Years ago, Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling and Rethinking the Sales Force published a paper that showed how the sales forces of three well known companies were failing to meet sales expectations of each company’s newly launched products.
These products were not just new. They were ground breaking technologies that the market would have been excited to have.
Rackham’s consulting and training company was involved in training each of the salesforces. When sales did not meet early expectations his clients asked him to figure out what was going wrong.
Rackham is known best for his research based book SPIN Selling. He researched 35,000 sales calls and used that to create the sales method SPIN. In that research he and his team found a positive correlation between the number of questions asked and the success of the sales call. The more questions asked the more likely the call succeeded.
They also found that product features were negatively correlated with call success. In calls that failed salespeople described more than twice as many features of products and services they were selling as they did during the calls that succeeded.
For his three clients that were experiencing troubling results with their new products he and his team went on sales calls and observed the sellers in action. Since the products were complex and required more questions to understand the complexity of the customer’s needs, they all expected to hear more questions being asked.
They discovered something entirely different.
Sellers were asking 40% fewer questions in selling these new products. The average length of the sales calls were even longer than the length of sales calls for other products. What were sellers doing on these calls? Spending a lot more time describing features. Oops.
In a non research world we’d call that data dumping, showing up and throwing up, or throw it on the wall to see what sticks. Not exactly model behavior for fundamentally good selling.
This paper was published in the early 1990s. Mistakes like this still happen today. For example, while many of the exciting new technologies under the sales 2.0 era are shaking up sales effectiveness many of the products are sold by way of doing a ‘demo’. A demo is often done over the web without either party traveling. Demos focus on showing how products work.
One company with a pretty cool technology did a demo to me after I stopped by its booth at the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco. The sales rep didn’t know what I did for a living. She hadn’t prepared any questions for the call. I gave her a bit of a hard time. The ultimate insult would be for me to buy the technology and reinforce her weak selling behavior.
In another demo example a client of mine was paying a hefty finders type fee to its channel partners in Asia to set up demos of its software product. Unfortunately my client’s sales and technical staff often showed up ready to do the demo and discovered that key people weren’t invited, or just as bad no clear reason for doing the demo was defined. In these situations the demo is a wasted, expensive selling resource. On the other hand, when the right people attend the demo and a call to action is identified and agreed to upfront demos can be a key catalyst in moving sales forward.
There are a number of reasons why this stuff still happens. Companies are excited about their new products and they forget that the customer still has to express a need for them. Let’s hope that the new products have been through a research process that showed there really is a need for them.
When salespeople are trained in a new product they are mostly trained in features and functions. They learn how it’s different from what it’s replacing. They learn how to price it. Usually the section on learning how to uncover customers’ needs get footnote attention. I don’t know if the Veeps of Sales are assuming “Of course we’ve still got to ask questions and do discovery duh!” Their assumption is a sign of poor leadership.
On your next sales call leave the product in the car, or do the equivalent online – leave the demo in the demo file. Ask some Stage 1 questions. Find out who the PFA could be. Seek an Advocate who has tremendous energy for change and is willing to take responsibility for it. Ask some Stage 2 questions to see if the customer has explored the financial impact of the problem or situation. And by all means do at least a little research to know business the customer is in.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The highlight of the trip was something I wasn’t expecting.
The first stop was Mumbai, India. It was tempting for me to treat the Mumbai segment as a warm up to the excitement and intrigue of Shanghai and the exoticness of Singapore. It was the beginning of the monsoon season and western India summer heat can easily top 100 degrees.
I got a lot of advice before leaving. “It’s not safe to walk around the city”, one person told me. Mumbai was the site of the 2008 terrorist attack that killed nearly 200 people so I took this advice seriously. “Don’t drink any water from any source”, another person said. A client from another company told me to pack a suitcase of Power Bars. “Get vaccines for hepatitis A (liver inflammation caused by ingesting bad food or drink) and B (same caused by the transfer of bodily fluids)”, someone else told me. Whatever I do, said one more, take plenty of Immodium for diarrhea.
The interesting thing that I didn’t realize until after my visit was that no one said to be sure to take notice of the spirit of the Indian people.
