Jan 032023
 

Photograph Credit: Stephen Brown

A couple of posts here have discussed and expanded on curiosity, energy, working hard, courtesy and more as desirable traits for successful salespersons. One more has been gnawing at me since those posts and I have been reminded that, as people have heard me say, good salespeople disqualify as much as qualify. In other words, good salespeople know where to spend their time.

 

There is a proverb that goes like this:

The Way We Spend Our Time Defines Who We Are.

It is obviously true. It is also true that this resource is limited and, for us mere mortals, is precious.

It is crucial that salespeople spend time, spend time doing the right things and spend time understanding where they spend time. Yes, scrolling through TikTok or your Facebook feed is off (and moreover the future of civilization says ‘thank-you’).

Picture Credit: Mohamed Hassan

Good salespeople control their time, use it for productive endeavours and do not get sidetracked. Good salespeople are also the ones who admit when something unexpected has happened to sidetrack them and feel discomfort. The discomfort propels them to make up for the lost time and get back on track of consistency (of doing the right things and not doing the things that do not help with their goals and success).

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Not Automating Tasks That Can Be Automated, Not Knowing What Is Unproductive And Promptly Eliminating It And Above All Not Preparing For Effectiveness

 

 

Nov 202022
 

curiosity

Many readers of my posts are probably among the people who think a great deal about sales and what makes a good salesperson. It is a constant source for thought and observation. Personally, being a hard worker has always struck me as being the key ingredient to sales success – even over ‘smart work’ or product knowledge. This belief stems from personal experience and my own observations over the years (as well as published research).

 

What made the topic top-of-mind again was a new article on BBC’s website, which posited that curiosity is a trait that drives success. The story pointed out that those who are curious, and show patient inquisitiveness, are more likely to experience academic success, boost earnings and boost memory. These are useful traits for a salesperson and, should help with complex enterprise sales as well, since they enhance the desire for discovery and engagement. Who could argue with those vaunted traits?

My caveat – there is always one – is regarding when curiosity is misdirected and unproductive. Scrolling through Twitter or one’s Facebook feed does not count. Sparking one’s curiosity is important (as is the employer sparking employees’ curiosity), but it has to be directed at the right activities.

 

If sales is the lifeblood of a company and salespeople lead the sales then what other skills are desirable?  How about consistency and focus? How about desire and desire to learn and teach? Well, perhaps ‘desire’ falls into the ‘hard work’ category. I would add presentation skills and sympathy and care to the list. Sympathy and care apply to the salesperson’s feelings towards both the customer and one’s own company. The last quality may encompass this, but let us call out interpersonal and people skills of course. Perhaps these are all fit for individual posts, but what do you think?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Salespersons Who Do Not Care

Oct 092022
 

Had you heard the phrase “ghost job” before? I had not even if its meaning should be obvious.

It is sadly stupefying that such a concept exists. First, though, let me travel back in time to a previous life when I was personally job hunting. A former VP of mine was employed at a company on my target list so, noticing an opening, I pinged him for an internal referral. His answer? That position was filled some time ago. Why was the job posting active and marked as open?

Whether as a team manager or VP Of Sales I had been open with my direct reports, human resources and larger team that we should always be recruiting and keeping an eye out for good candidates. Things happen. people leave, promotions create openings or more good staff is needed due to expansion. That, however, is distinct and different from actually having job listings for positions that do not exist.

According to a survey of over 1,000 managers involved in the hiring process by lending company Clarify Capital 43% of hiring managers kept job postings active to “give the impression that the company is growing.” Moreover, also 43% kept job posting open in order to “keep current employees motivated.” 39% admitted that the job posted was already filled. Among other statistics 34% said it was done to placate overworked employees.

How many euphemisms for lying are there? Ethics of leading people on aside, one wonders how the marketplace and existing employees (including overworked ones) reacts to a company and its management that is not honest when one reason the ghost jobs exist (or don’t exist) is to impress that same market. 27% of employers with active job postings even claimed they forgot to delete the job requisition, which begs the question whether anyone is even looking at the incoming job applications. This comes on top of a survey earlier that found that 77% of job seekers say they have been ghosted by prospective employers. Astoundingly, 10% of job seekers say they have been ghosted by employers after they have been offered a position!

This lack of courtesy surely has business implications in terms of creating distrust, ill will and, one wonders, whether the barrage of statistics claiming millions of unfilled positions in the economy is accurate.

The recommendation to look at the date of the job posting is sound. Jobs posted for 30 days or longer are likely ghost jobs. Moreover, companies that repeatedly post the same jobs on their career page and pop up on job sites with the same position month after month are also clearly suspect.

