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.

Apr 182022
 

 

Sales Enablement has been quite an oft-discussed concept in sales circles for the last decade or so. As the name suggests the concept should be simple. Sales Enablement is the who, what, where, when and how of enabling sales (defined here broadly as inside, outside, SME, enterprise, BDR, etc.) to achieve its goals in general and quota targets specifically. Simple enough. Yet, there is a lot more to helping sales, and indeed the whole company, deliver the value message to customers.

Personally, Sales Enablement for me is anything and everything that enables sales. As such, and for me, marketing is sales enablement. A company executive travelling or getting on the telephone with a salesperson to aid his or her effort is sales enablement. Training is sales enablement, et cetra.

However, there is a niche and segment for Sales Enablement all to its own in the marketplace. The segment is large given how the addressable market is vast. The number of vendors vying for a piece of the pie is large because sales is so crucial to everything everybody does. These vendors and suppliers define the market more narrowly than my definition and seek to inhabit the more focused and accepted definition of what the marketplace for their solutions is.

This narrower definition speaks to tools, solutions, programs, software and content that allow the Sales team to find prospects or take a top of the funnel prospect and convert it to a paying customer at the bottom of the funnel. Yes, it is still multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted, but defined more narrowly than my definition above. And with the advent of technology, Sales Enablement in the hands of its official suppliers and vendors has become more technical, more up-to-the-minute as pertains to the needs of the individual accessing it and more relevant for the type of sale it is accessed for and, notwithstanding the automation of much of it, has become more advanced and scientific. That automation piece is actually important because salespersons do not always have the will or time to engage with the technology proactively. it is a win for the sales team’s time and also insurance that the rights steps are being taken when the solution triggers events in an optimal sequence. Modern AI-powered solutions do wonders sometimes.

The more focused definition is fine and here you will find a list of the vendors in the space as of today. The sentence says ‘as of today’ because by the time this writer finishes this paragraph and hits the ‘publish’ button half a dozen vendors have sold themselves, merged or failed rendering the list dated. This is only half a joke. Another half a joke is how a company that is in Sales Enablement could not enable its sales team to take over the world (yet wants to help everyone else do the same). Yes, it is understood that many companies do not seek to remain or grow. Like any sector, half of the companies out there seek to be acquired and cash out. Here is another quip: it is said (by me) that any company with a a.ai domain is flashing a sign saying ‘buy me! buy me!!’

The list is coming shortly, but first a few bullet points on why Sales Enablement is seriously important and a comment on its integration with other departments.

 

Why are companies adopting formal Sales Enablement programs and solutions?

 

Sales is not an insular position. It needs and feeds everyone else at the company. From the management team to Marketing and Delivery sales needs to be hand in glove with everybody else. Sales and other departments need to be in sync. The right Sales Enablement environment enables this aspect. This is internal alignment.

Similarly, sales needs to be in sync with its prospects and customers. Sales needs to supply the right impetus, content and information to its customers – whether the two parties are speaking currently and directly with one another or not. Sales Enablement needs to ensure that the two sides (supply and demand) are related and relevant. This is external alignment.

Finally, all of this should be measurable and accountable. How many videos professionally filmed and uploaded by companies have you seen that despite clearly having cost time and a monetary bundle in preparation, lighting, filming and editing have a paltry one hundred views (half of which is the producing team)? Isn’t something amiss? Yes, there is. It is not serving the needs of sales or its customers obviously. How many leads from Marketing were garbage? How many quality leads were mishandled by Sales? Why are people not responding to content? These are mere examples of a mismatched Sales Enablement piece of the puzzle that is not performing and is screaming for a programmatic review, be it content-wise, consumption-wise or perhaps even forming an accessibility point-of-view challenge. Things need to be measurable so they can be manageable so we improve and consistently recaliber.

Finally, Sales Enablement should be integrated. The more all the sets of data, material and processes are integrated the more likely for them to actually work, to be leveraged by sales, to save the requisite time and ultimately to contribute rather than detract. Moreover, when all solutions are integrated the company can better measure the effectiveness and garner insight into what is working and what is not at scale.