Mumbai didn’t start well. I arrived in Newark to find an email saying my direct flight was cancelled. I would have to taxi to La Guardia (90 minutes in traffic, $130) to catch a new flight. Instead of direct to Mumbai we first flew to Paris (8 hours), then to New Delhi (9 hours). It was now midnight the next day for me. We left Delhi but stopped 45 minutes later in Indore for no reason. I was told this by the guy next to me in business class, an Air India pilot who said the pilot’s strike now in its second month was causing much havoc. We left Indore at 1:15 AM and landed in Mumbai at 2am. I had been traveling for 31 hours. My meeting would begin at 800 sharp.
Mumbai is a city of contrasts. My 5 star Hyatt had exceptional service and amenities but the scene outside my conference room window was different. Security guards at the hotel entrance were busy checking the underside of all cars for bombs; my hotel was all glass and steel and marble, yet across the street was a row of old shack type structures, maybe businesses, with dirt sidewalks; I saw a cow feasting on a pile of roadside garbage the size of half a basketball court, yet inside I feasted on a phenomenal buffet of fish and vegetables and spices and herbs that made my taste buds do the tango; I saw feral dogs wandering the streets desperately in search of a meal. I started every day by piling on my plate large slices of deeply orange alphonso mangos that were perfectly in season.
The pleasant young man serving breakfast was deeply interested in where I was from. He stayed around my table for at least five minutes. He could picture New York and California but Ohio and the Great Lakes were unclear.
At lunch a woman escorted me from the conference room to the dining area, something completely unnecessary but refreshingly memorable. I said I needed to use the toilet (it’s not a bathroom) and as she walked me to the hallway she slipped and went crashing down, but somehow I grabbed her and prevented her fall. She was embarrassed, but each day her good morning smile had a touch of personal meaning.
One evening we taxied into the city to the Gateway of India, an 85 foot high arch built as a welcoming place for dignitaries traveling by sea. Then we went to the famous Café Leopold, a chic place that was the first target of the terrorist attack in 2008. The streets were overcrowded with taxis, tuk-tuks (3-wheeled taxis), motorbikes, trucks, trash, debris, people, all converging like traffic leaving a state fair parking lot after a Jason Aldean concert. At the restaurant, we immediately were handled by several staff getting us to our tables, getting our beers and bringing appetizers. We seldom waited longer than you’d expect for anything.
After dinner, around 11 o’clock, we took another adventuresome ride in tuk-tuks to the famous Juhu beach where many Bollywood celebrities live. There was a warm breeze coming in off of the Arabian Sea and there were people everywhere. My hosts were thrilled when I asked if Anil Kapoor had a place here.
Unlike in too many parts of Europe, in Mumbai this American felt welcomed everywhere I went.
My flight to Shanghai was scheduled for 1:30AM so we returned to the hotel. By the end of the Mumbai leg I was exhausted in a completely satisfying way. The Indian sales team was by far the most pleasant, upbeat and easy going group I worked with. They were rightfully proud of their city and country took nothing for granted. I can’t wait to go back.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Do you know your number?
I’m not talking about your cholesterol level (I did have mine checked recently) or the amount of money you’ll need when you retire.
If retirement is too far off or too painful to think about let me shock you into a reality closer to home – how big your sales funnel has to be to achieve your quota next year. Let’s call this ‘your number’.
Your number is key to your sales success for a simple reason – you don’t have a 100% win rate. Unless your sales funnel is big enough – your number – you’re not likely to hit quota next year.
Building funnel health for 2012 is pretty much over. You need to turn your funnel health building to 2013. If you haven’t aggressively begun doing that already you could be in for an unpleasant surprise next year as you slowly discover the naked truth of your skinny, anemic funnel.
Let’s use an example. If you’ve got a million dollar quota and you have a sales funnel full of a million dollars of opportunities you would need to win 100% of those opportunities to hit quota. A better way to ensure success is to have a sales funnel with more than a million dollars of opportunities on it. But how much more do you need?
How much you need, aka your number, depends on your win rate for an average sized sale. In addition to knowing your number you’ve got to know your win rate.
If you have a 50% win rate for an average sized sale your funnel needs to be twice as large as your quota. A million dollar quota should have two million dollars of opportunities on it.
If you have a 33% win rate for an average sized sale your funnel needs to be three times as large as your quota. A million dollar quota should have three million dollars of opportunities on it.
If you have a 25% win rate for an average sized sale your funnel needs to be four times as large as your quota. A million dollar quota should have four million dollars of opportunities on it.
