Excuse My Typos – Just Busy Establishing Plausible Deniability0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

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Mantras such as Just Do It, or Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk, are a great way to put a focus on DOING things rather than just being a bystander or just talking about doing things or worse, talking about why you did not do it. But they are just a starting point, the objective is to do things progressively better. While I remind all of us in sales that sales success is about doing things, I also regularly have to add that it is about doing it right, doing it consistently, doing it well, doing it to the best of our abilities, and challenging ourselves to continuously improving those abilities; not just mail it in so you can say it is done, as all too many are apt to do.

I see this in all aspects of sales, those who just make ten calls to ten sequential names on a list, and call it prospecting; versus those who initiate contact and engagement with ten 10 prequalified, researched, planned and targeted viable potential buyers, using all the tools available to them, from traditional to social and everything between. Both groups can tell me they prospected, both start out with the same objective, one group merely completes a task, in the narrowest sense; the other fully executed a strategy, and the results clearly reflect both efforts.

If you’re going to start the endeavour, why not do it right, fully and completely? Some may just write it off to a lack of commitment, but I believe it goes further than that, it goes to a lack of accountability and responsibly. Finding it safe and safer to blend in to grey rather than expend or invest in the effort to commit to either black or white.

You see this characteristic present itself in other ways. Two or three times a week I get an e-mail from sales types where at the bottom it has a disclaimer along the lines:

I am sending this from a (insert brand or type here) mobile device, sorry for any typos.

Now I am the first to admit that I regularly have typos in my blog posts, despite the effort to read and reread them before posting, but when I mess up, I thank the folks who point it out and take steps to not repeat it in the future. But rather than doing it right, it strikes me that the people in question go for establishing plausible deniability from the outset, even before the outcome is known. Or maybe they know what results their efforts will yield, and find it easier to establish plausible deniability than the work it would take to ensure the right outcome.

We all know that many of today’s mobile devices have some form of auto word correction/completion utility which sometimes insert the freakiest words instead of the word we were looking to type, but it is up to me to ensure that I communicating what I intend, not the devices’ algorithm. Where is the accountability and responsibility for the quality of the result? Sure it is just an e-mail, but it is an e-mail that reflects on the writer, and by extension their work, further their commitment to doing things right. If one can’t be bothered for such a simple thing, how much more effort will there be for more demanding things leading to and from the sale.

Another example of this half-assed approach is sales forecasts. While again automation has helped, it is still a question of garbage in garbage out. Talk to most sales people, they will tell you that their task is to submit a forecast. While their company is looking for an accurate forecast, one that will help them better run their business, understand potential order flow and resource requirement, protect margins, which in turn help make the product and your selling more competitive. I have had more than one rep tell me that they in fact have two forecasts, one they share, and the other is their own secret stash of opportunities. They care less about contributing, than covering their ass. Sure some of this is a result of a poor pipeline and opportunities to forecast, but the root cause is the same. When asked why, they unabashedly will tell you that it is a CYA exercise, completely discarding accountability.

What’s worse is their managers perpetuate the problem, discounting many of the forecasts and scaling things back subjectively to cover their own. They could and should work with the reps to A) understand what is expected; B) more importantly to actually be able to deliver a forecastable set of opportunities, that when proper weighted based on the companies defined sales process will actually deliver the results forecasted. But it is easier to scale back, build in “a plausibly deniable” buffer, and move on to the next task.

Managers can also do a better job of setting expectations. We have all seen instances where they set the task of their reps doing 10 calls, and they get exactly that, 10 calls. How much more effort would it take to articulate what those 10 calls are really meant to do in terms of engaging with real prospects, and pipeline opportunities. I know of one company where they have dictated that reps make 100 calls a week (either phone or door to door), probably twice what the team was (and is) used to. Well they got their 100 or so calls, without much lift in prospects or pipeline.

Mutual accountability up and down the line, with clear expectations set not just for results, but how to best achieve those results can go a long way to improving those results. Allowing cracks to be filled with plausible deniability not only kills results, but creates and fosters a culture without accountability, and no focus for change and improvement. If as a manager and an organization, you stop allowing people to establish plausible deniability, you will take a major step towards establishing a foundation of accountability, responsibility and success, a culture that will consume less resources while yielding more and consistent results.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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