All posts by Rob Edenzon

How personal are your business relationships?

Four pairs of feet in a bedWhen has a business relationship gone beyond business? If your mind has just gone into the gutter as you read this, please crawl out. That’s not the kind of relationship I’m referring to.

Are you so close to your business contacts that you can’t ask hard questions? Are you so close to your direct reports that you can’t put them on a Performance Improvement Plan?

Some sales reps fall into a trap of going beyond the rep/prospect or rep/customer level. When this happens, transactions become favors. Going to a prospect’s boss is nearly impossible. Negotiating contract terms can turn into a spat rather than a professional give and take.

A more dangerous scenario is when a Sales Manager becomes “friends” with their reps.

Business relationships need to walk a very fine line. Keeping a relationship both professional and personal at the same time is critical to actually doing business. The personal aspect of your business relationships should help you in business, not hinder the progress of a business transaction.

If you find yourself challenged by the personal relationship you have with a business contact, think about how you can begin to distance yourself a bit. The depth of your relationship will dictate your ability to do business and affect your level of success.

Salesforce is a round hole!

Square Peg Round HoleAre you still jamming your square peg business model into Salesforce?

Same stuff, different day.

Every time I speak with a contract Salesforce Administrator they tell me the same thing. “My client bought and implemented Salesforce and I’ve been hired to make it work.”

If you read this Blog regularly, then let me apologize for repeating myself. But there are many Salesforce customers who need to hear it multiple times apparently.

Salesforce is no different than any other computer application your company uses to automate a process. Therefore, processes need to be defined before implementing Salesforce.

It is imperative to take your well thought out sales strategy, create a sales plan that includes a sales process, and only then write a customization specification for Salesforce.

If your Salesforce implementation is not meeting your expectations, you need more than a Salesforce Administrator, you need to re-examine and document your strategy, plan and process.

What Do Software Development & Sales Have in Common?

Technical Debt

Technical Debt you keep using that wordI’ve had an epiphany. I attended a presentation on Technical Debt. As I listened to the speaker discuss how software code development processes can cause Technical Debt, I thought that the topic was interesting, but not really relevant to SalesClinic or our clients. Unfortunately, I’ve worked with companies that have had significant Technical Debt without even knowing it. My epiphany hit on the drive home from the event.

Wikipedia defines Technical Debt as “a neologistic metaphor referring to the eventual consequences of poor system design, software architecture or software development within a codebase. The debt can be thought of as work that needs to be done before a particular job can be considered complete or proper. If the debt is not repaid, then it will keep on accumulating interest, making it hard to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy.”

So what does this have to do with Sales? Everything.

Think about your Salesforce automation (SFA) system. In most cases we find that Sales or Sales Operations departments identify and implement these applications rather than making a request of the CIO. In implementing a SFA, screens are customized, reports are written and processes are defined. These implementations usually don’t keep up with the evolving business model or sales process learnings that are realized every day.

At some point in the future, use of SFAs by the Sales Team start to decline. Managers find that their reports don’t accurately represent reality. Things start falling through the cracks. That’s when the Technical Debt comes due.

Because the SFA has not kept up with the changes that the company’s market has dictated to the revenue generation process, it is forced to embark on an expensive and time consuming project of updating the SFA. To complicate things further, the user community needs to be resold on the use of the SFA and re-trained. This effects on-going adoption and has its own costs as well.

From a non-technical perspective, Technical Debt can be applied to Sales Strategy and Sales Processes as well. Even before considering the effect of change on your SFA, you must consider if the steps a sales rep takes to sell your product are still valid. Has the market moved forward but your sales process hasn’t been adjusted to meet the market’s demands?

Consider a newspaper sales team. From the late ‘90’s to today newspapers have evolved into media companies. They provide multiple marketing opportunities for local businesses that may have nothing to do with a print advertisement. Digital marketing solutions should now be part of every conversation between a sales rep and their prospect.

This evolution changes the Sales Process and therefore the SFA implementation. Not keeping up with your process changes and associated SFA customization equals debt. Take the time to start servicing that debt yourself or with outside help. Don’t have the same epiphany I just had when you can’t afford to pay the interest and principle.