There’s an important safety tip to this strategy. It’s not about ‘filling your funnel’. It’s about TVR – Total Viable Revenue. A sales opportunity on your funnel can be counted toward funnel value (TVR) only if that opportunity has reached ‘commit funding’ stage.
You can’t fool your number. The only way you’ll consistently hit quota with a funnel that is smaller than it needs to be is if your win rate for the average sized sale goes up. Of course that can happen, but a dramatic increase overnight is not something you should bet the farm on.
Keep in mind that I’m using quota to make the point that on day one of your new fiscal year your number is a function of quota. But as you win sales throughout the year your number is a function of how much sales you have left to win to hit your quota. Your number goes down as you win sales. For example, in June if you’re halfway toward hitting a million dollar quota your number is a function of the $500,000 you have left to win.
Here are a few things you should consider doing now:
One, determine your number. Start with win rate. Then divide the number 1 by the percent win rate to get a number we’ll call the funnel factor. For example, a 25% win rate would get you a factor of four and a 50% win rate gets you a factor of two. Finally, multiply the remaining sales you have to close by your funnel factor. That’s your number.
Two, commit time to aggressive prospecting. It’s easy to neglect this part of selling because you don’t feel the effect of the neglect until it’s too late in the year when you discover that you don’t have anything on your funnel. By then you can’t do anything about it. It’s like maintaining your car’s good condition with regular oil changes and more to prevent it from breaking down on the side of the road later. Book prospecting time on your calendar for the next 30 days right now.
Three, build a habit of inspecting your funnel every 30 days. You sales funnel is changing all the time as you find and qualify and win and lose sales. Your funnel value is also changing. It’s a leading indicator that puts you in the driver’s seat for proactively running your territory.
The value of managing to this strategy is that you avoid surprises of having a funnel that isn’t big enough to let your win rate do its job. You stay on the offensive. You give yourself time to take corrective action if necessary.
So don’t wait. Go find your number. And while you’re at it get your cholesterol checked.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Inspired by a recent deal strategy session with a client of mine and his sales director I wanted to give you three reasons to role play before your next sales call.
Reason #1 – Mulligans are usually better.
If you’re a golfer you can relate to this. After you miss a surely makeable putt (and after you curse a few times) you throw another ball down and strike it right in the heart of the cup! Or after you block slice one out of bounds you re tee another ball and split the fairway. When you make a sales call the second time, or third time – by role playing – for sure you will do something better on each subsequent ‘call’ because you’ll learn from the previous one. By the time you make the actual sales call you’re ready to nail it. If you doubt this think of the last sales call you made where you got to the car and said “I wish I would have…” There’s always something else, something more we wish we would have said or asked or done. So role play and get your second chance the first time.
Reason #2 – You build confidence and confidence helps your customer believe you.
By role playing you gain confidence in what you want to say and ask and how to do that. Then when you’re ‘live’ on the call you’re saying it exactly as you have rehearsed it and your confidence will come through.
Reason #3 – Doing doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes perfect. Role playing is practice. Doing is not.
When you sell, you do. Doing is not practicing. So don’t mislead yourself into thinking that all the doing you do every day when you’re doing what you do when you’re selling is automatically making you a better seller. Do you know which group of motorcycle riders has the highest rate of accidents? The ones that have had their licenses for a long time and have not committed to annual training courses. They get lazy, they take risks, they stop anticipating, they crash their motorcycles.
Don’t crash your motorcycle. Role play.
MarkRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I love Chipotle. They’ve got a great story. Their food is tasty. And most important they make it easy for me to buy from them.
Several years ago my wife and I alternated between taking our kids to Chipotle and another mexican fast casual place in our hometown. This other place was also ‘corporate’ – at the time, like Chipotle, it was either owned by a big parent company or had big parent investors (neither one is owned by a big parent company today).
However, more times than I care to describe the other joint failed to get our food right. I think the main reason had to do with simplicity of operations and the focus of the entire strategy – the place that kept getting my meal wrong wasn’t simple to order from and didn’t have simple operations. Chipotle has both. This sounds so easy and yet it’s so hard to do.
Simplicity is also the key to getting your sales teams to adopt a sales strategy and change how they sell. When your strategy or sales method is simple it’s easier to learn. When it’s easy to learn it’s easier to use. When it’s easy to use you’re more likely to use it. When you use the new sales method repeatedly you’re more likely to get good at it.
