Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Marketing and Sales Feedback Loop Can Help You Grow

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:01 PM

JackLambertI was recently at a marketing conference where the main theme was Inbound.  Thanks to Brian Halligan at Hubspot, “inbound” is now almost a household word.  He put a name to what is surely one of the more powerful phenomena shaping the business environment, and by extension the selling environment, today.  For the record, the conference to which I'm referring was not Hubspot’s own "Inbound13" held last fall.  At that event, the recurring theme was “Be Remarkable” and it was best embodied in Seth Godin’s brilliant keynote address.

The two recurring themes heard most at this other event, were that inbound marketing was, on average, bringing prospects 70 percent of the way to the sale, and that companies did better when technology people worked closely with the marketing department.  Each of these statements is true.  Yet each has a glaring hole.  You might have heard this before, but just because we know tomatoes are fruit, doesn’t mean we put them in fruit salad.

Let’s take the first one first - that prospects are 70 percent of the way toward making a purchase by the time marketing hands them off to sales.  Ask yourself if you have any salespeople at your company who possess a gazillion contacts, a stuffed pipeline, and lots of meetings and conferences to attend, but only a trickle of business falling out of the end of the funnel.  Marketing is doing a better job than ever, but the elite salesperson will understand the pitfalls inherent in the overdeveloped lead.

We normally like baseball analogies here, but ‘tis the season to talk gridiron.  So imagine you’re the Cincinnati Bengals offense, Ken Anderson, in September of 1976 up against the defense of Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert (pictured above), et al. of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Don't worry if you're not sure what that means. The Steelers defense that year was arguably the best in the history of the NFL. Suffice it to say that being on the Steelers 30-yard line didn’t mean much. If you were up against their defense, you probably weren't going to close the deal if you were on the 2-yard line.  Ken scored 6 points in that game.  Later in the season, he played them again and scored 3 points. Again, for the uninitiated, that's not a lot of points.

There are actually two problems when a salesperson starts on the 70-yard line.  One is that the last 30 yards is the toughest, especially when you start there, and two is that you’re simply standing on the wrong part of the field.  At 70 yards, your prospect wants a proposal, a demo, pricing, and references.  An elite salesperson will not take the bait.  It will only lead to an endless chase scene in a bad movie.  Rather, thank your marketing department and then walk your prospect back to your own 25-yard line so you can drive them down the field properly.  In today’s world of selling, the salesperson makes the difference.  Marketing is an important ticket to the game, but when everyone’s website looks the same, the difference is the salesperson.

Now for the second theme - that marketing should work more closely with the IT folks.  That rings true to me.  Collaboration is a proven business fundamental.  And while that’s a good pair, it is as important that marketing collaborate with sales continuously.  Usually, these two groups do not always see the value that each provides.  Marketing people are often flustered that salespeople aren’t closing all the business they have handed them, especially when they believe it need only be walked over to the end zone.  And sales people keep telling marketing that while leads are up, the quality of the leads are down.  Wouldn’t it be better if it worked a little more like this:

  1. Marketing focuses on perceived customer needs,
  2. Marketing builds awareness,
  3. Marketing generates leads and hands off to sales,
  4. Sales questions leads using consultative skills,
  5. Sales learns about key business issues,
  6. Sales stays alert for other market trends,
  7. Sales informs marketing about what’s truly important, and
  8. Marketing adjusts message.

There is a glorious opportunity for companies who find the synergy in their marketing and sales departments.  Working together can create an upward spiral of feedback and progress to improve the quality of your leads.  Then, it’s critical to have the right sales people under the right sales leadership to take advantage of all the opportunities.  Today’s sales people must be more than just relationship people.  They must also be able to do the following well:

  1. Listen,
  2. Ask good questions,
  3. Ask tough questions,
  4. Ask enough questions,
  5. Uncover truly compelling reasons to buy,
  6. Make appropriately-timed presentations, and
  7. Remain present and unemotional at the close.

This is a subset of the consultative skill set.  Can all of your sales people do that, every time?  Last week Frank Belzer, author of Sales Shift, wrote an important article on the Architecture of a Sales Force.  And Dave Kurlan, author of Baseline Selling, wrote a piece that you shouldn’t miss on Sales Methodologies, an often misunderstood concept.  If you’re wondering about the capabilities of your own sales force, it might be time for an evaluation.

