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Archive for July, 2019

Unchosen profession…

I listened to Bob Perkins, Founder of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) earlier this year.  He related the story of his son.  Bob is one of those industry titans – founding an organization that helps thousands and thousands of people in the sales profession.  He spoke at the Colorado AA-ISP Chapter meeting and I was there!

His topic was, “Why would anyone go into sales?”  He offered excerpts from AA-ISP research:

Most deals are lost…

Most prospecting doesn’t convert…

And 57% of sales people surveyed do not believe they can make their quota

Bob applied these facts to his son, who reluctantly found himself in a sales role a few years back.  Knowing his son and being an expert in the sales profession, Bob said he didn’t think his son would succeed; didn’t have “what it takes”; said his son “wasn’t very good”.

But Bob’s son hung in there; believed.  He adopted a repeatable selling process; practiced; tried, failed, and tried again.  Maybe he followed the actress Mary Pickford:

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Soon, Bob was his son’s guest at his first President’s Club recognition trip.  Bob said he thought that was probably a fluke.  Not long thereafter, Bob’s son was the #1 sales rep at his company.  Now Bob believes, too.

Sales is what we do when we can’t do anything else.  My Mom wanted me to be a doctor.  I was amenable right up to my sophomore year in college and organic chemistry.  That’s when my academic advisor asked, “Gary, what’s your second choice?”

Not that selling is bad – anything but.  Bob Perkins shared:

Sales people earn a doctorate degree in the anthropology and psychology of people.

Not to mention the perks of travel, trinkets and treasure for those who succeed.

Yet from a pros and cons standpoint, every pro needs to be earned.  Bob Perkins emphasized what sales reps must focus on:

People over process… Not networking but contacting… not leads but contacts… of which most are cold…

As Bob’s son proved, process is also key.  Sales professionals must master – and continuously improve – repeatable tools, tactics and techniques.  Just like six sigma and quality manufacturing principles.  More on that in a minute.

Sales people believe in Allen:

Allen’s Axiom

When all else fails, follow instructions.

We may not set out early in our career to become a sales rep, but many of us find ourselves in that role sooner or later.  And when we do, our answer to the question, “Why would anyone go into sales?” includes (among many other things) the personal and professional satisfaction of mastering business acumen; communications skills; the competition; and the recognition that comes from a job well done.  Plus, we get to be there along the way meeting great people and working with great companies.

I was there when Christopher Galvin led Motorola’s pursuit of the Malcomb Baldridge Award.  I sold them the human resource system they needed for attaining six sigma and quality manufacturing on a global scale.  I was working for Integral Systems, at the time.  Integral Systems was Dave Duffield’s second company, following Information Associates.  He went on to found PeopleSoft; and then Workday.  Dave is another industry titan and I was there, too!

Sales may be an unchosen profession but for those willing to hang in there; willing to believe; we get to be there!

GAP

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Curiosity; Cluelessness; & Authenticity…

True enough – that heading is a mouthful.  Conciseness is an art that does not come naturally to me.  Evidently, Pascal either:

I apologize for writing such a long letter.  I didn’t have the time to write you a short one.

Unlike Pascal, I was no child prodigy; anything but.  What I remember about my childhood however, built a foundation for my future sales career.  As it turns out, I am naturally curious coupled with being comfortably clueless.

I’ve always been comfortable with my cluelessness.  It drives my wife crazy though.  She is amazed I can make it home from work each day without getting lost!  But I digress…

Sales &Marketing Management © magazine is a popular read of mine.  In my opinion, the magazine offers thought leadership about my trade that is pragmatic; actionable; and backed by just enough science to avoid tuning me off as being too theoretical.

This article by Randy Sabourin, a specialist in helping teams and individuals communicate under pressure, caught my attention: https://salesandmarketing.com/content/every-great-conversation.  Permit me to paraphrase my understanding of his main point:

Attention – Curiosity – Empathy – Clarity are techniques to address the Avoid-Approach behavior many prospects portray when a sales person tries to contact, engage, and ultimately sell them.

More by accident than by plan, I have developed these attributes, and then some (e.g. cluelessness plus authenticity) that have served me well over the years.  But of them all, authenticity is crucial.

The TV character Colombo became symbolic of inauthentic cluelessness, true?  Everyone in the viewing audience knew his detective style was a façade.  In my opinion, our clients and prospects can detect inauthenticity coming a mile away.  That may trigger the Avoid-Approach behavior Randy Sabourin writes about.