My request and advice is for everyone to take responsibility and treat one another with more dignity, integrity and honesty.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Untruths, Half-Truths And Toying With People

 

 

Oct 062022
 

Photograph Credit: Brett Jordan

Most people agree that salespeople are infused with specific temperaments and skills. It goes with the territory, sure, but how durable is the expertise that makes the person capable?

 

Theoretically, the know-how, the proficiency and the innate drive should be as perpetual as any job – if not more. Then how does one reckon with the following scenario?

A friend, who is a musician, was laid off from his stage hand job, did some carpentry, worked on music a bit and now, good news, is busy and working as a stage hand again for the first time in a couple of years. Apparently, he is employable and has not lost his skills or chops despite a two-year gap.

Let us switch over to sales and sales management now. A salesperson who has stepped away from the profession for a year would perhaps not be afforded the same courtesy as the friend above. Recruiters are always fishing for that employment gap. The hiring manager may have instructed the recruiter to avoid folks with gaps in their resume or the recruiter shuns such individuals as a matter of routine. Stepping away from the profession is unacceptable and apparently precludes one from the ability to sell.

Photograph Credit: Lubo Minar

The question that makes me ponder right now is whether there is something special about sales and sales management that makes recruiters zoom in on a concern or perhaps there are too many sales/business development/management types and recruiters can be extra picky. Perhaps the concern is more prevalent than just salespeople and it is that there are not enough handy folks and, therefore, standards are more forgiving?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Actions Without Rationalization

Oct 062022
 

 

Is this website going racy? No, not in that sense.

On the phone with a former colleague of mine he was lamenting how he has to fly to a tropical destination to attend President’s Club. For those who are not familiar with the term, ‘President’s Club’ is an annual reward bestowed to salespersons who have achieved a milestone and typically met or exceeded their goals. Their employer treats them typically to a trip – could be other incentives – to a coveted location.

Sounds good.

Then again… motivation is personal. My friend was hating it and sounded particularly unhappy about it. This person had obviously achieved his sales targets and been placed in an elite category to be offered this incentive (membership?), but the company had managed to ruin his proverbial day by offering him a free aeroplane ticket and stay somewhere far away. Perhaps it was the pandemic, perhaps it was the long flight or the discomfort of being away from home or family, it really does not matter, but he was irritated to be going to “club” where he sarcastically complained would have to spend time with his boss “the VP of sales in a speedo.”

What is wrong with this picture? The presumption that everyone is motivated in the same way coupled with no one being willing to stick their necks out to do things differently means that – COVID-19 aside – companies organize ‘club’ events not really acknowledging that motivation may mean different things to different people. Not being an accountant this writer cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement, but conventional knowledge has it that companies can deduct part of the costs of the Club by incorporating educational sessions into the schedule.

 

So, companies need to understand what motivates their people and personalise their approaches. My own assumption is that most people would be motivated by the opportunity to attend President’s Club, be recognized, network and receive some education as well. Then again, perhaps that is not true or a proportion of people simply play along because they believe it is expected of them to react a certain way. What a shame.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Companies Motivating Their Employees Without Finding Out What Actually Motivates Their Employees

Jul 212022
 

Photograph Credit: Samuel Regan Asante

 

Are you familiar with the concept of WIIFM? It stands for What’s In It For Me. No, it is not (exclusively) the modus operandi of the Facebook generation. It is a formula for getting what you want. You get what you want by appealing to other people’s needs.

 

We had spoken about negotiating higher salaries and overall benefits before, but there are more things that we want and the best way to obtain them is by figuring out what the person we want it from wants. In other words, trade for it. In a perfect world, people would have sympathy and all be perfectly interested and objective, but in this world a clash of styles, egos and competing priorities interfere.

 

Get what you want based on what the person you want it from wants. It is negotiation-persuasion time.

Need a raise? Conduct your research as the linked earlier articles mention, marshal your facts and enter into a dialogue with your boss. State the facts, justify it and do not put the boss on the defensive. Justify the request and make sure the boss hears what you have done for the company and, indirectly, the value you bring him or her.

Need resources? You need more room, more vehicles, more equipment or more people? Think about why the person you are asking cares. What is the detrimental consequence of your lack of resources for the person you are approaching. Connect the dots explicitly to the person’s responsibility and professional health. Let the person know what may not occur or fall short without resources and ensure they are things directly related to what this person needs. Offer metrics and outline expected results. Numbers make it real as opposed to intangible benefits, which would be harder to justify.

What about a colleague? The easiest way is to negotiate and give something back to the person in exchange. Again, what does the person get for giving you what you want? Do you have resources to trade for? Do you have people, expertise, machines or time to give back? If not – this is the harder way – you have to go to the boss to get someone to listen. Management should make co-habitation, collaboration and coordination a workplace rule as well,  but most do not.

