I was astounded to read an article from a very enthusiastic sales person. He talked about the 354 conversations with C-Level executives he had in one week. The article captivated and horrified me at the same time.
By now, you know I’m a numbers guy. So I started running the numbers. I thought, “Hmm, the typical work week is 40 hours…….. well, actually no, everyone works more than that…….” You can see where I’m going.
I don’t know what the typical work week is, but let’s look at this data across 3 possible workweeks:
For a 40 hour workweek, to have 354 conversations, that’s 6.8 minutes per “conversation.”
Fro a 50 hour workweek, to have 354 conversations, that’s 8.5 minutes per “conversation.”
For a 60 hour workweek, to have 354 conversations, that’s 10.2 minutes per “conversation.”
But let’s think a little further. I don’t know about you, but I can’t spend 100% of my time on conversations. I’m ashamed to admit it, perhaps it’s a sign of my laziness, but maybe 2-3 times a day, I have to wander down the hall to get a cup of coffee or something to drink. Then 2-3 times a day I have to run to the bathroom (Hmmm, wonder if there is linkage?) Then, of course, I take a lunch break–actually, it’s about an hour so I can ride my bike and get some exercise. I have to do some research and preparation for calls. Then after a call I pause to take some notes, set the follow ups, and next steps. Then there’s all the other stuff that takes our time during a typical work week. Things like doing email, spending time with managers reviewing what we are doing, maybe every once in a while a meeting. So a lot of things impact the amount of time we actually have available to have sales conversations.
I keep going back to the number, 354 conversations with C Level executives in a week.
Math tells us these conversation are only a few minutes, but what we don’t know is the quality of those conversations.
What insight did we provide?
How did the customer respond? What questions did they raise? How did we handle the questions?
What discovery were we really able to do? What is the customer trying to achieve? What’s driving their need to do this?
And there are probably a several other things we might want to learn in a conversation.
Then I think of a “conversation”—effective conversations are not just a Ping-Pong game of Question/Answer. In a “conversation” we want to engage a customer, we want to probe and understand. We want to share our ideas and views–that’s part of engaging in a “conversation.”
So I’m still struggling, if I want to engage a customer in an impactful conversation, particularly a C-Level customer, how do I elicit all that stuff in only a few minutes? How much can we accomplish, how engaged is the customer, how do they feel about the conversation? Can we really engage the customer in a meaningful way, in only a few minutes?
Even, if my side of the conversation is pretty well scripted, the customer’s side never is. So they wander, they take time to think. Ideally, they start talking and I want to let them talk, I want to learn as much as I can.
I wonder, how did the customer feel about these conversations? Clearly, the sales person was shooting for a high volume of conversations. But did the customers feel as though they were being engaged? Did they feel they were being listened to and really heard? Or did they feel rushed and pressured?
So I wonder, are we really having impactful, high quality “conversations?”
But the story goes on, the sales person says those 354 conversations produced 42 appointments. Hmmm, about 12% of the people he spoke with agreed to a next step.
OK, I think I understand, clearly the objective of these calls was to set appointments. I get it, that’s a fair objective.
But then I think about it. If we are setting appointments, perhaps what we want to do is get a little more information about the customer, maybe we want to do a little more discovery, so in that we can be well prepared for the meeting (or the sales person making the call can be well prepared for the meeting). So we’ll want to probe a little more, we want to determine interests, motivations, who else should be involved. Maybe even where, when we should meet. And I want to take notes on this so I remember–or can provide them to the sales person so she can be prepared. My mind goes to these crazy things, I start running the math. Say, for those 42 conversations, it takes an additional 5 to 10 minutes–that’s 3-6 hours, but then that means all my other conversations have to be shorter……..
Clearly, this sales person’s goal is to get meetings. But this causes me to think. Is the right goal a meeting, or should it be setting the right meetings? I want to make sure every meeting I go to is a high impact meeting. I worry about the customer’s time being well spent, but, honestly, I’m more worried about my time being well spent. So I don’t want just any meeting, I want high impact meetings. So in such short conversations are we 1) Getting the right meetings with the right people? 2) Collecting/sharing all the information we need to have a high impact meeting? 3) Pre-empting the need for a meeting by taking the phone call to another level?
So this article has me thinking. Is 354 calls which produce 42 meetings good or bad? I really don’t know. I don’t know the objectives of the campaign.
I certainly admire this sales person’s enthusiasm, stamina, and kidney strength. I know even in my very best moments, I could never do what he did—but I’m not sure I would want to do what he did. But again, my goals and the conversations I engage people in may be very different than his.
When you start to do the math, it causes met to wonder.
We are always faced with the quantity/quality quandary. We want to move fast.
