As a former Senior Vice President of a publicly traded company I have been cold-called and cyber-mailed by all kinds of sales people wanting 20 minutes of my time. They all wanted just 20 minutes of my time to understand my problems so that they could help me by positioning their products and solutions. While I believe in solution-selling I just couldn’t afford to educate sales representatives on information that in many cases is readily available on the company website or in regulatory filings.
That said, like any company I did have problems that I needed to solve. I believe that I was not alone and that the lasting effect of the 2008 recession has many companies in an awkward spot. When revenue growth is limited more and more organizations have gotten to an acceptable bottom line by controlling costs. The upshot of cost control is that people like me are less able to make decisions without the help of well, sales people.
There are so many companies with so many products and solutions that it is dizzying to figure out who really has the right solution. And cost control has eliminated many of the positions that would have sorted through the basic analysis to come to a short list. Without these people I don’t need a product or service as much as I need someone to really understand the problems of my business and help me to come to a great business-focussed outcome.
In the past the culture of a great sales organization would have looked very aggressive. Sales people would have been focussed on controlling the sales cycle, ultra-competitive and driven by a sales cycle that was feature, function, benefit, close, close, close. It reminds me of the 1992 movie, Glengarry, Glen Ross with Alec Baldwin as the consummate(?) sales person.
Today, I couldn’t afford to trust anyone that has Always Be Closing (ABC) as their mantra. Today, I need someone who is in it for the long haul. I need someone who is a great collaborator – because business outcomes happen as a matter of teamwork. I need someone who is patient and whose feeling of success comes from my success not the big commission cheque. I need someone who is good at learning because I don’t expect them to understand my business but I expect them to be a quick study.
The culture of sales is changing. It is very much more a “WE” constructive culture and less of an aggressive “ME” culture. Successful sales people are professionals. They take the time to understand the capabilities of their organization. And, they take the time to research and build credibility with the clients they intend to serve.
A few months ago I was fortunate enough to take an amazing course led by Lorella DePieri, founder of Results by Design Consultants and Program Director or the Centre for Excellence in Sales Leadership at Schulich School of Business. Having someone like Lorella help your sales people or having your sales leaders take a Master’s Certificate in Sales Leadership – these might be the solutions that unstick your sales organization. What is required is a full-scale shift of the culture of your sales people and your sales managers.
The 2008 recession may be having a huge impact on the culture of sales organizations because no organization needs a product or a service. We need to figure out how to make our businesses run more efficiently or to find new markets. Anyone with a track record of that is already ahead of the pack. The rest are still cold-calling me asking “what keeps me up at night?”.