the sales department and end up becoming jaded. Is this something you think about? How do sales leaders or organizations take positive individuals and turn them upside down? Or perhaps you like to put the responsibility back on the shoulder of the individual salesperson?

I think non salespeople, as well as many sales managers, get distracted by compensation and what sales people earn. They need to look at what salespeople produce and assess how they would be able to do the same without salespeople.  If they can achieve the same results, with a lower cost of selling, then they need to do that. But too often it’s an irrational emotional reaction. For example, I’ve encountered CEOs who refuse to let a salesperson be paid more than they are. They are just cutting their nose off to spite their face and limiting the company’s ability to grow and succeed – assuming the compensation plan has been well constructed in the first place.

Most non sale executives have little experience or empathy with what it takes to be very successful in selling. They tend to think of it as transactional whereas in most B2B cases we see it is far different than that perception.

 

I am fully aware that it is an unfair question perhaps that doesn’t do the topic justice, but when you go into companies with these “anti sales,” as you put it, challenges what would be the one thing you first and foremost suggest as a Band-Aid?

It depends. Often, the companies I go into with this anti sales attitude are in a turnaround mode and I’ve been brought in by the board. In many cases, those execs are the problem and I replace them. In some it’s a culture issue and you have to get management to commit to a cultural change. Again, usually they get to this point because they are troubled and failing. Cultural change takes a long time and deep commitment from the top. Some just don’t have the time.

This is a bad answer, but often I won’t waste my time, if they have the wrong attitude, the wrong culture and won’t change it. I’ll deal with the management team that replaces them. There is no silver bullet or a magic solution however.

 

Dave, it was a pleasure chatting and discussing these topics. Why don’t you say a few words about Sales Executive Survival Guide?

Yes, the book will come out in the fall. It’s targeted at CEOs and Top Sales Execs. Where SMSG (Sales Manager Survival Guide) focused on individual and team performance, SESG focuses on organizational excellence. It will address issues like culture, people and talent, complexity, frameworks and systems’ thinking, organizational-growth oriented mindsets, creating a culture of relentless obsessive learning and relentless execution.

 

 

 

 

Partners in EXCELLENCE’s website is at www.partnersinexcellenceblog.com.

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Jun 262018
 

I have written about objections and red flags in the past. They are not bad events. Since a red flag suggests sudden death perhaps a better name for them is ‘amber flags.’ Red flags are not fatal blows in the course of a sales process, but they are markers and a sign that a sales professional is doing his or her job. Rather salespersons need to think of them as signposts that should be interpreted as the means to help them identify what they do not know and should, what they have not addressed and should, who they have not met and should, et cetra. Red flags are like road constructions signage that guides the driver to not crash or burn or to meet a pothole. Red flags are like the poles on the slope for the slalom skier to know where to go and where to avoid. Looked at this way, they are actually handy because the alternative may be sticking one’s head in the sand and no ostrich has ever made an enterprise sale*.

 

Salespersons need to actively look for red flags, recognize them as such and proactively react to them where they have not been pre-empted. In my experience, salespersons who cannot identify red flags are in as a precarious position vis-à-vis their sale as those who either do not know how to react to them or, worse, choose to do nothing.

 

There is a myriad of examples my teams and myself have come across over the years, but here is one example of a red flag to paint a picture. A new executive/technical person/user of what is being sold has been hired and his point-of-view is unclear. His or her opinion is important and valid and should be known and considered. Sales needs to communicate with the person.

 

*That is to the best of my knowledge. Let me know if you understand otherwise.

*Things That Need to go away: managers who are unhappy when a salesperson steps forward to discuss a red flag he or she has discovered.

Photograph Credit: terimakasih0

 

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May 092018
 

Photograph Credit: Mediamodifier

There is a question among suppliers regarding the tender and procurement websites that are available in Canada. In order to clarify the muddle and compare and contrast the options here is an explanation on the options in Canada.

There are several portals for accessing, participating in, bidding and winning business, which is advertised through a RFx, which is an acronym that is a variation on RFP, RFI or its lesser-used sibling RFQ. Suppliers can access competitive contracts and bid for the business available publically.

The majority of this business is centred on the Public Sector as the government, and its related entities and organizations, is bound by legislation to offer its business openly, but on occasion private business is offered to bidders and suppliers on the private portals as well.

 

  • Name: Biddingo (www.biddingo.com)
  • Cost: $250 (annual)

Toronto-based Biddingo competes with Merx and roughly provides the same service. It hosts tenders for provincial, territorial and municipal governments as well as related pubic sector contracts. It also scours the Internet for a limited number of private sector procurement bids. As of this writing Biddingo showed 1,884 tenders available for the last 30 days.

 

The Government Of Canada began making its tenders available on this portal beginning June 1, 2013. It is a free portal that hosts all current (and expired) Federal Government tenders and does not require registration. However, by registering a supplier could leave a profile behind and obtain its Procurement Business Number. Once an organization wins a contract the organization can get on a Standing Offer. The portal is run by Public Works And Government Services Canada (PWGSC). More recently, the government made moves to decentralize some purchases away from Public Works, but this portal remains the main source for procuring government needs. Since the government has various laws and international trade agreements it abides by there is a minimum threshold for bids which must appear on the website. As such, contracts for lesser amounts (typically less than $25,000) may or may not appear on the website.