A simple sales method is also easier to coach to. Think of it as having fewer moving parts and therefore fewer ways to screw it up. Sales managers can more easily stay on message and focus when it’s all simple.
So what does a simple sales method look like? A simple sales method could be as straightforward as BANT – budget, authority, need, timing. That’s brilliant isn’t it? My friend Brian Dietmeyer has a simple, powerful negotiation method. No one has a monopoly on simple but there are some methods that take the prize for being downright over engineered and overly complex. They claim that a complex sale needs a complex sales process. I disagree.
Customers tell us that our BuyCycle Funnel is simple. The Commit Funding stage is the pivotal stage where the PFA chooses to no longer live with the problem. Whether or not the PFA has committed to that is simple yet so powerful. If they’ve Committed Funding your strategy should focus on persuading the customer to buy your solution. If they haven’t Committed Funding your strategy should focus on finding a financially compelling case for the problem.
Another simple context is for running meetings. What’s the purpose of this meeting? What outcomes are we focused on getting? What’s the agenda? Who’s keeping us on task? Who’s keeping us on time? Ok, let’s go!
Chipotle has made it simple to eat well and get through lunch in a reasonable time. You pick the style (burrito? salad? bowl?), then rice or not, then beans or not, then you pick the filling, then salsa, then toppings. AND, in case you’re delirious from the smells or distracted by that lousy meeting you escaped from before lunch they remind you what to do at each step.
VPs of Sales or CEOs, Presidents, or others considering how to get your sales organization to adopt change and improve sales performance: Keep it simple. Stay on message. Don’t let up.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
The fastest way to higher sales productivity is remarkably simple. Follow the money trail.
Money is the underlying reason that executives decide to buy your products or services or not. The faster you become proficient at following the money trail the more productive you or your sales people will be.
Let me give you an example. This past April eleven college conference commissioners from the Football Bowl Subdivision met at a fancy spot in Florida (no surprise) to decide to either keep the current BCS football playoff format or go to a four game playoff instead. Schools attending this conference included Notre Dame, Big Ten schools, and other schools that participate in the BCS.
What do you think drove the decision? Money. In this case, a lot of money.
It’s reported that the current playoff system generates about $125 million from ESPN and ABC. Estimates of the bonanza from a four team playoff system are between $600 million and $1.5 billion.
In other words, this meeting lasted about 15 minutes which meant the athletic directors had a lot more time to play golf.
I tell my clients that they have to find out if the problem or opportunity that the customer has is financially compelling enough for the customer to commit money to change.
For example, if a prospect of mine tells me he wants to grow by $5M next year and is considering hiring me and my system to get there I ultimately need to know, is the desire to grow financially compelling enough to hire me or anyone for that matter? If the goal is a wish list kind of goal, but not life or death to his business, it’s not really financially compelling. If there’s a cost to his not getting there however, and that cost is unacceptable, then it’s likely to be financially compelling.
When the person with financial authority (the PFA) for this purchase decides that the problem is so financially compelling that he or she authorizes a purchase or change in products or services to fix the problem that’s called committing funding. It’s the most pivotal decision in the customer’s buying process.
I tell my clients they have to ask the right questions to find out if it’s financially compelling enough to commit funding. What’s the consequence of not reaching the goal? How big a deal is that right now? What does it prevent from happening? Does the consequence affect the right people – those that could authorize a change? One of my clients has been upfront with me regarding the consequence – he doesn’t get his bonus if he misses the goal. He’s hired me to make sure he hits the goal, because he likes his money.
I tell my clients they have to ask these questions to the right people. If I ask my client’s manager of quality what’s the consequence of missing the goal and he says it’s important but not life or death to him personally, and I don’t ask the guy who hired me the same question, I could end up walking from the opportunity and miss a sale. Another client of mine, the CEO, made it clear he wants the company to double in sales in 6-7 years. He’s told me this goal is financially compelling enough for the business to hire me to help them reach it.
When my clients get good at following the money trail they learn to disqualify better. They aren’t so eager for every opportunity to become a sale. And they’re learning to have the courage to walk away. They save an enormous amount of time by not chasing bad deals. Add up all the ‘going nowhere’ deals that reps stop chasing and shift that selling attention to deals that have been qualified and you’ve got real dollar savings and higher productivity.
Follow the money trail and you’ll create your own trail of depositing checks at your bank.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
When does experience become a liability in selling?
