There’s a lot of stuff written about what sales managers have to do and their key job responsibilities. Some of the laundry list items include: Make sure the team makes the number, develop the strategy, manage the forecast/pipeline, manage performance, recruit, train, coach, and on and on.
There lots of ways we see managers behaving. Some seem to think they have to be super sales people–the person that comes in to close the deal. Others act primarily as administrators, trapped behind a desk, analyzing numbers, internally focused, never out with their people with customers.
The sales manager’s job can be very confusing. Managers are pulled different directions, various people competing of their time, continually shifting and conflicting priorities.
All this makes the first line sales manager’s job one of the most difficult and challenging jobs I can imagine.
If you wipe away all the extraneous stuff, the only goal of the sales manage is to develop their people.
I can hear some of the outcries now:
“Sales manager are responsible for making the number!” Actually not, unless the sales manager has a personal territory, the only way the number can be achieved is through the people on the team. Consequently, the goal of the sales manager is focused through their teams, developing each person to perform at the highest levels possible.
Development of people encompasses all sorts of things. These include, making sure we have the right people on board, that they are deployed in the territory most effectively. It includes making sure they have the right skills and capabilities. It includes having systems, processes, tools, programs in place to support their teams in performing at the highest levels. It’s making sure they have the right resources and support. It’s measuring performance, identifying problem areas, coaching and helping the sales people overcome them. It’s providing the right incentives. It’s addressing problem performance.
A lot of this sounds like the normal stuff great sales managers do. But the context is different. The context of all of these are rooted in the core goal of developing their people.
Without this, it’s impossible to evaluate the right things to do, to set the right priorities, to deal with the conflicts and paradox that happens in every organization.
As the manager assesses the team and each individual, the context of developing their people to perform at the highest level possible becomes the “True North” for evaluating everything, every one, and how the manager invest her time. Anything that does not contribute directly to the development of her people must be stopped.
Great leaders know this secret. So while the activities great leaders perform may look the same as their poorer performing peers, the real difference is the clarity great leaders have on developing their people.
We all spend a lot of time reporting. Someone higher on the food chain is always looking for data. So we do what we have to do, wondering why are we wasting our time, how are they going to use it (the big brother issue), or if they even look at it.
Fortunately, a lot of the CRM and related tools, if we use them, minimize the amount of time we spend reporting. If we keep them updated, they can provide most anything management would ever want.
Frankly, I think we waste a lot of time on reports and reporting. Mostly, it’s because we are using them wrong or we don’t even know how to look at them. We don’t leverage them for deep understanding and problem solving, we don’t use them for effective decision-making.
We tend to use reports as the end, not as a starting point.
Probably the most “looked at” reports, from a sales management point of view are pipeline and forecast reports. Managers obsess over them. “Do we have the right coverage? Are our pipelines robust enough? Are we going to make the numbers?” Forecasts are similar, “How do I know we will really make the number?”
All of this can be useful–if the base information is accurate or if we “see” the detail, not just the aggregate or summary numbers.
Aha, here’s the first big “Gotcha!”
Virtually everyone I meet, accepts the report and the data as gospel. They look at overall indicators, totals, summaries, but don’t drill into the details.
There could be glaring problems in a pipeline report that if they could reach out of the report would hit a knock out punch–but we are blind to them. Deals still in the pipeline that are way past their expiration date, deals that have target close dates of last year, last quarter, last month, target date/sales cycle anomalies, and so forth.
These are glaring problems shown by the report itself, but because we focus on the aggregate, not the line by line, cell by cell detail, we completely miss them. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at a pipeline report with an executive and they say, “We’re in OK shape…..” Then I ask, “What about this, and this, and this, and ….?” Pretty soon we start seeing a lot of issues that impact the aggregate or summary data.
Or we do deal reviews, they’ve checked the right boxes in the sales process, they’ve filled out the right stuff in the CRM system, but we don’t drill down into a few pieces of detail or ask, “How do you know?” So we focus on the wrong things.
Or we look at activity reports, see the numbers are right, but don’t drill down into the quality of the numbers. Activities are the easiest things for sales people to game, but if we don’t pay attention to the detail we accomplish nothing.
The devil is always in the details! But if we don’t take the time to drill down and understand the details, we may make some tragic errors. We may miss huge opportunities.
Reports aren’t the end–they’re the starting point. They give us clues (if we can only see them) about where the problems or the opportunities are. But these clues are seldom in the summaries or consolidations, but in the detail of the report itself.
