Market leading Sales forces are singularly focused: to sell stuff.
Sales are one of the most accountable areas of the organization and often are under the constant microscope of senior leaders as they have a significant, immediate, and direct impact on the bottom line. Companies must enable their salespeople and not emasculate them. Over the past 25 years I have always preferred to hire the sales stallions over order taking geldings. Stallions require you to have a high emotional intelligence, and they will often try to get your goat, however they consistently produce and add value. While geldings wait to be told what to do, how to say it, and where to go. Stallions are saying get out of my way or I will run over you.
Market losing organizations myopically manage every sales activity and create approval thresholds that slow the sales cycle when the heat is on and the market dries up.
I thought it would be helpful to get inside the mind of a salesperson today, in this economy…so I interviewed a few and below is a summary is what I heard…
It’s simple really, as a salesperson our job is to; Sell. Yes you ask me to do all kinds of little side projects, write reports, and conduct market investigations gathering data to insure what marketing is telling the CEO is actually what’s going on out here in this mystical place called “our market.” However at the end of the day my compensation is specifically tied to: selling stuff. The more stuff I sell the more money I make. My job is to “make it happen” with whatever you folks at corporate throw over the wall.
I tried telling you the reason that last product launch failed was because you created a product because you could and not because you should…but you said I was just making excuses and I needed to “sell through objections…and hit my numbers”
My pay, my commission rice bowl if you will, is about selling as much as I can, as quick as I can, and building relationships that plant seeds for future sales. With the internet my customers are more knowledgeable than they have ever been before about our products and services, (they often know things about our company before I do these days and this really makes me look bad in my market) so my job is really to help buyers solve their problems with the stuff I sell, and help them buy from us. I don’t like to discount our product unless I have to because my commission is based on the selling price, and the more I discount the more units I will need to sell to hit my targeted compensation.
My buyers are really it playing close to the vest right now;
· My buyers have to justify every expenditure to the “higher ups” who they do not have relationships with
· C-level executives need to sign off on all orders
· I have to speak with all kinds of people I never had to sell before; CTO, CMO, CEO, CFO…
· Customers are not stocking up and they are taking much longer to buy, our programs give customers the incentive to buy volume, but they want Just In Time
· My buyers have the C-suite recommending all these competing vendors to our products and my buyers are spending time chasing these leads the C-suite read about or heard about at the country club…versus keeping a close eye on my inventory…so now I am checking our inventory for our customers
· Since you have changed my compensation, I am working twice as hard, twice as long and struggling to make what I made last year
· After the headcount reductions we had at corporate, we have dropped the ball a number of times over the last six months and I am being pulled to fix past sales issues in ;customer service, billing and quality issues ( you see I am out here, I have to stand belly to belly with these folks called “customers” and I can’t hide behind voice mail, email, or transfer them to someone else, if I do not solve these past sales issues they will not buy until the problem is fixed.
· My family life is strained, you see we established a lifestyle based on my past compensation, and when you changed it, it not only affects me, but it touches my entire family. My wife and kids felt I spent too much time working as it was however they justified it because I am a work-a –holic and we were making good money, but now they pressure me..” why work so hard after what they did with your pay..You need to go someplace where you are appreciated like XXXX used to.”
· About 70% of what marketing gives me I do not use. I know it will piss you off, but what I have been doing is writing my own stuff and using some of what Mike also created up in the North West region, you see it is old, but it works!
· I lost another customer last week because we out sourced XXXX to china. I know you said we make more profit and their cost is 1/3 of what it would cost us to make it, but if it’s junk what’s the point. Besides, I have been selling him a lot of other products and now I lost the entire account over the stuff we outsourced?…I know sell through it…
· The young “Hitler youth” you hired in accounts receivables has pissed off a number of my key accounts. I hear the CFO told him to trim 15 days off the receivables aging? Well if he keeps threatening my customers, you won’t have to worry about receivables much longer! Is it true you have him on a commission of what he collects? No wonder he put my largest account on hold for $3500 12 days past due…it’s hard enough out here guys!
· That launch of xxxxx was great, but now we are on back order and my buyers are calling to check on their orders versus buying more.
So for all of the leaders out there who never have carried a sales bag, I hope the above was enlightening.
(do you still think a monkey could do it?)
Having led salespeople for 25 years, what they said did not surprise me, but what took me back was the energy, anger even, in the way they said it. Are you listening and observing the challenges your salespeople are experiencing? Are you creating sales enablement tools to help keep conversations flowing to a sale? Or are you telling them to stop making excuses and “just make it happen”?
I was also taken back by the disconnect that seems to have grown wider when the teams became challenged by current economic conditions.
Market leaders grow closer through challenges and emerge stronger.
Market losers conduct Blame-storming that adds no value and if left unchecked cripples a team.
This disconnect should not surprise me really because I frequently speak with business owners and senior leaders who say things like;
· “I make sales come to me personally with each “deal” they want to give away “Why? “Well because, if I told them upfront the range I am willing to work in they would all sell at the lowest price, and give away the farm” [for what it’s worth this is a trust and respect issue not a pricing issue gang]
· “Saying the economy is tough is just an excuse, when I carried a bag….” (he carried one 20 years ago)
· Marketing ; “ we just spent six figures on the re-launch of xxxx and sales is not using any of the tools we developed, we need to hold them more accountable”[ no, how about understanding the market and the buying process and creating tools to keep conversations flowing?]
· I heard a marketing executive say; “sales is like water, they take the path of least resistance to a sale” [how would that make you feel if you were in sales? Does this sound respectful to you?]
· A CFO said recently; “with what we are paying them they should be working 18 hours a day.”[Really? In most organizations sales is compensated with a base and a commission. Most commission rates vary from 5% to 15%. So Mr. CFO , you should look forward to cutting those commission checks because for every nickel you pay, you get ninety-five cents]
Tough times cause the true nature of people and teams to emerge. Market leading teams use adversity to become stronger.
Market losing organizations “eat their young”.
How about your organization?
What behaviors are you seeing when your team becomes stressed?
What other comments have salespeople heard that show a lack of respect for sales?
What comments have salespeople made that show a lack of respect for other departments?
Do you feel silos (kingdoms) are healthy, or negatively impact bottom line results?
Market leading teams tear down silos and align their entire team to a specific mission and establish key performance indicators that measure what matters. Market leading teams reward cross functional behavior and crush kingdom building.
What kind of a company do you work for?