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Give Your Sales People What They Need!

by David Brock on August 4th, 2021

My friend, Orrin Broberg, wrote a great post: 5 Critical Sales Enablement Mistakes To Avoid. His first point was stunning in it’s simplicity, we fail to give sales people what they need.

It’s a critical issue, we have to understand, at a deep level, what sales people need to perform at the highest levels possible. But, too often fail and as a result, actually adversely impact performance or waste money, time, resources.

There are several areas impacting this:

  • As managers we are more concerned about what we need, often inflicting all sorts of stuff on the sales people.
  • As well intended managers, sales enablement, marketing, or other people, we give them what we think they need, but we aren’t close enough to understanding the “job to be done.” Too often, what we think they need isn’t actually helpful.
  • Related to the previous point, often, we give them things we want them to need–but they really don’t need. I see this with a lot of content, marketing materials, technology. It’s kind of like, “If all the cool kids are doing this, then we should too!”
  • We, too often, focus on the needs of our own jobs/performance, without understanding how they impact the sales organization. These may be important, they may be well intended, but they have an adverse impact on performance. For example, we may put in place policies, procedures or other things that make it more difficult for sales people to get things done.
  • Or we drown the sales force in giving them far more than they need. Part of this it the “program du jour” mentality, where we introduce all sorts of new things, some of which may be helpful, on top of all the other things we’ve done before. Sometimes, giving sales people what they need is stopping things, or taking things away that they no longer need or should be using.
  • Or we give them something they really need, but they don’t know they need it. In essence, this is bungled change management.

Let me dive into these issues a little more.

I see this so often when I start a project with a new client. As I start, they tell me all the “stuff” they have in place to help the sales people, Content, training, tools, processes, procedures, programs…… The list goes on, and on, and on. They are providing all the “right things.” It’s all the things you hear marketing people, sales enablement people, sales managers talk about as best practice. They seem to be doing all the “right things.”

Then I talk to the people doing the work, the sales people. I watch how they work, what they do, and what they use. I pay a lot of attention to top performers to understand how they get their jobs done. Inevitably, they’ve simplified the process phenomenally, they are doing all the things they should be doing, they are executing them in a disciplined way, and they keep going back to the few things they know work and are helpful. They ignore everything else.

Then I look at “utilization.” What content are people actually using? What training are they choosing to use? What tools are they using and how well are they using them? Inevitably, we find huge amounts of stuff people aren’t using. But we tend to pile on, because developing this stuff is our job.

The “sales technology stack” is one of my favorites. Organizations tend to brag about the software tools they have in place, and somehow the mentality is, “more is better.” (Sometimes, I think this becomes the corporate equivalent of “keeping up with the Jones’s.”). Too often, the technology stack is more for us. Managers love the reporting from their CRM systems. Marketing and Sales Enablement love their content platforms and the ability to have all sorts of content. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of these are very powerful. But imagine how things would change if we approached it differently. For example, I can’t imagine a high performing sales person not leveraging CRM. There are so many things that help improve our effectiveness, efficiency and our ability to execute. What if we focused on helping people leverage the tools in their jobs, rather than worrying about what we get from them? Ironically, if our people are using these tools very well, we get much greater value from them.

One of the things our people need the most is coaching. By this, I mean true coaching, helping them learn, helping them develop new approaches, new capabilities. Helping them think differently. Yet the majority of managers spend less than 3 hours a month coaching everyone on their teams—and I suspect much of that “coaching” is “Do this, don’t do that, tell me how it works out, send the next coachee in…..”

The problem about giving sales people just what they need is that determining this is hard work. We have to pay attention to what they are doing and how they do it (and how they should be doing it). We have to think about what they might stop doing. We have to consider what they might do differently, engaging them in these discussions.

The reality is sales people don’t really need that much. And too often, we fail to give them that which they need the most.

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