Don't Bother with Sales Training or CRM Until You Face the Facts

by Michael J. Webb

Can You Handle the Truth?

Can You Handle the Truth?

Increasingly sophisticated software is becoming available for coaching salespeople. These systems respond to context, such as the industry the prospect is in, the contact's department, and the stage of the sales process. They may even collect answers to questions for future use in the selling effort. Some even offer elaborate strategy support, with color-coded organizational charts and more.

This should make sales training and CRM ought to go hand-in-hand, right? 

Unfortunately, no matter how fancy the systems are, salespeople don't often use them unless forced to.

If it were a technical, procedural or a user interface issue, it could be fixed. But it isn't.

Instead the issue is the company's assumptions around what enables these software systems (and the people involved) to work. 


Why are improvements difficult to create in sales and marketing

A reader asked: 

  • Why do improvements seem so difficult to create in sales and marketing?
Leadership listening and acting

Leadership listening and acting

This is a good observation and a good question. The VAST majority of attempts to improve in sales and marketing don't improve anything in the end. Scratch the surface of most consulting interventions, and you will see this.

Yes, there may be a new kind of sales training, or a new kind of CRM system, or whatever. Yet, in what way did productivity improve? Does the organization even measure productivity? Do they know how to measure productivity? Can they measure value to the customer? Can they measure anything, besides end results (orders, revenue)? Maybe the managers can rank order the effectiveness of their salespeople. So, what are they doing to make sales easier, to improve productivity of the team as a whole?  (more...)

How to Get Sales & Marketing Leader's Commitment in Lean Initiatives

A reader asked

  • How can you get sales and marketing leader's commitment in Lean initiatives?

SocratesI get this question all the time from lean process excellence leaders. Here is the simple answer: 

  • You cannot win salespeople’s hearts and minds unless you can help them sell. 

Here’s the critical thing: Sales and marketing work is fundamentally different than that of production manufacturing. Sales is not just another department, like production, legal, or engineering, or customer service.  (more...)

Financial Impact

What Impact Does Your Sales Process Have on Your Financial Statements?

By Michael J Webb

(pdf of this article)

Most companies want to improve their sales results. Like any other productive work, marketing and sales adds value, and that value can be measured. In a manufacturing plant the product is tangible and the value added is visible in the form of inventory. Managers clearly understand the impact of changes in productivity and inventory levels on their financial statements.

This is not the case in marketing and sales. First, the value added in sales is in someone’s head. This doesn’t mean that the value is just a matter of opinion. But it does mean that different techniques must be used to identify and measure it. Second, most people have only a rudimentary understanding of the relationship between the cost of sales activities and a company’s revenue. Essentially, they see sales as responsible for the “top line” and production as responsible for “the bottom line.”

In fact, marketing and sales has far more impact on the bottom line than most managers realize. But heightening this impact in a positive way calls for control and predictability that are missing in most companies. That’s because most companies fail to employ a process approach to understanding their marketing and sales activities.

This paper defines the basic approach for defining, measuring, and improving marketing and sales processes, and uses a case study to illustrate how the activities and results of the sales process impact a company’s financial statements.


What Sales Process Behavior Charts Can Tell You

Dear Readers,

Thank you for the excellent remarks about what process behavior charts can tell you from last week's blog post. For convenience, I have reproduced the image here (with interpretation below).

Figure 1 - Sales Process Behavior Charts

Figure 1 - Sales Process Behavior Charts

Mark Allen said:

Looks like while they are closing, they are not also prospecting…and unfortunately I see B2Bs do this frequently. This is by far one of the single biggest headaches that drives CEOs crazy as it adds a degree of variability that hits home where it hurts…in cash flow.



What Can You Tell From These Sales Process Behavior Charts?

Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to measuring sales and marketing production.

Measuring Sales Production Correctly

Figure 1 below contains two process behavior charts showing production measurements from a B2B company’s sales process. The first shows the quantity of qualified opportunities generated per month. The second shows quantity of closed orders per month. Each is for the same group of salespeople over the same twelve month time period.

Most companies measure orders (output) only, so they have no way of knowing what is really going on in the business. In this case we can tell a lot more about what is going on because we have a measure of the input (qualified opportunities) as well as the output.


Why Is It So Hard to Create Improvements in the Sales Department?

Some people didn’t like the word “Easy” in last week’s blog post: “Six Easy Ways to Boost Your Company’s Sales Results.” For example, reader Tony Cole said:

“If it were easy then everyone would be doing it. …

“Let’s address the issues of why companies, sales leaders, and salespeople fail to implement and execute basic fundamental sales processes or techniques, let alone the sophisticated process improvements you talk about here.”


Are You Improving Your Selling System? (Or Repeating the Same Old Grind?)

Some people have a choice in the way they approach sales and marketing: They can work IN the production system, or ON it.

Salespeople are inherently IN the system. Their job is to do the best they can to get prospects to a successful conclusion as effectively as possible.

Sales and marketing managers often view their jobs in a similar way. When they think of improving performance, they think of ways to get more (of the same things) done.


Quick Sales Productivity Boosts

If you are a salesperson and you need a productivity boost, there are lots of possibilities, such as better meeting preparation, more practice presenting, maintaining your relationships, and working to become more organized.

However, what if your entire organization needs a sales productivity boost? What can an organization do?

Contests and sales training are obvious things that come to mind. However, if these have any effect at all, they are typically short lived.


The Last Thing a Fish Discovers is Water

Last week’s blog post “Why People Are NOT Your Most Important Asset” created some strong reaction.

Here is an example:


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 ( 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 article touched 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 exact same thing has happened to me, Bob. More than once, actually.

Many employers today are stamping their feet, unwittingly trying to get their salespeople to do more of what does not work.

My employers assumed the problem was me. They felt that way for a bunch of reasons:

For one thing, they succeeded when they were in the field! (They didn't realize how much things had changed.)

For another, everywhere they turn they are told “People are the most important thing. Get the right people and everything will be alright. If the numbers aren't coming in, there must be a problem with the people."


The greatest people in the world cannot overcome a broken system. And most management today are not even aware that they are part of a system. Instead they assume the solution to their problems is for the marketing department to market better, the sales department to sell better, and the service department to service better.

It has been said that “The last thing a fish discovers is water.”

Bob’s message is evidence that these managements are unwittingly damaging their companies. They are running off talented salespeople like him: people with the initiative to create new approaches that respond to today’s environment and technologies.

These management teams need to come up for air. They need to take a look at the world from a broader, more accurate perspective.

There is a widely held belief that an organization would have few problems if only their employees would do their jobs correctly. As Dr. Joseph Juran pointed out years ago, this belief is incorrect.

As Bob and I can attest, most of the problems companies have in sales and marketing can be resolved only by improving the sales and marketing "system" (which is largely determined by management). Few of the problems are under the employee's control.

Only when a management team understands this can they can begin to leverage the people they do have to their best advantage.

Michael Webb