If you watched the recent Ryder Cup matches you might be asking questions about experience. The ‘experienced’ players – Mickleson, Woods, Stricker, and Furyk combined for a total of 4 points won and 10 points lost. Take out Mickelson’s performance with youngster Keegan Bradley and the remaining three veterans (two were captain’s picks) won 1 point and lost 9 points. Ouch.
If you’re a sales manager building a team, or if you’ve ever found yourself having to complete a team and considered recruiting people you know very well what’s the best way to make the right decision?
For golf fans in the US thinking of this topic is not just a therapy session to recover from the fresh wound of the Ryder Cup outcome. Soon, President’s Cup captain Fred Couples will be making his captain’s picks for the 2013 squad that will compete in Dublin, Ohio on Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village course. Couples is recently quoted as saying he would love to have Jim Furyk on the team.
If you were Couples would you feel the same?
Is this a case of a buddy gone blind or a buddy who knows his buddy better than we do?
You’d have to consider experience right? Let’s take a closer look at this word ‘experience’.
Is the experience of our politicians working in our favor? If you’re a West Virginian you might say yes as Robert Byrd carried truck loads of cash back to your state for 47 years. On the other side of the aisle sits another long experienced senator, Orin Hatch. He’s made the Senate his summer home for 36 years.
Are you an ‘experienced’ worker looking for work and too often considered ‘over qualified’ for the job?
If you’re a school teacher in the Chicago public system and you’re laid off your ‘experience’ means you’ll get called first when the school needs to rehire teachers.
Is experience the reason the US women’s national soccer team has won the gold medal at the past three Olympics? In 2012 the roster was made up of 61% of players who played on the 2008 gold medal team. In 2008 the team was made up of 50% of players who had played on the 2004 gold medal team. The current team has seven players who are age 30 or older, and two of those have a combined 28 years of national team tenure.
Experience defined means comprising knowledge of or skill of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event. Therefore doesn’t it suggest that experience is useful only when the person is placed in the event or circumstance identical or very close to the event where experience was gained?
Would you put more weight on Furyk’s overall career or recent performances?
He has won 16 PGA events including some big game trophies like the US Open, The Memorial, The Canadian Open, the Western Open, and the Tour Championship in 2010. These events are played on the toughest tracks in the US – Cog Hill, Muirfield Village, Olympia Fields, and Eastlake. He’s had some bigtime wins in past Ryder Cups. In the 1997 Ryder Cup he beat a Goliath Nick Faldo in the Sunday singles (Europe won). He beat Garcia in the singles in 1999 (US famous comeback). He beat Howell in singles in 2004 (Europe killed US). In 2006 he lost (Europe again killed US) and in 2008 he sat out the singles matches (US won).
His record in non Ryder Cup match play kind of play is not impressive. And his sudden death playoff record is 3-8 which looks worse than it is. It means he won 3 tournaments out of the 11 he tied for first.
Would you put more weight on his recent performances and specifically the Ryder Cup? At Medinah while he didn’t fare as badly as Steve Stricker or Tiger (combined winning zero points and losing 7 points), he didn’t impress either, winning just one point. The match he lost to McIroy and McDowell was close. Perhaps it was the points he lost that’s causing the bounty. He missed makeable par putts on the last two holes of Sunday’s singles match to lose. This summer he blew his lead in the World Series of Golf in Akron, making a 6 on the final hole. Perhaps not as bad as when my good friend Kenny Perry collapsed on 17 and 18 to lose the Masters in 2009. I recall his comment as much as I recall the pain of watching him on those holes – “If the worst thing that ever happens to me is coming in second at the Masters then I’ve lived a pretty good life.”
I recall one manager building a sales team saying that hiring the people who had worked for him at other companies was like ‘devil you know’ instead of new hires being ‘the devil you don’t know’.
Like a lot of management decisions they never get second guessed when the outcome is positive. You look like a genius. But when the outcome is bad you’d better be able to live with the heat.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Recently I spent two days with a client in Chicago kicking off the first round of strategic account management (SAM) reviews. If you regularly review strategic accounts here are 5 tips that could help you regain or refocus your team’s attention on the things that really matter.
Tip 1: A strategic account (SAM) review should be unlike any other conversation your team has.
One of the common mistakes I see committed during SAMs is the team discussing the same topics and information that are already discussed daily as part of ongoing communication and working of the account. A SAM approach will quickly lose value and credibility if this is done.