Perhaps an ancillary reason to adopt these solutions is to recruit salespersons in the first place. Obviously, enablement tools help the team be successful, earn more and treat customers correctly, but what a recruitment tool? A company adopting the right tech can expect to have more successful sales teams and give people more reasons to work there, right? After all, this whole article is about adding value.

 

 

Is there a list of providers and vendors in this space?

 

With that said and without further ado, here is a list of companies in the space. As mentioned, this is narrowly defined and offerings such as marketing-only, training-only or CRM are omitted.  One further ado: Having not personally used all these solutions, inclusion does not equal warrantee that it does what it says. My experience is that several are quite useful and helpful. A few are a waste of time and have proven themselves to be a nuisance. The advice goes doubly for readers who are not in the USA. Contact data are more scarce internationally in many of these tools and process norms do differ from country to country. Review and analysis before buying are your friends.

  • Adapt – Real-time customer data that integrates with your CRM
  • Apollo – Find prospects, segment them and connect with them
  • Bombora – Buyers’ intent data to understand who is looking to buy
  • CallMiner – Analyses your communication with your customers to drive your actions
  • Chorus – Conversation intelligence to analyse sales meetings and suggest improvements. Owned by Zoominfo since 2021
  • Cognism – Market and Sales intelligence including contact information and intent data
  • D&B Hoovers – Contact information including areas of responsibility and job titles
  • Datanyze – Contact information for businesses and which solutions they use
  • DealHub.io – Share information and quotations with customers, automate steps and track engagement
  • Demandbase – Connects first and third-party data for one view of accounts – now includes InsideView for CRM data management
  • DiscoverOrg – Contact information and profiles that is integrated with your CRM. Part of Zoominfo
  • Dooly – Organizes opportunity notes and fields and syncs them into Salesforce to share with others
  • Enablix – Connect Sales and Marketing content for data-driven decisions on what content is needed next. Also measures engagement
  • Enthu – Analyses team’s calls and collates them for management for intervention, training or other insights
  • ExecVision – Conversation intelligence and mining platform in multiple languages
  • Global Database – An international business directory
  • Gong – Captures and analyses customer interactions to determine best course of action and areas of hit and miss
  • Groove – Automates sales activities and lightens the administrative burden of sales. It also automates action items
  • Guru – Create, share and access data and within the sales workflow
  • Highspot – Combines content, customer engagement and knowledge sharing in multiple languages
  • InsideSales.com – Playbooks for sales to optimize sales interactions including appropriate contacts and triggers
  • Jiminny – A coaching tool to record, analyse, track and learn from your customer conversations to enable improvement and analytics
  • Klue – A competitor insight platform compiled from internal and external sources
  • Lead 411 – Company and employee contact information and triggers
  • Leadgenius – Scale your outbound by finding the right contacts and lists
  • LeadIQ – Targetted information on potential leads integrated with CRM
  • Lessonly – An eLearning solution including presentation, tracking and assignments. Purchased by Seismic in 2021
  • LinkedIn (Sales Navigator) – A professional networking and communication social media. LinkedIn is a part of Microsoft
  • Lusha – Identify a prospect’s e-mail and telephone number, especially in the USA. It acts as a browser extension
  • Mediafly – Create and enhance your presentations, including trackable links and analytics
  • MindTickle – Identify the right sales behaviour and train the team on it
  • Observe – An analysis of your customers’ audio calls and text communication to derive sentiment signals
  • Outreach – Helps create and manage sales workflows and track them
  • SalesHood – A Learning Management System (LMS) that includes testing and tracking
  • SalesIntel – Helps you identify your prospects with buying intent and provides contact information
  • Seamless – Finds your prospects’ contact and LinkedIn information
  • Seismic – A content management platform that allows Marketing to create and customize sales-related material and for the sales team to discover and brand it for a particular engagement
  • Showpad – Sales content management, training and coaching in one. Track content usage by the customers as well
  • 6Sense – Uncovers buying behaviour and information based on web activity, which triggers for ABM efforts
  • Slintel – A market intelligence and buyer intent. Part of 6Sense now
  • TechTarget – Identify target contacts and acquire their contact information
  • Uplead – Business and contact data including e-mail verification
  • Volley – Convert leads into customer using intent data and personalization
  • Zoominfo – 360 degree view of customers including intent data and hierarchies

 

Any names missing? Let me know.