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful, one-hour webinar that will address the topics the Kurlan team has been writing about this month.  The webinar is on February 5th and we will discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time.

Image credit: Sports Illustrated, 1984

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, consultative, sales evaluation, sales marketing, sales enablement, sales architecture, marketing, synergy, methodology

The Overlooked Conversation Between Sales Managers and Sales People

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Jan 08, 2014 @ 11:01 AM

coaching,sales management,assessments,sales leadership,conversation,selling,consultative

Did you ever wonder what the sales conversation is supposed to sound like?  Not the one you’re thinking about (between the sales person and the prospect), but the other one.  The market is full of books, blogs, and articles on the important conversation between sales people and prospects.  This very blog space addressed the topic of using conversational skills to differentiate oneself in even the most lopsided of sales environments.  If you’re curious about that, click here to read the article.  And if you haven't read Frank Belzer's article from yesterday, click here.  He addressed the important topic of how organic growth impacts sales architecture.  In that article, he gets more to the point of today’s topic by looking at the structure of the sales team as it grows.  When it has grown organically (read “without strategic planning”), it is not always supportive of the kind of management required to compete and win in today’s business climate.  And it’s this very structure which helps create an environment to foster the right kind of conversation happening in your company, with discipline and skill, every day.

Very likely, the single most important conversation, which has to happen so that your salespeople can have the right conversation with prospects, is with their sales manager.  Do you know what that sounds like today?  We have metrics of all shapes and sizes.  We look at calls, leads, inbound leads, qualified opportunities, revenues, margins, recurring revenues, demos, proposals, and on and on.  Some sales organizations have a daily handle on these metrics and can even speak about the gap between exactly where they are today and where they want to get to.  Most can’t.

But, how many CEOs, sales VPs and other leaders understand what the conversation between sales management and sales people should sound like compared with what it sounds like today (that's if there is a conversation actually taking place)?  How many know how critical this daily activity is to the success of the organization?  How many are listening and measuring the quality of this conversation? Our research at Kurlan & Associates reveals that only a tiny fraction of companies can say they do.  And fewer know just what that conversation should sound like.

In today's sales environment, we now know that up to 50 percent of a sales manager's time should be spent coaching sales people.  This is not to be confused with mentoring, motivating, or jumping up and down with your hair on fire.  Coaching is different, and it's the key to sales success.

Coaching is a specific kind of conversation.  It is a formal meeting (not water cooler), occurs daily, and can last for 30 minutes with each rep.  That's every day, with each rep, talking about either an upcoming meeting or call, or a previous meeting or call that didn't achieve the desired result.

Do your sales managers know how to have that conversation the correct way?  Can they affect deliberate, incremental, meaningful improvements to the skills of each of their sales people everyday?  Here's an example of what such a conversation sounds like: [insert link to Dave's coaching call on Wistia]. 

  • How many of your sales managers could have a conversation like that? [Dave Kurlan 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they roleplay what the call will sound like before it happens?
  • Can they roleplay how the last conversation went and pinpoint where the wheels fell off? [Frank Belzer 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they make the proper corrections to prevent the problem from reoccurring?
  • Can they instruct how to salvage a deal going the wrong way? [My 2-minute video on this topic]
  • Do they understand the hidden weaknesses of their sales team and incorporate that into their instruction? [Chris Mott 1-minute video on this topic]
  • Can they help their people move past personal barriers and head trash to execute the skills which they are learning?
  • Do they understand their own weaknesses and work to overcome them?

What would happen to your company if your sales team were methodically improving every day for one month, six months, or even a year?  How much better would they be?  If you are not sure about some of these questions, you might be interested in learning more at our webinar on February 5th at 11:00 am Eastern Time.  And I recommend that you check back soon to read Chris Mott's article on the challenges of managing technical salespeople.   

The next time you think about the sales "conversation", think about the conversation your sales manager is having with the reps to understand the impact of the performance on the team. 

  • Does he or she have the capability, knowledge, and skill to impact the effectiveness of the team? 
  • Who on your team will accept daily coaching?
  • Who can improve, and by how much?
  • Is it worth training your sales manager how to do this? 
  • Can they learn or do they believe they have it all figured out?
  • How much better can this conversation be at your company?

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful one-hour webinar which will address this subject on February 5 when we discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time. 

Image credit: Public Domain

 

 

Topics: coaching, assessments, sales management, sales leadership, conversation, selling, consultative



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