“But you’ve never sold a product like mine.”

Does a lack of product knowledge disqualify a sales candidate?

Product Knowledge Have you ever sold a building escape parachute? Ever try to hire a sales rep that has? Well I’m available if you need one.

Right after 9/11 I worked with a manufacturer of a parachute that occupants of high rise buildings (above the 10th story) could use to exit the building should there be an emergency. My job was to get the parachutes on retail shelves for sale to the general public. I was marginally successful. Not because I didn’t know the market. Who did? But there were other concerns retailers had about the product including who’s liable if someone dies after jumping.

But this experience confirmed once again what I had learned very early in my career. If a person knows how to sell, they can learn the product.

In 1986 I interviewed with a company that developed and sold computer based training for IBM mainframe software. I had no idea what an IBM mainframe computer did or the software that someone would use. During the interview the sales manager asked me questions about terms I had never heard before. SAS. MVS. And other acronyms that were meaningless.

At some point I asked her if she thought I was the right person for the job. I was a sales rep. I had to float a trial close. She said she was very concerned that I didn’t know anything about the product questions she asked. She was absolutely right.

Then I told her that my current position was selling electronic test equipment to engineers who worked at the major defense contractors. My title was Applications Engineer. I was a theatre major for goodness sake. I didn’t know what a spectrum analyzer or micro-processor development system was when I got the job. When I went to my 10th high school reunion a number of people asked me how I got an engineering job as they snickered and laughed. They knew I hadn’t taken a higher level math class.

Ultimately the product didn’t matter. I was a trained sales rep with a track record of exceeding my quota. Within six months I was the number one sales rep selling computer based training. And although I knew the product, to this day, I still don’t know what MVS or SAS does other than it is software that runs on an IBM mainframe and there are people in the world that can learn it using that product.

SalesClinic has worked in the enterprise software, metal distribution, print and digital media, product container, travel and food service space. We may not know your product, but we know how to sell it.

Good help is hard to find…

Wanted-Good-HelpI say, “Nay, nay”.

It’s great leadership that’s hard to find.  Good people want to work for inspirational leaders.

Good help is in fact, easy to find.  It’s convincing them to work for you that’s difficult.  I have found that sourcing, hiring and retaining good talent is directly proportionate to the level of leadership in the company.  Great leaders understand that “greatness” is fleeting and therefore know how to inspire greatness when needed.  Talented staffs are motivated to do great things.  None of us are “great” every day.  Think of those who were farmers one day and then heroes on the battlefield the next.  They were inspired to be great by circumstance, dedication to a cause, and great leadership. No soldier ever enlisted because of the pay.   Sure, everyone goes to work for a buck, but motivation and inspiration trump compensation every time.

When I was a young man of 15, I went to work for a McDonald’s franchise for $1.65 per hour.  Sure, I needed the money for summertime fun, but there was much more to working there than donning a crew hat.  McDonald’s strived to build a culture of competition, a culture of understanding.  For me, it became a challenge.  Why?  I can attribute it to one inspiring leader… Lou G.

Lou G. was a regional manager who came to me one day and said, “Son, thank you for working so hard for us.  I want you to understand though, that we want you to work ‘smarter’, not ‘harder’”.  That one inspirational exchange led me to understand that the culture of the company valued my thinking more highly than my ability to “flip burgers”.  From then on, I went to work every day trying to impress Lou G. with my creative ideas.  The notion that my “mind” was the reason they hired me made me feel incredibly valuable.  Of course a raise every now and then was helpful, but what I really craved was Lou G.’s nod of approval.

So before you hold that meeting giving your sales team the “what for” because of underperformance; before you chastise your recruiters for sourcing sub-par candidates, take a closer look at your sales management team.  If they are more comfortable submitting reports; more at ease with attending meetings, they will likely never lead anyone to greatness.  If you can’t identify inspiring and motivational leaders among them, then you have discovered why good help is hard to find.

Don’t Hire Me.