But I wonder, what if we slowed down? What if we had only 177 conversations? Would we have learned more? Would we have discovered more, could we have accomplished more, maybe even preempting the need for a meeting, or moving further to have a more substantive meeting.
Too often, in our rush for speed and quantity, we sacrifice quality. We sacrifice the opportunity to learn more, to develop the relationship.
I don’t know the answer, but we always have to look at the right balance of quality and quantity.
Relationships are important in selling. However, I think too many are have the wrong idea about what relationships are.
Too many think relationships are rooted in the pleasant manner of a sales person, the quick smile, great conversation, quick wit, a slap on the back, supported by the occasional lunch or golf game.
But relationships are really different, they are rooted in action. Relationships are not based on what we say, but what we do.
The corollary is that our actions are purposeful and create value. Otherwise they waste time–and we can never build a relationship if we wasted time.
Critical actions we take in building a relationship are understanding what the customer is trying to achieve, personally, professionally, in their business. We build on that base, but bringing the customer ideas, insights to focused on helping them achieve their goals.
We may create constructive tension in discussions about what they might do, and why–we may challenge them, the status quo, provoke new thinking and ideas. We may, at times, disagree–but constructively. Together, we take action in those conversations to collaboratively build value.
Relationships are about moving forward in our actions together–aligned in purpose, intent, direction, and outcomes.
Relationships focus on fulfilling our commitments to each other, demonstrating those in the actions we take.
It takes two to tangle in a relationship. The person with whom we are building the relationship has to want that relationship and will be committed to act. This doesn’t mean we agree, this doesn’t mean they buy from us all the time. But we engage each other thoughtfully, interested in each other and demonstrating that in our actions.
Are you building relationships? Are your actions consistent with the intent in the relationship?
Marketing and sales really need to get their acts together. I’m almost hesitant to click on a download for an eBook or White Paper.
It’s not for the inevitable box: Name, eMail, Company. Actually, that’s a fair trade for an eBook. I ask for the same, so I have no problem with that.
Where I have the problem is the Phone Call or the Follow Up eMail—-“I see you are interested in our solutions for…….”
You know what I mean. You can almost guess the automation systems people are using by the timing of the call or email. Some companies, I can always count on the call within 30 minutes–I guess they are attracted by the CEO title in the box I ‘ve filled in. (I should test them next time by filling in my title as Janitor–on Thursdays, I do run the vacuum around the office. Wonder how quickly they’d call me?)
Some linger a few hours, but never more than a day.
I’m not sure I even object to the call, though I know they can nurture me a little longer, to refine their approach. But in so many systems, it seems nurturing has gotten down to one download.
I think what I really object to is the evident lack of research and poorly executed emails or calls.
Let’s take this week as an example. I downloaded two eBooks from different companies. Within a few hours I got nearly identical emails.
“I saw you were researching…….,” “I noticed your interest…..” They went on to say, “….our solutions help your sales organization improve its results……”
What was interesting, was the eBooks I downloaded had nothing to do with what they outlined in their email. One was an eBook on Sales Management, containing 2 articles featuring me. I just hadn’t seen the final version of the eBook, so I was downloading it to look at the final copy. Of course the sales person didn’t know or guess this, he probably hadn’t looked at the eBook. He also hadn’t looked at my LinkedIn profile or our company website.
The second was virtually the same, just a different eBook in which I was featured.
Those were a little unusual because the materials featured things from me. But I experience the same thing with virtually every eBook or white paper I download. Their marketing automation and scoring systems (I know these companies have them) apparently “score” a sales worthy lead as the first eBook or White Paper download. Additionally, they apparently provide the sales person no intelligence other than the raw lead itself. Takes me back to the days when I used to see piles of “bingo cards” on sales people’s desks. I guess now days we face the same thing, only electronically, so it keeps our desks a little cleaner.
Sales people apparently are either poorly trained, so inundated with leads, under pressure to process leads quickly, that they don’t take the time to do basic research: Who is this person, What is the company, Do they represent a good prospect, Are they worthy of a call? So they make the call, wasting their time, my time, and making me wonder about the company as a vendor…..
I actually don’t fault the sales people. They are doing what their managers tell them and measure them on.
I don’t fault them for the lack of coordination between marketing and sales, for not leveraging marketing automation tools properly to gain the greatest benefit. As much as we would like, as much capability as these tools provide, they are dependent on smart implementations and marketing/sales coordinating with each other.
As I wrap this post up, there are a few sales people that get it right.
I had downloaded an eBook, again one in which I was featured. The sales person got my name in his lead list, but his email was different:
“Dave, I noticed you downloaded the eBook. I thought your article was terrific. I know you probably aren’t looking at our products, but I just wanted to thank you for the article an your support of our company….” Guess how quickly I responded.