 

  • Name: Merx (www.merx.com)
  • Cost: $233 (annual)

Ottawa-based Merx was previously the sole portal for hosting the Federal Government Of Canada’s tenders. This contract ended on May 31, 2013 and the Government Of Canada moved its tenders to Buyandsell.gc.ca. It hosts provincial and other government tenders now as it competes with Biddingo. As of this writing Merx showed 2,998 tenders available for the last 30 days. The portal is a unit of Montreal-based Mediagrif.

 

  • Name: Ontario Tenders Portal (https://ontariotenders.bravosolution.com)
  • Cost: Free

Here is a bonus inclusion as it is pertains to only one province. The Ontario Tenders’ Portal is run by US-based BravoSolution since April 1, 2014, which was recently acquired by Jaggaer. This website hosts Ontario Provincial government’s tenders. Its interface and search capability are archaic, but is the source for tenders for Canada’s largest province. Moreover, as of April 1, 2018 vendors will no longer be required to pay user fees for online bid submissions on the Ontario Tenders Portal.

 

All the abovementioned websites offer search and e-mail notification services.

Post it in the Comments’ section if you have a question about any of these and I can help.

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Jan 312018
 

Not every sale requires a presentation, but most do and that has led to an abundance of wasted time. And boredom. And the audience checking e-mails and messages. And even more subsequent presentations.

Sales presentations are both over and under-rated. They are over-rated because most of them are about the seller and are the software equivalent of the “don’t hesitate to phone or e-mail me if you have any questions” line all salespeople use at the end of all calls with all customers (doh, you bet the customer already knows the obvious). Sales presentations, on the other hand, could be under-rated for their sheer efficiency and effectiveness to excite, motivate and move things along. The latter variety is the exception and needs preparation.

Photo Credit: Hans

How to do so? First and foremost a presentation is about the buyer. I repeat, a presentation is not about you the salesperson, your company or your way of selling it. It is about them, the prospect. The problem typically starts with the marketing and product management groups. Nothing against these important departments, but the stock presentations they generate violate the abovementioned rule. Then sales plays tag using the templated presentations and carries on with slide after slide of ‘who we are’ and ‘where we are’ et cetra.

Sales must resist the urge to dole out this information in favour of information relevant to the customer, its process, its buying habits and specific needs. Customers care about the seller’s information only insofar as it concerns their needs. The problem, however, often is that the correct information to be included in a pertinent presentation is not known to the salesperson. Either the salesperson has not asked/not dug enough in advance or the buyer has resisted giving the information out and the seller has copped out and not persisted. This is to the detriment of both the buyer and seller.

It is the job of the salesperson to ask the ‘why’ questions, understand the need, understand the customer’s buying process including MAN (Money, Authority, Need). This information should then be used in the subsequent customized presentation that speaks to the information the buyer would find valuable.

  1. Gather the information that is relevant to what the customer finds important (it is fair if as an expert you have data that similar customers have found useful and relevant).
  2. Know the ideal outcome (based on the concept of the buyer) that should follow the presentation.
  3. Create the presentation based on the above. Keep it pertinent, do not be copy-heavy and focus on the customer.
  4. Practice your presentation in advance of delivering it.
  5. Delete or shorten what is unnecessary. The less complex and the smaller the solution/product/service the more focused and succinct the presentation should be.

 

Addendum: in all cases do not think the ‘what’ is sufficient. Think ‘why.’ Why is this point important, why is this information offered and why did you decide to leave this text in your presentation when others did not make the final cut. Let the audience know. Do not assume they know or understand why you included something. Again, hint: you collected the context from the audience. As you can see the majority of the work was done in advance of the presentation itself. Explain to them that this text/bullet/page is there because as the expert in the product/service/pitch it is what you picked up from them and know it is important. Explain and elaborate the ‘why’ before you make your point so the context is clear before the actual point is given.

Here is an example: “Jane, Tammy and Joe you had mentioned that ten percent of employees use your current dispenser. I have included a point about adoption of our dispensers because their ease-of-use makes for a much wider adoption than what you currently see. We see this at all our customers and wanted to share the number with you. So here goes, as you see on the second bullet you will see eighty-percent adoption with our dispensers, which is key for you.”

 

While we are on the subject, and going back to the opening sentence, salespeople should not assume or insist on a presentation. If a sale can proceed without then by all means allow it to.

 

What are your thoughts? Click on ‘Comments’ and let me know.

*Things That Need To Go Away: We were founded in 1981, which makes us 37 years old and are located in more than 15 countries and over 20 cities. Let me tell you about our president and founders now…

Photo Credit: Robinsonk26

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Jan 082018
 

This article will not be two things. Those are:

1-      A customized sales process

2-      The mechanics of Market Identification and Prospecting, which are the beginning of the sales process, or existing customer Account Management and Reporting, which are at the continuation of a repeatable process.

These are outside the scope of this article.

Instead let’s examine how sales organizations set up their sales departments and configure salesperson positions from a responsibility and resource perspective.

