If I had a dollar for every sales rep, sales manager, sales executive, entrepreneur, CEO and business owner who told me he or she was always on the lookout for “that elusive golden nugget of insight” or “silver bullet to solve a problem” I could buy a majority share in Apple, Microsoft and Google along lunch for you & me at a really nice place.
The utter dumbness of thinking there’s a simple answer to any challenging business issue never ceases to amaze me. That said, decision makers – bombarded with decisions to be made – will cling to, yearn for and hope to find that nugget/bullet.
It’s dumb, but it’s good for us sales pros. The essence of our job is to articulate the complex in simple, understandable, implementable terms. Supposedly, that’s our gift. That’s our value to the business world. We need to sift through, combine, homogenize and simplify.
We need to internalize (paradoxically) the following nugget/bullet from Oliver Wendall Holmes: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
Got it? Get it? Good!
- Lurk & Learn
- Objective: Continuously enhance personal skills, knowledge and understanding
- Tools: RSS reader, Google Alerts, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, FaceBook
- Actions: Read, read, read, watch, watch, watch, listen, listen, listen, absorb, absorb, absorb, think, think, think about it
- Harvest, Share & Attract
- Objective: Demonstrate personal & organizational expertise to gain attention of prospects and customers
- Tools: Video Camera, Blogs, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, FaceBook
- Actively comment in others’ blogs and groups
- Record personal knowledge (all of it!) in an electronic format (text, image, audio, video) then edit and publish (all of it!)
- Continuously record knowledge of colleagues, subject matter experts, customers, etc., then edit and publish
- Collaborate & Create
- Objective: Generate new knowledge that when applied, can make and/or save money for customers
- Tools: Blogs, wikis, groups, web conferences, good old face-to-face meetings
- Set project objectives
- Identify collaborators
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Develop action plan and time-line
- Measure results
The three main facets, provide a solid conceptual foundation for creating and developing your E-Rep. Over time as familiarity and comfort level increases, additional objectives, tools and actions will come into play. For now, get busy!
Doesn’t it always seem like it takes more time to lose an opportunity than it does to win one? Well, based on a whole lot of empirical data I’ve collected over the years that instinct is true. In company after company, industry after industry, 2.1 seems to be the ratio.
That doesn’t necessarily mean twice as much time is invested in the losing efforts. It does, however, mean that loser opportunities are cluttering up the funnel, getting in the way and wastefully burning up sales rep time, attention and brain cycles.
If you’re going to lose, lose quickly!
Try this Opportunity Assessment tool using these steps: (Right click the link and “save target as” or “save link as”)
- Customize the questions to better reflect your industry (If you wind up with more or less than 35 questions, you’ll need to change the formula in cell E59.)
- For the next 90-120 days, complete the Opportunity Assessment for every proposal you deliver
- Keep track of the scores and the number of winners and losers
At this point, you’ll have a pretty good feel for the score that will break the “win barrier.” Next start completing the assessment for every opportunity as it exits each stage of your sales process. Over time you’ll gain a very clear understanding of what will win and what will lose. You’ll have a hard-nosed, empirical basis for making the “fish or cut bait” decisions.
Resist the temptation to reject an opportunity based solely on its score! Use the data as a guideline for asking the tough questions. It’s still critical to apply the business judgment of the sales rep and sometimes pursue a low odds deal for strategic reasons.
The assessment is also an excellent tool when used as a checklist. Think like the guy in charge of a rocket launch. When putting together your action plan to pursue an opportunity, make sure you address each item.
Use the tool. Collect the data. You’ll dump the turkeys faster, have more time to chase the winners and jack up your revenue growth rate.
Who am I to argue with General Dwight D. Eisenhower? He made the comment in this post’s title regarding the Normandy invasion. He was reflecting upon how little the actual battle resembled the D-Day plan; a plan that resulted from a truly stupendous effort on the part of the Allies.
What makes the quotation profound is the fact that one of history’s great leaders, while he insisted on painfully detailed, thoroughly debated, minutely documented plans, expected things to not go according to plan. In fact, he believed that a written plan in and of itself was almost superfluous. The real value, he felt, came from the rigorous, vigorous discussion of ideas, challenging of assumptions and exploration of alternatives among the smartest, hardest-nosed people he could find.
It was the General’s way of managing surprises and laying the foundation for creativity under fire. By forcing a disciplined planning process, he forced habitual, critical thinking, and over time created a team that could anticipate and successfully react to a vast array of complex situations.
