Category Archives for "Sales enablement"

Why can’t we build better sales managers? (Part 2)

Last week, I opened with the idea that we have sales management wrong.

Fundamentally, this is because we aren’t thinking/working from the customer interaction backward.

So, let’s talk about that customer for a moment.

According to research published by Demandbase (2018), B2B buyers said that the top five most important variables in making a buying decision are:

  • Deployment time/ease of use (77%)
  • Features/functionality (72%)
  • Solved a pain point (71%)
  • Reviews (65%)
  • Sales team demonstrated knowledge of our company and insights into our problems (64%)

Additionally, they also said that the top 5 winning differentiators of successful sellers are:

  • Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs
  • The timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries
  • Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape
  • Provided informational content that was easy to consume
  • Provided higher-quality content
  • (Note: 76% of all buyers wanted content to be tailored to their company)

Compare that with CSO Insight’s (2018) list of what buyers want from their sellers:

  • Understand me. Know my business.
  • Demonstrate excellent communication skills.
  • Focus on post-sale.
  • Give me insights and perspective.

Some pretty clear patterns emerge.

First, buyers are very focused on getting the kind of clarity that sellers don’t always have. When you add in the data point from Accenture (2018) that buyers are over halfway (57%) through their buying process before they even engage a seller, the narrative is pretty clear that sellers are either (a) not equipped and/or (b) not skilled enough to provide any value when customers often need the most clarity – defining what the heck is actually wrong/blocking their progress.

Second, buyers want to be the center of attention. In other words: no off-the-shelf content, off-the-shelf support, etc. You and I both know that they don’t care about your other customers. They don’t have the bandwidth for that kind of hypothesizing. They want EVERYTHING tailored to their reality – and their speed of life.

Third, buyers want their sellers to engage and support their business before AND after the sales process. In one of the more fascinating bits of the CSO Insights research, 90% of all buyers would be willing to engage sellers earlier if the business challenge was:

  • New for the buyer (34.1%)
  • Perceived as risky for the organization (21.1%)
  • Perceived as risky for the buyer themselves (19.1%)
  • Complex (e.g. impacted several departments) (16.2%)

I think this particular insight is incredibly important because none of those scenarios are limited to just “buying something.” They are all deep, intense, resource-dependent opportunities for a seller (and her team) to engage early and stay engaged long after the buying decision. But far too often, sellers are not successfully empowered for this kind of relationship.

So, what does this all mean to our discussion on the idea of sales management? I don’t know about you, but when I ask people to define the three most important priorities that sales managers must deliver, they are not:

  • Make sure your sellers provide clarity earlier in the buying process
  • Make sure your sellers tailor everything for their buyers
  • Make sure your sellers are empowered to engage and support buyers before and after the sales process

You can argue that Marketing and other functions are supposed to step up here, but if you have ever been a sales manager, you know exactly how hard it is to get consistent support from the other functions in these areas.

Then, when you add how much time it takes to actually do all of this – while also doing all of the other things that Sales Managers have to do (see last week’s blog for more) – and we are right back to my idea that we have sales management wrong. They simply don’t have enough time, if they are doing these three things at all.

What’s the bottom line here? I believe with all of my heart that a sales manager who can successfully do all three of our customer-centric priorities will make sure that the sales team hits its numbers. We just have to figure out how to make that happen (which I will explore next week.)

In the meantime, please share your ideas on (a) whether you see the problem that same way that I do and (b) what you would do about it.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

P.S. Here are the links to the research that I referenced – Demandbase and CSO Insights.

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Sales enablement best practices, #4 – Manager enablement

Okay. This is not completely scientific, but what I am about to say is based on actual research and years of observation.

The most common word you will hear a sales manager say is “help.”

The research says:

  • Over and over, sales managers receive less training than they need (CSO Insights, 2018; Allego, 2019)
  • Coaching technology is woefully inadequate – and even missing – for over 90% of sales managers (Allego, 2019)
  • The most supported service that sales managers receive is “analytics and metrics” – and that is barely over half of the managers out there (CSO Insights, 2018)

My observation says:

  • Sales managers often weren’t promoted for their sales manager abilities; they were promoted because they were great sellers
  • Sales enablement has over-rotated to just one role – the frontline seller (sales managers are often left to create their own solutions for strategic planning, recruiting, driving high-performance, leadership skills, etc.)

And my own experience says:

  • When I get extra busy, I never have enough time to truly oversee what is being done
  • I can still find myself getting sucked into prioritizing based just on what is screaming loudest (and I know better)

I believe with all of my heart that the best enablement that we can provide to sellers is a great manager. And I am going to guess that you agree with me. So, why don’t we see more being invested in sales managers? Why do managers constantly ask for help as they pursue the never-ending quest of trying to help their own teams?

Honestly, I don’t have a great answer. It boils down to the leadership of the organization seeing that helping managers is a priority over all of the other stuff. And that is a discussion about beliefs.

So, if you work with a leader who doesn’t believe enabling managers is a top priority… you have my deepest sympathy.

But if you do have a chance to invest in – and maybe drive – manager enablement with full leadership support, here is what I suggest.

First, design manager enablement solutions that map to the buyer’s problem-solving journey, then the seller’s problem-solving journey. Note that I am NOT talking about how to sell. I am talking about how to maximize team performance as the sellers help solve customer problems.

