Fix the System, Not the Sales People

Introduction

Organizational leaders ranging from military commanders 4000 years ago to the leaders of today’s corporations – commercial, government, even professional sports organizations – learned that the cardinal advantage of an organization is that success for the organization can come from a group of average, competent people working together, and not necessarily from a collection of harder-to-find experts. In fact, the world’s best are often not successful working in an organization. Being able to work as a contributing member of a team, with personal skills that improve over time and guided by effective processes and procedures (structure), are more likely the determinants of success – than any individual’s superior skill-set and knowledge.

I have worked with a number of companies and their sales teams over the years. This age-old lesson has been ignored by companies, who promote a politically correct but largely unsupported thesis that success in organizations comes from selecting only the best people possible and weeding out the less than exemplary, as if to purify a gene pool. They rank sales employees and dismiss the bottom level; using an array of tests and measures with questionable validity.

The facts and experience show that this philosophy isn’t very successful in strengthening organizational performance. Many times, the results are the opposite.

Don’t The Best Organizations Have the Best People?

The assumption is that quality organizations require quality people, and so leaders should make sure that only top-notch skillful people are recruited, selected and placed in the organization. Great people will produce great results, and especially when they feel engaged and have the freedom to perform. The flaw in this strategy is that it overemphasizes the personal influence of individuals over the culture and design of the organization.

Today as I continue to work with companies and their sales teams, I am stuck by the desire of the sales team to be successful. They want to deliver the revenue objectives that the company has set, however they are handcuffed by the fact that the world of sales is changing constantly. The sales world today is one of social selling, but leadership is not in tune with the changes and therefore can’t understand it when sales continue to stagnate or decline. Management’s expectation is that what worked previously will continue to be the method that will solve today’s problems. Well, if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!

It’s Not the Sales Team

Smart, skillful, “qualified,” eager-to-please sales teams are of course very beneficial to an organization, but they’re of little value to the organization if they are handcuffed to the usual cold calling, email spamming and unannounced sales calls.

Clear, unambiguous, timely, appropriate direction is critical, but also of little value if it’s not changing to accommodate the new world of Social Selling. If the direction they are given is inappropriate, incorrect or unacceptable, then corrections must be implemented quickly or the organization is spending resources to go in the wrong direction to deliver the same or failing results.

Let’s assume the following:

  1. You have a good sales team however;
  • Good performance is not going to continue if your sales team doesn’t have the right tools to do the job in the new world of Social Selling.
  • Good performance is not going to continue if your sales team doesn’t know how to do the job in the new Social Selling environment.
  • Good performance is not going to continue if your sales team doesn’t understand why they have to change in the new world of Social Selling.
  • Good performance is not going to continue if your sales team doesn’t understand what they have to do to be successful the in the new world of Social Selling.

In order for your sales team to optimize their selling process, the organization’s top leadership also needs to be ensuring that the “sales organization” works; that the required processes /systems /procedures /tools are in place (that the machine is properly designed and constructed) so that sales team can run it. Like a poorly designed or broken car, it still won’t work properly no matter how skillful the driver is without the proper process.

Today your company needs a Social Selling Process. Social Media is the name of the game. It is a fact that buying decisions are already 57% of the way down the road before your sales team ever hears about them. It is a fact that 75% of vendors have been vetted through internet research. If you expect your sales team to be effective using the tried and true, they are bound to fail because your sales process no longer works!

How many cold calls have you answered recently? How many spamming emails do you get that make you angry? When was the last time you stopped by a potential customers office unannounced and were able to get past the gatekeeper?

A good Social Selling Process gets your sales team around all of those situations. It helps them create relationships with prospective and current customers. It helps them become educators so that when a company is looking for the expert, they come to your company. It makes them a part of the 75% of vendors being considered.

Quit treating symptoms and get to the root of the problem. The problem is not your sales team, it is your antiquated sales system. Your people have the ability, they do not have to be superstars, they just need the support mentioned above to take them to the next level. Help them become the sales team they envision of themselves.

Great Systems are More Important than Great People

For the CEO who thinks that the individual skills of the officers and the troops were the reason for their success — that’s rarely ever the case. It’s the processes of the organization, resources and the discipline of the army that usually wins the war.