Sales leaders take heed! Insist that your reps develop a written plan for every major sales campaign and every key account. Insist that they formally present those plans to peers, support personnel, you and your boss. Insist that all involved search for flaws and try to punch holes in the logic. Insist that revised plans are developed and reviewed. It’s hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s brutal on egos. AND, it prepares reps to deal with whatever the customer or the competition can dish out. It builds consistent winners.
Finally and most importantly, it will create an exceptionally powerful habit within each member of the team. If Ike were a sales rep, he’d summarize that habit as, “Plan every sales call! No exceptions!”
A case for aggressively sharing every ounce of knowledge you have.
“I’m always asked the question, should sales people be writing blogs? My answer is, ‘It depends—but probably not.’” Dave Brock in What Should Salespeople Be Doing With Social Media
Let me first state and be perfectly clear that I really respect Dave Brock’s opinions. I read every post at his Partners in EXCELLENCE blog. He’s in the blogroll here. (Scroll down the right column and see for yourself.) I recommend reading his writings on a regular basis to my customers, colleagues and prospects. I do so because he has good ideas and makes you think. That said…
Dave, you’re wrong, wrong, WRONG on this one.
Decision makers and key influencers at strategically important customers don’t have enough time to meet, talk and adequately understand all you have to offer. Even if they want to, they don’t have enough time. The strategy of face-to-face sales calls supplemented by e-mail and phone contact, while necessary, is not sufficient. A blog communicates your message 24 X 7 X 365. Audio and video add punch to your message. Key contacts will read/watch your blog posts in snippets, here and there, in fits and starts, at weird times of the day/night/week/ month, but they will read/watch! Especially if you prompt them with the occasional “thought this would be of interest” e-mails with a link to your relevant content. (Or maybe you’d prefer they read/watched the blog posts of your competitors?)
A side bonus is that prospects you haven’t even identified yet are reading/watching your content as well. In other words, a bunch of potential future customers are doing all the work to develop a relationship with you! How cool is that?
Another perspective from Dave: “I also don’t believe most sales people are trained to be able to do this as effectively as others in the organization.” Well, he’s right, but so what? How many inadequately trained sales reps are making face-to-face calls every day? Certainly it’s not ideal, but pragmatic necessity dictates that on the job training – actually making sales calls – is far and away the number one method. The identical pragmatic necessity dictates that sales reps learn how to deploy their personal E-Reps, anchored by their personal blog, the same way.
The sales generating power of the E-Rep is way too compelling to ignore. No, we’re not ready. Not even close. Those who wait till they’re ready though, will get their clocks cleaned by those who dive in.
What do you think? Who’s right on this one? Me or Dave or bit of us both?
Conventional wisdom holds that continuous sales training is essential. I wonder why there isn’t more of it going on…
Ask any sales manager about the need for continuous sales training and you instantly get agreement that it is important. So why isn’t there more of it going on?
The fact is, most money spent on sales training is wasted. Typically, it annoys most reps, bores many and is totally forgotten within 30 days.
This is true due to three missing links:
- Credibility – “Who is this sales seminar leader and why on earth should I follow his/her advice?”
- Relevance – “Maybe this stuff works in the X industry, but I don’t see how it applies here.”
- Reinforcement – “I’ll implement these new ideas just as soon as I have the time.” (…yeah, right…)
You can get around these issues and reap bigger payback from your training budget with a Sales Excellence Council. Put the best of your best reps on it. (i.e., those who are most respected by the rest of the team) That alone takes care of missing links one and two.
Next, provide proof that you’re serious about mining the brains of these folks for the benefit of all your reps. In other words, provide funding for and relentlessly conduct monthly 1/2 day “SEC” meetings. Their objective is to identify, clarify and communicate sales best practices – the tactical actions that produce the fastest, most tangible results for your business.
At the risk of being repetitive …the mission of your Sales Excellence Council is to:
- Identify the best sales practices of your best reps
- Clarify – write them down in specific detail
- Communicate – make sure ALL your reps know how to replicate the power of each best practice
Many firms find it helpful to use an outside facilitator to start and keep the ball rolling. This person would need all the classic qualifications of a sales trainer PLUS expertise in knowledge management and process engineering.
I’ll conclude by stating the obvious… Your best reps will always be the best source of sales tactics and strategies that work. Don’t waste time and money on standardized sales training. Tap into the gold mine you already have on the payroll. Fund it. Plan it. Do it.