Internal Negotiations: A Battle the Sales VP Cannot Fight Alone
A consultant I know is struggling to help his client, a sales vice president.
“We’ve got one hell of a problem with internal negotiations,” the sales V.P. said. He saw it as his number one problem, preventing him from making his numbers.
My friend was asking me how we could get the other members of the company’s executive team to identify the problem as well, so it could be prioritized and solved.
The question is a good one. There needs to be a way to identify the problems/symptoms in terms the other executives would recognize and respect.
I touched on this in my article “How to Avoid the Four Mistakes of Sales Process Mapping.” One of the examples (the second one, called “contracting”) was from an insurance company. They had this enormous administrative procedure designed to cover their own bottoms. They wanted the customer to sign a complicated document four or five times, and this document wasn’t even an order!
And they were wondering why their sales department wasn’t making its numbers. When I probed around the idea of doing things the customer wanted instead, the people I was dealing with steadfastly resisted. It was not their job to challenge the system.
Of course, that company doesn’t exist anymore. But here is the thing: the CEO was not involved in our little process mapping project. The team we were dealing with had a charter to make better sales training and some sales tools.
Like most, these managers lived in a world where their function was seen as essential. It was subservient only to the two dimensions of financial statements and corporate politics. In a sense, they lived in “flatland,” and literally could not see, much less solve the problem.
To fix this insurance company’s sales problem, the CEO would have first had to recognize it as one deserving his or her attention.
Second, they would have had to also recognize that for a sales process to work, it must create value for customers. Activities that do not create value for customers must be made subservient to ones that do. Or else, if customers have any choice, they will go somewhere else.
Thus the dilemma my consultant friend faced trying to help his Sales V.P. client.
The process approach adds a third dimension to the system: value to the customer. My consultant friend needed to help his Sales VP to get the CEO to understand. This is a reality the Sales VP cannot fight alone.
Michael J Webb
September 14, 2006