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Trust me…

I was reading The Speed of Trust © by Stephen M.R. Covey recently.  A friend of mine shared his copy from a training session his company conducted on trust-building among teams.

Trust is spoken of often in the sales profession.  “Being a trusted advisor” is a common phrase sales people like to say to prospective clients.  But on what basis should the prospect trust us?

In Covey’s book, this customer offered his perspective on trust:

I don’t think you have a full trusting relationship until you are actually at the point that you deliver success repeatedly.  When one of my major suppliers says we want to have a trusting relationship, I think, “What a lot of rubbish that is!”  I turn around and say, “I don’t trust you.  I am not going to trust you until you repeatedly deliver success to me.” 

Peter Lowe

A bit impersonal; arrogant; over the top?  IMHO – just the opposite.

When I first started out in the business my company (ADP) held sales meetings every Tuesday at 5pm (“Roll Call”).  Afterwards, we strolled across the street to a neighborhood “gin mill” (Nancy’s).  Beers, boasts, and war stories of the week were exchanged until closing hour.  That was the setting junior sales reps like me learned the profession from seasoned veterans.

Except one seasoned veteran, Bob Ackerman.  Bob was one of the top sales reps in our office.  Polished; professional; Bob spoke well; dressed well; showed all the evidence of sales success.  And for my first 6 months on the job, he didn’t have a single conversation with me.  If I approached him, he would literally and rudely walk away.  It would have been easy to say he was impersonal; arrogant; over the top.  Turned out – just the opposite.

One Tuesday evening after our sales meeting; 6 months to the week; Bob approached me with two beers (one for me) and said, “Gary, great week – congratulations!”  And from that week forward, Bob trusted me.

I didn’t have the stroke that night to ask Bob, “WTF?”  But after a period of time the opportunity arose, and I asked him why he was so cold when I first started.  Turns out – it was a matter of trust.

You see, Bob was successful during an era when sales rep turnover was even higher than in today’s marketplace.  “Draw vs. commission” was the standard compensation plan back then; no base salary.  Sales results roll called weekly; classic “What have you done lately?” environment.

A modest weekly draw soothed cash flow needs. The draw was deducted from our monthly commission check.  (Trusted – 30 days at a time.)  If we didn’t earn enough commissions to cover our draw, the next month the draw was cut in half.  Two months in a row, and the draw was eliminated.  We never got to month three.  Trust without results didn’t go very far back then – still doesn’t.

Bob had seen plenty of sales reps come and fail.  He told me he used to get to know the new people; he used to coach them a little bit; tried to help them out.  And when they failed it hurt his feelings.  So rather than continuing to feel hurt, he withdrew; he waited.  Bob felt if a rep (like me) could make it 6 months; then he would trust that the rep would make it.

The moral of Peter and Bob’s stories?  To earn the position of “trusted advisor” we must produce.  Trust doesn’t beget results – just the opposite.

GAP

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In the trenches…

As a career sales professional I write a bit about sales – but you already know that.  No “commercial insight” in that statement as described in the book The Challenger Sale © by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

The Foreword to their book was written by none other than Neil Rackham, author of the best-selling business book SPIN Selling ©.  It struck me as a most-interesting (dare I say “insightful”) contrast:  A book written about modern day selling prefaced by the author of another book about selling, written literally last century (copyrighted in 1988).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve learned and still apply teachings from Neil Rackham.  I try to keep learning, too:

Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. 

Bill Gates

So I read (and share) recent research in an effort to avoid losing – out there – in the trenches.

Permit me to get to today’s essence:  How do you sell?  Ready – Go!

Need more context?

…we live in an era when product innovation alone cannot be the basis for corporate success.  How you sell has become more important than what you sell. 

Neil Rackham

How we sell and why the customer buys from us vs. anyone and everyone else we compete against are flip-sides of the same coin, true?  Differentiation is the key.  But what do we differentiate on?

In absence of differentiation, the only thing left for the customer to base her decision on is price.  And if price is the deciding factor, we don’t need a sales force – we can put our products up on a web site and sell online.  How frequently do you find yourself spending the majority of your time defending your price with a prospect?

I ask again:  How do you sell?