Publications on diagnosing employee performance problems emphasize that correcting the system (that generates performance problems) is the successful route to resolution and problem prevention; rather than blaming the individuals involved.

Conclusion

CEO’s miss the opportunity to strengthen and improve their sales organizations when they focus too much on addressing day-to-day employee performance problems. Instead, the 30,000 foot perspective of the senior executive requires him or her to develop and implement a Social Selling System into the operations of the organization to prevent continued sales stagnation.

Timing Is Everything Baby

As a musician I have learned that timing is everything. As a drummer, I have learned that without the foundation of the bass and drums together for the other musicians to lean on, there can be chaos very quickly.

Timing is so critical in many areas of our lives and business. When I think of timing as it applies to business, it has become even more critical in the new world of social media. The world is moving faster than ever and without good timing you can very quickly be left behind.

Today 57% of buying decisions are completed before we are aware of them. 75% of vendors have been researched by interested companies as a part of their due diligence. So without good timing how do you get involved in the process.

I suggest the following:

  1. Get a good social presence. Update your LinkedIn profile and develop it not to sell someone, but to tell them who you really are. You want to develop a relationship.
  2. Become an expert. You need to write articles and blogs and don’t sell people, just write on the subject at hand and educate. Once seen as an expert, people will explore your profile.
  3. Be active. This is not a once a month activity. You go to work everyday because that is how you build your business. Now you need to make social activity a part of the work day. If you think you don’t have the time, make it! This is an integral part of building your presence and if you don’t do it, the competition will.
  4. When you get inbound reply don’t just ignore it. Thank people for their comments, likes etc.

There is a great deal more to do, but this will give you a good start. The bottom line is this; timing is everything and if you are not online and involved in social your time is up.

Tony Chapman Is Right

I was reading a great post by Tony Chapman today regarding the current state of online shopping and how it is impacting the traditional brick and mortar stores. As an introduction, if you don’t know Tony, he was the CEO of Communique – Capital C and is a world renowned speaker and regarded as one of, if not the most knowledgeable marketers in Canada.

Tony’s comments resonated with me because I can remember the good old days when you shopped at the local corner store for everything. Yes, I am showing my age. Then came the malls and people deserted the local stores, then came Big Box and the demise of traditional retailing was further eroded.

Tony commented that social selling today is now eroding all brick and mortar. To quote him; “Retailers are no longer in control of the game. Consumers are: Treating their phones like the world’s largest vending machine. Gaming the system through apps that inform them of their best deals. Demanding that conventional retailers match these deals.”

While I have empathy for his justifiable concern, the horse is out of the barn. And so, I draw a comparison to how we try and sell today. In the day, we used cold calling and personal visits to build our business. With the advent of email, we began to supplement the preceding with email requests. Like the local stores, malls, etc. those methods have also gone the way of the DoDo bird.

I know many readers will take exception with my comments, but they like many of the retailers that have gone belly up in the last few years, cannot see the forest for the trees. Social is here to stay and if you want to be successful in todays world of social media, you need to upgrade. What do I mean by upgrading?

  1. Get a good social presence. Update your LinkedIn profile and develop it not to sell someone, but to tell them who you really are. You want to develop a relationship.
  2. Become an expert. You need to write articles and blogs and don’t sell people, just write on the subject at hand and educate. Once seen as an expert, people will explore your profile.
  3. Be active. This is not a once a month activity. You go to work everyday because that is how you build your business. Now you need to make social activity a part of the work day. If you think you don’t have the time, make it! This is an integral part of building your presence and if you don’t do it, the competition will.
  4. When you get inbound reply don’t just ignore it. Thank people for their comments, likes etc.

Tony’s comments about retail should be a sounding bell for every person who is in sales today. Social will not eliminate your job, it can only help you grow your sales channel if used effectively. If you choose to ignore it you will lose your job, not through elimination, but to someone who understands and embraces social. We will always need face to face sales. It is how we get to the face to face that will matter.

Zig Ziglar Was Right

“You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar said this many years ago and oh how it applies in todays social media environment.

