Jill Konrath is the bestselling author of Selling to Big Companies, SNAP Selling, and Agile Selling. She's also a sought-after speaker at sales conferences and kickoff meetings. Sharing her fresh sales strategies, she helps salespeople to speed up new customer acquisition and win bigger contracts. Her clients include IBM, GE, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Staples, and numerous mid-market firms.
Donal Daly is the CEO of The TAS Group and author of Account Planning in Salesforce. I invited Jill and Donal to Marketing Smarts to discuss what makes a sales manager a truly effective leader, how marketing and sales have changed (and how they've stayed the same), and what companies should do to enable their sales and marketing teams to succeed.
Here are some highlights from my conversation with Jill and Donal:
A lot of things about selling may have changed, but it's still all about the customer (00:44): [Donal] "I don't think there's any formula. I think that some things remain constant and some things have changed.... It's all about the customer, as it should always have been. It's all about understanding the customer's pain points. And this goes beyond sales. It covers sales and marketing.... It's messaging to the customer's problems. Understanding the customer's problems is part of the salesperson's job.... Their job used to be to communicate value. Now I think their job is to create value. That's something that's a bit different. And I think that the marketer's role, the product manager's role—indeed the whole company's role—should be all about the customer, and understanding that the impact on the customer of a bad buying decision is typically much greater than the impact on the salesperson of a lost deal. I think that's really important.... What's a bit different now is that with the ubiquity of the Internet and the information that people can get and social networks and peer groups...it's far more incumbent on the seller (and the company behind the seller) to think about the customer's issues. That's the only differentiator that seller's can bring now."
[Jill] "It's probably even more important when you're selling to a larger company, because they've got so many people vying for their business...that the need to be totally customer focused, with a body of knowledge behind you in terms of personal understanding, insights into what's happening in the marketplace, good content to support you, and help you through the process. To me, it's even more complex today because the buyers' expectations have raised so significantly. They have no tolerance for self-serving salespeople who waste their time. They're very protective of their time, and they're very knowledgeable about what's out there, so from a sales perspective everything radically shifts."
Don't focus so much on sales and marketing alignment that you forget about the customer (03:34): [Donal] "There's so little sales and marketing alignment because everyone's focused on sales and marketing alignment. By that, I mean people should be focused on customer alignment. There's so much effort spent on 'how can we get sales and marketing aligned,' and so little effort spent on 'how do we align around the customer....' The other thing I'd say [is that] it's harder to think about the customer first. You've got to do the research. You've got to care about what the customer cares about, and it's much easier to send off the latest data sheet. So, the good sellers will do more quality work with fewer customers who they believe they can sincerely add value to."
[Jill] "You ask 'why is there so much crap?' The reality is that people are on cruise control in much of their life. What you see is not only salespeople on cruise control doing things the old way that is no longer effective, but certainly in marketing. Marketers have to really change everything that they're doing in order to move to this customer-centric approach. It is not about the product and service anymore, and nobody in their right mind cares about that stuff. And even when the marketers and the salespeople took a look at their own behavior, they would find that they would delete themselves and they would delete any messaging that came out that was like that, or any e-book that tried to be self-promotional and they would discredit the company. People are just doing what they think is supposed to be done when, in fact, it is grossly ineffective today.
To inspire your sales team, remember that salespeople are human: They care about more than just their quotas (07:21): "Every seller is part of a sales team, which is part of an organization, and typically it's that organization's framework and structures that can dictate some of the seller's behaviors. If you look at most organizations and people say 'what motivates a salesperson,' and the gut reaction from many will be 'oh, it's their quota,' but the truth is that, particularly in large B2B sales, I can't win a deal every day, so what motivates me? The better sellers...care about self mastery. They care about autonomy. They care about their customers. They care about being lifelong learners. And a recognition of that from sales management and [others throughout] the company makes a huge change.
"What we're trying to do is not just manage. What we're trying to do is lead. And we're trying to give the salespeople the tools to take away some of the drudge, to automate some of the insights, to help them with understanding their customers' business problems better, to understand the cadence of the business. So that that value add, that 'special sauce' that the sales manager brings, there's space for that."
[Jill] "It comes back to the whole leadership team. When you reach the 15th of the month or when a sales manager reaches the 15th of the month and sees that the forecast is not coming through, it typically sets off a whole cascading set of actions, because the sales manager is trying to meet his or her quota under pressure, and suddenly everybody starts scrambling 'where are we, where are we?' So there's an emotional intelligence that has to be found in the sales manager where they can know that, yes, they have to meet their quota, but understand that if they go into the panic routine...that all they're doing is complicating things. They're making it more difficult, because people under stress do not perform better. They perform worse. They try to prematurely close deals, which creates obstacles. They close smaller size deals than they would normally close.... Knowing this is essential to managing a team on a long-term basis."
Jill, Donal, and I talked about much more, including what a customer relationship management (CRM) database can and can't do for your business, and which metrics give a true indication of sales performance, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Jill Konrath and Donal Daly. Jill is the best-selling author of Selling to Big Companies, Snap Selling, and Agile Selling, and Donal is CEO of The Tas Group and the best-selling author of Account Planning in Salesforce. Follow Jill Konrath and Donal Daly on Twitter.