Engineers, Inner City Schools, and Gaining Salespeople’s Cooperation: Part 2

Bill Zeeb from Switzerland wrote me last Friday afternoon to say:

           "… the education piece this week, while hitting home, drifts from your sales focus."

Trust me, Bill, in part 2 below, things will come into focus again!

In fact, the lesson in here is one of the most important in all of sales and marketing management.

Let me know if you don't agree!

Michael Webb

October 7, 2008  


Engineers, Inner City Schools, and Gaining Salespeople's
Cooperation: Part 2

Last week I told you about Dean Kamen, the brilliant inventor and entrepreneur, and what you can learn from him about leading your sales and marketing organization.  This week I will discuss strategies that you can implement to change the culture of your sales organization and gain the cooperation and support of your salespeople.

Gaining Salespeople's Cooperation

Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to have your salespeople join a robotics competition or even have a sales contest.

I am going to say that, as the leader of the organization, you have within your grasp the levers to completely change the culture of your sales organization. All it requires is that you change your own management focus just a tiny bit.

You see, there are two mistakes I constantly see senior executives making when it comes to the sales process:

1.     The first mistake is allowing the sales process to be focused inwardly while ignoring the customer's actions and especially why the customer should take the actions you want them to take.

2.     The second mistake is leaving implementation up to the sales team alone. Once a workable sales process is set up (with credible offers for each step of the Customer's Journey), executives continue to manage and measure things the old-fashioned way.

In our business culture here in the U.S., the "old-fashioned way" of managing means putting a minor amount of attention into planning the work and a great deal of effort into DOING the work. Most companies have highly intelligent, highly educated, and highly motivated sales teams who are diligently working their asses off.

So, if results aren't what they hoped for in the end, well, then what?

Most managers and salespeople aren't sure, figuring they'll cross that bridge when they come to it or some such thing. Maybe they'll fall back on the usual fixes, trying various essentially random things.

And that is the problem!

Deming's PDCA to the Rescue

Rather than leaving the implementation of the sales process up to the sales team and hoping for the best, I advise executives to work through the process with field salespeople in a more rigorous fashion modeled after Deming's Plan, Do, Check, Act approach.

Once you get the hang of it, applying PDCA to your regular sales meetings is deceptively simple and extremely powerful. That's because it addresses some of our important cultural biases head on:

Only results count.
Nothing could be farther from the truth! The entire issue of improving results is one of understanding exactly what activities are necessary to create them. The bias some executives have for "spare me the details" is misplaced when it comes to launching any kind of change or improvement in a sales process.
There is no point in analyzing things.
Again, wrong! The point is to bring salespeople together to learn from each other's experiences. They must develop a precise language for understanding a myriad of nuances in their environment, so they can distinguish the fundamental issues from the trivial ones.
Everybody already knows what they are doing.
Wrong again! I don't mean to be insulting, but I do mean to challenge you on this point: Until you and your team have been through a process exercise and meticulously begun to track and measure your activities and results, you only think you know what you are doing.

The PDCA approach enables management to create a cultural bias toward scientific, organized, and rational ways of doing things.

I can guarantee you there are important nuances everyone on your team has been overlooking, because in most companies the sales culture is biased toward action and against analysis. We'll charge up whatever hill we are told, absorbing the bumps and bruises of customer's rejection every step of the way.

What we won't do is step back to figure out whether this is the right hill to be charging up!


Second Edition just released-completely revised:
Turn Your Sales and Marketing
into a Predictable Money Machine
(and do it in a way your salespeople will love!)

Gaining Salespeople's Cooperation

As our firm has applied PDCA to various sales process improvement teams, we have been amazed by the degree to which salespeople want and need to discuss the nuances and details of their situations. When people are challenging the meaning of terms, it means they are taking things seriously. We hear questions like:

·     "Exactly when can I count this as a lead?"

·     "What happens if the lead goes cold; do I have to subtract it from the total?"

·     "Are we putting the list of our active prospects on the report every week, or just the ones that became active during this week?"  

Everyone on the sales team sees each other's attempts to reach their targets and understand precisely what the language means. They hear about each other's frustrations-both with their customers and with their own company's mistakes.

This amplifies the "band of brothers" environment, effectively making them more of a team, committing each other to achieving what they say they'll achieve. It provides opportunities to credibly celebrate the many "small victories" that are so essential to achieving truly difficult sales goals.

Further, the approach provides hard data evidence, meeting after meeting, of what is actually happening in the field so executives can separate the actionable issues affecting everyone from the trivial details affecting only a few.

This is the key to the power of this approach: It causes salespeople to realize that management is really listening to them.

When you were a kid in some conflict with an authority figure, do you remember how much it meant when they acknowledged you were right about something? Even small changes that management undertakes as a result of the insights gathered in an objective and systematic way from salespeople has a profoundly motivating effect on the field sales team.

I will guarantee you this: When you conduct meetings in this way after a process improvement session, you'll get more insight, improvement, and cooperation from the sales team than you have ever seen after a traditional sales training initiative.  


Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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