Neil Rackham poses the question:  Would your customer pay you just for the experience of your selling process?  Is “how you sell” valuable in and of itself?  Heavy stuff!

Why does the research behind The Challenger Sale ® point to a handful of specific attributes that over 50% of all customers included in their study cite as the attributes of differentiation behind why they bought from a particular sales rep?  What are your attributes?  Want to compare?

The authors (Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson) list these 7 attributes as the key differentiators between those reps that win and all of the rest that lose – out there – in the trenches:

  • Offers unique, valuable perspectives on the market
  • Helps me navigate alternatives
  • Provides ongoing advice or consultation
  • Helps me avoid potential land mines
  • Educates me on new issues and outcomes
  • Supplier is easy to buy from
  • Supplier has widespread support across my organization

How do you compare?

It’s no secret that prospects value sales professionalism:

Prospects don’t get out much. 

Jill Konrath

Jill goes on to say that prospects are so busy running their business that they don’t get a chance to sit back and reflect on leading industry practices to be leveraged.  They rely on a sales professional to “offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market”.

Lest you believe that your company is “unique”; your products are “world class”; you “sell solutions”; and you seek to be a “trusted adviser”… beware.  These statements unto themselves are already commoditized.  To the customer, these claims are categorized as “Yea, you and everyone else on the planet”.

When we’re in the trenches of hand-to-hand, competitive conflict, what will our difference-maker be?  Here’s a hint: It’s how we sell.

Game on!

GAP

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It’s a not a diet…

I know I write often about the sales profession – which may not please some of my readers.  I also occasionally upset my marketing colleagues ( http://thequoteguys.com/2016/07/playing-our-position/ ).

I write less about dieting – which might please my fellow couch potatoes.  It occurred to me recently (while reclining on the couch watching athletic activities) that there is a connection between sales-prospecting and dieting.  Fascinating?  Well maybe not, but please read on.

The catalyst for my connection came recently when one of my clients whom I haven’t heard from in 3 years, called for a little assistance; the sales-prospecting kind of assistance.  I receive calls like his periodically; I bet doctors and dietitians do too.

Here’s the pattern: My client is going along; selling successfully; everything seems to be fine; and they think, “Thanks Gary – we’re good; we’ll call you when we need you.”  Kind of like when we’re at an ideal body weight and leading an active lifestyle.  Doctors; dietitians; personal trainers?  “We’ll call you when we need you.”

Then, some of us wake up one morning; get on the scale; and say, “Ishkabibble!  I need to go on a diet!”  Of course, when we seek professional guidance we hear, “It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle change.”  True?

If you’re like me, I’m not so good at a “lifestyle change”:

I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is two weeks. 

Totie Fields 

We know it’s true.  Having the right BMI; muscle mass; bone density; and related physiological attributes takes more than going on a diet – it requires a life style change including a big helping of daily discipline.

Back to my client who made “the call”.  Business is down; their sales pipeline is empty; their calendar is void of upcoming appointments; let’s call Gary.  (They must have really been desperate.)

Unfortunately, my message was not what they were hoping for; which reminds me of one of my favorite book titles by Rick Paige:

Hope is not a strategy© 

IMHO, when endeavoring to sales-prospect, you can’t simply blitz your target market for a week or a month and expect success as measured by a filled sales funnel and over-achievement of sales quota.  To avoid the lifestyle change I suppose you could outsource lead-gen; you could have gastric bypass surgery too.

Sales-prospecting is a mind-set; as regular of a routine as eating right and exercising regularly.  It is a week-in and week-out discipline that compliments the efforts made, and assets provided by, our marketing colleagues.

So here I was talking with one of my couch-potato-sales-prospecting clients, thinking of the comparison of their sales-prospecting needs (and complaints) to my need (and complaints) to dieting.  Or rather, “making a life style change”!  Filling the pipeline on the one hand; eliminating the plates of calories on the other; both requiring a day-in and day-out commitment to success.

Both requiring a thought process change:

Question:     Is beer bad for you? 

Answer:        Look, it goes to the earlier point about vegetables.  As we all know, scientists divide everything in the world into three categories: animal, mineral, and vegetable.  Well, we all know that beer is not an animal, and it’s not on the periodic table of elements, so that only leaves one thing, right?  My advice:  Have a burger and a beer and tell everyone you’re on a vegetarian diet. 