Instead, SAM reviews should be framed by a longer horizon such as 2-3 quarters out. The team should be talking about longer term issues like developing or nurturing relationships with key stakeholders, or making investments to penetrate new fields of play.
Tip 2: SAM reviews should force all team members to participate. SAM is not about one person’s role in the company but rather about a team of people collaborating. One of the engineers at our meeting spoke up about a relationship he uniquely has with an engineer at one account. We decided that he could gain some valuable intelligence by talking with this stakeholder. Also, since many of my client’s strategic accounts are global we made sure that staff from Europe and America were involved in the reviews.
Tip 3: You get out of a SAM review what you put into it. All attendees of the SAM reviews have to come prepared for the review before hand. This means studying the account plan and bringing questions and ideas that the team can consider. It’s like voting during an election – if you think your vote doesn’t count because you assume everyone else will vote that’s the wrong thinking.
Tip 4: Assign roles to the process. You can’t just start going through your SAM review and expect it stay on point and on time. Assign a moderator to keep the conversation on point. Assign a time keeper to keep it from going too long. Assign a scribe to capture the key points, goals and action.
Tip 5: Focus on how to grow funnel value and sales! It’s tempting to get lost in words like maintain, protect, and manage the account with strategic accounts. But if your team isn’t focused on strategies that grow sales, then your investment in the account will get more and more expensive with each passing year. The existing business could also be more at risk than you realize.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
There’s one sales topic that is guaranteed to get attention – relationships. Sales people want to know how to develop them with the right stakeholders, how to get more good relationships, and how to earn the right to have the people they’re selling to fight for the seller’s solution. Who would argue that relationships aren’t vital to making sales?
Unless you work for the Greek government and have been on an extended vacation (sorry for being redundant) you’ve come across the relationship debate sparked by the book The Challenger Sale. At least they’re getting attention for the right reasons, not something sensational like a trailer for a movie called Taken 2. (Haven’t seen it but I keep asking myself didn’t that girl learn a damn thing the first time around?)
Relationships are a fundamental part of selling, as basic as problem solving and features-benefits. Ask any salesperson about a sale in progress and he or she will likely respond about relationships. “I’ve got a good relationship with so and so stakeholder”, she’ll say, or “We don’t have any relationships with key people,” he says. Salespeople who win will claim it was their special relationship that sealed the deal. Salespeople who lose will say they got flanked by a low priced competitor. Hmmm.
And yet in my sales seminars and coaching with clients I often tell them they have the wrong idea about relationships.
I’m not necessarily siding with Challenger which took a direct shot and did a lot of damage to the ‘relationship sales’ approach. The main overlooked point is that there are too many assumptions made about relationships.
For one, there’s an assumption that the right relationship will either get you the sale or dramatically favor you. This isn’t the case as often as it is assumed. The problem is the salesperson doesn’t dig deep enough into the personal motivations and risk factors of the people they’re counting on for support. Those people aren’t likely to be upfront either if they cannot be the champion the seller is expecting them to be. They’re somewhat embarrassed to admit it because it strains ‘the relationship’.
Further, if ‘the relationship’ is with someone with no horsepower to help you win, it’s not worth that much for this sale. The relationship is overrated. Again, sometimes I see salespeople who protect the relationship even when it means the sale is in jeopardy.
Then, there are assumptions about the underlying motivation that defines the relationship. For example, a salesperson might claim that since he’s known a stakeholder for 30 years he knows how this guy is going to decide. I heard this recently in a coaching session with a client. But when challenged to prove how the seller knows how the stakeholder will decide there was no basis for it like a recent conversation where the stakeholder told the seller “dude, I’ve got your back – you’re going to get the sale!”
I think that in sales as it is in life sometimes people are more comfortable talking around the issues in the spirit of not hurting the relationship. If a salesperson asks “Are you the PFA with final authority?”, this is a bold question that not only sparks an answer but also can risk more than just this sale.
Often salespeople confuse relationship with situational motivation. Relationship describes an overall position the seller has with the stakeholder that isn’t purely tied to the buying process.
Situational motivation describes the stakeholder’s motivation relative to this specific sale. The stakeholder has three possible options. One, she wants the seller’s solution to win and will do whatever she can to make that happen. These are your Advocates. Two, she doesn’t want the seller’s solution to win, and she’ll be passive or do whatever it takes to make that happen. And three, she doesn’t care one way or the other.
