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How Things Get Done (Or Not)

by David Brock on June 7th, 2022

Every organization I work with has everything a sales organization should have in place. We go down laundry lists all the programs, tools, processes that are in place:

  • CRM and the classic “sales stack?” Check, “we’re spending $1000’s per person for these.”
  • Social selling? Check, every sales person has access to Sales Navigator.
  • Sales process? Check, and it’s aligned with the buyer’s journey.
  • Onboarding? Check, we train all our new people.
  • Performance management process? Of course, we have quotas, other metrics and a strong comp plan.
  • Demand gen/prospecting? We have SDRs and marketing provides us leads.
  • Bid management process? Check.
  • Deal desk? Of course.
  • Coaching? We’ve trained our managers in coaching.
  • and on and on and on….

Everyone has read the same books, gone to the same training, read the same blogs. They all get it, they know the pieces/parts sales organizations should have in place. They all know what they should be doing and how to do it.

And when things aren’t working, the tendency is to do more–volume and velocity solve every sales performance problem.

Alternatively, we put more stuff in place. Another training program, some new tools, new programs and approaches. We have the unique ability to take the complex and make it more complex by adding to rather than simplifying.

And when that doesn’t work, we throw everything out and start over–usually this comes with every CRO change.

Yet, we’ve checked all the boxes, we’ve put the most modern tools in place, the latest greatest training, processes/systems/tools, the content and other related programs. We’ve done everything we are supposed to do, but don’t pay attention to whether the expected outcomes are being achieved.

So what’s the problem?

Sales performance isn’t about the things we have in place, it’s a result of how we do the work, it’s the result of how effectively we leverage all these things we’ve put in place. Our performance isn’t based on the theory, but it’s based on what we are actually doing every day in each interaction with the customer and our peers.

While I’ve been a little flippant about all the tools, programs, processes, systems, and training, these are critical in driving performance, effectiveness, and efficiency. But we have huge gaps in how we actually leverage these on a day to day basis.

Some suggestions:

  1. Sales management, enablement, and operations need understand the connection of each tool to the outcomes actually produced. Are they producing those expected? If not, why not? (This requires drilling down to understand the underlying issues.)
  2. In your assessment, focus on the value these produce for the sales people, that is, how they contribute to sales person improvement. Too often, we look at these from the point of view of sales management, not the sales person. We put these things in place to drive sales person performance.
  3. As these programs are assessed, rank them based on potential impact. Everything isn’t important or critical. Stack rank these understanding which have the biggest impact on performance.
  4. As you look to improve the results from these, focus first on the top two performance drivers. Make sure the sales people understand how they fit in driving personal performance, how they leverage the tools with the greatest impact, where they might make mistakes and how to avoid those, how they should be leveraging them on daily basis. Give them a chance to practice using the tools, coaching them on how to get the most out of them. Then, managers coach them in applying them for at least the next 60 days.
  5. A you look at putting new tools, programs, training, systems, processes in place, design them from the point of view of how sales people will use them. Get seller input on them, leverage them in the design process. Too often, we do things that theoretically make sense, but in application they don’t. Sales people will be ruthlessly pragmatic in what they do. Pay attention to them.
  6. For managers, make sure you are using the tools, as well. It’s amazing how many managers don’t know how to use the tools. themselves. When asked for a CRM report, they have no idea how to do this. When asked about a training program, they don’t know how to apply it in real customer situations. Stated simply, managers need to model the behaviors and skills expected.
  7. Look for simplification! Too often, we make things far too complicated for our people to leverage consistently. Focus only on those few things that have the biggest impact.

Selling is hard enough, let’s not make it harder by inflicting all the “right/fashionable things” on them!

  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    When I get a fully ticked Check List,
    but my Client’s Company is NOT Performing,
    I make an easy to do, and Cost saving Suggestion:
    How would it be if we FIRE the CMO!

    It immediately frees up a substantial budget,
    to take actions to resolve the genuine issues.
    And, we KNOW his Plan wasn’t working anyway!

    Plus, it’s easy to get a replacement CMO,
    so many should be fired.

    • Joel Lyles permalink

      Assuming this wasn’t sarcasm, can you walk through your logic? I have been a manager before and I have been a sales rep, but I have never been a sales manager. Regardless, the vibe I get from other sales managers and sales manager managers is that Marketing is just gravy and that replacing a lackluster marketing team with a great one won’t suddenly make you able to make your numbers.

      • Brian MacIver permalink

        Hi Joel,
        But, replacing a non-performing CMO,
        with a performing Head of Sales & Marketing can be TURNAROUND.

        “and marketing provides us leads.” as rare as Chicken teeth.

        My response, only a little tongue in cheek, is based on decades of CMO claiming success, while Sales has mediocre performance.

        I can work my way up, it’s slower
        or work my way down, it’s faster.

        • I love this conversation Brian and Joel. I might as well dive in…..

          1. For Joel, Brian is a good friend and I can certify he doesn’t have a sarcastic bone in his body (tongue firmly planted in cheek…..
          2. Of course the marketing readers are thinking of their approach to this situation. Some are thinking of the old joke Question: “What do you call 600 sales people at the bottom of the ocean?” Answer: “A good start….”
          3. Non performance/bad performance isn’t unique to marketing, it applies too often to sales “leadership.” Replacing any of them can be a good start.
          4. Joel, on some of the feedback you are getting from managers, it shows huge naivete/ignorance around customer engagement. Actually, we can no longer be talking about sales or marketing (which are functions). Given new customer buying preferences, we need to be talking about selling–a series of interventions done by humans and digitally, that help navigate customers navigate their buying process.

          Thanks for the great conversation!

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