Unknown Sage 

So, we agreed to schedule weekly meetings to restart their sales-prospecting “lifestyle” change. Question:  Should I drink beer during our sessions?

GAP

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Playing our position…

Now that the 2016 NBA Championship is over (congratulations Cleveland!), I believe cross-over lessons learned are available between the game of basketball and the professions of sales and marketing.

As usual, I draw my opinions from personal experience.  At 6’3”, I played the low post position in basketball (aka the “5”) through my sophomore year of high school.  By junior year, I was too small, too slow, and not athletic enough to remain in the “5”; so I moved to the small forward position (aka the “3”).

As I looked forward to playing collegiate ball, it was painfully obvious that at the NCAA Division I level, my only chance would be to play the off-guard role (aka the “2”).  Even then, getting playing time among the superior Division I athletes would be iffy.  Thankfully, the NCAA has other divisions.

I started every year of college ball, albeit Division III.  But even then, I played different positions.  My sophomore year I played the “5”; junior year the “2”; and senior year the “3”.

Of course, as we watched LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers we saw him seemingly seamlessly move from role to role throughout each game.  Sometimes the point guard (the “1”); other times the power forward (the “4”); and so on.  Such movement from position to position works in today’s NBA game.  I suggest it doesn’t in the sales and marketing world.

You see, every time my marketing colleagues try to play outside their position and dabble with the tools, tactics, and techniques preferred by sales professionals they seem to muck things up for the both of us.

Based on my StrengthsFinder 2.0© profile, my strongest strength is Context – I understand the present by researching the past (aka history).  And when it comes to history, there are many examples of what happens when marketing professionals try to play the sales professionals’ position.

Take telephone prospecting (aka cold calling); a tough position to play even for the most seasoned sales professional.  Our marketing colleagues thought they could help which begot “telemarketing”.  Yuck!

Look at what happened to the art of business letter-writing.  Yep, marketing stepped in and voila… we have mass mail (aka junk mail).  Email correspondence begat email blasts (aka spam); LinkedIn for personalized, professional networking begat social media marketing (aka Internet din); and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect and value most of the things marketing professionals contribute to the cause.  What sales professional doesn’t look forward to receiving a Marketing Originated Inquiry?  Anything warmed even slightly is better than a cold list.  But a Marketing Originated Inquiry isn’t a “lead” – that’s the sales professionals’ position.

Maintaining websites; search engine optimization; white papers; positioning statements; market research; branding; marketing communication pieces; the list is long for the value marketing provides.  Just not “leads”.

According to the renowned, marketing automation company, Marketo:

There are many definitions of a lead, and there are even more definitions of a “good lead”… in our own revenue cycle, a lead is “a qualified prospect that is starting to exhibit buying behavior”. But the sales and marketing team don’t always agree on what constitutes “buying behavior”…

Seemingly every time a marketing professional is attracted by the shiny objects sales professionals use in the pursuit of leads (let alone good leads) the marketer thinks applying the “more button” makes these tools, tactics, and techniques better.  When in reality, their “help” makes things worse.

It would be better if we all simply played our positions, true?

GAP

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Philosophy or fact?

When I Googled for the definition of “philosophy” I found:

The study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience.

The theoretical basis of knowledge, hmmm.  Sounds… well… philosophical.  But I digress:

Digress: Leave the main subject temporarily in speech or writing.

I’ve been attending a new MeetUp for B2B sales reps and the last session, facilitated by Chad Burmeister, author of Sales Hack © and Director of Sales Development at Ring Central, was stellar (http://www.meetup.com/denversales/events/230718803/ ).  Chad facilitated an examination of cold-calling; starting with the rhetorical question, “Is cold-calling dead?”

Rhetorical: (of a question) asked in order to produce an effect or to make a statement rather than to elicit information.

And continuing on with Chad’s leading practices for cold-calling tools, tactics and techniques.  His presentation and discussion was stellar.

