Tag Archives: Professional relationships

If someone winks at you at a bar, do you tell your friends you got married?

Woman WinkingAt what point does Marketing become a fantasy?

Software companies often build freemium business models. Those who may or may not work for well-known brands have the ability to subscribe to use the software for free. Marketing, in its quest to achieve credibility, scrapes the logo of that major brand from the site and posts it on the software company’s site to announce the major brand is now a happy client.

Where does this fall on your integrity spectrum?

Imagine that you work for H&R Block as an IT Analyst and you subscribe to a free version of a SaaS solution. Would you want to assume the liability associated with the use of the H&R Block trademarked logo?

Now fast forward to a sales rep’s conversation with a new prospect who’s just reviewed the vendor’s web site. How does that rep respond when asked about H&R Block’s use of the software? Is it ethical to put a sales rep in a position to have to justify Marketing’s position that a free “user” (and I use that term lightly) is an actual “customer”?

Sales reps are often in very challenging positions. Their employers are obligated to provide strong, credible support and collateral materials in an effort to support the sales process. This provides funding for all functional areas of the company.

Don’t compromise the integrity of your sales department in an effort to impress analysts or investors. It’s simply not good business and of course, should you be discovered, good luck explaining the significant benefits the national brand is realizing.

One free user does not a customer make.

Don Corleone – Without the crime, death and stuff

A Networking Strategy

Don Corleone gained the trust of his network and made a mark on his industry by employing a simple philosophy.

If you do for others, you will get something in return. It’s only a matter of time.

When networking to generate business for you or your company, providing an introduction, reviewing and critiquing a document, or simply providing a sounding board for an idea costs little to nothing. Helping out someone in your network or even a colleague of someone in your network is always a good thing.

Identifying and contacting executives who may be decision makers is critical in Sales. One strategy that has consistently worked for me was offering my experience, contacts and expertise to my colleagues when asked. Perhaps someone wants an introduction from me. Or they have an idea in which they want a salesperson’s perspective. I’m always happy to provide whatever I can reasonably do to help. Reciprocation is usually available when requested.

I have found that, for the most part, professionals understand the Don Corleone brand of networking. Negative responses when requesting similar acts from colleagues are few and far between.

Don Corleone’s empire was built on this premise along with some questionable business practices. Still, we can learn a lot from his networking skills.

Are you a Sales Manager or the Top Sales Rep?

Firefighter NetYou manage salespeople. A component of your job is to go out on sales calls with your sales representatives. It is your job to sell if you are in the sales call, right?

Not necessarily. Through untold ride-alongs I’ve experienced with sales reps it has become apparent that sales reps sometimes lose control of sales calls during a sales manager’s ride-along.

Watching the dynamics between sales management and their salespeople for 20 years has caused me to stop talking on ride-alongs. As a sales consultant I spend hours in sales calls assessing the performance of the rep.

As the “coach”, most sales managers would agree that managing a sales organization can sometimes be painful. It’s reminiscent of a baseball coach watching his star hitter swing at a pitch that is obviously a ball. So does a sales manager get that queasy feeling in their gut when a sales rep misses a buying sign or starts doing a data dump without tying product features to the benefits of the product?

Sales Managers must understand that they are both Top Sales Rep AND Sales Manager. Sales Managers should view themselves as a firefighter’s net. When the fire starts moving towards the mother in the window on the fifth floor, the net comes out to catch her before she gets hurt. Similarly, does the Sales Manager save the sales call when the rep appears to be heading for a professional crash and burn.

Imagine if you will a sales call that is lost. Dead. Buried. There is no chance of a save. As painful as this may sound, it is OK to sit back and watch your rep fall flat on their face. I witnessed a few flame outs in my time. Some I saved. Others I used as a learning experience. The conversation in the car afterwards went like this:

Me: “So how’d that feel?”

Rep: “Not so good. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Me: “Will I be here next time? The time after that? Probably not. Let’s replay it and figure out how it went wrong.”

Just as it’s OK to let you child fail sometimes to learn how it feels and understand what went wrong, it’s OK to let your sales rep feel the pain of a really bad sales call. Now you wouldn’t allow this to happen with an important client. But a prospect who you determine to be a lost cause, for whatever reason, can be very useful as an educational exercise.

Sales reps inherently get better as they increase activity over time. Every sales call should be a learning experience. Your role is to make sure they learn something each time. This may come from their own success, you taking over the call demonstrating best practices or having the rep fail miserably. In every case, you’re the coach.

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.