Management Confusion over Sales Execution, and How to Prevent It


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“Thirty minutes or it’s free!” The Dominos Pizza slogan won notoriety for the conflict it created for its drivers: Get the order to the customer in thirty minutes or less, but don’t kill anyone on the way.

Sensing a growing legal risk, Dominos retreated to a satisfaction guarantee that didn’t involve crumpled metal and upended pedestrians. Fulfill the customer’s need! Fast food or food, fast! Dominos might still offer guaranteed 30-minute delivery were it not for the liability of their delivery cars careening through crowded cities and neighborhoods.

Salespeople endure their own management-inflicted dissonance. Even though their behaviors are not likely as dangerous as running a stop sign, the outcomes pose strategic problems of similar proportion:

“Be a Trusted Advisor to your clients. Here’s your sales quota.” Why do sales executives insist on holding salespeople accountable to this double standard? For most salespeople, the consequences of failure to achieve quota are printed on a pink piece of paper. So, how can they be expected to swear unswerving allegiance (you did say Trusted Advisor, right?) to customer need with the sword of Damocles suspended overhead?

Be honest. Be worthy of trust. Have personal integrity. All are good habits. But when there’s a monetary incentive associated with a purchase, as there is for most commission-driven salespeople, “Trusted Advisor” is a mirage. And most customers simply aren’t that gullible anyway.

“Listening skills are your key to success. I’ll tell you everything you need to know.” Put another way, “Do as I say, and not as I do!” There was more than a little irony in the title for a recent blog, “12 Lame Excuses Salespeople Make and How to Respond.” A more fitting title would have been How to Ignore What You Hear. After that bit of nurturing, how might a salesperson might present himself in a client meeting? Beyond the opening pleasantry, “how are you?” you’ll see a lot of “show,” but little else. No surprise, given the sales culture. Sales managers shouldn’t expect good listening skills when they waste opportunities to practice them.

“There are risks throughout our sales process. If you fail, you can count on a kick in the rear.” Sure, applaud winning, but champion innovation and intelligent risk taking, even when they fail. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” OK, the accolades might taper after the fifth attempt, but failure serves as a competitive advantage when salespeople can be candid about what didn’t succeed, and by sharing the knowledge within the company.

“Sell to the CXO! You’ll get the skills when we have training in the budget.” Too many organizations talk about playing in the CXO’s sandbox, but their salespeople are rarely invited because they think about the challenge tactically. Forget about how to get past gate keepers. Forget about trigger events. CXO’s are moved by achieving strategic goals, which are shaped by forces and trends. Those discussions require business, financial, and strategic knowledge.

How do you prevent confusion over sales execution?

1. Lead by example. The behaviors you exhibit will be part of your salesperson’s next customer meeting. Make sure those behaviors lead to the results you want.

2. Look for strategic anomalies, and squash them when they’re found. If your salespeople are accountable for customer satisfaction, but they’re compensated for new business, they will be stretched more ways than silly putty. Align compensation with what brings value to your company, and if that’s more than just revenue, make sure there’s harmony.

3. Back edicts with investment. If you want a sales force comfortable in the executive suite, be prepared to develop the needed skills.

4. Never stop testing ethical choices. Your sales goals have a direct connection to the ethical decisions your salespeople must make every day. Know what they are, and be prepared to discuss the outcomes of those decisions. More than one company has learned the hard way that even benign sales goals can spiral out of control.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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