Of course, during the MeetUp many attending sales professionals offered differing opinions about their preferred cold-calling tools, tactics and techniques.  And as anyone even slightly involved in the business development field (e.g. sales, marketing, branding, etc.) would know – much is being said and more is being written on the topics of cold-calling, social media selling, and the like.

Chad’s presentation offered facts and statistics supporting his beliefs.  When others chimed in they too offered facts in support of their beliefs.  I’ve noticed when I am exposed to other authors, presenters and pontificators and their cold-calling beliefs each offers a persuasive set of facts as evidence proving the truth behind their pontification:

Fact:  A thing that is indisputably the case.

But if everyone has their own set of supporting facts, even if their beliefs around the singular topic of cold-calling are different, what is the truth?

Truth:  The quality or state of being true.

Wait – what?  Truth is the state of being true?  What the hell does that mean?  Ah…but I digress…

All-in-all, my pursuit of the “truth” seems to keep me in a constant state of self-reflection:  How do my beliefs (and corresponding facts) compare to the beliefs (and facts) of others?

I believe I am a die-hard, self-reflective sort.  As a life-long-learner, I find myself constantly asking “Why?” when presented with beliefs and facts that have serious impact on my professional success.

I am told in the book, The Absurdity of Human Life © by Tom Nagle – he writes of the collision between what in life we take seriously while simultaneously doubting the “why” behind these serious things.  I am also told (having never taken the pursuit of philosophical investigation seriously) that the 16th century French philosopher Rene Descartes (considered a “modern skeptic” of his time) suggested we should subject everything to doubt and see what is left.

As a self-confessed skeptic, my continuous search for answer to “why”?” seems to fall into Descartes’ philosophy of subjecting everything to doubt.  After doubting some of the beliefs that were debated during this MeetUp, what was left for me was an epiphany!

Epiphany: a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand something that is very important to you.

When it comes to cold-calling, social media selling, and any other form of sales-prospecting there is no “truth” regardless of what facts someone offers in support of their beliefs.  There are simply our beliefs and the corresponding results – nothing else matters.

In the sales profession if our beliefs are generating successful results, we should continue; if they aren’t, we should change.  “Change to what?” you might ask.  Well, simply change to beliefs that work.   Ut oh – does that sound too philosophical?

GAP

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Dinosaurs…

I was driving through eastern Utah earlier this month.  The enormity of the landscape is breath-taking!

Eastern_Utah

The drive was made even more impactful realizing that this is where dinosaurs walked millions of years ago.  I could close my eyes and “see” them roaming the plains with the mountains as their backdrop.  Then I realized I was driving and opened my eyes; relying on my driver’s training to avoid joining the dinosaurs!

At that moment, two Air Force jets roared by.  Hill Air Force Base is a major military installation in Utah.  Seems that our most modern military warfare technology trains over the same space previous dominated by ancient dinosaurs.  A striking contrast.

There I was in dinosaur country, with modern jets roaring by – what better place than to contemplate the nature of my profession and the views I have about what it takes to succeed in sales in the 21st century?  Weird you say?  Welcome to my Jurassic Park LoL!

In the sales profession, we can learn a lot from our military.  No – I’m not saying our customer is the enemy.  Nor am I suggesting we adopt a competitive attitude often voiced by Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation:

It’s not enough that we win; our enemies must lose.

That quote has been attributed to Gore Vidal; Genghis Khan; and even Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War©

You see, during our road trip we were listening to an audio book, Ghost Image: A Sophie Medina Mystery© And at the moment I was reflecting on the dinosaurs while the jets were roaring overhead, I heard this line from the book:

In the military you don’t learn you are trained.  In combat you rely on your training to get you through.

Then it hit me – when I offer “sales enablement” to my clients they aren’t actually learning how to sell.  I’m not trying to “teach” them; I’m trying to “train” them.  Actually, it’s worse than that – I’m trying to “re-train” them.  I believe, without such re-training they will continue to use sales tools, tactics and techniques that have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

And as stated above, in a sales cycle we rely on our training to get us through.  I know it’s not a life-or-death challenge.  But it is job and/or career threatening, yes?

Back to another one of my favorite book titles: Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life© by Alan Deutschman:

Deutschman concludes that although we all have the ability to change our behavior, we rarely ever do.

