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Jul 18 17

Sales Manager Enablement

by David Brock

Thanks to people like Mike Kunkle, Tamara Schenk, Jason Jordan, Mike Weinberg, and others; the importance of Front Line Sales Manager Enablement is getting some visibility–though still not enough.  As they discuss and I’ve discussed in past posts and Sales Manager Survival Guide, the single biggest lever on front line sales performance is the Front Line Sales Manager.

It’s the FLSM that provides the day to day support, coaching, reinforcement, and leadership to maximize the performance of each person on their team.  Without their continued reinforcement of training, systems, tools, programs–most of our sales enablement initiatives would be unsustainable.  We wouldn’t achieve the levels of consistent performance we need or should be getting out of those initiatives, instead we’d be wasting thousands to millions dollars/euro/yuan/rupees/etc.  It’s the FLSM that translates our business and sales strategies to day to day execution by the sales teams.

Finally, we are beginning to recognize that we need to invest in those Front Line Sales Managers–enabling them to do their jobs at the highest levels possible.

There is an increased focus on FLSM training.  Execs are recognizing they need to train their Front Line Sales Managers on coaching, performance management, and any number of skills.  But simply sending a manager to a training program on coaching is insufficient.

We need to do more.

First, senior executives need to continually coach and develop their Front Line Sales Managers.  Just as we know the importance of continued coaching and development of our sales people, without senior executives coaching their managers, these managers will never develop to their full potential.  (Naturally, what we coach these managers on is different than what we coach sales people on.)

With every new initiative, we need to focus on enabling managers to support, coach, and reinforce that initiative.   If we are doing new product training, we need to enable the managers on their role in reinforcing and coaching it.  If we are implementing a new sales initiative, we need to enable  the manager in their role in making sure their people are executing it well.  If we are introducing a new tool or process, we need to train the sales manager helping them understand how they can use that tool/process to improve their own productivity/performance and how they should be supporting their people in leveraging that tool as well.

Just as we think of sales person enablement including training, programs, processes, systems, tools, metrics, and coaching.  We need to mirror FLSM enablement with training, programs processes, systems, tools, metrics, and coaching.

Just like selecting the right sales people is critical to their success in our organizations, selecting the right managers is critical to their/our success in driving sales performance.

Just like we need to set clear performance expectations/metrics with our people, we need to set clear performance expectations/metrics with our managers.  And as we see performance issues, we must work with them to improve performance.

Just as our people expect personal development and growth, our managers have similar aspirations.  It’s the responsibility of senior management to understand and develop their managers to step up to greater responsibilities.

We will never optimize the performance of our sales people until we start optimizing the performance of our FLSMs.  Just as with sales people, we never achieve this in a single training event, we need to look at FLSM enablement as an ongoing process led by senior management.


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Jul 17 17

Teaching Sales People To Lie….

by David Brock

Just when you think you have seen the very worst prospecting email ever, you get one that takes you to new lows!  I opened my email today and read:

“Hello Dave,

It has been some time since we last spoke, let alone worked together. The fault of this is mostly mine. However I want to make up for my time of neglect and reach out to you today to ask you a simple question.

Do you want to continue to hear from me?”

There is so much wrong in these four sentences, not to mention the several hundred words that followed.

This sales person, I’ll call him “Chris,”  works for one of the largest sales training companies in the world.  I always read emails from people like him, because I think I might learn something about high quality emails.

One would guess that since they are “experts,” and teach their customers the very best practices for prospecting and engaging people, that they would practice what they preach.  As a result, there is a lot one can learn in deconstructing their prospecting emails.

Let me deconstruct this:

“It’s been a long time since we have spoken ….”  We have never spoken.  We have never met.  I looked “Chris” up to see if there is somewhere our paths may have crossed. With the possible exception of sharing a common airport (LAX), there is little possibility of every crossing paths.  Plus I tend to have a pretty good memory, and good CRM/Contact Management discipline.

“…let alone worked together…”  How stupid to you think I am!!!!!  We’ve never met, how could we have possibly worked together!

“However I wanted to make up for my time of neglect and reach out to ask a simple question — Do you want to continue to hear from me?”  Well, again, you must think I’m really stupid.  This is the first time I’ve ever heard from you!

Moreover, why would I want to hear from you again since the whole premise of the first 4 sentences of this email is based on a complete fabrication and lie.  You respect me so little, you have so little confidence in your own abilities in cold calling that you start out with fabricating a relationship that has never existed.

While you wouldn’t see it, there were other signs of his cluelessness.  The email address was completely wrong.  Yeah, we all go through our tricks of decoding email addresses for people we have never met.  There are tools you can buy, terrible lists, or you can guess—in this case he guessed “first initial last name at the website.”  That happens not to be our format, ours is first initial middle initial last name at the email address.

Or even more clever, go to my blog our our website.  My email address is right there in plain sight!!!  But of course if he had known me or had any kind of relationship, he would have known that.