The second big “Gotcha,” is, while managers might ask for reports, they don’t use the reports. I don’t know how many times I see an organization drowning in reporting. Yet, managers aren’t paying attention to the reports. One of my favorite stories is working with a very large client, we saw lots of reporting. We wondered, what’s really necessary? Can we reduce the number of reports, saving lots of time and resource, simplifying the business. We surveyed managers—“No we need all of these, in fact we’d also like to see…….” Still convinced there was a lot of wasted effort, we decided to do something else. We took the “most important” report, we left the first couple of pages the same, then we dropped major sections of the report then waited for the complaints. This report was used by several hundred managers and was considered critical. How many complaints did we get? One–only one person was looking at the report closely enough to tell most of the report was missing. Needless to say, that started us to reducing huge numbers of reports.
For some reason we seem to have a sense of security in data–yet we don’t use it or exploit it, so consequently they really have no value.
So use them or stop them, stop wasting everyone’s time.
Third, we don’t use them correctly. Reports should provide insight and lead to action. The data helps us understand what’s happening, where we are performing well, where we can improve, where we may be missing opportunities. So if we aren’t leveraging reports to take action, then we aren’t getting as much as we can from the data.
I receive lots of requests from sales and marketing experts to promote things they are doing, whether it’s a webinar, eBook, Book. Most of the time I’m delighted to do so. Many have been very generous in supporting and helping me. Even if it’s someone I don’t know, generally, once they introduce themselves and show me what they are doing, I’m glad to promote. There are usually interesting ideas, different approaches to selling or marketing, things that all of us can learn from. (I do have to admit, having trouble dealing with the sheer volume of these, currently I’m reviewing about 15 books, so sometimes I’m slow in promoting.)
Today, I got another request. I look forward to hearing from experts. I can always learn, both by the way in which they approach me and in looking at the materials they send to me.
I’ve clipped an image of his prospecting email, having blocked a lot of things for obvious reasons. As I later discovered, this person is an expert in prospecting and cold calling so I expected to learn a huge amount from his prospecting approach.
1. So the first thing I notice, his prospecting letter is personalized, but clearly he’s forwarded the base template several times, just pasting in my name. The three blue lines on the left are Outlook editing/review symbols. My ego isn’t so out of control that I expect a unique letter. A standard template with my name is fine. I just expect something that’s professional in appearance and content.
2 I don’t know the person, so I have no context to understand his background, skills, expertise, and experience as a sales expert who wants to share his wisdom with eager sales people focused on self improvement. He provided nothing to me. Fortunately, Outlook shows me he’s on LinkedIn, I look at his profile.
3. His LinkedIn Profile is basically a promotion for his book. The total number of words in his profile is roughly 180-200. There is no background or experience, he has a black image of his book that simply says Volume 2. He cites one job he’s had since January 2014 but no descriptor in the job, and no other information. I’m not a big fan of LinkedIn endorsements, he’s identified a whole bunch of skills, but only has 1 endorsement for sales, he’s a member of 2 groups, and has no recommendations. I’m also not a big fan of the “who has the most contacts” contest, but he only has 151 contacts, so he probably isn’t leveraging LinkedIn to build his network and relationships. So it makes me wonder, if he’s an expert in selling, and particularly in cold calling and prospecting, clearly he would leverage all the tools available to help research, connect, and engage. Also, if he is an expert, he would clearly recognize the value of a powerful LinkedIn profile in building his personal brand and reputation.
4. Then there is the obvious spelling error–but, all of you no — oops, know— how bad I am about that, so I’m being a little of a jerk with that comment
5. Then we get to the “ask.” He wants me to offer a free eBook to my readers. Apparently this eBook will also promote the 580 page book he is selling. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, I don’t begrudge him making money. But he doesn’t provide me a copy of the eBook so that I can review it, making sure it’s something I feel comfortable in promoting. He doesn’t provide me a way to get his eBook. I discover his website (decoding his email address). He didn’t feel it was worthy to point me to the website to learn more–I understand, it’s clearly not ready for anyone to view it.
So what conclusions do I draw?
I expect someone who presents themselves as a “sales expert,” particularly one on prospecting and cold calling, to be credible and demonstrate that expertise. So I take this prospecting letter as a demonstration of his prowess in prospecting, and an example of the approaches he would recommend as best practice.