In todays world of “What’s in it for me”, we have forgotten that it is about people. I am so sick of all the unwanted emails and cold calls I get trying to sell me something. When I connect with some people on LinkedIn I immediately get a message trying to sell me something. On Twitter, I get replies from Followers that try to sell me before they even know me. In both of these cases I guarantee that they have even looked at my profile. If they did, they would be embarrassed to send me the sales pitches they do.

People buy from people. People build relationships with people. People that are successful understand the value of relationships, and they understand that getting to know a person and understand what they need rather than assume what they need is how strong relationships and partnerships are built.

Ziglar said: “help other people get what they want”, not what you want.

For all of you Spammers out there, and yes whether you use LinkedIn, Twitter, Email or Cold Calls, you are Spammers, here are a few tips:

  1. Get a good social presence. Update your LinkedIn profile and develop it not to sell someone, but to tell them who you really are. You want to develop a relationship.
  2. Become an expert. You need to write articles and blogs and don’t sell people, just write on the subject at hand and educate. Once seen as an expert, people will explore your profile.
  3. Be active. This is not a once a month activity. You go to work everyday because that is how you build your business. Now you need to make social activity a part of the work day. If you think you don’t have the time, make it! This is an integral part of building your presence and if you don’t do it, the competition will.
  4. When you get inbound reply don’t just ignore it. Thank people for their comments, likes etc.
  5. Quit spamming!

If you do this, we can have a relationship and perhaps I will buy from you. Thinks first about how you can help others, not sell them, work hard at social and you will get more business than you ever imagined.

Kafka the Visionary

Many years ago, I read the book The Trial by Franz Kafka. During 1914, Kafka began the novel which was the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader. The book tells of how the society Kafka lived in was one where the authority knew of his every move.

When I look at our society today and the various tracking tools that various companies use to track most everything we do if we are active, it reminds me of the novel. So why I am I drawing this comparison.

It reminds me of the present day social selling process. Today 57% of decisions are made prior to us finding out about them. In addition, 75% of buyers do their vendor research on line before they make decisions. The information highway is changing the way business is done.

Are you present and visible to the people looking for your product and service? Do you have an online profile that provides them with a picture that creates inbound interest in you? Are you seen as an information expert in your area of business? Are you working at creating relationships online so that when decisions are to be made the contact talks with you first?

If you are not doing any of this and more, you will not survive in the social world. While you may shy away from social because you are afraid of how much people or companies may know about you, you do it at your own peril. If you want your business to prosper and grow, you need to be there blemishes or not.

Kafka was a true visionary without the knowledge of our 21st century.

I Love Bobbies Bargains

I was recently watching an piece on TV that focused on the new Bobbies Bargains stores opening up across Canada. The stores are stocked with manufactured goods from the suppliers left high and dry by the closing of the Sears stores.

What impacted me and gave me a good felling was the fact that they were hiring people with intellectual disabilities. The stores are named after the Founders brother who has a disability.

I was the President and CEO of a company that employed these individuals for 7 years and every day was a joy to go to work and be loved by people who are happy and willing to do anything to work. They don’t take sick days, they go to work in snow storms, they are loyal and stay, etc. etc.

If you are in business and want people that will elevate your business (yes they CAN do the work given the chance) please do what Bobbies Bargains are doing and hire the best! Thank you Bobbies Bargains.

Get Social or Say Goodbye

Using social media to deliver great customer service is no longer an option — it’s a must. Twitter reports that customer service interactions on social have jumped 250 percent in the past two years. Two-thirds of consumers are already using Twitter or Facebook for customer service. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 90 percent of brands will rely on social media in some capacity to manage their customer experience (CX) efforts.

Given the previous paragraph, what are you doing to enhance your social presence? Can you afford to keep saying I’ll wait to see what happens? Are you willing to let your competitor(s) get there first?
This isn’t a case of being a first adopter anymore, trust me, your competitors are out there doing this. Social is here to stay. Don’t think that this is just a role for marketing either, it is a role that every person in your company can and should play. Also, don’t try and do it yourself, if you had the people capable of implementing it, you would be doing this already.

Exponential Sales can help you get started, we have the experience and “World Class” partners Digital Leadership Associates to support you and help you take your business to the next level.

Spammers…. Please Knock It Off!!!

