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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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.

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.

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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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

 

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Jul 032017
 

American business channel CNBC has an article on the state of vacation days taken and untaken in the United States and the picture is not pretty. The article quotes a study by a “coalition” that advocates for taking time off and using one’s vacation days.

A quick detour and a couple of remarks should come first. Firstly, the article is timely. Summer is primetime for vacation days. Many people take time off to enjoy the weather and travel, children are off and parents coordinate with that. Over in Europe many citizens enjoy vacations allowances ranging from four to eight weeks. This article’s publisher being CNBC is also quite interesting. CNBC is a pro-business and corporate outlet. It is not one to advocate for employee and workers’ rights. Finally, Project: Time Off has its own agenda. The study, on which the article is based, seems to have followed a scientific methodology, but it is always prudent to read these studies in the context of its provider.

Photo Credit: Atlas Green

On to the study and it demonstrates that taking one’s vacation days are advantageous for those seeking to obtain a promotion or a raise at work. It coins the term “work martyrs”. The studies are US-based, but it would not be a surprise if the results apply to the rest of a world that is fast becoming increasingly industrialized. Quoting the article, “people who use their vacation days are more likely to get a promotion or a raise.” The study demonstrates two things:

  • Only 23 percent of those who forfeited their days were promoted in the last year, compared to 27 percent of “non-forfeiters.”
  • The study also found that 78 percent of forfeiters received a raise or a bonus in the past three years, compared to 84 percent of those who did use all of their paid time off.

The numbers are close with respectively four and six percent difference between the samples, but even if the percentages were identical it would be illustrative that people taking their vacations are not harming their prospects at work. The study asserts that folk who take their vacations are recharged, more creative, ironically harder workers, etc. For salespeople it is good to remember that the top indicator of success is working hard. Finally, remember those vacationing Europeans? There have been multiple studies over the years that they are more productive than Americans, Canadians and everybody else.

*Things That Need To Go Away: karoshi

woman by the water

Photo Credit: Danka Peter

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Apr 272017
 

Dan of Sales Talent Agency shared a report, which is worth reading for sales and sales management professionals. Sales Talent Agency is a recruitment agency and, as such, is obviously self-interested and the report is part of the company’s marketing collateral. With that said, the report is the result of a survey of 4,860 sales professionals from a range of experiences, industries and regions which makes it useful. What is more – importantly for Canadian readers – it is Canada-focused, which makes the report valuable to those north of North America given the scarcity of Canada-only research.

salary guide Canada

There is a host of interesting information in the report.

  • How much sales professionals make given their years of experience,
  • Job titles are rather meaningless (and so Sales Talent Agency has gone further and asked whether folks manage anyone or not) as many directors and vice-presidents do not nowadays,
  • There is information regarding what salespeople want (which matches previous reporting on this website),
  • There is information on job stability,
  • 70% of respondents felt their targets are achievable,
  • Et cetra.

How much sales folk get paid is important to salespersons, sales managers and compensation and human resource management. Compensation, however, is one of the many levers of motivation and partnership and the report touches on that as well.

The Sales Talent Agency Sales Salary Guide Is Here.

Do you see yourself in the report?

STA Salary Guide

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: large discrepancy in what companies pay salespeople of the same experience in base salary based on how recently someone entered the organization’s workforce. Internal promotions receiving 4% raise per year, while new employee arriving 20% ahead is illogical.

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Dec 132016
 

Who here has not received an offer of employment with a strict deadline of 24 or 48 hours for the candidate to accept? On the other side of the table, how many employers or recruiters reading this have added a clause to their offer insisting the candidate accept within a day or two or else…

The reason for such clauses and conditions seems straightforward.

  • Employers need to know where they stand as they have a need to hire for backfill or expansion.
  • Employers and recruiters have a requisition to fill, which they would like to close as soon as possible in order to move on to the next task.
  • Recruiters work on contingency and would like to get paid.
  • Assigning a deadline to a candidate and offer pushes the candidate to accept thus taking him or her off the market.

Please Stop.

Very tight deadlines are signs of a woefully unprepared employer at best and a red flag against the employing firm at worst. Long-term relationship demand respect from the start and sensitivity towards the other party and not to mention reality.

As a team manager I had a candidate join another group’s team only to leave a week into the job for a position at a credit card company. She obviously preferred the alternative she eventually chose, but had accepted this job under the gun and fearing losing either. Such scenarios are actually quite common.

While these concerns all have some merit they are one-sided, dated and not in line with modern times and, by implication, counterproductive. Why are they working against candidates and employers? Employers derive no benefit from enforcing a clause, which either recruits an employee who may join holding a grudge or feeling pushed or could quit in 3 weeks anyway if he or she were interviewing elsewhere. Fact of the matter is that employers and employees have to see employment as a collaboration where both parties profit and are working towards a common goal. There is no place in the modern workplace for a company that feels superior to the needs of its employees or for an employee who feels above the ‘law.’ If a company gives itself the right to interview multiple candidates and assess them based on its elected criteria, then the employee has the right to interview multiple employers, take time to assess the offer, discuss it with an employment lawyer, consult friends, family or mentors and be comfortable.

While it is reasonable to have deadlines and ask for specific time-lines putting a gun on someone’s head cannot have a happy ending. What does work instead is respectful communication between the parties including an explanation from both sides on with what they are working.

The invitation for candidates, employees and employers to come together benefit from frankness and be supportive of each other should be regardless of the economic climate. Being patient is not helpful to immediate needs perhaps, but will pay dividends in the long-term. Whether it is boom or bust times should not matter. Genuine respect is the way to go and one of the keys to a productive relationship. It also saves everyone time and probably money too.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: “You have 24 hours to accept our job offer or it’s on to the next candidate.”

