In the first blog post in this series, we embarked on a journey to discuss my view points on best practices for different players in the sales effectiveness solution “selling cycle,” including those who sell these solutions, those who buy these solutions, and those who deliver these solutions…all roles that I have played myself.
In that first episode, I talked about best practices for those sellers who are providing sales effectiveness solutions, and I am sure that many of the ideas I shared were also valuable to those being sold TO! But in this episode, I want to speak specifically to you folks.
Please know going in to this that you hold a special place in my heart, as my nine years in that very role were some of my favorite. I also believe that you are undervalued and underappreciated for your contributions to the sales organization, so my hat is off to you.
As I think back to my time running sales training and sales enablement organizations, a few thoughts come to my mind that I would like to share with you:
- Be demanding of your likely partners. After all, they are selling sales effectiveness and should, if anyone should, have very strong selling skills on display every step of the way. And by all means, they should be practicing what they preach. I don’t think it is asking too much to ask for some transparency in terms of the tools and thought processes they are using as they prepare for interactions with you. If they have a meeting preparation tool, ask to see the one they filled out for you. If they have opportunity management tools or strategic account management tools, ask to see the ones they have filled out for your account. If they won’t show it to you, they do not have one, and that would be a very telling sign.
- Now speaking of tools, keep in mind that a tool is just a tool. And a tool in the hands of someone who does not know how to use it, who doesn’t practice with it, and most importantly, is not coached in its use is most likely a pretty useless tool. I know how to use a putter and this skill has served me well at miniature golf, but if I want to be a competitive golfer, I would need a lot of practice and a lot of coaching on how to read a green, vary speed, etc. So, my point is that if you don’t have a plan for making sure your front line managers drive adoption of the tool, don’t waste your time.
- Front line sales managers are where the rubber meets the road, but just having them on board and fully engaged is not enough. Your executive leadership MUST be fully engaged. This doesn’t just mean a speech at a sales meeting; this means getting educated, using the language, asking to see the tools in use. If you don’t plan on having that, don’t waste your time.
- I also encourage you to know what needle you are trying to move and focus in on it. Trying to change too much at one time or not being clear as to why you are implementing your new process, methodology, or tool are all-too-common mistakes.
- Let me finish with probably the biggest mistake I have seen in my 25 year career, which is trying to solve a non-skill business problem with training! If your product or solution is overpriced, because perhaps your procurement processes are flawed, training your sales people on how to be better sales people will not solve the problem. You need to find the root cause of the problem and fix it. Training only fixes a skill or knowledge problem. I worked for a company whose poor infrastructure and back-office processes did not allow it to be price-competitive, and therefore, our sales people were not selling enough to hit our numbers. Our CEO wanted us to train our sales people to be better sales people, and against my recommendations, we spent 100’s of thousands of dollars, and the needle never moved.
- Lastly, take the time to learn from your peers. There are a lot of us out there, and we all have made mistakes. Many have made the same mistake you could be about to make, and with today’s social networking technology, there is no excuse for not being educated. So, take the time to reach out and ask someone.
These are just a few of my thoughts. I encourage you to reach out to me personally or to someone whom you trust, and share what you are working on to solicit ideas and feedback. Be demanding of those who sell to you and ask to see their tools and hear about their processes.
In our next and final issue, I will address those who actually execute on the plans that you have created, training your sales professionals. This, too, is a critical role in the sales effectiveness realm, and there are some best practices we can implement to ensure the best odds of success.