On the eve of Salesforce.com’s annual user meeting, Dreamforce, somehow it seems appropriate to talk about tools. Before I get into that, if you are at Dreamforce, it would be great to meet! I’ll be there Tuesday and Wednesday–just tweet me at @davidabrock or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As large as Moscone Center is, I’m sure we will find each other.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post: CRM, The Biggest Sales Productivity Drain In 10 Years. It wasn’t about CRM, but many of you asked my opinion (more on the results of that post later). I’ll take a bit of a different view in talking about CRM and the related Sales 2.0 tools. Too often, both managers and vendors tend to act as though the primary customer for these tools is management. Too often, these tools seem to be implemented, primarily with management in mind. We tend to play lip service to sales people and their use of the tools. We know these tools offer tremendous power to managers, but I’d like to focus on the sales person, and their use of these tools.
I can’t imagine a high performing sales person not leveraging these tools (I’ll use CRM, but include the array of Sales 2.0 tools within that) to their utmost. The demands on our time are so great, that we need to leverage as many tools as possible to maximize our effectiveness and efficiency. But, we get into this kind of weird chicken and egg thing. Until we start using the tools, we don’t get value out of them—seems obvious, but I don’t know how many people I encounter who don’t seem to get this.
It seems obvious, but too many don’t get it. Unless we use the tools, unless we incorporate them into what we do every day, they will be a productivity drain. Let me illustrate this with a story. A number of years ago, I was building a deck at my house. I managed to bribe a good friend–a professional carpenter—to help me. The promise of a case of beer and a gourmet dinner afterwards, was sufficient to have him spend the afternoon helping me. We both used exactly the same tools–hammers, nails, power saws. The differences were remarkable, both in speed and quality. I had trouble starting the nails, I had more bent nails, it seemed as though I had to pound and pound to drive the nails. Likewise, I struggled cutting the lumber. I measured and remeasured. I tried to cut straight lines–they were, but when you looked carefully, you could see little waver’s in the lines. As I worked on the project, I kept ripping pieces out, reworking them.
By contrast, Kevin’s work was very different. First, he was a master carpenter. He seemed immediately, to have an eye for the easiest and best way to get the project completed. He started at a completely different point than I did. I watched what he did–there was a real economy of motion in the way he worked. He was using exactly the same tools as I, but he was producing a far better result, and in much shorter time. It all seemed effortless, while I struggled.
At the end of the day, we looked at what we had produced. It looked pretty good–you could see some very subtle differences (his mitred cuts fit just a little better than mine). There was a lot less wasted material on his side than mine. Oh, I forgot, he completed his part long before I did–spending the rest of the afternoon watching me, laughing, drinking beer, and offering a word of advice here and there.
As I reflect on the afternoon, I saw a couple of things. I think they apply to sales and the value we get out of these tools.
First, Kevin was much better than me. He was a professional, he studied and worked at carpentry. He constantly improved himself and the quality of his work. He took pride in what he did and constantly sought to be the very best. He was known for the quality of his work and the results he produced. I, on the other hand, constantly struggled. I understood the concepts, but my ability to execute them was far less than Kevin’s. For example, he could look at a piece of lumber, observing the grain, the knots, the slight curves and warping. He’d immediately know how to best fit it into what he needed to do. I was blind to that. I’d just grab it, cut it, then find a problem. I’d struggle to make it fit and look right. Every once in a while I abandoned it and used another piece.
Second, Kevin used his tools much more effectively than I. Swinging a hammer, using the power saw all were natural too him. He didn’t struggle, he didn’t have to think about them. The motions were all fluid and natural. He could hammer a nail with fewer strokes than me. His cuts, straighter and made with less effort than mine. We both used the same tools–he seemed to use them naturally and easily, I struggled and fought them. In watching him, I noticed sublte differences in the way he used the tools. He was getting more out of them than I.
Third, Kevin had some tricks up his sleeve–actually, he came prepared for the job. He had some tools I didn’t have. He knew that he needed more than a hammer, saw, and some nails. He brought some other tools that both improved the quality of what he did and helped him work faster. That little tool he had made to help him handle large sheets of plywood was a life saver. I struggled and struggled, but could never do what he did.
I think there are important lessons for sales people here:
- It’s not the tools that make the sales person. The best sales people approach sales differently than others. They assess opportunities differently than others. They think about what’s most effective with each opportunity. They study, they learn, they constantly improve. They seem to have an eye for what’s best for each situation, rather than proceeding blindly or formulaically.
- Great sales people leverage the tools (CRM and otherwise) much more effectively. They use them every day, they know how to use the tools most effectively, almost effortlessly. They don’t fight them, they become natural extensions of how they work. They couldn’t imagine working without them. They get much more out of the tools than others.
- Tools do make a difference. Great sales people find tools that help them do things much more effectively and efficiently. Whether it’s something that helps better research a customer, competitor, or opportunity. It might be something to do a better business case analysis, it might be an analytic tool to better analyze performance in the territory.
- The same tools, used by bad sales people can produce terrible results–it’s not the tool, it’s the sales person. But the tool can help accelerate or accentuate the bad result.
Great sales people come prepared for the job–they have the knowledge, skills, tools. They know how to look at a job and how to do it most effectively and efficiently.
Follow-up Report: As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a couple of weeks ago, I played a terrible trick–at least according to some. I wrote: CRM, The Biggest Sales Productivity Drain In 10 Years, but the post wasn’t about CRM. It was about listening, probing, paying attention. A good number of people understood the example I was using, commenting on the problem we have with listening beyond the trigger phrases.
Some people, got it, but were upset–thinking I was being manipulative. Perhaps it was–so what. That’s what happens everyday–unless we are attentive to everything going on around us, we can easily be manipulated.
Finally, unfortunately, some people–including some “experts,” were taken in by the title. They never got beyond the title, and started commenting and offering advice based on the title. Of course those people will never know the mistake they made. They will never know they were responding inappropriately or that they had missed the point of the article. They will never see it reported here. They will never know the mistakes they are making or the opportunities they lose by leaping to conclusions.
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