I often profess, “The market has shifted…”  My clients assume the context of my statement is technology; technology in the market has shifted (from traditional, client-server oriented software to Cloud Computing).  And just like our military, we must equip ourselves with new technology or risk being surpassed by our competition (in the military context, our enemies!).

But in the context of selling to a modern buyer, that element of the market has shifted too.  If we don’t re-train ourselves to sell the way the modern buyer buys, we risk becoming obsolete; replaced by eCommerce, an iPhone App, or some other “serve-yourself” option buyers have available to them to bypass we sales dinosaurs altogether.

Rare maybe, but I know my clients have the ability to change their behavior.   Yet, I left the eastern plains of Utah wondering, who is the dinosaur?  Them – resistant to re-training?  Or me – thinking I actually can enable them to change their behavior?

GAP

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Simply complicated…

Doing business in today’s modern, wired, fast-paced, multiple time zone world can be complicated, true?  It seems the more “Dos” we do on our “To Do List”, the more “Dos” show up.  In mathematical terms:

Greater Effort = Longer To Do List

Ever get caught up in this break-neck pace of activity at work?  Or even after work?  Ever find yourself booking back-to-back meetings for the day?  Extending throughout the week?  Ever find yourself in a situation where the first meeting starts late; then runs over; pushing the pebble of catchup that results in an avalanche of missed deadlines?  Does Deadline-Dan work at your company?

Deadline-Dan’s Demo Demonstration

The higher the “higher-ups” are who’ve come to see your demo, the lower your chances are of giving a successful one.

Is preparation the answer to complication?  Repetition?  Experience?  Education?  Ahhh, education – lots of buzz about education.

Ever notice the preponderance of peddlers peddling online universities offering an MBA in 20 quick weeks?  Do you find it strange that these learning pieces tend to be promoted by members of my generation appealing to (aka “preying on”) members of the younger generation – bright, albeit less worldly, more impatient folks who believe they can actually earn a Masters Degree in 20 weeks?

Ever notice those cyber, higher educational oriented Masters programs (aka “magic pills”) tend to be run by people appealing to (aka “preying on”) the younger generation – resulting in the increase of student loan debt if not true knowledge?

How did we get to this point of whirring; multi-tasking; stressed-out; magic pill seeking; catchup?  And regardless of how we got here, “What do we do about it?”

I read and hear a lot these days about multi-tasking; causing limited attention spans; blamed on childhood “A.D.D.”; and associated with the plethora of millennials invading our workforce. To be fair, we can add in memory loss (and technological cluelessness) associated with those of my generation – the Baby Boomers!

Is this simply the result of today’s complexities?  Our favorite, Unknown Sage offers a simple observation:

Principles of success

  • Everyone has a scheme for getting rich that will not work.
  • When in doubt, mumble. When in trouble, delegate.
  • Whatever you have done is never a complete failure. It can always serve as a bad example.
  • When the going gets tough, everyone leaves.
  • In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
  • It’s a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make them simple.

Perhaps the simple answer is that today’s business is in fact complex.  It’s true that I find the endeavors of sales & marketing to be both fascinating as well as intellectually challenging.  And being in the sales enablement profession, I often wonder how to enable sales professionals on mastering these complexities.  Back to our Unknown Sage:

Anderson’s Law

Any system or problem, however complicated, if looked at in exactly the right way, will become even more complicated.

There is no lack of enablement resources being peddled in the marketplace these days.  Just-in-time learning management systems; mobile phone training apps; bite-size pieces of “coaching consumables”; knowledge centers.  I wonder – do these simplify the problem, or make it, “become even more complicated?”

Indeed, there are lots of folks on the “sell-side” of this conundrum wanting those on the “buy side” to believe they have mastered the art of simplification by automating the learning of complexity in a series of simple, just in time, complexity-defeating consumables delivered via machine learning (and occasionally cyber universities).

Sounds simple.

GAP

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We’ll get started shortly…

I’ve been attending a lot of webinars recently.  As we all know, virtual events are quite common vs. in-person seminars these days.  Sometimes webinars are very educational; sometimes they’re more of a sales pitch; but when delivered correctly, they can be a good use of our time, true?