One final important note: All applications should be tested for ease of use. Salespeople are busy and dislike spending time when a software is not user friendly. All purchase decisions should take this, as well as utility, into consideration. Need to heavily configure? Need to code? Need to wait minutes for it to load? Need to complete a curriculum to use the application? Need to become versed in boolean search parameters? Skip the tool.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales Enablement solutions that make the sales team neither more effective nor more efficient

 

Jun 272021
 

These pages have written about Sales Process, Sales Department Set-Up and Sales Coaching for the team and department.

What about the modern customer’s and seller’s journey however (yes, they somewhat follow one another). The sales team must be trained and acutely cognizant of how the buyer journey example works, control, facilitate and expedite every step of the way and the organization has to deliver on each in tandem (and expeditiously). If a step is to be skipped then every party needs to understand why and to what end.

How is your organization performing against the below buyer journey funnel and template?

 

Modern Customer Journey

 

*Things That Need to Go Away: Salespersons who do not have discipline to cover every aspect. “I Don’t Need This Stuff. I know Better.”

Oct 182020
 

Writing a Sales Territory Plan – as opposed to a Sales Account Plan – is conceptually not difficult. As a salesperson you are handed a territory and you would like to figure out where you are (point A) and like to get to a result (point B). How to get from point A to point B is the plan.

Below and attached (Scroll To The End Of This Article to find the link) is a cheat sheet for you. Please consider several items.

  • It is important that the plan is frank and realistic.
  • It is important that the plan has specifics and is time-bound.
  • It is most important that the plan is implemented with on-going action. One too many plans are make-work projects that are ignored or forgotten thirty seconds after they are presented. The plan is there to help you succeed so you would do well to take it seriously if you take your job seriously.

Here is an outline of a Territory Plan:

Page 1: Title Page

  • Place Your Company Logo
  • Add Salesperson’s Name
  • Add Date

 

Page 2: Contents

  • Targets/Goals
  • Analysis
  • Existing Accounts
  • New/Prospect Accounts
  • Action Plan
  • Guide To Terms And Filling This Plan out

 

Page 3: Target And Target Breakdown

  • Numerical Targets/Goals
  • Break down into periods as needed
  • Existing Accounts
  • If applicable
  • Prospect Accounts
  • If applicable
  • Gap-To-Goal (based on above)

 

Page 4: Target Analysis And Insights

  • SWOT Analysis Of Territory
  • Priorities
  • How will you take advantage of the opportunities and counter the weaknesses

 

  • What works/what does not work
  • What will you do differently
  • What do you need to make it (i.e. your goals) happen?

 

Page 5: Existing Accounts

  • What does the territory look like?
  • Biggest accounts
  • Biggest account potentials
  • Break-down by size or geography or kind

 

  • Success Components
  • What needs to be done?
  • What tools are available and will work?
  • What is selling/what is not selling
  • What drives business?
  • Other

 

Page 6: New Accounts/Prospects

  • Prospect Names
  • Which industry, size or kind they are in?

 

  • Top # (insert a number here) Target Companies (Prospects)
  • Industry (if more than one applies)
  • What Do They Currently Own?
  • Have They Been Contacted by you? If not, when will you contact them, how often and in what intervals?

 

  • Other Prospects Contacted?
  • Industry?
  • Why Are They A Good Candidate for you?
  • Updates?
  • What is next and what do you need and by when?

