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SPIF Tips #41: How to Solve the Biggest Sales and Marketing Problem

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Improving productivity and

predictability is the biggest problem in sales and marketing. The reason for it is that managers struggle with a conundrum: Should they focus their sales team on results, or on activities?
  • Managing results
When managers focus on results, salespeople tend to develop their own approaches to their jobs. Managers can tend to function as “closers,” removing roadblocks to winning enough business to make the numbers at the end of the month. This approach leads to big problems. By pure chance, some salespeople will produce more than others. It becomes difficult to distinguish between salespeople who are doing a good job and those who are lucky. An “every man for himself” attitude can start to prevail. Companies become captive to their biggest sales producers, whose performance cannot be reliably duplicated by others. Salespeople might bring in poor quality customers, or resort to excessive discounting. Sales revenue can become unpredictable.

SPIF Tip #40: The Last Thing a Fish Discovers is Water

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A few years ago I received

the following email from a reader. The issue may take a slightly different form today, but I’ll bet you’ve run into it yourself:
Michael, I was recently fired from my sales job, because I wasn’t on the road “cold calling” enough … Instead, I had been working to set up Google alerts for research as well as trigger events that Jill Konrath (www.sellingtobigcompanies.com) refers to. I was trying to set up an automated way of attracting and nurturing contacts through email, phone follow up, etc. They told me I was being fired for not doing the sales. It is frustrating enough to be told to do things you know don’t work anymore. But, to get fired for trying something you know could work! It is just incredible. Your articles touch all those things that companies still either don’t understand or don’t want to do…Do the research, create the value … all they want is more cold calls or send that proposal out … You pointed out the reasons why the sales process is messed up and how it needs to improve … that the whole company must organize around researching the market, creating value, etc. It must deal with the “whole process,” not just what salespeople do. It really gave me hope that maybe some of the old ways will be flushed out with this recession. By the way, I got lucky: I start a new job in two weeks. But I’ll be careful not to bring these new ideas to my new employer too soon…I need a job… Bob Smith (not his real name)
The same thing has happened to me, Bob. More than once, actually. Sometimes, the hardest thing isn’t getting customers to cooperate. It is getting your own company to recognize they might be missing something.

SPIF Tip #39: How Deming's Foundational Principles Will Make Your Sales Funnel Flow Faster

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In the work-a-day world of

hustling to find new customers, what good is a management philosophy used in manufacturing? If you’ve wondered about this, prepare to be surprised. Because your sales success today (and in the future) is strongly influenced by these simple, deceptively powerful ideas. Consider the state of most sales and marketing organizations:

SPIF Tip #38: Sales Management Development Podcast

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I was interviewed by Todd Youngblood, who runs the Sales Management Development Podcast. He agrees with me that the vast majority of B2B companies could benefit immensely from applying lean and Six Sigma thinking to sales and marketing. We discussed why so few companies have begun this journey, and what it looks like when you

SPIF Tip #37: The Obstacle Even Great Salespeople Can't Overcome

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A fellow named Yves asked this great question:

In all your SPIF tips I have read, you haven’t written about selecting the right people in sales. Perhaps this is the sales manager’s responsibility. Yet, plenty of sales managers should not have been promoted to their positions. How can sales work if the wrong people are sales managers, or if technical experts are trying to develop new customers, or farmers are trying to hunt, etc.? In other words, how can sales work if HR doesn’t do its job?
Most businesses get this problem backwards. It is true that hiring the right people is important. However, if management doesn’t understand with data how their system (or process) works, they are running a crap shoot, not a business. Hiring the best people into that environment will eventually make them miserable.

SPIF Tip #36: Unless You've Gone to the Gemba, You're Probably Fixing the Wrong Sales Problem

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I’ve often written about

the sad state of affairs in sales and marketing productivity. It happens because companies have only anecdotes and no data on the causes of sales and marketing problems. But collecting and analyzing data is harder than it seems. The “information dashboards” and “control systems” guiding and controlling sales and marketing are notoriously bad. Salespeople don’t like to collect data. And unless you have some background in process improvement, you may be unable to use the data you have. So, where do you “Go to the gemba” in sales and marketing?[1] Where you start in analyzing data? Whether you want to improve sales productivity, or manufacturing productivity, the most important part of the system is the people. In both arenas, you must start by studying what is between the ears of your employees. Before sales and marketing people can help you improve things, they need to know why they are doing it, and what is in it for them.

SPIF Tip #35: A Wake Up Call for Senior Management

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Piyush Saggi is the co-founder

and CEO of a promising startup in Atlanta called SalesTing. He interviewed a seasoned enterprise sales rep in a recent LinkedIn post “Confessions of an Enterprise Sales Rep.” Some of what the rep said was priceless: Piyush: What % of your leads come from Marketing?

Rep: Tough to answer that. Probably not much. Every now and then they'll send me someone's contact info as a "lead" if that person attended a webinar but I'm usually already engaged at that company.

Piyush: Have you ever shared this with your Marketing team?

SPIF Tip #34: What Sales and Marketing Can Learn From "The Martian"

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I'm sure you've heard

about "The Martian," Ridley Scott’s thrilling movie about Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars when a mission to the red planet went horribly wrong. 
about "The Martian," Ridley Scott’s thrilling movie about Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars when a mission to the red planet went horribly wrong. 
 
Watney's statement, "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this" struck a chord around the world. The only way Mark could save himself was relentless use of a single tool: reason.

SPIF Tip #33: Need to Improve Your Team's Sales Productivity? This Simple, Logical Approach Works

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When markets, technologies,

or personnel change, sales departments that have run well for years can have a rough time. When too many deals go to “no decision,” and no one can predict which accounts will buy, the traditional “black-box” mentality of the sales department becomes a problem that needs solving. Of course salespeople do their best to explain what is happening via their stories and anecdotes. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t solve anything. Worse, these situations are typically not their fault. They are the legacy of the culture that worked in the past. Yet, there is a way to see inside the sales black box. And like an X-Ray, the results it makes possible are far better than most companies can achieve without it.

SPIF Tips #32: The Root of Improvement

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I recently had the

opportunity to talk with Bob Miller, former Executive Director of the Shingo Institute. I asked him how he helps companies change their culture in a manner that enables improvement to really stick. His answer was quite interesting: