I’ve called it–the era of selling we have been operating in is dead, but what does that mean for sales managers? If sales has changed that means that sales management must also change if you want to thrive in this new era of sales.
For instance, geography is rarely a barrier to sales in today’s environment. Sales are processed through computers, facilitated through rapid delivery, and financed through mechanisms that occur with the swipe of a credit card.
The barriers to product information have fallen as well. Global access to information and technology allows buyers to assess differences between products on their own. It is also estimated that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of purchase transactions without talking to a human.
So what does this mean for sales managers? The companies excelling in today’s environment understand three critical ways that sales management has changed. The question is, do you?
1) Higher-Level Sales Require More Efficiency
Higher-level sales now require a greater level of efficiency. Why? Because shifts in the businesses-to-business (B2B) buying process require more resources to hunt opportunities than in the past. You may need a larger team because it often takes more time and cycles to meet with all the people on your clients’ teams. You’ll also need more time and resources to gather additional insight and information to shape your offering to your prospect. All this means you must be more efficient and targeted than in the past. If you let your salespeople run amok, calling on whomever they choose, you will get a lower yield because there is little selectivity and no focus on efficiency.
You’ve heard it over and over again as CEO—delegate, delegate, delegate! Learning how to delegate is crucial for every CEO, yet research shows that one of the top areas board directors say CEOs still need to work on is “sharing leadership/delegation skills.”
With all of this focus on delegation, is there such a thing as over-delegation? You are, after all, CEO—NOT Chief Delegation Officer. So while it is important to delegate some things, not everything should be delegated.
Below are 5 areas of your business that are your responsibility to always monitor closely:
1) Quality Standards
As CEO of your company, as soon as you stop paying attention to the quality of your products and services, so will the rest of your employees. While you can delegate quality control to employees, you cannot delegate setting the quality standard. That comes from the top and should be protected by the top. The quality of your product or service will only be as high as the bar you set as CEO. No one has sharper eyes, ears, and intuitive knowledge of what quality means for your company than you.
2) Financial Health
Having your accounting and reporting tasks performed by trained CFOs and accountants is necessary, but what is not necessary is to yield all decisions about your company’s future and supporting tactical initiatives to your financial team. While your financial team is your right hand, you are exclusively responsible for telling that right hand which tasks to focus on accomplishing to maintain the financial health of your business.
“Extinction is what happens when the shared history of what works takes us past the point where we need to adapt.”
A University of California, Berkeley, study found that animals and plants don’t just disappear because of bad luck in a static and unchanging environment. Most cases of extinction are the result of a changing environment combined with a lack of adaptation to the new environment. This is true in the animal kingdom, as well as in the world of sales.
Many businesses are at risk of going extinct because the world of selling is no longer as it was. The era of selling we have been operating in has changed and continues to change, and the businesses that fail to adapt to this new environment will no longer be viable.
According to the McKinsey Quarterly, nearly 50 percent of all B2B purchases will be made on digital platforms by the end of 2015. In addition, B2B customers now on average regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the decision journey. This is a far cry from the days of linear sales transactions that took place between a buyer and a seller. Does your sales strategy fit into this new buying process or is your business at risk of being on its way out?
Below are three signs you are (way, way, way) past the point of where you need to adapt to survive in life after the death of selling as we once knew it.
1) You think salespeople close business.
The Death of Selling
I regret to inform you that selling has passed away. The exact time of death is not known, but was long anticipated. Selling fought a long, hard battle against the changing B2B buying process, but ultimately lost the fight. Without adaptation, selling was unable to survive in the new era of sales. Selling will be greatly missed by old-school sales leaders and traditional sales reps who rely solely on hard work, charisma, and a bloated database of personal contacts. However, what gives us hope is the prospect of life after the death of selling.
Life After the Death of Selling
The era of selling we have been operating in is dead. Shifts in the B2B buying process have transformed selling as we know it. We must change the way we sell when buyers change the way they buy, which means we also must change the way we lead.
Below are three tips to help you lead your company in life after the death of selling as we know it.
- Become a Fortuneteller
Now, more than ever, one of your weightiest responsibilities as CEO is anticipating the future. In this new fast-paced sales era, not adapting to a quickly changing market means extinction. Your new job as executive leader is to become a fortuneteller so you can lead your company to adapt. You must figure out what the customer will need not today, but tomorrow, and (most importantly) the day after that.
- Become a Builder
If you want to survive in this new era of sales, it is critical to build a framework for your entire organization to make decisions, including the sales team.
I get the privilege of speaking with thousands of CEOs about their businesses, their plans to grow and their challenges. The conversation often turns to the question,
“Do I have the right people in sales to really grow?”
From my perspective, it’s a false choice question. If the answer is yes, then the CEO has concluded that sales growth is just about people. If the answer is no, then the CEO will be stuck replacing sales people with institutional knowledge, market and customer contacts and a lot of unrecoverable investment on the company’s part.
Hiring is a risky and murky business at best and then there is the inevitable performance delay called “onboarding.”
Let me offer a different set of questions:
- Can your sales people learn?
- Will your sales people change?
- Do your sales people know that they are “at risk” in your view of the future?
The CEOs who ask about their people, know the truth, “what got you here won’t get you there”. They have just mentally replaced the “what” for “who” in that analysis.
But, experience tells me that changing the “what,” the company’s process, message and delivery, is more important than changing the “who.”