We're HiringIn the early 2000’s, the COO of a major search engine company asked me to become an employee on three separate occasions. Each time I said “no”. The first two times she asked, I told her that I was happy as an independent sales consultant and had great prospects for the future. That was and is true. But only after her third attempt at hiring me did I reveal all of the truth.

The COO asked me to meet with her to discuss the work I was doing with the sales organization. I was contracted to build out a sales team that would attack the SMB market. Along the way I had uncovered some inconsistencies and areas of improvement that positively affected the generation of revenue in all of the markets the company addressed.

When I sat down with her she told me that she wanted me to join the company as a full time employee and that this was the last time she was going to ask. I said “no”. Then I told her why.

If I became a full time employee, my value decreased dramatically. Once hired, I would be forced to start thinking about my career first and the company second. As a consultant (an outsider looking in), I could be brutally honest about my view of the organization.

My second point to the COO was that once “inside”, my focus would have to be on my objectives as defined by my compensation plan. I would not have the luxury to seek areas of improvement unseen by other managers. It would also cause other functional area heads to question my motives when suggesting they make adjustments to their processes.

My engagement was originally for a 90 day project. It was ultimately extended to 16 months. It didn’t end because there wasn’t more work to be done, but because a large competitor bought them.

Throughout my career as an independent sales consultant I have been asked to close my practice and “join up”. Only once did I take the company up on the offer. And what I told the COO of the search engine company came true. I became one voice in a group of six, each of whom was looking out for himself first, and then the company. I had become part of the problem rather than the solution.

There are two takeaways from my experience that executive teams can use to improve their organizations. First, hire consultants to ensure objectivity in the evaluation of your organization without prejudice. And second, unless you want to lose that objectivity, don’t hire your consultants.

Making the shift from “transactional” to “consultative” selling.

Blog Change ImageI spent 7 years as VP Sales at an enterprise mobile app platform vendor. We partnered with both global and regional wireless carriers. I personally participated in numerous sales calls with the wireless sales teams in the SMB market.

The carrier Enterprise reps, who handled Fortune level prospects and customers, were consultative sales reps selling a complete solution. However the wireless field reps were more transactional in nature. It was all about selling another device or data plan rather than building a comprehensive mobile solution that included devices, data plans, EMM and apps.  If the wireless reps were going to differentiate themselves from the other wireless carriers, they needed to transition to consultative selling techniques.

This isn’t the only industry that’s had to make this transition. The newspaper industry is in the throes of this change. Historically they’ve sold print ads as transactions. Especially the Auto reps. But now they need to sell marketing campaigns that include print, digital, email, etc.

This move to consultative selling is a significant culture change for legacy sales reps that are used to transactional sales.

How prepared are your sales reps to make the move to consultative solution sales?

Understanding how your reps sell and ensuring the transition is successful is all about process. It’s also all about you, the Sales Manager.

What is your sales process? Is it documented? Have your reps been trained in both the process and strategy behind it? Are you managing to your sales process? Does your CRM properly represent it?

When a detailed sales process, that is supported by a well communicated sales strategy, is delivered to sales reps and monitored by effective sales managers, the transition from transactional to consultative sales becomes easier for everyone.

Salesforce.com: Stop the Bleeding

What does Salesforce do for your company? Does it support your operational processes? Is it running your company? Or are you running your company and Salesforce is the system that ensures increased productivity?

Most of the companies in which I’ve consulted implemented Salesforce. In every case, it was running the company (or at least the sales team). Not the other way around.

Like all enterprise applications, Salesforce is designed to codify many processes that are operationally critical to your success. But time and again I see Salesforce implemented before these processes are defined and documented in preparation for a Salesforce deployment.

That’s when Salesforce becomes a patient. Through a series of changes, band aids are applied to “fix” something that’s not working. A field is added, a new report is deployed, consultants are hired to patch the hole created by the evolution of a process that was never fully thought through or documented.

At the end of the day, what you’re left with is a critical piece of your infrastructure that no longer mirrors the most effective possible method of doing business.