 

Page 7: Action Plan

  • Consider SMART
  • Tactics
  • By When
  • Milestones
  • Resources Needed

 

Page 8: Guide

  • Consider SMART when thinking about the above
  • SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound: no vague inputs
  • Think in terms of milestones and break your actions down
  • Consider resources and input needed and think whether they adhere to the above concept

 

  • A Territory Plan has you starting at Point A (where you are today) and takes you to Point B (where you need to be).
  • Know your goals therefore
  • This is specific to your territory. There is not a universal formula that applies here

 

  • SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat

 

Feel free to download the attached and either use directly or copy/paste it into a slide deck of your choosing.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Planning That Occurs Only During The Presentation Session And Is Then Forgotten

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

 

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.

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 know 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

 

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 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

 

Aug 272017
 

In Sales and sales management circles few would argue that compensation, a major component of which is income, is trivial or a minor issue. Modern management theories tell us that not only happy workers stay longer, but also they are more productive. We know that pay is often top of mind for employees, but other factors also chart well. When one is not caught in the vice of low or unsatisfactory pay, one is enjoying his or her work and is therefore engaged, committed and sees a future.

In the book The Code of The Extraordinary Mind the author speaks to Richard Branson about the secret to the billionaire’s serial success. Branson tells the author the secret is to have a vision, hire great people to execute it and then get out of their way. Notice, he didn’t say pay them 30%, or whatever, in commissions.

Imagine now for a moment all this evidence, wisdom, research and information out there and next to none of it is applied to the profession of sales by the responsible management and the companies at which they work. The whole thing is on autopilot, has been for years and clichés abound. The conventional wisdom hangs like an albatross around the neck of management and human resources. In the well-argued book Drive author Daniel Pink makes an evidence-based case for not paying salespeople commission and SPIF when creativity is required.

Is any company taking heed of the applicable information? All indications point to the answer being ‘no.’ This website has long argued that people management has to be personalized for the individual and one size does not fit all. Why are so many sales departments and companies struggling, and why does anyone need extra pushing and shoving, if salespeople uniformly respond to extra commission and variable incentive? The answer is that salespeople do not and like any other profession and group individuals respond differently and have different motivations. We even wrote about motivation for salespeople as a function of their cultural background on this site in November, 2016.

Why then are companies not overhauling how they compensate their employees in general and sales department in particular and instead prolapse to the same old? We know now that as a matter of random statistics a portion of the sales team likely responds better to and is more responsive to things other than being paid on commission. How about looking at 100% salary entitlement? There is also this, which likely lead to companies taking action like this.  In addition to the above arguments, there must be a reckoning that today’s customers are better informed and sales is becoming more of a team sport. A successful sales team is not only comprised of different people (inside, outside, technical, post-sales consultancy..), but also requires adapting to customers’ buying process, which is an outward outlook and not necessarily satisfied by internal necessities.

ventilation pipe (flexibility)

Photo Credit: Bilderjet

Instead could individuals be motivated and double their efforts for:

  • Peer and employee recognition
  • Additional time off
  • Health, or other, club membership
  • A gift card for the salesperson’s significant other
  • Paid learning opportunity or mentorship
  • Paid-for recreational classes such as cooking, climbing or arts and crafts,
  • Job promotion (with a caveat)

Keep a higher emphasis on variable compensation for those who are actually and demonstrably motivated by it and remove the yoke from those who just do not care for it and either do not perform better given the scheme or do so only marginally.

There is no doubt that driving sales and winning deals is the raison d’etre of any sales organization. The question we should be asking is what actually drives performance versus what we have always accepted drives performance.

Indeed, sales management must measure all that leads to a sales win (could be customer engagements, presentations, customer meetings, marketing response rates, etc.) and develop a compensation plan based on low and upside potential calculations, team alignment, composition and of course how all of this is being measured, but understand that the drive to create the components of success is propelled by different means among individuals.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: We Do It That Way Because It Is Always Done That Way

 

Individual

Photo Credit: Geralt