Times are tough, customers are delaying decisions, business is very competitive, customers are more purchasing savvy than at any time and they really don’t want to be sold to by sales people. But no-one told you that selling was easy!
So what is the standard response from sales managers (VPs/Directors/managers) to this situation? Unfortunately it is often to focus purely on the final outputs of the sales rather than the whole process, and a great analogy for this situation is golf. The sales person is on the tee, driver in hand and the sales manager is nowhere to be seen. The sales person can drive it straight (unlikely in my experience), slice it into the rough or pull it out of bounds. Whatever the outcome the sales manager probably has no idea what has taken place.
The good news is that the sales person got lucky and is in the light rough on the right, and is taking a long iron for their second shot. Again no sales manager is watching and the sales person hits it into the bunker at the side of the green. As they reach their ball the sales manager wanders past and says that they need it down in three from there, and could we do it in the next five minutes (something about quarter end)
They splash out to 18 feet and the sales manager is now standing over the putt with them giving advice and coaching using with phrases like “Remember, whatever you do don’t screw up!”. They putt to 3 feet, always a tricky one, and we notice the sales manager is now joined by their boss – great, the sales person is getting plenty of advice now.
The good news is that they make the putt, the sales manager and their boss leave without a word, and the sales person goes to the next tee by themselves. OK, so it’s an analogy, but it works for me on a number of levels.
Firstly, the sales managers only got involved in the dying moments of the sale and had little understanding of what has gone on in previous meetings with the customer. In fact, the first meeting may have been so bad that the sales person went out of bounds and never got a second shot. Secondly, we are focusing on outputs from previous work (the final putt) rather than shaping the business development efforts of the sales team by coming up with a clear set of practical strategies that can drive results. There are other parts to the analogy – and can you get it in the hole for quarter end – which I am sure you understand from your own personal experience, so I won’t labour the point.
In the next post I am going to explore what hat has changed with buyers that should drive a change in both sales and management behaviour.
I hope you enjoy the ideas.