The life of a sales person can sometimes seem like that of a juggler in a circus. Always many balls in the air. The best trained Reps are the ones who can simultaneously juggle more balls than their peers. One of the challenges with sales is that such juggling largely happens in the dark. Balls get dropped. Unknowingly.
Nonsense you say? We can see what our Reps are doing. We can see when they don’t put in the expected effort. We can see when Service Level Agreements [like following up new leads within 24 hours of when they'll assigned].
True enough. But not enough.
With a focus on activities and ‘events’, what’s missing is a picture of how progress is impacted by activities; how one ‘event’ leads to another [or not]. It’s in the chain of events [that it takes for buyers and sellers to meaningfully engage with each other] that many mistakes can and do occur. Largely because they go undetected.
The tragedy in this is that when Reps can’t see the mistakes they’re making, we can’t blame them for repeatedly making the same mistakes. When they can’t see the consequences to their own success of mistakes they’re making, we can’t blame them for bad habits. Surely, it’s time for better.
I gather from folks working in safe injection sites with drug addicts that using mirrors improves the odds of addicts entering detox. Weighing scales, similarly, tend to help overweight folks see the progress they’re making in shedding some pounds. Neither mirrors nor diagnostics [like how much do I weigh] are enough to improve conditions. But they’re a start. Wearing a FitBit doesn’t make me healthier, but it is a personal commitment to get healthier with diagnostics.
There’s a need, in my view, for similar kinds of diagnostics in sales. Diagnostics that help individual Reps, and their managers, detect with greater speed and precision, the health of existing sales practices. Consider this example. Using auto-analytics showing the cause-effect connections between Rep activity and buyer actions, a sales manager spotted a problem. A seasoned Rep was getting ‘on base’ 50% of the time, the new hire just 10% … until week 3 when she tanked to about 3%.
In this case, the new hire admitted she was hitting objections and didn’t know how to handle them. A quick review, with her peers, ensued. Coached on how to handle objections, she achieved a 10-fold lift in her ‘on base’ percentage in just two weeks. By then, she was having the success of the team’s most experienced Reps. She was still only 8 weeks into her on-boarding. It’s an example of a small change, smartly made, setting bigger things in motion.
John Hagel describes this as the ‘Power of Pull’ enabled by empowered employees. In his view, firms that can trigger faster learning on their front-lines of performance, using systems of engagement, can gain a big edge.
It’s hard to fix mistakes you can’t see. It’s a whole lot easier when mistakes are clear for all to see.
It’s an important 1st step to the personalized learning needed to provoke small, smart, changes.
We’re seeing this happen. In B2B sales, of all places.