Too often, we track how managers oversee sales activities. What we need to track is how managers oversee problem-solving activities – then enable them to do more than track. If you haven’t already mapped out the buyer and seller problem-solving journeys, do it before doing anything else.

Second, architect manager enablement solutions that integrate content, tools, and behaviors. No more random acts of sales manager training without providing the technology and the content for those conversations (sales coaching, anyone?).

The key is that it all works together as a single solution that makes a genuine impact. This also means that if you find an obstacle to building that integrated solution (e.g. the CRM won’t incorporate coaching data with sales data), you will need to SERIOUSLY reconsider if the organization is ready for that solution. Launching something that will not be sustainable is called generating waste…

Third, prioritize your manager enablement solutions based on maximum impact with the least amount of time, cost, and disruption. This is CRITICAL to your success.

Manager enablement is always complex. Therefore, you need to generate quick, sustainable wins and not get dragged down by the complexity. Don’t fall into the trap of prioritizing the biggest – and most – complex solutions as the magical fix-all of your manager enablement woes. It just doesn’t work that way. Instead, build the momentum of a flywheel: small steps that generate bigger ones.

If you haven’t noticed already, I just used the best practices of my previous three weeks’ worth of blogs. And I did that intentionally. For starters, I really do believe that these principles drive amazing sales enablement. I wanted to show how to apply them to a real problem. But I also believe that if you are going to enable anything, enable sales managers first.

Just remember: if you do manager enablement in the wrong way, sales results will most likely go down.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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Sales enablement best practices, #3 – How to NOT prioritize

This week, I am tackling one of the absolute best leadership principles that I know – which also happens to apply to sales enablement QUITE nicely.

The topic is prioritization.

And – wow – talk about a hot mess.

Sales enablement, as a whole, will always have a gigantic list of “to do’s” waiting to be worked on. But, as with ANY strategic endeavor, there is a very short list of what should actually be done now.

Why is this?

Let me give you three very important reasons.

First, consider the Pareto Principle – 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, on that gigantic list of “to do’s” (like update the CRM, fix onboarding, get new marketing automation, train the team on new skills, get managers to coach more, etc.), there are only a few things that will actually drive the bulk of the outcome you are looking for. Yes, it may “all be important” – but the reality is that it is not all equally important.

And yet, this is the trap that we have all experienced in our hyper-busy, non-stop, do-it-all lives. We deceive ourselves (and our team mates) into believing that everything should stay on the “priority” list until we can get to it. Sure, we tell ourselves that some priorities are more important than others, but we are often only giving lip service.

As a result, we overcommit our people/time/energy/resources to do things that will only contribute to the bottom 20% of results. And take away from the strength of the top 80% of results. This kind of thinking both creates waste and limits the potential of what we could actually do.

(Truth be told, the Pareto Principle has evolved for today’s digital age. It’s called 5/67 Thinking – but that’s another post.)

Second, consider wicked problems. Yes, that is an actual term (read about it here). The key principle that I want to focus on is this: there are problems that are so complex that introducing a solution will make the problem’s complexity WORSE.

Go back and reread that last sentence.

In our well-intentioned efforts to lead and drive execution, we accidentally inject complexity into our hyper-busy, non-stop, do-it-all lives. Think over the last couple of years and how often “other priorities” made success harder to attain. Sure, it’s easy to blame other groups/functions, but the reality is that we often don’t truly understand the complexity that we are trying to navigate ourselves and struggle to explain that well enough to our team mates. Without this insight, prioritization suffers. We attempt one step forward and wind up taking three steps backward. Our “doing too much” becomes a self-inflicted wound.

Third, consider the actual outcome we are driving toward. In a client conversation that I had today (and had the exact same discussion with a client last week, and another client the week before…), we often prioritize based on “success.” Frankly, that is a poor definition of the actual outcome.

If I want to optimize my business, I will prioritize VERY differently than if I want to transform my business. The paths are different. The disruptions are different. The use of people/time/energy/resources is different.

Unfortunately, most leaders lose track of what outcome they are actually pursuing (admit it – it’s easy for all of us to do). They simply want “success.” But when the disruption of a transformational initiative (like fundamentally changing customer interactions) starts to create disruption for an optimization initiative (like sales forecasting), we get a conflict in priorities. The resulting confusion, complaints, and turf wars end up generating local mini-strategies. Just to get around the bigger business strategy that is suddenly unclear.

And if you live in a siloed organization… look out.

Now, are there other ways to define the actual outcome? Sure. But I find that getting clarity on optimization versus transformation is the fastest, most efficient way to create clarity and build alignment – and get everyone prioritizing better.

With all of that said, here is the bottom line. I hope you can see the title of this blog explained – how to NOT prioritize.

  • Don’t treat every priority as valuable. They all have different impacts – and if they don’t fit in the small percentage of what really matters…
  • Don’t ignore the complexity of the problem(s) you are trying to solve. Instead of trying to fix the whole problem, just make it better than it was yesterday.
  • Don’t leave the prime outcome(s) open to interpretation. Give very clear definition to the overall impact you want: to optimize or to transform.

Let’s close with a mirror moment: How well do you prioritize? What do you do well, what do you do poorly, and what could you do to get better?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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