If the reader would forgive a slight exaggeration, in order to stimulate the mind, there are as many sales department formations out there as there are sales teams and companies. Moreover, admittedly many of these salespeople and companies are doing well, achieving their objectives and making themselves, their stakeholders and hopefully customers successful.

The article is assuming the organization has more than one or two salespersons. The math obviously does not apply to the mom and pop business with a part-time seller or a lone full-time salesperson, but as you can imagine if the number of sales folk to the size of market is out of proportion this in itself is a recipe for sales collapse. For now, let us assume a sales team (plural) exists.

Many companies have too large of (what they perceive is) an addressable market or have deployed their salespeople inefficiently. This issue is so prevalent that it boggles the mind. It is something that happens far too commonly and is a function of the sales management having not truly sold in the past, forgetting what it is like to be an individual contributor, have personal experience in only one type of sales or being subjugated to a larger force within the company. This is not meant to be condescending. After all, what did you have for lunch last week, day before yesterday or even yesterday? It is easy to forget, isn’t it?

When assigning dedicated salespeople to accounts, territories or solutions and verticals companies tend to create a strict demarcation between the job descriptions and focus of

  • inside and outside or
  • SMB and enterprise/major public-sector or
  • Generalist and vertically/other specialized

representatives. The friction created as a result is one story. Much time and goodwill is expended mediating the issues that arise. Cooperation among team members is lessened and customer service suffers when service is slowed and coverage and responsiveness is decreased.

Photograph Credit: rawpixel

Challenge: Aside from the above, a bigger and more immediate issue is the inefficient deployment that results in what I have seen so often I have a term for it, namely inverage. It is ‘incomplete coverage.’ No account, territory or solution is completely covered. Instead, companies have spread their efforts in every step of the sales cycle/account management more thinly than is necessary. The employer is not even deriving complete value from its salespersons’ particular specialty and skills. What is meant by this?

  • Enterprise/field salespeople who are best at, and need to be establishing deep relationships with customers, are spending an inordinate part of their time hunting new business from scratch, making cold calls or booking transactional and low value business for their major and existing customers.
  • SMB sales reps are dialing into new accounts. Handling major accounts that the Enterprise team has not picked up and attempting to give C-levels at larger hierarchical accounts the same treatment as it does to smaller and SMB accounts. The truth, however, is that transactional activities do not leave room for an in-depth management of the customer. Yet, many customers need or demand that attention. The smaller accounts’ managers are also dialling/e-mailing for dollars and have more resources to canvass a larger set of customers’ employees.
  • Business developers whose task should be attracting new accounts and sales are covering the trenches because no one else is handling the account or is not allowed to step outside the pre-defined boundary.
  • At the aforementioned smaller companies, the (few) sellers have too large of a or practically undefined territory and are attempting to cover the proverbial phone book.

Anyone who steps outside his or her designated role and account does so voluntarily and may even be attracting the displeasure of management, which in many cases has its own immediate chain of command divided into outside/enterprise/major and inside/SMB/minor to begin with. There is likely an opportunity cost to doing so in terms of one’s own accounts and commission dollars for the seller.

Within this model no one is quite happy needing to go where they are least comfortable and less inclined. No one is truly exposed to anyone else’s business and professional life either furthering the segregation. Time is not utilized in optimal fashion.

As a manager of several sales teams at Microsoft several years ago I had instituted a variable pay system where a portion of the team members’ sales commission (20%) was based on team performance. The shared model made the comradery better, helped with cross territory and team cooperation and gave customers’ better coverage. It worked quite well. It was dismantled a fiscal year later when the senior management asked that the compensation be standardized to the global model.

Answer: What teams need is a sharing of account management duties.

  • The flexibility for the Enterprise seller to devote (say) 20% of his or her time to assist the SMB representative and the flexibility of the SMB seller to devote a congruent 20% of time to the enterprise account he or she shares in a minor fashion with the enterprise representative is key.
  • Both would be proportionally sharing in the variable rewards of their respective primary accounts as well thus rewarding them for their effort.
  • Each seller would also would focus on what his or her main job responsibility or forte is, while being exposed to the duties of his or her counterpart.
  • Most importantly perhaps, it is the customers who are most thankful for the coverage, responsiveness, deepness of expertise and teamwork.

Photograph Credit: anemone123

Again, and most importantly, the sellers would focus on what they do best most of time, but simultaneously there would be much less of a gap in selling and other necessary activity coverage.

This configuration addresses respective salespersons’ lack of time, lack of skillset, unwillingness, priorities and the quarterly nature of quota. Any company that can should pair sellers.

Account Type Major Role & Variable Compensation Minor Role & Variable Compensation
  F/M I/T G/U F/M I/T G/U
Small/Transactional No Yes No Yes No Yes
Large/Strategic Yes No No No Yes Yes
Unmanaged No No Yes Yes Yes No
 


F/M = Field/Major Salesperson

I/T = Inside/Transactional Salesperson

G/U = Generalist/Unmanaged Accounts

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: he does this, she does that, they do not mix and if they do it is to their personal detriment.

Credit: Geralt

 

Inverage

 

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