I’ve witnessed sales reporting issues in a number of organizations. They affect negatively:
- Sales productivity
- Sales management effectiveness
- Bid management quality
Three fundamental issues stem from senior management’s right and penchant for scrutiny…..
- Information overkill: There is a lot of work involved in the mechanics of the reporting process itself. Whilst this may be worthwhile for the very top tier accounts, it’s an overkill for the rest.
- Major Bid Scrutiny: The more time senior management have to take a decision, say about funding a major bid, the more information they will ask for. Sales people soon realise that if they put in a major opportunity above a certain level in revenue terms or percentage of winning chance then it will attract scrutiny. They thus underbid to avoid management attraction. They wait until the very last moment to play their hand. And senior management don’t like surprises. They question “Why the swift change?” Back comes the answer, “Do you want us to win the bsuiness or not?” Beneath all this we find no bedrock of Trust or Truth either in one’s self or the other party.
- Isolation of the Weakest: Senior management have tendency to transform any bids going wrong into a star chamber process. So sales people start filing progress reports that will keep management off their backs. They avoid the ignominy and embarrassment of having senior managers putting them under the spotlight of scrutiny. Erich Clementi, IBM, called this ‘The Perfumed Pig’ effect. Senior Management sit in the illusion that bids are going ok – until either cut off has passed or the sale is lost. They may take out their frustrations on those who said everything was ‘rosey’ and is now not. But by this stage the many, that have ‘failed’, hovel together; hoping they won’t be picked out from the crowd – for ‘they can’t sack everyone’.
In every case, game playing is afoot. And whilst the game plays, senior management are making investment decisions based on false data that salespeople use to keep them out of the way.
With this in mind I’ve been working and thinking of ways around the issues. The game playing needs to be replaced by Truth. And that will only happen when salespeople who are struggling with their customer relationships ask for and get help. ‘Beating them up’ simply doesn’t work. The archaic carrot and stick approach is no longer effective in an economic climate where most, if not all, are struggling.
I’ve 3 things in mind…
- I’ve pieced together a best practice, Relationships-based Account Management Template – tis based on my own experience and research. I set out to create a reporting system designed for both Tier 1 and 2 clients – ie requires a fraction of the work that the big hitter systems take up – and is more effective. It currently consists of about 7 pages of data but the vast majority of focus is based upon one relationships chart for the whole of the account. For it is here that sales are made or not. This system is Word based at the moment but I might have an economically viable way to make it fully interactive, fast and trackable….
- The review of account plans is conducted on a peer basis. Where teams, with at least one leading expert, are created to help one another in the sales process. Sales ‘leaders’ (not managers) mentor and coach peers (in a ‘safe’, private and confidential process) who want help through critical points in the sales process. This takes away the pressure that management applies and fosters Truth instead – because the struggling salesperson feels safe to share his problems. This doesn’t stop a sales person engaging management for support if they want it.
- The role of management is then to ‘facilitate’ success as opposed to leaning on people to go out there and win by the of the week/month/quarter at all costs.
I recognize this will require a change in behavior for many senior managers – BUT if Senior Management haven’t got the results they wanted in the past, they won’t get them in the future either – by doing the same things over and over again. The new Sales Leaders need to be equipped with techniques to lead others outside their comfort zones – and do it in such a way that the people they are helping feel ok with them and the process.
Paul C Burr