Imagine this… Here’s the scenario. What if your entire business rested on just one rep and one manager? In other words, what if the life of your company rested on you picking one seller from the pool of all the average sellers in your company and pairing him/her with just one manager to oversee the rep’s sales activities.
Do it right…and you make millions; do it wrong…and its instant bankruptcy. Go ahead, take a few minutes to write down what you would do to make sure that the pair you picked would be successful in saving your business from bankruptcy.
What you definitely wouldn’t do
Now, let’s compare our choices to yours. Here are some things we believe you wouldn’t do in this situation:
- You wouldn’t spend money on off the shelf sales training in hopes that it happens to be the right fit for that one particular rep.
- You wouldn’t rush out to find ten different sales apps to put into a technology stack that the rep had to use in daily selling efforts.
- You wouldn’t develop an overwhelming set of detailed processes that capture every nuance of their jobs and ask them to adhere to it as they attempt to sell to different clients.
- You wouldn’t load your sales manager up with numerous administrative tasks that keeps him or her from spending time coaching the sales rep.
What you probably would do
This task is pretty simple despite the weight of the outcome. So, here are some things we think most sales leaders would do in a situation like this.
First, you’d think long and hard about the best rep and the manager you trust the most to help that rep succeed. You’d also think about how well the two would work together in their ability to hit the “number” that will save the business. Most likely, you’d provide insights from your past experience about three to four common selling situations in the field and help them put decide on a strategy to win in each situation. Next, you’d give them training on very tangible skills and abilities necessary to win in these “common” situation opportunities. You’d also make sure that you were comfortable with the manager’s ability to coach the rep in the field, and you’d hold him/her accountable for this coaching. In short, you’d do everything you could to maximize the effectiveness of your “hero” sales team fighting to for the success of the business.
This provocative exercise is a great example of effectiveness versus efficiency. If your business had truly hung in the balance, there’s no doubt that you’d maximize the team’s effectiveness not on its efficiency. You would spend your time and resources on the “would do” list and very little on the “wouldn’t do” list. But here’s what’s interesting: we find that in the real world, most sales organizations work more on efficiency than they do on effectiveness.
Are You Missing the Boat or Sinking the Boat?
Several years ago, two of my academic colleagues, Peter Dickson and Joseph Giglierano, wrote a great research paper on the two kinds of risk that business leaders manage. They called the first risk, “missing the boat.” This is risk associated with chasing the wrong customers, selling the wrong products, using poor marketing messages, etc. Ultimately, this leads to missed revenue goals because the leader didn’t position the company to sell the right thing to the right customer using the right approach. The second risk, “sinking the boat”, is when the leader spends too much money, time and resources so that budgets are blown, and profits are lost.
Obviously great sales leaders (both senior leaders and frontline managers) must constantly balance these two types of risk while managing their respective sales teams. Unfortunately, we believe that sales leaders spend more of their time managing sinking the boat risk than they do on missing the boat risk. The results of these “don’t sink the boat” efforts have been pretty disappointing: returns on training dollars are lower than expected, sales technology adoption rates are below target, and most importantly, fewer sellers are hitting their targets.
Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
The solution to these disappointing trends is much like the one rep/one manager challenge. Often, sales leaders get caught up in the costs of complex and large sales organization and forget to do what’s required to make sellers more effective. But, if you only had one rep and one manager on your sales team, you’d focus heavily on managing the effectiveness of the team, doing everything possible to make sure they don’t miss the boat. Sales leaders need to push themselves to think more about how to get sellers to be more effective.
When evaluating different sales programs to help your sellers be more successful in 2019, make sure you evaluate for effectiveness and not efficiency. That way you can sail off into the sunset knowing your revenue targets will be met.