He highlights the importance of Self-Marketing and Relationships in his prospecting letter. So I take his LinkedIn profile as a demonstration of what he would recommend his audience do to market themselves and build rich relationships.
Based on his execution in this letter and the “research” anyone would naturally do, I wonder, can I learn anything from him? Is it worth even following up, is it worth promoting his eBook and helping promote his other books? Would I be serving you, my readers, who have committed to learning and continuous improvement? (To be honest, most people wouldn’t invest the time in doing this much.)
I hope this isn’t me being a picky jerk. I genuinely want to help and promote people who have something interesting to say, and from whom we can learn–even if I don’t agree with their point of view. But have I drawn the wrong conclusions?
Our customers examine us in the same way. They look at every communication, every interaction. They expect professionalism, they expect us to create value, they expect us to demonstrate our leadership with each one. If we don’t, why should they invest their time in us? Why should the find us credible and believe anything we say?
I have to admit writing this post out of frustration. I’ve been, at the encouragement of the service provider, changing our mobile plans to save money. I’m not changing vendor, just the plans.
At this point, I’m beginning to believe what it is costing me in time and frustration will far exceed the money I’m saving.
The funny thing is the customer service people I talk to on the phone are fantastic! They are well trained, very efficient, very helpful. They are truly a delight to deal with. From a customer service point of view, I can’t give them any higher compliments.
But I’m still pissed off.
The reason is, I never should have had to speak with them. And the effort I went through, culminating in speaking with them was terrible.
So here’s the story.
I’d been receiving emails from the vendor saying, “You can save a lot of money on your wireless/mobile services.” They kept directing me to a weblink to look at my current services and billing and what we could save on a new plan. The amount of money was actually pretty significant, so I started trying to move all our lines/accounts to a consolidated new plan. The problem is, we have a lot of special services on our mobile plans. It’s not just simple voice/text/data. Because we work globally, we had a number of add-ons to the plan, international calling, international roaming, international data, and so forth. Plus, because we’ve had some of these services for a very long time, several were “grandfathered.” I could see them clearly on our current plans, but I couldn’t I didn’t know how to transfer them to the new plans. I couldn’t see how I could add the equivalent services to the new plans. There was an “international section” on the web site, I could see the services I wanted, but it wasn’t clear how I could add them to the new plans.
So after spending a little time trying to figure it out, (it wasn’t a huge amount of time, only about 30 minutes), I gave up. It was hopeless trying to do it on the website.
I called customer service. I expected that I would have to wait for some time (after all, this was right when the iPhone 6 was shipping), surprisingly, it was only a minute or so. The agent was fantastic. She immediately saw the issues and knew what I needed to do. She also offered a few alternatives, that weren’t visible on the web site, and we quickly made the changes in the plans. We got all the services we needed, the international services, and were going to be able to save a lot of money. It was a fantastic experience.
Since then, there were some adjustments and things I needed to do, I’d try the web or the channels the vendor was trying to steer me to, they weren’t working, so I always ended up going back to customer service. Each time, the service was truly outstanding.
So what’s the point of this story?
It’s clear this vendor has invested a lot in their customer service organization. I can’t sing it’s praises enough. Every time I call in, the service is excellent.
But that’s the problem—“every time I call in…..” I don’t want to call in! If I’m calling in, it means everything else has failed!
What’s worse is they’ve designed their engagement model to bias me to the web or other channels using customer service as a last resort.
So the problem is I’ve had a horrible customer experience, while getting great customer service. I seldom get things done in the way both they and I prefer. The time and hassle factor is huge.
They’ve done a great job with customer service, but don’t seem to realize great customer experiences is not about great customer service. Great customer experience has more to do with my effort and what I have to do to be a good customer. And that should be effortless. I shouldn’t have to call into customer service, I shouldn’t have to go through all this effort and hassle. Every time I do, I wonder why and wonder, is there an alternative? They’ve already lost revenue because I was trying to buy more and out of frustration stopped (not even a rounding error in their multi billion enterprise), but a few thousand people here and there mounts up.
Great customer service is important. But perhaps more important is designing the customer experience so people don’t need customer service and so their experience is effortless.
Postscript: 10/03/2014, The “comedy” of errors with this vendor continues. I just received an email about my account, requiring a simple response–nothing earthshaking. I clicked on the required link, getting the deadly “Error 404–Not Found…….” Oh well, another call to customer service, I know they will handle it, but it’s such a waste of my time, and customer service’s.