Her situational motivation determines what she does. If she’s for change maybe it’s because she sees change as a ticket to a promotion or leadership or maintaining control or beating someone in the office. If she sees your solution as the right kind of change she’s likely to lobby for you. She is your Advocate. The mistake salespeople often make is they generalize what the motivations might be.
Sellers who make Advocates our of relationships are working the process the right way.
I made a sale in 2009 to the North American business of a large global healthcare company. The VP of Sales, I’ll call Jane, was a major reason I won the sale. She really wanted my solution. Months after we had implemented my company’s sales methodology she told her counterpart in Germany that he should consider it for his team. Soon I was in Germany training his entire European sales team. With more help from these two stakeholders I went on to make a sale in the company’s Asia division later.
I know I have a good relationship with Jane. She’s on my speed dial whenever a new prospect asks to talk to a reference. But that doesn’t mean she would step up for me for another sale within her company. It all depends on her situation at the time.
It helps you set better strategy if you don’t make assumptions about the relationships you have with key stakeholders. It’s not a bad idea to validate and test those relationships from time to time too before it really counts.
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Managers – do you want to be a better coach to your salespeople? Start diving for pearls.
For thousands of years, the pearl has been a highly sought after gem. Before the 20th century the only way to get pearls was to skim the ocean floor and gather them by hand one at a time. These divers – in some countries mostly women – would descend to depths of 40 meters or more to search for the prize. Divers risked death from several sources including blacking out due to a lack of oxygen, getting attacked by hostile creatures, or drowning from tide changes. I can’t imagine what their life insurance premiums were like. ..
When I think of why these women and men risked their lives performing such a risky profession, I can’t believe they were motivated only by economics, even though it is how they made their living. It’s likely they were motivated by pride, or recognition, or community status, or carrying on a family tradition.
What’s that got to do with managing your salespeople? They are diving for pearls. If you want to be a high impact coach, find out what those pearls are and help your people scoop them up.
Knowing what motivates your salespeople is job one. It’s easy to assume it’s all about money, since part of the income of most sellers is based on how much stuff they sell. If you dig deeper you will uncover more complex motivations. One seller told me he was in sales to earn more money than his father as a way to exceed his father’s expectations of the son. Another seller told me that he wanted to succeed in sales to get a promotion to marketing – a position that he associated with higher status. I challenged him on the status thing but that shouldn’t matter to him. With motivation it’s his opinion that counts.
So how do you learn their motivations and help them get what they want? Take a cue from Steve Chandler, an authority on the topic. Steve says coaching isn’t advising or telling. It’s not managing. It’s not bullying people to get what you want. It’s asking questions in a nonjudgmental way. It’s caring. Steve suggests the following:
- Seek first to understand. Have you ever advised a friend or family member to stop a behavior that is destructive, like smoking? I’m sure they didn’t say “Smoking isn’t really bad for me.” Then why do some people still smoke even when they know that the habit could kill them? I coached a veteran rep recently about the bad year he was having. Last year wasn’t that good either. The first thing I asked him was how he felt about his numbers being so low. I really wanted to know if he was feeling any pain. Honestly, I’m not sure he is. I can tell him how to get his sales funnel back in good shape, but I can’t make the calls for him or do his prospecting.
- Remove limitations. Usually, low or plateau type performance in a salesperson is due to self-limiting thoughts. If a salesperson thinks she’ll never hit quota until her company has new products, or until she is given ‘better’ accounts to call on, help her see that she’s created these barriers herself and they’re preventing her from getting what she wants.
- Suggest possibilities. The goal here is to get your salesperson to see what is possible. There’s no judgment, no committing to plans, no tactics to back him into a corner and deliver some knockout punch. This is an inspiring step in the process.
- Gain agreements. Steve says that people can’t be managed but you can help them manage what they agree to. The thing they have to agree to first is being coached. You can’t make them want your help. If my veteran rep client tells me he really wants to hit quota again, I’ll remind him of that in later coaching sessions. If he agrees to prospect in new accounts I’ll call him out if he’s not honoring that commitment. I’ll remind him of the consequences he told me he would have if quota is missed.
Some of your people don’t want your coaching now. You’ll watch them struggle and feel helpless. You might take offense to getting shut down all the time. It’s hard to set aside your own notions of what’s important or valued or reasonable or logical. But there is no greater accomplishment for you than to help someone tap into his or her potential.
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