If you are like me you get and hate the number of spamming emails, messages and InMails that come with the new digital age. The digital world has opened up a whole new world for lazy people. They can sit at home or in their offices and inundate us with products or services we have no intention of buying or needing. What they are really doing is driving people away and souring people on the benefit of the digital age.
I call them lazy and they are, because doing anything properly requires hard work, not mindlessly sending out garbage.

Building an online presence and business is about relationships. Remember those? We take the time to educate people about the things we are experts at. We provide them with knowledge about a product category, service industry or process and create credibility for ourselves as experts.

Today people shop for products and services online and are smart enough to make their own decisions. They look at what other people recommend, they look for referrals, they want the best and they want to know what the experts think. Once they have their research done, they then get down to deciding who will be the person or company they want to deal with. They may find more than one and have to make a decision.

The one thing they do not do is respond to spamming. They put in hard work to get to a decision. The people they choose to do business with have put in hard work to inform and be perceived as experts so that they will be noticed. Spamming is not hard work, it is laziness.

Quit spamming and get to work!

It Takes Two Hands

After years of helping hundreds of managers lead, direct and develop their people, I have observed two fundamental perspectives that impact successful people management. If you are in a job that requires you to manage people . . .

[1] On the One Hand . . .

Managing people and supporting them to be successful IS your job. Support means providing clear, unambiguous direction, resources, tools, etc. and managing the behavior / performance of every employee who reports to you. Whatever they do that is not acceptable or expected, must be corrected. You can’t look the other way. Ignoring inappropriate behavior is not being Supportive. At the senior levels, unacceptable actions can include any and all behaviors, not just the higher level, broader issues. It includes the little behavioral annoyances like lateness, poor dress attire, sloppy manners, or disorganized behavior and practices. They all have to be dealt with.

You can’t say that you shouldn’t have to deal with those little problems – YOU DO, and you SHOULD have to deal with them. Granted, your managers shouldn’t do those things, but if they do, you do have to deal with it. You don’t escape the responsibility of Supporting your direct employees just because of your status or of theirs. In fact, your leadership role should oblige you even more to set the example of excellent people management. And don’t kid yourself to think that ignoring or condoning the employee’s poor work and indiscretions will help the employee. It won’t, and the resulting problems will be enflamed, if not caused, by your neglect of duty.

[2] But On the Other Hand . . .

Your employees are PEOPLE, with feelings, personalities, families, a personal history, home issues, health concerns, dreams, expectations, fears, pride, opinions, frailties, strengths, weaknesses, friends, enemies, secrets, problems, worries, etc. and you must take that into consideration when you do your JOB of supporting them (see #1 above). This is where judgment, discretion, sensitivity, sensibility, empathy and wisdom come in to play. This can take time to develop, whereas #1 above can be learned and practiced relatively quickly. These two considerations are both equally important. One cannot be ignored or diminished at the expense of the other. The first is influenced and resolved more by the use of skills and process. The second is more philosophical and influenced by your intellect, personal principles, values and ethics.

 

Find Continuous Improvement Through Social

I was watching an episode of Sunday Morning this weekend and they had an article about Japanese Whisky. Although Japanese whisky is not top of mind here, it seems that they have developed a wonderful product and one that is winning awards around the world.

The one thing that stood out to me in the piece was the fact that they are not satisfied with their formula. The lessons taught by Demming of continuous improvement are being applied to their whisky making. Unlike the rest of the world that is happy with their century old formulas, the Japanese are applying the continuous improvement process to their whisky making.

If you are unfamiliar with Demming’s process of continuous improvement it is described as; an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once.

As I watched the show, I began to think about the sales process today and how the development of social media has provided the opportunity to enhance the traditional selling process. While many companies continue to do things the old way (cold calls, emails, drop in visits) and get the same results, enlightened companies are embracing the various types of social media to develop a continuous improvement process for their sales teams.

Contrary to some opinion, social doesn’t replace the sales force. It makes the sales force more effective by providing them with the opportunity to better qualify leads and make contacts more productive.
If you are a CEO and want your company to grow, you have likely already applied continuous improvement to many areas of your business. Take the next step and create a social continuous improvement strategy for your sales and marketing teams that will take your business to a breakthrough year.