Category Archives for "Sales as a system"

What’s the danger of doing it “wrong?”

You know the old saying about the doing things the right way and the wrong way…

Is that true anymore?

What I mean is it seems that the wrong way is not as scary as it once was, that failure is acceptable – it’s part of the learning process. Just learn how to “pivot.”

On the other hand, there are certain disciplines that don’t have any room for failure. Brain surgery, for example. And skydiving instruction. Obviously.

So… those are the extremes. But what about us?

Is it really possible to survive AND do it the wrong way? Go one step further – can we thrive and do it the wrong way?

My experience says yes.

I see many companies doing it the wrong way for years – and still making tons of money.

Look at cable TV.

Massive relics of a bygone reality, they are money-making machines that have some of the worst customer ratings in all of business. They are literally waiting to be gobbled up by the wireless carriers, but their executives are still getting bonus checks.

Look at Facebook.

One of the hottest tech stories of this century so far, and yet just last week, the UK government shared private emails that exposed Facebook as the money-grubbing, privacy-exploiting monster we all wondered that it was. Meanwhile, its stock price soared (peaking at over $200/share in July – it has since dropped to the $130s, but that will bounce back).

Look at start-ups.

Roughly two-thirds of the fastest growing start-ups fail, according to the Kauffmann Foundation.

They clearly have something right, in order to spark their rapid rise. And they clearly have something missing, which ultimately shuts their doors.

What is the lesson here? Can we truly thrive and do it the wrong way?

No, not if your definition of thrive means to be sustainable.

There is clearly a right way and a wrong way, and I have to say that it matters.

It matters because even when the money is coming in, the business may actually be hurting itself in the long-run.

It matters because the people who work there, and the customers who do business there, should be creating and experiencing as much value as possible. That is what we call “good business.” It invests in itself and it ultimately invests in the community. But folks don’t always use that as their definition of success. They look at the money and think, “We are good enough.”


My area of expertise is sales enablement. That means that I am really good at helping companies identify where their sales content, tools, and behaviors aren’t aligned and driving better customer experiences.

Ultimately, this turns into revenue growth and scalability.

But too often, I see businesses that aren’t even aware that there is a right way and wrong way to do sales enablement. The result? They don’t get the sales outcomes that they wanted. Worse yet, they are most likely getting worse results than if they didn’t do anything at all.

Why is this? Because they didn’t pause long enough to think through the impact of doing it the wrong way. They didn’t understand the dependencies and relationships involved. Instead, they did familiar initiatives in the hope that they would make a difference – without causing too much disruption.

In other words, they weren’t focused on doing it the right/wrong way. They were only focused on doing it the only way that they knew.

What about you? Based on your expertise, are you seeing your customers doing it the right way –  or the only way that they know?

More importantly, is your own organization doing it the right way –  or the only way that it knows?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

If you think that I should be talking with someone else at your business, simply forward this blog. Feel free to cc me and make it a proper introduction.

Thank you. Seriously.

4 practical ways to get “better”

My blog last week apparently hit a nerve – a good one. It generated a lot of likes, shares, comments, and even new connections.

So, let’s go further down the rabbit hole.

Years ago, in talking with an executive client, I asked him what his definition of success was for the project I was working on. His answer – “I want things to get better.”

Could he possibly have been more vague?

When I pointed that out to him, we both had a good chuckle.

And that is the point of this week’s blog: how do we define what should be better for our teams?

Specifically, I am going to get practical about the four areas that I mentioned in last week’s blog:

  • Recruiting
  • Onboarding and development
  • Selling
  • Managing

It would be easy to say that we need to recruit/onboard/sell/manage “better” and get positive nods and high-fives from our key stakeholders, but that is still too high level. The trick is defining how we want each topic to improve.

If you want to recruit better, shift your emphasis from job descriptions to customer and role profiles.

Go read a job description for your sellers and you will most likely see a boring list of generic skills and qualities that don’t truly mean anything. What you want is to:

  • Create clear, concise profiles of the customers you sell to. Yes, you will likely have more than one ideal customer profile because you sell to more than one type of customer (different altitude levels, different industries, different sized deals, etc.).
  • Create clear, concise profiles that define how to sell to each customer profile. Think of it as defining how you want your sellers to change for each conversation. You do not want the same generic approach for all customers. Which is what your job descriptions likely define.

If you want to onboard and develop better, shift your emphasis from static training programs to dynamic learning experiences.

For learning to be effective, it MUST recognize that people are not machines that need information. We are organisms that are driven first by how we feel. Sadly, too much of what I see in the learning space is forgotten within the first 30 days – which makes sales results take even longer to achieve. What you want is to:

  • Recognize how the brain works. Yes, I am talking brain science. If you want learning to happen, you have to include neurotransmitters (the hormones that turn our brains “on”) in your designs. This means that learning experiences should be fun, relational, and involve risk.
  • Design for multiple learning styles. Some people learn by reading. Others by talking. Others in on-on-one interactions. Most likely, everyone needs a combination of everything in varying degrees. But make sure that the variety drives brain activity AND personal preference.