Recently, I met with Bill Caskey, a friend and colleague in sales performance development, caskeyone.com. We were talking about what makes for remarkable sales performers. The right balance of mindset and mechanics was our conclusion. One without the other creates an unsustainable performance recipe. I later added one more ingredient:
Here is What it Looks Like:
- Mindset sets the frame for what is possible for yourself and your team. It is not a false bravado or an artificial “rah-rah” speech. This is the lens through which remarkable performers view the world. It is abundance-based and confidence comes from the concrete and accurate view of people, process and the marketplace.
- Mechanics include all of the baseline skills necessary to connect, build trust, diagnose, advise and present solutions to prospects. In the modern sales world this requires successfully expanding the participants in the process on both sides of the buying process.
- Magic is the least tangible, but still necessary component of discerning between several choices what is the best and most productive choice to make in a variety of leadership, management and selling circumstances.
My upcoming program for senior sales leadership is called, “The 3 Ms” based on the ideas of mindset, mechanics and magic. I built it because often the least invested in position is the one of sales leadership, yet it has the highest leverage for performance. If you are interested in learning about it or the upcoming start of our next Academy sessions, click here to provide us your information and we will get right back with you.
I met with a master of the relationship pitch recently. He is an artist. I’ll hit some highlights of what he did:
- Researched me and everyone on my team in advance of the meeting
- Dug deep on our website and the internet regarding our company
- Followed up his initial phone call with a detailed and specific email summarizing the phone call and the agenda for the next steps
When we met, he was friendly, charming, confident and engaging. This should have worked. We should have connected, built trust and we should have bought from him. In fact, he made friends, we did connect and all of us trust him- we just did not buy. Why? He was not relevant to our business, only to us as people.
This sales person came from the perspective that trust is the highest importance in building a sales relationship and being liked is a part of that. The current world wants those things along with relevance and value. That’s where he missed.
Here’s what he should have done in addition to connecting to the people:
- Determine what the problem is that we need to have solved. He did not know and he never asked.
- Research the competitors to our business and the threats that we face so as to position his offering in alignment with what we are trying to overcome.
- Offer us a clear picture of why his offering would fix our unique problem.
It is going to be hard to tell this sales person no, he is a real charmer and I like him.
Get Out of the Straitjacket
Opening your email and voicemail the first thing every day, is liking putting on a straitjacket and spending the first few hours of every day trying to escape from it.
Hyper-responsiveness creates a false sense of accomplishment. Just because you get back to someone within minutes on an issue they would have waited hours for a response on, does not make you more productive or even more appreciated. It just makes you wasteful of the most valuable thing you have to spend- your time.
If you want to get out of the straitjacket faster, don’t escape. It is faster to not get into it in the first place. Let me remind you of some ideas you know, but are not following:
- Do not open email until 10 a.m. at the earliest and work your way up to waiting until noon.
- Only listen to voicemails on even hours of the day.
- Plan your day for at least 5 hours of self-scheduled, self-directed work. The remainder of the available time is for work driven in response to others requests.
If you are not following these simple rules, then you are sitting around every morning without a plan and waiting to be told what to do. If you don’t like that idea, change your plan and your habits.
The Oddsmaker – What’s Your Chance of Winning?
Vegas has its oddsmakers. These experts evaluate all sorts of data to determine the likely outcome of some event- usually a competitive sporting event. All sorts of information is considered in the calculation- health of the contestants, past win-loss records, positional match ups, even weather. Then they make their predictions.
The good ones have a secret formula that they use that, when combined with their experience and instincts, allows them a higher accuracy than their competitors. They call it their “system”.
For large account sales, I can give you my formula- the rest of the system you have to come to The Academy to learn.
- Start with zero
- Executive Sponsor: If you have a Executive Sponsor, add 30 points
- Buyer’s table: If you have established contact with three or more of the members of the prospect team’s buying group and have met with them face to face, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- The Eel: If you have identified the Eel and are engaged with them in the sales process, add 5 points. If you have not identified the eel, or if you cannot get their engagement, subtract 15 points.
- Hunt team connections: If you have introduced three or more people in a meeting or on-site visit for a period greater than 45 minutes to members of the prospect team’s buying group, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- Needs assessment: Add 15 points if you are able to perform an in-depth needs assessment as a part of the preparation of your proposal.
Having a Winner’s Mindset
If your thoughts are a direct reflection of the thoughts of the people with whom you surround yourself, you have to ask, “What people are feeding my thoughts?”
For a starter, let’s take money and your thoughts about money. Here is a quick self-diagnosis, especially for sales people. Answer these questions:
- Do I make more, same or less money than my parents did at my current age, (adjusted for inflation)?
- Do I make more, same or less money than the people with whom I graduated high school?
- Do I make more, same or less money than the people I spend the most time with in my life?
Chances are that if you make more money than two out of three of those groups, you are relatively satisfied with your earnings. This is true with most life endeavors, consciously or subconsciously we compare ourselves and determine our success based upon the people within our personal reference frame and circle.
Ten years ago, I realized that I was in the top 10% of success of everyone in my personal circle. So I expanded my circle. I found other successful people who were much more successful and added them to my circle. I didn’t get rid of my current circle; I just got a bigger circle. When I did that, my view of the world expanded significantly as to what success looked like. My perspective on philanthropy, education, wealth and influence was much different with broader horizons and great examples to follow.