There were a couple hundred words of calculated and meaningless drivel, intended as a soft sell trying to say, “I care about you and want to help you….” which is just a sham covering his real goal of “If you are stupid enough to believe this drivel, I want to separate you from your money!”

All this from a sales person from one of the leading sales training companies in the world!

I suppose this is what they must teach their customers as best practice in cold emailing and prospecting!  No wonder our inboxes are filled with meaningless crap!

In fairness to the company, their programs are good.

Undoubtedly, this email is from a clueless franchisee who represents them very poorly.

Unfortunately, this approach is too common.  We start the conversation with lies.

Too many sales people don’t have the courage and self confidence to reach out to someone they’ve never met and say, “I’ve spent some time studying you and your company, I think we might be able to help you better achieve your goals……”

If you don’t have the courage to reach out, honestly and openly, to people you’ve never met, you have no business being in sales.



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Jul 12 17

You Get What You Measure/Compensate For!

by David Brock

It’s an age old adage, “You get what you measure and compensate for.”

If it were true, why do we have such a gap in sales quota performance?  We’re measuring it, we’re tracking it, but the majority of sales people aren’t achieving their goals.

There are a lot of things that impact quota performance, but I suspect a large part of the challenge are the other things we measure, hold people accountable for, even compensate at some level.  To often these are activity metrics which desk bound managers track, beating the crap out of those who don’t achieve them,

Too often, what we measure is the wrong thing–or we have the wrong goal in place for the metric.  Let’s look at some examples:

Perhaps the most misused metric is “pipeline coverage.”  I don’t know how many executives I speak to who say, “We require 3X pipeline coverage!”  Well that’s great if you have a win rate of 33%.  But if your win rate is 25%, you need 4 times coverage.  Today, I spoke with an executive bragging about his coverage model, he was saying, “Everyone is right on their coverage with at least 3X coverage.”  I responded, “Why are 85% of them at 75% YTD or less?”  Turns out their win rate was significantly less than 33%.  So while the people were achieving the coverage goal, they had the wrong coverage goal in place.

We see coverage misused so many ways.  A few years ago, I was looking at the pipeline for another organization.   Mathematically, they had achieved their coverage goal, it was well aligned with win rates, but they weren’t achieving the goals.  The problem was 75% of the deals were stalled.  There had been no activity and no movement in them for months.  A coverage metric without paying attention to velocity is meaningless.

The final problem with having the wrong coverage metric is it is so gameable.  100% of your sales people should meet whatever reasonable or unreasonable coverage goal you set.  You name it–3X, 5X, 10X–all are easily achievable.  All you do is open your pipeline up to bad deals.  I don’t know how many organizations with coverage goals in place have crappy pipelines.  Hitting your coverage goals is meaningless if we don’t have the right deals in our pipeline.  If the quality of the deals in the pipeline is low, then our pipelines regardless of the coverage won’t enable us to produce the results.

Dials, calls, and conversations are another set of gameable and potentially meaningless metrics.  Particularly with today’s dialing technologies, there isn’t any dialing goal that a sales person can’t make.  Make 100 dials a day—piece of cake.  I’ll dial, let it ring long enough to log into our system, hang up and dial another number.  In fact, if a person picks up the phone and actually engages you in a phone conversation, it slows you down.   It makes it easier to hit your dial/call goal if those pesky customers just don’t answer their phones.

Likewise with conversations.  Today alone, I’ve had 5 conversations with people prospecting me.  I’d pick up the phone, the sales person would launch into their pitch, when they paused to take a breath, I’d interupt, “You are wasting my time, I have absolutely no interest in you, what you are selling, your company.  Please make sure no one in your company calls me again.”  Undoubtedly, each one of those people chalked up a conversation that helped them achieve their goals.

One final example.  When I was starting in sales, my manager had the belief, “You need to be with your customers during business hours.  If you are in the office, you aren’t with customers.”  To motivate us to be with customers from 9-5, she put a $15 dollar a day fine on us if we were in the office during business hours.  (She did make some exceptions, like bringing in orders, etc.).

My colleagues and I quickly figured things out.  Yes, we tried to be with customers as much as possible, but we couldn’t be with them constantly.  We finally decided, if it was going to cost us each $15, we might as well get something out of it.  A bar down the street served $5 beers.  We could spend great afternoons drinking beer and shooting the breeze.  Alternatively, movies were about $10.  We could go to a movie and had a little money leftover for popcorn.

I don’t think that was the behavior our manager was trying to drive, but it was the behavior that resulted because the metric/incentive was poorly thought out.

Too many sales people are drowning in meaningless goals and metrics.  They’re driven to achieve them, usually through some sort of carrot/stick.

But meeting these goals isn’t creating the outcomes—ultimately quota attainment.

Most of the metrics I see sales managers inflicting on their sales people are meaningless.  In many cases, people are achieving the activity goals, but not creating the business outcomes expected.

