Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with very interesting people. Some have been providers of Sales 2.0 technology solutions, some performance improvement professionals, a few consultants, and others. The conversations have wandered over very broad spaces on the topics of sales, sales performance improvement, and sales effectiveness.
At the end of most of those conversations, I’ve had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’ve been incredibly impressed by the power of some of the solutions these people are talking about. Some are really innovative and can have a great impact on sales professionals. But at the same time, I’ve felt, “they don’t quite get it.”
Let me be clear, these people are very smart, experienced and dedicated to achieving their goals–each of which attacks some part of sales performance improvement. But I think part of my discomfort is rooted in how we solve complex problems.
Sales, sales performance improvement, sales effectiveness, however you want to position it, is a complex problem (s). There are a lot of moving parts, all interacting and changing in time. The way we make complex problems solvable is that we start breaking them down into smaller more manageable problems.
One group is focusing on relationship management skills, another focuses on developing relevant content, another has a new twist in developing value propositions, another has an assessment and hiring methodology, another on sales incentives and compensation, yet another an interesting approach to training, and the list goes on. Viewed in isolation, each of these is brilliant—they are well researched, well thought out.
Now here’s where I start getting disconnected, the conversations about each of these are very intense, very focused—at some point they become the end, not the means. A conversation on relationship management becomes just about relationship management. “How does this impact overall sales effectiveness?” I ask. The response ignores my question and focuses on the need for strong relationships. I pose my question again, “I know relationships are important, but how does this help the sales person better understand what customers value? How does it help them better articulate their value proposition? How does it help them better define and execute the sales process? How does it help them know they are developing the relationships that matter most?” Too often I get a blank stare, my question is ignored, and we go back to whatever they were talking about.
It doesn’t matter whether this is a relationship management strategy, a new software tool, a new approach to sales training, whatever. These are components of solutions to improving and sustaining sales performance. It’s a part of addressing sales performance. But we need to understand how they fit into the whole.
We break complex problems into components to make them easier to solve. We can’t forget, that each of the pieces need to fit together–they are part of a whole. We always have to reintegrate the component we are working on to see how it fits with the other pieces. Does it complement them? Does it detract from them? Does it make the overall solution more complex rather than simplifying?
Whatever part of the problem we are trying to solve, it’s critical to inspect how it fits the whole. It’s important to see pieces critical to successfully solving the problem we solve are in place. It’s important to make sure that our solution doesn’t make the overall problem worse.
The only way we deal with complexity is to address components–just don’t forget the whole.
When we address sales performance, always look at it from the point of view of the person–the sales person. How does it fit into the reality of the sales person’s day, into how they work, into what drives them? We have high expectations for what sales people do. Are we proposing solutions that fit and drive sanity into their lives?