Everybody On The Same Page

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Making Customers
Tags: , , , ,

It’s easy, right? We have our agenda, we conduct our sales meeting and our sales people nod and take notes and maybe even ask a question or two. So we leave the meeting on an upbeat note thinking we have achieved our goal of total agreement and understanding. We are confident things will change.

Until they don’t. When that first “Houston, we have a problem” arises. Usually within a day or two, we re-discover that the same old issues are cluttering up the salespeople’s thinking. No one seems to have learned anything.  It’s easy as managers to delude ourselves into thinking that everybody understands what we want them to do and what the priorities are.

What went wrong? Why weren’t they listening?

I have one question – what are you measuring? You can talk about improving your listening skills, cutting down on customer complaints and empowering your staff to make better decisions, but if your weekly reports have the same sales numbers with the same weekly results, quarterly and annual averages all in bold with trend lines indicating which direction each salesperson is headed, do you think the salespeople care much about whether or not they have improved their listening skills?

Here’s a simple little test to help discover what the priorities are in the minds of your sales staff. At your next sales meeting distribute blank 3X5 cards and ask your staff to list the three most important things that are expected of them in the performance of their job.  Anonymous. No names. And no giving them options of what to write. No trying to get them to write what you want them to write. Then hand them in. After the meeting in a quiet room, read them. Alone.

In my consulting, when I have done this with sales staffs, invariably I find that what the sales staff writes down is exactly what the Company has been communicating their priorities are. Numbers. Quotas. Sales rates. Cancellation rates. Conversion rates. Sales contest standings. Procedure. Policies. Whatever. What you say in the sales meetings about our customer service scores or whether or not I am nicer to the customer or a better listener, always comes after the sales numbers in the meeting.  And by the way, you never, ever have any of those more subtle communication skills on the sales report. That report never changes. Numbers. Numbers. Numbers.

Once again, management, well intentioned though it may be, is looking at the score instead of looking at what needs to be done to change the score. Have you thought about not giving the sales report to the sales people? That is the result. Not the process. Don’t you want them to concentrate their energies on what is needed to be done and the best way to do it? If I, as the sales leader/manager have educated, trained and motivated them properly, the results will take care of themselves. Besides, even without a report, don’t your salespeople know the numbers anyway?

The numbers report is merely a snapshot taken from the long running live drama that is the performing art of selling. As we all know in sales management, your sales people are working just as hard, if not harder, on the lousy report weeks as they are on the good report weeks.

Sales people are dealing with potential, personality and all the interactive dynamics that come in to play as part of the process of human interaction and communication. If senior management wants to effect positive change the emphasis needs to be on improving the process. Who are you meeting with? What are the buyers saying? Is advertising from marketing delivering the right numbers of qualified traffic? If not, why not? What about pricing? Where are we better than the competition? Where is the competition better than we are?

As a Company, how do we define what excellence in sales looks like? How do we deliver excellence once we have defined it? What is in the way of that excellence? Or who?

By asking these types of questions, we get away from the ‘it was raining this week’ type of excuses that do nothing to shed light on anything positive related to the process. We need to get to the much more substantial and positive dialogue between the trained and well educated sales professionals we have on our staff and upper management. Improve the process and you improve the result.

The issue often reduces to time and energy. It’s extremely difficult, time consuming and energy draining to have an open and honest conversation about what really is going on and what to do about it. It’s much easier to have the usual mind numbing meeting with talk about ‘what happened this week’ and the normal clichés, excuses and palaver that passes off as serious sales management.

Have a different kind of sales meeting. Start to change the process in your Company.  Change the process and you change the result.

The Sales Revolution is all about changing the interaction between buyers and consumers. But it starts with changing the interaction between the sales staff and management. We can help. Join The Sales Revolution and be a part of the next wave of change!

By Kirk Chittick

  1. Fred Catona says:

    Couldn’t agree more Mike! Big numbers are nice but there’s also so many other factors that come into play.

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