While there are the usual definitions for sales involving “relationships”, driving revenue and all that, you could look at as the constant pursuit of greater productivity. Sales are not alone in the corporate world to have to produce more year after year, but there is something unique in the challenge of sales. Increases in productivity and efficiency on one side of the equation, say manufacturing, is usually partially, if not entirely accompanied by a reduction in cost or spend for the manufacturer, and it is similar in other businesses. At the same time, in this same environment of shrinking cost (or spending), sales people have to go out and raise more sales, more revenue, better results.
The quest for efficiencies is not lost on the growing industry of providers of means and tools to help sales people and organizations deliver more. From CRM to SFA, palm computers to BlackBerrys, all promising greater visibility into accounts, knowledge of clients, and of course all more efficiently and in less time. But the promise is often not achieved, and it is not for lack of quality or the intent of the providers, but more the attitude of the user.
Let’s take the BlackBerry, I have one, I am writing this and many other posts on it, and do all the other things on it you would imagine. But I do believe that it is bad to unleash them on sales without some serious rules in place before handing them out, big boldly written warnings displayed every time they fire the thing up, and a life time supply of Ritalin.
To see things our way, you do have to buy into one basic belief we have at Renbor Sales Solutions, we believe that all good and great sales people have a form of attention-deficit disorder (ADD), or Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) if they are under 30, and, oh look squirrel! So when you take a group with reactionary tendencies with ADD, and you add the BlackBerry to the mix, you have the unnatural swirl of circumstances that make sales people lose sight of reality and become the human equivalent of a super ball locked in a gyrating 1 sq foot box.
We’ve all seen it, a rep doing something perfectly productive, say cold calling; they had scheduled a full hour, and have been doing good for 15 minutes. Then their BlackBerry rattles and shakes, and you can see the ADD kicking in, (Ooh new mail, gotta read, read now), and everything changes. Like someone possessed they drop everything, and get sucked into a vortex of reactionary waste land where there is a lot of hurrying, a lot of movement, but little productivity.
Well first we gotta answer that e-mail, then find out the facts, send an update to the e-mail, that we are looking into it, and then waiting for the answer. Can’t make any more calls till this gets resolved, just in case we’re on the phone when the answer lands, but this is important, wants to know if we will still be delivering on Thursday morning.
I don’t know how many times I have seen perfectly sane and calm sales people jump up in the middle of a meeting, run for the door and off to save the planet again. I always ask what the issue was, and not once has it been a life and death situation, or a deal or no deal scenario. Usually it is a distraction to the meeting they are in, and a chance for the rep to look productive, to seem responsive to buyers’ needs, and self-important. But rarely is it necessary, when you look at it, the odd time, the 1 in 100 times the planet is saved is a very small percentage of time, the anomaly that does not justify the negative impact all the other times.
Beyond the distraction to the others involved in the meeting, beyond what they may have missed while bouncing down the hall, disturbing one worker after the other; the fact remains that it is rarely productive.
While it would be easy to blame the reps, they are not at fault, they are told to do more in less time with less resources. They are not trained in the use of many applications beyond which button to push for managements’ desired effect, but not how to use the tool to improve workflow and productivity. So it is easy to conclude that they have asked me to do more, they have given me a tool that seems to do things, so if I use it a lot, use it often, and use in taking care of clients or client issues it should make me a better worker.
Management tells them to cover the market and client, build relationships and bring in more revenue, and oh, here is something that will help to make that happen. Can you blame the last link in the chain for the outcome?
Again, we love the tool, we do not blame the inanimate object; we blame the lack of training, leadership and direction. The power and confidence to tell the sales team, “This CRM or this handheld device is here to help you control and manage your workflow.” Instead where it leaves sales reps is a place where the tools are controlling and managing the sales reps and the outcomes.
What’s in Your Pipeline?
How Trevor Salvaged His Situation
On Thursday we posted a piece about Trevor and his dilemma, Salvaging The Worst Of A Situation; having stayed at one appointment so long that he was too late for the next one. We asked people to submit creative ways Trevor can make the best out of an awkward situation. We promised that we would reveal what Trevor did, and share the responses of others and have you vote for the best suggestions. At the moment we have had five people with some interesting suggestions, we would like to see a couple of more; so while we will share Trevor’s here, we will open the voting tomorrow for the best way to salvage things.
The way Trevor tells it, he did not want to make the second prospect feel less important or wanted than the first, so he ruled out calling them at 3:00 to tell them he ran long at the 1:00. As already pointed out, Trevor did not go to the stuck in traffic route as it leaves open the question as to why he didn’t call sooner. He did intuitively start driving towards the second location, but could not come up with a scenario that did not either make him look careless, sloppy or uncaring, nor was there a scenario that did not insult the client if he showed up that day close to an hour late. That’s when it struck him, he says, he had a moment of clarity, and he turned off the road and headed back to the office. At the end of it all there was nothing he could do that day that would help him come out of this without being behind. According to Trevor there was only one thing to do, wait. Wait for the day to be over, and wait for a chance to do it again. When will again come? For Trevor it was exactly a week later. The very following Wednesday at 2:55 Trevor pulled stepped into the prospect’s office for his 3:00 meeting.
The client seemed a bit confused:
P: Weren’t we supposed to meet last Wednesday?
T: No, I had it for today, see! (He held out his Palm with great pride, there at 3:00 Wed. Jul 22, meeting with XXXX, the person now standing opposite him)
P: I guess I must have marked in on the wrong day, I am glad one of us had it right, come on in.
Trevor tells me they are getting along famously now, and they have started what looks to be a lucrative and ongoing relationship.