So here’s the thing…  I believe prospects prefer sales people who are authentically curious about their needs and interests.  Prospects prefer sales people who give them our undivided attention (e.g. no multiple monitors; side chats; or multi-tasking of any kind).  My friend and former colleague Adam Katzenmeyer put it this way:

You only have to tell me twice, once.

Prospects prefer sales people who can participate in a business meeting grounded on business language vs. technical; acronym-laden; product pitch oriented; vendor-speak.  My company refers to this skill as “business acumen”.  We believe our people need it, but don’t yet have it.  I know I’m dating myself, but Irv Kupcinet called it:

The art of the conversation.

And here’s the “magic”!  When the prospect believes we are attentive to them; genuinely interested in their situation; make it easy for them to converse with us; and we come across as curious and empathetic to their realities… even if we are a little clueless, that’s OK.

Throughout my career I have had prospect after prospect notice how hard I was trying to keep up with them; trying to understand their needs; their priorities.  And when those moments occurred, they would “take me under their wing” and help me sell them!

It may sound backwards, but “closing” the sale actually begins best by “opening” the conversation.  If we listen – and if we’re authentically curious about the prospect’s business – they will tell us exactly what they will buy + when + why + how they will justify their investment.  They will literally close themselves, if we are skilled at opening up the conversation.

I’ve always been willing to let my prospects help me; being naturally curious along with being a bit clueless.  I’ve had no other choice.  But I’m curious… What about you?

GAP

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Research or opinion…

Information on an infographic from InsideSales.com caught my attention (InsideSales.com/BeExtraordinary).

We should treat research carefully, true?  On the one hand, I was once told that without data we’re just some guy with an opinion. On the other hand Cicero, Consul of the Roman Republic (and a man whose opinions ultimately led to his death) offered:

It seems to me that no soothsayer should be able to look at another soothsayer without laughing.

So with a disclaimer in mind that I know InsideSales.com has something to sell…  I still believe their research is worthwhile.  Here are a few highlights that are definitely not “OK”:

Only 43% of sales reps reach quota attainment

Only 28.1% of closed deals are predicted accurately 90 days out

Reps only spend 36.6% of their time on revenue-generating activities

82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared

This isn’t the only market research I’ve read that shows less than 50% sales reps are attaining quota and B2B decision makers think sales rep suck. (OK, my interpretation of their opinion.)  Who is accountable for this poor performance and negative opinions?

Let’s examine sales rep performance.  Does your company publish quota standings for all your reps?  And whether you do or don’t, is the idea of publishing sales performance a good idea or a bad idea?  I mean the peer pressure could add to sales rep accountability.  But is this approach to accountability good or bad?

Hmm, the accountability question brings this adage to my mind that I first heard from Russ DeLoach, then Senior Vice President of Sales for ADP’s Major Accounts segment:

Where you stand on an issue has a lot to do with where you sit.

When I sold for ADP’s National Accounts segment; and then led sales teams in Colorado and Utah for ADP’s Major Accounts segment, we received weekly sales performance reports – stack ranked – for every person in a sales role in the nation.  Rep; manager; executive; “no place to hide”; weekly!

Everyone, and I mean everyone, saw who was selling and who was not.  Those with a competitive mindset took the spur (or the sugar cube) to heart and strived to elevate their performance.  Others, well…

What do you think?  Is this approach to sales accountability appropriate for the 21st century?  Does your company follow this opinion?  Or are you thinking it’s too much?

Personally I believe, “winners keep score”.  But that’s just one man’s opinion.  There is research however, by Tanner Corbridge; How Positive Accountability Can Make Employees Happier at Work to suggest employees prefer accountability.

I’m aligned with Tanner’s point #1 about holding ourselves accountable vs. undo attention to others’ accountability.  He put it this way:

It’s extremely rare for an employee – or even a manager – to admit anything along the lines of “I’m a train wreck. Don’t count on me for much.”

I also believe in point #2 that “employee ownership” requires “employee responsibility”.  And point #3 is the force-multiplier; working for a meaningful cause.

I don’t mean a social impact cause that’s so popular these days.  Yes, social responsibility is a key value that I participate in too.  But what good does it do for employees to be socially engaged if their company goes poof because of poor performance.