What about externally? Do you need more business from a customer? Have you been giving them 100%? What will they get from you in exchange for a referral or introduction? Could you offer them extra free licenses, free rides or cheap consulting in exchange for their Rolodex? This is a win-win and net increase for both sides.

 

It is worth noting that a positive self-image is important to most people. The intangible piece of this conversation is to make sure the person you are speaking with hears how giving makes them effective, impactful and a role model.

Photograph Credit: Andres Haro

As always, do not forget to take the shot. Famously, one who does not shoot does not score.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Taking and not giving

 

 

 

Jul 132022
 
remote work

Image Credit: RoadLight

 

Statistic Canada reports that 40% of Canadian jobs could be performed through telecommuting. The same study indicates that 80% of people who were asked to telework due to the pandemic look at the arrangement favourably and would like to continue doing so at least half their work time.

 

What is bad news for Aeroplan status hounds and addicts is good news for Cloud and technology providers. We have known for some time that employees prefer this arrangement.  Employers is another matter, of course, and I must confess that I am of two minds about this situation, as well, given the mental and physical health issues – the very important matter of the need for social distancing to prevent the transmission of the virus aside – that arise, but what is the implication of the virtuality of virtual work?

Salespeople need to double their efforts and work almost twice as hard to make up for lack of access to prospects and customers at the latter’s places of work. They have to contend with less group meetings or on-sites at offices. Group e-mails, conference calls and video meetings are the new normal. Everything else is the exception now. Going against this grain makes it difficult to recruit and retain employees to start. On the plus side, employers have access to a larger work pool and can cast a geographically wider net.

People need to ramp their knowledge of digital technology and seek out ones that are easier to use for customers. Many people are not comfortable with the technology and even more people do not wish to contend with difficult applications. Make it easy on yourself and insist on making it easy for your customers. Even if the pandemic is vanquished the outcome is a hybrid work format so choose correctly.

That is, have the right tools, be set up properly, test everything to ensure it is monkey-proof and double down on clarity and explanations because things can get lost in translation when communication is remote. Also, spend a moment to thank technology and the Cloud because without these advances a pandemic would have been a disaster by a multitude. Actually, never mind, the providers are getting paid handsomely for their efforts.

 

A few telework tools to add to email and the telephone.

 

  • Asana: Workflow management software that helps organizing and keeping on top of the team’s work.
  • Flock: Video and audio calling, texting and chat for businesses.
  • Monday.com: Project creation and collaboration software
  • Slack: Business communication and ‘channels’ dedicated to specific topic that allows voice calling as well.
  • Teams: Microsoft’s chat, audio and video call and file storage platform. It has gobbled up Skype as well.
  • Zoom: Video calling

*Things That Need To Go Away: The proliferation of difficult-to-use software whose accumulation is itself as much a headache for users as is using it.

remote control by Sony

Image Credit: Nuzree

May 192022
 

A Sales Process is a structured route for the salesperson to get from Point A (a customer is just a gleam in the salesperson’s eyes) to Point B (a sales has been made). For sales to succeed a repeatable and logical set of steps need to be taken. Otherwise, the salesperson and sales manager are relying on luck and we all know how that works.

Sales processes of course could be flexible; however, not having one is a first step to oblivion and not following one is arrogant, lazy and foolish. Customers have their own buying process and that needs to be respected and understood. However, merely and blindly following the customer’s process is a ticket to not realizing that serious customers will not buy unless a series of triggers and events are satisfied, which is the seller’s job.

Here is a high-level sales process cheat sheet:

 

Sales processes are typically depicted as a funnel with logical steps following one another or more recently as a flywheel or a circle. The idea behind the former is that one step follows another and it is logical to follow the steps from left to right. The idea behind the latter is that the process is repeatable and moreover customer is not dropped into a vacuum at the conclusion of the sale and account manager, customer success, cross-sell and up-sell follow. Both depictions have advantages and disadvantages. They both work. What does not work is not having a sales process.

 

Points for more detail:

 

  • Prospecting: Includes calling, e-mailing, LinkedIn, advertising, marketing events, referrals from existing customers and even inbound leads that would be assessed as qualified.
  • Qualification: Speaking of which, what is the problem that leads itself to your solution, who is responsible and is there a budget to do this?
  • Development: In-depth discovery of the situation and lay of the land. Is there an alignment between problem and your solution? If yes, time to have a mutual plan to move forward.
  • Presentation: An already discussed and semi-validated solution is presented. In-depth discussion about details ensues.
  • Discussion: Problems, objections and roadblocks are discussed and removed. Depending on the level of complexity and product/service legal, licensing and post-sale services teams are engaged.
  • Closing: Negotiation and paperwork. Signatures on contracts required.
  • Account Management: Delivering on promises and contractual obligations, exchange of funds and execution on promises/obligations.