If you want to sell better, shift your emphasis from product/service pushing to value-creating problem-solving.

Ask your sales team to answer this question: What do you sell? If you hear them talk about outcomes, good news. But if you hear them talk about products and services, you have a genuine problem. What you want is to:

  • Anchor your sales content, tools, and behaviors (including sales profiles) to using problem-solving as the path for selling outcomes. If your content, tools, and behaviors are not clearly anchored to problem-solving to sell outcomes, that stuff is just injecting bad DNA into your team.
  • Align your processes to enable problem-solving as the path for selling outcomes. But hear this CLEARLY – you cannot fix processes if your sales content, tools, and behaviors are not addressed first. Your processes MUST be able to rely on problem-centric content, tools, and behaviors for them to work.

If you want to manage better, shift your emphasis from administrative oversight to driving high team performance and bench strength.

This is the trickiest one because everyone will say that the number one priority for the sales management layer is to drive high performance, etc. But if you see the company actually overwhelming sales managers’ daily schedules with administrative oversight and reporting tasks, your managers are likely not doing what they need to be doing. What you want is to:

  • Redefine the roles of all sales managers. Start with a clean slate and define what Ideal would look like. Then go back through the job descriptions and look for alignment. Chances are, you won’t like what you see. Fix that now. And put real teeth into it by integrating the new role clarity with recruiting, promoting, developing, performance evaluations, and compensation.
  • Redefine the processes that managers use to drive high performance and bench strength. Don’t have those defined? You just saw a major way to get “better.”

The bottom line to all of this is pretty straightforward – and exactly what I said last week: What got you here won’t get you there.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

Seeing the whole elephant

I live in an industry that is crowded with debate.

Cold calling is dead.

Cold calling is very much alive.

Social selling is everything.

Social selling is a fad.

THESE people are legit sales experts.

THOSE people are sales frauds.

And the debates go on…

And frankly, it’s all just one, big elephant.

You remember the old story, right? The story about a group of blind men who are trying to describe an elephant – each one with his own interpretation? The moral of the story was that they were all correct. And they were still wrong.

This is exactly what we see in sales.

What is vitally important in B2B is literally worthless in B2C.

What is absolutely necessary in enterprise sales isn’t even wanted in start-ups.

What is ignored in hi-tech is critical for everyone else.

Have you noticed this as well?

And maybe it’s because I have worked with so many different kinds of companies and industries, but if we are truly going to see the whole elephant as it is, I think there are some key ideas that have to be recognized.

First, there is problem complexity. What the local carpenter has to do to sell is different than what the multi-national building contractor has to do to sell. But most companies don’t have a very good way of defining how that complexity works – let alone how to most effectively change their approach to navigate the complexity of their customers’ problems. I’ve given a LOT of thought to this topic, so much that I co-wrote a short eBook on this topic. You can download it for free at:

Second, there is market maturity. And by maturity, I am referring to the classic S-curve model of early adoption through to decline. In other words, what innovators like Apple and Samsung have to do to sell is different than what mature companies like Shell and Coca-Cola have to do to sell – and avoid decline. The value of innovation is critical here. We over-simplify our strategies to “find a need.” It’s rather quite ineffective. Too many sellers don’t fully understand how to shift their strategy as their innovation reaches the top of the S-curve. Nor do their companies.

Third, there are market dynamics (economy, competitors, social change, etc.). It’s really a subset of the market S-curve, but I’m specifically pointing to the resources involved in bringing the strategy to life. The value of brand strength and market position are often underestimated in this regard. The resources that Chrysler and Walmart have to use to sell is different than what Tesla and Amazon have to use to sell. What works for the biggest, most popular names is only a fraction of what is needed for everyone else. This means that without the right logo on your business card, you will need many more resources – just to get access to the right buyers. And that doesn’t address the resources required to actually close business.

Fourth, there is the ability to execute – on both sides. Frankly, I believe that this is the great neutralizer. The ability to execute can literally erase all of the previous points in one stroke. And this is especially true when we include our customers. On one hand, we may not be able to execute within the context of their reality. Shame on us. On the other hand, no matter how good we are, our customer may not be able to execute either. They literally cannot activate the value we promised. Shame on us again for not seeing that.

When you look at your company, what do you see?

Does it help you:

  • change your sales approach to effectively navigate your customer’s problems – no matter how complex?
  • adjust your overall sales strategy to maximize what your innovation provides (or doesn’t provide any longer)?
  • select the right sales resources to harness (or overcome) your brand positioning in the market to get access to the right buyers?
  • ensure that execution is both possible and on schedule to deliver the value you promise?

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and each point can be expanded to become its own blog.

More importantly, each topic can define an expert – but don’t assume that just because you have expertise in one sales reality that the other realities aren’t legitimate.

The elephant is much bigger than you think.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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