Leading metrics/goals are important.  They help keep us on the path to achieving the business outcomes we want.  But make sure you are setting the right metrics and goals.  Make sure they are meaningful in producing what you intend to have produced.  Make sure you can link their attainment to your ultimate goals–for example quota attainment.  Understand the behaviors the metrics drive, understand how they might be gamed.   Understand the quantity/volume/quality tradeoffs that will be made.

Ultimately, you’ll discover that very few metrics/goals will be needed, but the few critical ones, well implemented will drive stunning business outcomes.


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Jul 12 17

Are We Getting Prospecting Wrong? What Is The Customer’s First Impression?

by David Brock

Today, most of what I hear from sales people and executives is they are opportunity starved.  They are all desperate to find more qualified opportunities.  Prospecting and lead gen have become the dominant issues in many sales organizations.

There are, of course, the ongoing challenges of making sales people understand they must prospect!  Clearly, lead gen programs aren’t producing enough and it is irresponsible for sales people not to prospect.  But this post is not about getting people to prospect.  I want to address the issue of how we are prospecting.  We face all sorts of challenges in reaching and connecting in those first conversations:

  1. Our customers are crazy busy and don’t have the time to talk to us.
  2. How do we stand out in the rapidly increasing volume and noise our customers are exposed to?  My friend Martin Schmalenbach tracked the prospecting emails he received in a year (legitimate emails, not junk), it was 12,500.   I think he actually responded to 2 of the emails (Less than 0.02% of the emails he received).   We have others suggesting we need to be “living at 1000 dials a day.”  But what does it look like on the prospect side as more of us are living at 1000 dials a day?  I know from my point of view, I just don’t pick up the phone unless I know who is calling and I want to talk to that person.  In the face of all this, how do we get our customer’s attention?  Seems too often the answer is just up the volume.  Perhaps we need to be thinking about living at 2000 dials a day…….
  3. Our customers not only don’t have the time to talk to us, they don’t want to talk to us.  We constantly hear, “Sales people talk about what they want to talk about, they don’t talk about what I want to talk about,  They don’t understand me and my business, They waste my time (back to 1 again)!!”

Given that it’s so difficult to capture our prospects’ attention in that first contact, it seems critical that we create the very best first impressions for those prospects we manage to reach.  We want to motivate them to continue the communication in some way.  It’s our opportunity to capture the prospect’s interests and imagination.  We want to set ourselves apart from all the other drivel they are subjected to, ideally, having them think, “There’s something different about this person, I want to learn more.”

But it seems all the things we do focus on squandering that opportunity.

  1. We focus on our product and how to pitch them, our first conversation ends up being what we are interested in, not what the customer is interested in.
  2. Our initial outreach is not personalized—even in the most basic ways, like “Dear Dave……”  With all the “mail merge,” all the research tools available, if you haven’t even taken the time to know my name, why should I go any further?  The emails that begin with “Hello….” or the calls that begin with, “May I speak to the person in charge….”  (It’s always ironic, I answer the phone, “Hello, this is Dave Brock…..”  Never once does someone respond, “Hi Dave,”  of course their dialing system probably blocked them from hearing that.
  3. Our initial outreach is unresearched and ill prepared.  Less than 10% of the time, when I pose the question, “Do you know who I am and what my company does,” can someone respond in an informed manner.  Even those people following up on something I downloaded.
  4. We put our most inexperienced people in the roles of making those initial contacts and creating those first impressions.  I feel horrible in my conversations with SDRs prospecting me.  They don’t have enough knowledge or experience to be able to have a meaningful conversation with me.  They want to connect me with someone who can.  It’s not their fault!  They are just doing what they have been trained to do and what they are measured on.

Since it is so difficult to get our prospects to respond to anything we do, why aren’t we doing everything we can to create the very best first impression we can?  Why aren’t we putting our best feet forward in each attempt to engage a prospect.

Technology enables us to deeply segment and personalize each email we send, maximizing the relevance to the customer.  Yet for some reason, both marketing and sales choose not to exploit the capabilities they are already paying for.

Why aren’t we putting aligning our “sales personas” with the “target prospect persona” in our prospecting call.  It is unreasonable to expect our least experienced sales people and SDRs to have a high impact first conversation with a mid-level to C level executive in most calls.  Why don’t we staff those calls with people who have experience in those types of conversations.  Then why don’t we require those people to do a minimum amount of research, so they can talk to the customer about things the customer wants to talk about rather than what we want to talk about.

Ironically, when we create those great first impressions, more people want to talk to us.  Then the number of outreaches we have to make to fill our pipelines declines.  I don’t have to have 25 to 50 conversations a day to fill my pipeline, because the quality of the conversations I have, the level or targeting, the level of engagement I create means I have to have a far fewer number of conversations to make my number.

We all know the importance of first impressions.  What are you doing to maximize the first impressions you create?


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