Sunday, February 08, 2009

If I Was a Sales Executive...

looking for resources to help me upgrade the talent of my people, to whom would I turn?

There is certainly an abundance of information starting from books over websites to blogs, pod casts, and social networks I can use to get a first impression of what is available on the market of sales training, sales enablement or sales effectiveness offerings all aimed at upgrading the talent of a sales force. At the second glance, this abundance, apparently giving me a lot of choice turns out to me more a curse than a blessing. The sales consulting, training and coaching industry offerings are full of juxtapositions making choices difficult.

I just have to look at my bookshelf where I can find a book entitled “The Death of Demand” right next to one entitled “There is a Customer Born Every Minute” or “ Death of a Salesman” next to “Birth of a Salesman” contradicted by yet another title “Selling is Dead”.

If I go on the Internet, looking up 'Cold Calling' for example, I will find proponents absolutely convinced about the effectiveness of that discipline claiming to be “Queen of Cold Calling” opposite a self declared guru claiming “ Never Cold Call Again”.

Sometimes, the contradiction appear right in the same presentation. Just the other day, I heard that in these tough times; one has to get in front of more customers than in previous years to have a chance to make even the same amount of revenue. And a few sentences later, I heard that the priority is to take special care of your existing customers, they are your gold in these harsh times.

Although I have learned that great leaders rather think in terms of 'and' than 'either or', I have difficulty to adhere to this advice faced with the above juxtapositions. On the other hand, I think it is not worthwhile to get into these discussions who is right and who is wrong, popping up in blogs and social media platforms quite frequently.

You certainly know the stereotype of what a lawyer would say faced with such questions “It depends”. Well this is not exactly helpful either for making a decision, but it helps us to be aware that all these statements were made in a specific context. One can further assume, that in that specific context, there is a least anecdotal evidence, that the varied proposed methods have each lead to some success. Although it will probably be difficult to discern whether this was due to the 'placebo effect' or a real remedy.

The obvious next question then is: What is the context, we should consider, when evaluating the organizations and persons giving these contradicting advice? Does it depend o the industry, the geography, the sort of goods or services sold or on the period these described methods were invented and applied in?

This last aspect, the period when methods were invented or applied, is probably the first one helping us to narrow down the choice of potential candidates suited to help the sales executive to upgrade talent. There is so much written about sales from the perspective “I have done this, it brought me success, try it, there is no reason why it should not work for you”. The way customer buy have changed dramatically over the last few years increasing the danger that such advice might therefore be obsolete in the current circumstances.

Understanding how customers want to buy is therefore the relevant context in which I would judge the suitability of all the different methods available. For many sales executives, this is though the biggest hurdle to jump; to shift the mindset from an 'inside out', to an 'outside in' approach.

As a next selection criteria, the executive can then use the fact, that whoever is offering services to upgrade sales talent, is selling as well. If I were an executive, I then would narrow my choice of potential service providers to those of whom I could say: “I wish that my people could sell in the same manner as this person is just selling to me”. Using this criteria, there is at least a higher likelihood to work with someone, “walking the talk”.

Having worked with thousands of sales people, I have come to the conclusion that authenticity and relevance are key elements needed by someone wanting to help shift the performance curve of a sales force by upgrading the talent.

1 comment:

  1. I really like your open ended answer approach to questions that do not need to be set in stone.

    While I am working with my sales team to raise their standards for what they will accept from a new client, they also need to understand the reasons why some solutions will work and what the reasons are. We want to create and sell solutions that keep our customers satisfied with the results so they will become repeat buyers.

    Christian, I look forward to reading more of your insights.


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