Ahh, when delivered correctly – that’s the key, yes?  Permit me to point out a few faux pas (plural) I’ve observed recently with the intent of helping my audience avoid losing your audience in your upcoming webinars, OK?

The first comes as no surprise.  Why do presenters punish the prompt by waiting for the tardy?  I know – audiences frequently arrive late.  I wonder if they arrive late because they believe the presenters will start late.  The timing of the starting time should not be such a challenge, should it?

I just heard the sad story of the comic who lost his timing.  He stepped on his own lines, tried to talk over the laughs, and lost his ability to build a strong close.  He got fired from one gig after another until he got so depressed, he decided to end it all.  He went down to the railroad tracks and threw himself behind a train. 

The Jokesmith

Well, once our webinars (finally) get started, why is it that the presenters often show their lack of knowledge in using their own web-meeting systems?  We have all suffered through a presenter stumbling, fumbling and bumbling trying to get their PowerPoint slides to advance, true?  And I thought the Keystone Cops form of entertainment went out with silent films.

Thankfully, these presenters are merely using web-presentation systems and not performing brain surgery.  But would it be too much to ask that they practice their presentations first?

At anything you choose to do, you’ll be as good as the practice, drill, and rehearsal you go through before you actually perform the action. 

Tom Hopkins

One webinar I attended was titled, “Making the most from referrals”.  The subject matter experts consumed the first 30 minutes of their 60 minute web-meeting telling everyone that making the most of referrals is a good idea.  Yep – that was what the title stated; that was why we were all there.  But did we really have to wait through 30 minutes of obvious stuff before they got to the good stuff?

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact. 

Elliot

To be fair, I did attend a webinar by Deloitte where the subject matter experts walked us all through “how” to help clients establish and maintain “Key Performance Metrics” for managing their companies.  Their explanations and examples were stellar – believe it or not – almost too good.

It can be a fine line at times, but the presenters did an excellent, tag-team presentation that was very thorough; addressing a complex subject; and stopped just short of confusing everyone.  A natural ability, I must admit, that I do not possess:

Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it at all. 

Unknown Sage

Reinforcing my hope, I watched the first half of a recorded webinar today on the importance of business acumen in the sales profession.  Other than starting late (and recording their tardiness for posterity) and practicing their web-tool on the audience, the presenters’ content looks like it will be excellent.

When I finish watching their presentation, I’ll let you know – but please wait – we’ll get started shortly.

GAP

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Nobility…

I was working with a group of senior, successful sales professionals recently.  I always get such a kick out of the fact that my clients actually pay money to send their senior, successful sales professionals to Denver and work with me for three days.

My company provides these three days within the context of a “sales training” class.  I doubt that I’m actually “training” my experienced clients on selling.  And I can tell when some of them arrive with the same mind set.  Of course, sales trainers over the ages have faced what one master, Zig Ziglar, so eloquently stated many years ago:

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

So there I was with a group of senior, successful sales professionals; and in the morning of the 1st day they’re all looking at me as if to ask, “OK Pokorn, let’s see what you got.”  It always varies a bit by person, but usually sometime during the course of the 2nd day they realize:  It doesn’t matter, “What I got”; my job is to set the selling scenes to see, “What they got”!  Which is great fun for me.

If my class is successful, I’ll get them initially to wonder what they’re doing there; and ultimately wonder why they didn’t attend sooner:

Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of knowledge. 

Abraham Heschel

Yes, the class includes sales theory over the course of the three days; but the problem with sales theory is – of course – it’s theoretical.   And my clients’ professional knowledge and experience extend way beyond theoretical:

A little experience upsets a lot of theory. 

S. Parkes Cadman

Thankfully, I too have “real world” experience.  So my clients receive a big dose of Pokorn (whether they ask for it or not I suppose LoL!).

The best parachute folders are those who jump themselves. 

Unknown Sage

Hopefully, it’s not me standing up and “telling” them what to do, but rather it’s  a collaboration where we can all share our knowledge, experience and opinions.  “All of us are certainly smarter than any one of us”, is my overarching positioning with my class participants.  And I do my best to encourage them to share their thoughts and opinions on the focused sales scenes we examine.