Ask yourself some questions.
• Have you documented all of your critical processes? Does your Salesforce implementation support these processes?
• What is the relationship between Sales and Customer Service? Technical Support? Marketing? Production? Product Development?
• What is your sales process? When does a Lead become a Contact? What needs to happen for a sales rep to create an Opportunity?
• How well is Sales forecasting through Salesforce?
• What is your order to cash process? Does Finance use Salesforce? Credit?
• What are the key reports for each functional head?
• Is management using Salesforce reports in weekly discussions with sales reps? If so, how? If not, why not?
• Does Salesforce stand alone? Or is it integrated with other critical applications?

Did your Salesforce administrator or consultant ask you these questions? Probably not.

The most successful deployments of Salesforce are thought through as carefully as your most comprehensive operational or marketing plan. Would you hire a new employee without a job description? Create a manufacturing process without a product plan?

Salesforce consulting firms will do as they’re told. They get paid for customizing the application according to their client’s specification. This is not a bad thing. A deep knowledge of the application is required for a successful customization project. They have a role and most do their jobs very well.

Where my clients have seen significant ROI on their Salesforce investment has been in the work I’ve done to analyze these processes, compare them to the existing implementation, and then write the specification for their Salesforce administrator or consultant to make the necessary changes. By understanding the sales process and how the functional areas outside of Sales should interact with Sales, a customization specification document can be created to ensure a successful deployment.

Oh, and an added bonus is that your sales reps will be more productive and typically increase revenue production significantly. They’ll also be a happier group!

For most of you, it’s time to recoup your investment in Salesforce and dramatically increase revenues by aligning all areas of your company while creating an implementation that allows everyone to be more productive.

It’s time to stop the bleeding.

Art vs. Science

Are your sales reps a Picasso, Einstein or Gehry?

Pablo Picasso was considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Albert Einstein remains one of the most famous scientists of all time whose name is synonymous with the word “genius”. Frank Gehry is a world renowned architect who has designed some of the most iconic buildings in the world. His works combine beautifully artistic designs and the science of structural integrity.

So who best represents your sales team? Are your reps great talkers? But maybe they’re talking to too many of the wrong prospects? Are they scientific in their approach to their territory? The sales process? Do they record their activity in a sales force automation system to ensure proper follow up? Can you as a manager understand why they’re successful?

Art in sales. The creative and organized delivery of thoughts that are crafted on the fly based on verbal and non-verbal cues delivered in an interactive volley of questions and answers between sales rep and prospect.

Successful sales reps have an innate ability to identify the needs of prospective buyers and present their product’s features and benefits verbally, visually and textually to successfully address those needs while guiding and advancing the prospect down the path to a close.
Science in sales. The defined sales process and systematic analysis of a company’s prospect universe to ensure the highest level of sales rep productivity while managing the process in an automated system for future learnings used in coaching sales reps and the evolution of best practices.

These reps also have the ability to analyze their assigned territory, prioritize their targets, and systematically identify the prospects with the lowest barrier to a sale. Through research and process, these reps consistently generate revenue greater than most of your team and typically have higher revenue per sale numbers as well.

Through years of sales consulting, I have seen many Picassos, Einsteins and Gehrys. You probably have a mix in your organization. But the goal is to create an organization of Gehrys; a group of reps and managers who combine both the art and the science of sales. By applying both art and science to your revenue generation process, you will create a sales organization that attacks the market in an organized way while creatively addressing your prospect’s needs with appropriate attributes and benefits of working with your company.

But your reps can’t do it alone. Your entire executive team is required to create the culture and the tools that integrate both art and science into your sales process. From defining the ideal prospect to developing a clear sales process to creating training and marketing materials in line with the company’s key messages and positioning, you have the ability to create a group of Gehrys who will talk to the right prospects, identify key needs, deliver the proper message, and generate greater revenue.

This transformation is not easy or quick. A concerted effort to establish processes and tools takes time. Once developed, the day to day management and coaching of managers and sales reps will change the culture over time. The language of your organization will change. Consistency in revenue generation related discussions is critical. Just as you would monitor how the company’s positioning statements are communicated, key sales management messages are essential whether a sales rep is speaking with their manager or customer service or finance.

Like Gehry designs buildings, you have the ability to build a creative yet structurally sound sales organization.