So count me in on the personal accountability theme.  Stack rank me; push me; I’m accountable for my responsibilities.  This works for me and is best for the success of my company.  At least, that’s my opinion.  What’s yours?

GAP

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Friction…

I enjoy discussing and debating sales management “leading practices”.  Certainly, there are many opinions and many thought leaders that offer their knowledge and experience, too.  I suppose the opinions you align with are based on your context.

My context begins with sales managers and their sales reps epitomizing opposing forces.  I don’t mean we are enemies; but sales people and sales managers are often on opposite sides of things.  Lest your sales managers think they are “one of them” even if they used to be a sales rep, beware:

Coaches that worry too much about what fans think soon find themselves sitting with them in the stands. 

Unknown Sage

Now before going any further, permit me to acknowledge that my context and opinions about how things work may be very different than yours, and others’.  That’s OK:

Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own.  You may both be wrong. 

Dandemis

I remember many interactions where manager-rep “friction” occurred.  My first Presidents Club sales year as a “District Manager” (aka a sales rep) I worked for an “Executive-in-Training” (meaning he was hired from the outside vs. being promoted from within).  That created an opportunity to test our wills.

He ran Tuesday evening sales meetings and the rest of the week the District Managers worked out of sight, “managing” our districts.  We would come into the office periodically to file our paperwork.  (I know – the Dark Ages right?)

My manager fell into a pattern that every time I came into the office he would greet me with, “How’s your week?”  He wasn’t asking how I was doing; how the weather is; and was the family good…  He meant, how much business have I closed this week.  Friction.  I rebelled.

One day I asked him (told him, really) to stop.  I said, “Hello” is the greeting I would appreciate.  His approach made me feel that he thought of me only as my number.  I told him, “I am not my number”.

Years later I was on the sales manager side.  Walking a mile in his shoes was quite eye opening.  My Director and the VP above her were pounding on me for an updated forecast from my team.  “You-know-what” rolls downhill.  A rep of mine rebelled putting it this way, “Gary, no matter how much I sell it’s never enough.  You keep pushing the more button.”

Today, many sales managers have remote reps and as a result they have fewer face-to-face encounters which can cause additional anxiety.  And just when we thought the friction between managers and reps couldn’t get any worse, along came CRM.  Today, sales reps want to spend their time selling; sales managers want everything documented in the Customer Relationship Management system.

There are other examples … reps want “quality”; managers want “quantity”.  Many sales reps are conservative, sometimes to a fault, portraying pessimism about their forecast (aka “sand bagging”).  Sales managers push for optimism, and a higher commit!   Sales reps like building relationships; sales managers want to get in front of the prospect; close the deal; and move on.

I don’t know; maybe these opposing forces actually balance each other out.  Maybe it is the friction that actually drives an organization to sales success:

The highly successful use anxiety and stress to spur them on to achievement. 

Tom Hopkins

But balance is the key – too much friction on one side or the other can burn out the rep; or the manager; or even both, true?

GAP

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Independence – upheld…

Posted Jul 3 2019 by in True North with 4 Comments

Tomorrow, Americans celebrate Independence Day:

Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.

Wikipedia

We truly are:It’s today however, when Americans should commemorate the event that upheld our country’s independence; the event that prevented the United States from being cut in half; and the horrific toll paid for our independence and unity to triumph.

July 3rd, 1863 was the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Of all the Americans who have ever died in all the wars our country has ever fought, almost half – 620,000 – died in the Civil War.  And of all the Civil War battles, the one battle with the highest casualties was Gettysburg – 51,000 Americans.  And within the Battle of Gettysburg, Picket’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863 was the deciding, bloody clash.

I know in today’s society The Confederate States of America; their monuments; and their flag are easily vilified.  But 156 years ago, these battles were fought by Americans not by villains; by brave souls both North and South who believed their cause was necessary to preserve their country; their way of life.  They were committed enough that they were willing to die for it.

I believe every American should visit the Gettysburg National Military Park and pay tribute to the memory of those Americans that preserved the fate of our union.  Thankfully, that battle and a succinct commemoration by one of our greatest leaders, who also gave his life for his country, ultimately prevailed:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That day Abraham Lincoln spoke to unite all Americans, North and South.  Today, July 3rd, is the day to remember that it was on this day and on that battlefield that ultimately resulted in the United States of America remaining united.

May God bless you; and may God bless America!

GAP

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