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Nov 272016
 

There have been a couple of articles in these pages in the past regarding how sales managers need to understand the individuals on their respective sales teams in order to deliver personalized motivation and incentives. This concept resonates with me as a person who has risen through the sales ranks and also as a people manager who has seen the results in action. Articles have appeared here and here because it is something often on my mind. The book Drive partly dedicates itself to the same exploration.

Getting this process 100% right and reaching perfection is like finding the pink unicorn, but the more one applies oneself into this process the better it gets.

With that said, here is an article that is original and well worth reading for those managing diverse salespersons. Written by academics and authors Christian Homburg and Sebastian Hohenberg of the University Of Mannheim in Germany this research piece addresses sales management, training and human resource departments and discusses motivation and incentive planning within different cultural environments, which is applicable at multicultural sales settings or for sales managers in matrixed and multinational organizations.

Bottom-line again: different people need different approaches and a one-size-fits-all approach is lazy and less productive.

Image from Sebastian Hohenberg and Christian Homburg (2016) Motivating Sales Reps for Innovation Selling in Different Cultures.

Image from Sebastian Hohenberg and Christian Homburg (2016) Motivating Sales Reps for Innovation Selling in Different Cultures.

Image from Sebastian Hohenberg and Christian Homburg (2016) Motivating Sales Reps for Innovation Selling in Different Cultures.

Image from Sebastian Hohenberg and Christian Homburg (2016) Motivating Sales Reps for Innovation Selling in Different Cultures.

*Things That Need To Go Away: “That Is How Our Incentives Have Always Worked And That Is How They Will Keep Working…”

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Nov 252016
 

Forecast accuracy is a touchy subject at most companies and among most sales leaders.

Most sales professionals have the same attitude towards forecasting as a cat does towards a swim in the sea or a diner has towards a rat in his soup. Being held down to a commitment is a part of it. Spending valuable time in a CRM, or would-be, system that outwardly does not provide value to a salesperson’s bottom-line is the major anathema to salespeople. This is difficult argument to overcome because the manner in which CRM/spreadsheets/forecasting tools are (mis)used at companies leaves a lot of room for criticism of the kind. However, when done correctly systematic forecasting is useful not to mention mandatory.

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Photo Credit: Cedric Servay

The stock method of forecasting at companies is:

  • Tally the total amount of forecast dollars available. This is typically done for the Quarter and, by extension, for the year, although a company like Salesforce, for example, forecasts monthly.
  • Review which percentage of forecast dollars in similar previous timeframes ended up as sales wins. For example, if 25% of the forecast amount from previous year’s same quarter ended up being a completed transaction then the same ratio should be applied again. Note the opportunity to explore ways to improve the ratio.
  • A thorough review should be applied on top of the above pattern to special deals in the pipeline. That is, if there is a particularly big deal in the pipeline or a especially large miss is occurring in the forecast timeframe then those have to be distinctly taken into account. These one-time ‘events’ need to be taken into consideration exceptionally as they are exceptional to the pattern. Sales managers need to have a bracket for what makes this deal ‘special’ within the context of the company’s average deal size.
Photo Credit Modestas Urbonas

Photo Credit Modestas Urbonas

Special ‘events’ or deals which need added consideration include:

  • Special deals in the pipeline (as described above)
  • Extraordinary misses in the pipeline (as described above)
  • A special scrutiny of the Top 10 of the biggest deals being forecast
  • A special scrutiny of the deals in pipe for the Top 10 biggest existing customers for the territory
  • A special scrutiny of the deals in pipe for the Top 10 biggest customers by company size for the territory
  • Deals which are considered won already although are not officially booked yet.

 

With the process outlined there are several undertakings that would complement the above and should be mandatory.

  1. Everyone needs to be trained on the system and shown how the calculations are rolled up. One should not assume everyone knows, or can figure out, how to use Excel/Google docs/CRM/methodology of choice. Speaking the same language is a must if the company is to work in lockstep. Define and explain your stages, nomenclature and its prerequisites and, if using a tool like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce.com, Sage CRM, Maximizer, etc., use the out-of-the-box templates and definitions as much as possible. Forecasts need to be a lot more science and a lot less art.
  2. Consistency wins. For the sake of credibility and not sending a message of pointlessness stick with the regimen and enforce it for the medium-term. It will become a matter of lost authority if the company asks for a work and time commitment with forecasting and does not follow through. The sales team needs to routinize the updating of the system.
  3. The process and time spent on the above need to be justified and explained. Having a clear sales forecast enables sales managers to report accurately and be accountable to the company, but also it must be a tool in identifying where and whom requires assistance. That is the personal aspect of forecast accuracy and it is very important. Forecasting is ultimately ironic if it does not help sellers sell to buyers and does not identify buying patterns and cycles. Please read that last sentence again. The macro picture is one of a company which knows, understands and addresses its pipeline and can make better decisions towards its own fiscal health, which helps everybody within the ship.
  4. Think about incentives to motivate the sales team to adopt and maintain the routine. How about 5% of the sales team’s variable depending on forecast thoroughness and maintenance?
  5. It also needs mentioning that companies should automate this process as much as possible. Given how it is a mostly inward looking process and is not adding direct value to customers liberating sales teams’ time to spend more time on customers is a bright idea.

 

And here is the most important thought in all of this to emphasize: the above must not come at the expense of team morale and a customer-focused sales process. Salespersons and sales managers cannot get lost focusing on the above at the expense what is more important: working with customers.

Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

*Things That Need To Go Away: New Forecasting Process Or Tools That Are Here Today; Gone Tomorrow

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