 

*Things That Need to Go Away: Salespersons who skip steps thinking they got this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 302022
 

 

 

I posted an article on Sales Enablement recently. Much of the modern software used in that niche utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI). So let us focus on AI now.

 

What Is AI?

Firstly, let us understand what AI is. Most of us will think back (forward?) to Arnold, Terminator and Skynet and why not? Machine Learning is a subset of AI, but more precisely Artificial Intelligence is programming that teaches a system to mimic human behaviour and actions, but obviously at a faster and more effective manner that brings with it the consistency of a machine. More completely, AI is a series of networks that leverages statistics and instructions over and over to emulate humans. It is designed to improve overtime as well because the more ‘experiences’ (a.k.a. statistics) it has the more complete it becomes.

One more thing, AI may be all the rage now, but it is hardly new. This notion goes back to Alan Turing and the 1950s. For an early application look up ELIZA from the 1960s.

So What (For Sales)?

The end goal, however, remains somewhat elusive. Systems are not perfect. It is thought that perfection has been attained when humans cannot fathom whether they are dealing with a machine or a human being and results are impeccable. If AI, therefore, includes Machine Learning, analytics, natural language, simulation, learning and interaction then how can it help the profession of sales? Here the idea is to take all the information and transaction in sales – conversations, e-mails, responses or lack thereof, every CRM entry, every sale, every lost deal, et cetra – and put them into one place in order to help the seller. The goal is to identify the correct course of action, the next step, the way to help customers and sellers and to win business. Is it possible? To some extent the answer is yes. The hesitation, however, stems from the unpredictability of human psychology and of course different cultures and needs or wants. Yet, AI is supposed to learn those too because after all, it is all data translated to action.

 

So, Is AI Going To Take Over The World And Rid Us Of Our Jobs (And Sustenance)?

Maybe. Still, as of today the reality on the ground is that AI is here to assist, help, improve and enhance the seller’s efforts not replace it. Put that way, would anyone argue against help? Which salesperson would claim he or she does not need help? One issue, that one can foresee easily, is that AI may be trained to be biased to think like a seller or a vendor. To be successful, this writer supposes, AI needs to think like a customer or prospect. That is the way to successfully sell after all.

 

So Which Are The Tools?

Like any other category, AI solutions are bound to be comprised of the good, the bad and the so-so and trials, proofs of concept and honest assessments are a must. It is smart to gauge results, ask the user community (the sales team) honestly and measure revenue enhancement before committing. Randomly picked, because TNG and SugarCRM are as good or bad as any other to keep an eye on, I have bookmarked this in order to track the revenue for my ‘proof is in the pudding’ hobby tracking, but truthfully the market will speak sooner or later.

 

One last thing. Candidly put whether effective or not, the reality is that the market for AI-driven solutions in sales is going to expand. Just keep in mind how much salespeople have traditionally disliked using CRM and yet the parallel expansion and growth of the sector! One factor that speaks to my hypothesis is the growth of AI in other niches. With increased adoption of AI in healthcare, customer service, arts and more the concept is becoming mainstream, which means more revenue for the sector to enable improvement and also for more people to become more comfortable with the notion.

 

Here goes a list of vendors and providers in the Sales AI space:

 

  • Affinity (including Nudge.ai) – A tracking CRM for industries where relationships are important.
  • Conversica – Provider of a conversational AI. Claims that all its AI Assistants are more accurate than a human. Suited for business development and marketing.
  • Clari – An opportunity management and forecasting tool to offer better visibility to sales teams.
  • Drift – Sales and Marketing conversation at the right time with the appropriate content plus insights especially for inbounds.
  • Exceed.AI (Part of Genesys) – Similar to drift geared towards inbound prospects and leads for sales and marketing, it automatically picks up the conversation, sets appointments and updates Calendars.
  • Gong.AI – Captures and analyzes customer interactions for insights and next steps.
  • Heyday – Tuned for retail, Heyday’s AI connects inventory and catalogue to customer search results and nudges sales to connect with customers when most appropriate.
  • Introhive – Relationship intelligence that leverages CRM to reveal ones network and relationships with customers.
  • Kixie – Automates calling and texting of the names in CRM and records and tracks the events.
  • People.ai – Provides persona-specific productivity tools and provides insights.
  • SalesDirector.ai – Offers predictive insights into sales team’s pipeline and customer interactions.
  • Salesforce – Salesforce, the leader in CRM, has embedded AI in much of its solutions for insights and automation.
  • Saleswhale (Part Of 6Sense) – An AI assistant to engage with and follow-up with leads.
  • VeloxyIO – A platform that integrates e-mail, CRM and calling into one solution and view.
  • Zendesk – Engage with and support customers across a myriad of channels and keep all interactions in one place.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: AI technology companies that are made to be acquired as opposed to being there long-term to help customers.