Some participants choose not to participate; a constant competition with one’s in-box for us all these days.  I envision the sirens of their email calling their name, “Check your in-box… check your in box…”   It’s not a problem.  Even King Odysseus had to face the Sirens in his journey The Odyssey (see http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/odyssey1/ss/062508POdyssey.htm#step6 )

Nonetheless, I maintain the ultimate respect for my sales professional brethren.  After all, not everyone can do this for a living!  Scott DeGarmo wrote a piece published in Success Magazine years ago that I still carry with me today – here’s an excerpt:

“The Noble Art”

Salespeople Are the Knights of Business

…noble means pre-eminent and selling is the pre-eminent business skill.  You can have every other element in place, but without sales you have nothing.  A Dun & Bradstreet study of the cause of business failure puts “inadequate sales” at the top of the list.

Noble also means “of the nobility”, and salespeople are the knights of business.  While their colleagues skulk about the castle, salesmen and saleswomen get out there and make results happen in the real world.

Making results happen – for our clients; for our company; for ourselves.  Yes, sales professionals are all about results.  And that’s a Nobel pursuit indeed.

GAP

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New hire ramp-up…

Recently, I’ve fielded many questions about ramping-up new sales reps.  My answers aren’t liked.   The “ratios”; the effort; the structured oversight; sounds like work, I guess.

The conversations start the same way, “Gary, do you know any really good sales reps we can hire?”  Or, they ask if a machine-based, on-boarding system is the way to go so their sales managers can do, “more important things”?

“More important things”?  What’s more important than ramping-up new sale reps – hitting the number?  My bad – I thought that hitting the number was the sales reps’ job.  If the sales manager is focused on “hitting the number”; then what are the sales reps focused on?

These new hire, ramp-up questions are typically framed in time-based units of measure; preferring to minimize the time.  “Can’t automation shorten the ramp time (and the work)”?  “If we hire an experienced sales rep, they won’t need any ramp-up, right?”

Reminds me of my sons.  They chose professions other than sales.  (No following in the old man’s footsteps for them, LoL!)

My younger son is a commercial driver.  When he chose his profession, he had two ramp-up options:

  • He could have taken a Do-It-Yourself; Internet-machine-based-learning; take the CDL test cold; multiple times if necessary; and hope for the best
  • Or, graduate from a Professional Driving School

The former offered a slim chance of being licensed and a slimmer chance of being hired.  The latter involved classroom lectures; tests; twenty hours on the “backing pad” learning three backing maneuvers; 30 hours of supervised driving time on the road; a DOT physical; and then passing the CDL test.  The work was worth it.

My older son is a commercial electrician.  When he chose his profession, he also had two ramp-up options:

  • He could have found a contractor  using an On-The-Job approach for their new employees, not caring if they are licensed or not
  • Or, chose to start as an apprentice; log 8,000 documented job hours; then pass the State Journeyman’s Examination; to become licensed

Practicing on the “backing pad”?  Supervised time in the role?  8,000 hours of documented experience?  Licensed?  Sounds like work.  I enjoy the comparison.

In the “blue collar” world of professional drivers and professional electricians, ramp-up plans involve structured, supervised processes to insure effectiveness.  What about the “white collar” world of sales professionals?

Reminds me of the strength and conditioning work athletes put in; the ratios of workouts needed to excel in the “game”.  For distance runners, its miles logged not weeks on the calendar that count.  For professional golfers, the ratio of practice balls hit dwarfs the number hit in tournaments.

Sales?

Cold calling is a numbers game (or, to be more precise, a ratios game). 

Stephen Schiffman

Here’s how I apply Stephen’s ratios for ramping-up a new sales rep:

How many calls will the new sale rep have to make,

before they schedule their 1st appointment?

How many 1st appointments will they have to complete,

before they identify their 1st qualified prospect?

How many qualified prospects will they have to complete discovery meetings with,

before they deliver a solution/demo?

How many demos,

before they deliver a proposal?

How many proposals,

before they close their 1st deal?

How many deals,

to get to their assigned quota run-rate?

Elapsed time; even machine-based elapsed time?  IMHO – wrong unit of measure.

I believe the effort needed for successfully ramping-up a new sales rep is based on ratios of supervised effort.  And yes, that is called work.

GAP

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