Tag Archives: sales management

Enterprise Mobility

“Waiting for Godot”

I have a Google Alert for Enterprise Mobility.  It’s left over from a time in my career when I thought, along with a lot of so-called visionaries, that mobile devices would replace laptops for most large company employees.  The promise of providing access to business data, CRM and ERP functions, etc. was touted as being just around the corner by CEO’s of software vendors and the many analysts they paid to agree with them.  Even the CEO I worked with told us at one point just before our Chapter 11 filing that we were in a “tornado” market.  Yea, OK.

So here I am.  Nine years after drinking the Cool-Aid and four years after giving up on pushing the Enterprise Mobility Jell-O up the enterprise decision making hill.

And what are the headlines from today’s Enterprise Mobility Google Alert?

The Enterprise Mobility Conundrum: How to Control the Data?

Enterprise mobility now more of an “apps play” in Australia

IT Managers Increasingly Pressured by the Growing Complexities to Deliver Enterprise Mobility

Majority of enterprise mobility usage described as ‘entry level’ or ‘opportunistic’

Microsoft asks What is Happening Inside Enterprise Mobility?

These headlines are very familiar.  If I went back into the archives, I’d imagine I’d find very similar headlines in 2008, 2009, etc.  The only one missing is, “iPhone will overtake BlackBerry in the Enterprise”.  That headline drove a lot of people’s heads into the sand.  This included our CTO who wanted an iPhone deal before he would put an engineer on building an iPhone version.  Like BlackBerry, we had a hard time learning from the likes of Polaroid or Kodak.

Why did I bother to write this post when my business is helping companies grow their revenues?  I wrote it because I care about the salespeople and sales management that are sometimes sold a bill of goods by analysts, software executives and journalists that talk and write about unrealistic market opportunities.

As salespeople, we’ll never really know if the hype will lead to revenue.  Just because some Angel Investors throw their disposable capital into a venture (over and over) does not validate a start-up or a market.  And based on the Enterprise Mobility market, even VC money may not be enough.

Salespeople and sales management need to dig deep to understand if the company’s solution is a fad or a trend.  Understanding the difference and where the market is in its evolution is critical.  And if you find that the hype is not matching reality, get out.  Your talent will be appreciated by others with real market potential.

Finally, if buyers of a solution view implementing your technology as a burden and have questions that can’t be answered, beware.  Apparently 2017 is no different than 2008.  The Enterprise Mobility market is still “Waiting for Godot”.

When does a start-up become a company?

I’ve worked or consulted for start-ups since 1984. Back in ’84 we called a new company a Woman_Holding_Globe“new company”. That’s because it was “a company”. It had a product, personnel, funding, sales, a market and people operated it. It was kind of like IBM, AT&T or any other company, but new and smaller.

Fast forward to 2015 and it’s not exciting enough to work for a company. If you want excitement and challenge, work for a start-up. But when does a start-up become a company?

I spent six years working for a SaaS provider that called itself a start-up. When I joined, the company had already been in business for eight years. Start-up? At 14 years old. If it was a Jewish boy he would have already been Bar Mitzvah. In 1984 we would have called it a failed company with some really uninformed investors. Not a start-up.

A lot of people in the start-up community believe that a company that relies on VC money for operating and growth capital is a start-up. And they behave that way.

Many start-ups that think like start-ups, rather than companies, forego spending time on the basics. Things like sales strategies and process, marketing strategies and plans are secondary to building a culture to attract the required technical talent.

A start-up IS a company. Start-up CEOs must give equal time to sales, marketing and other functions of their company. Concentrating on providing a fun culture of challenging coding problems is only part of the responsibility of a company’s CEO and Exec Team.

If you think and act like you’re running a company instead of a start-up, especially at 14, you’ll find the road to being self-sufficient somewhat smoother to navigate. And perhaps sometime before deciding you don’t need the VCs any longer, you’ll call yourself a company rather than a start-up.

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.

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.

Is your weapon loaded?

GunYour vocabulary is the greatest weapon you have. The power of the “word” is extraordinary. When used properly, a phrase or even a single word can make all the difference in your success. The key to harnessing this kind of power is simple, “think before you speak”! Arm your mouth only with words which are compelling and impactful when presenting, meeting or simply conversing.

How do you respond to the question, “What do you do for a living?” Do you say, “I’m in ad sales” or similar? Or do you say, “I’m responsible for the success of businesses in my community”.

We have all heard a salesperson trying to set an appointment in this manner: “Hi Bob, we’ve got a new product that you might find interesting. Do you have a few minutes for me to come by and show it to you?”

Now compare that to: “Hi Bob, we’ve just launched a new and dynamic tool which will dramatically and positively affect your bottom line. I’m sure you’ll agree as soon as you see it. As quantities are limited, I’m accepting appointments on a restricted basis.”

Or how about this one for subordination? “I know you’re very busy, so I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”

Versus, “I have a brief and extraordinary presentation prepared specifically for you. As I highly value our time together, I will take 30 minutes, no more and no less. I’m sure we’ll be able to mutually agree that it was time very well spent.”

And of course, there is that endless slide presentation. The audience is not told the number of slides and is therefore in limbo. When you notice that half way through your presentation that they are looking at the clock, you begin to use phrases such as “well this slide isn’t very important so I’ll skip over it.”

Once you’ve begun to speak in that manner, you’ve relegated yourself to “unimportant and unprepared”. You’ve lost the sale.

So take the time to prepare for every meeting. Think carefully about the kinds of words you will use to assure your audience of your competence and importance. Eliminate weak words and unimportant slides. If you’re not sure of a word, don’t use it. Terms such as “irregardless”, “nucular” and “for all intensive purposes” will sink you.

Load your weapon and use it carefully.

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.

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.

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.