Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Sales: Process or Art?

ManOboe Partners is admittedly a quantitatively and analytically driven consultancy, with our recommendations focused on making strategic changes that leverage rigorous analysis and information. We attempt to change our client’s internal behavior and external perception by helping create a more intelligent organization. We have also primarily worked with sales organizations, many who are looking to become more disciplined in their approach to their clients.

This has always been an interesting intersection since traditionally sales has been considered more of an art than a science. Writers like Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, and Og Mandino, whose books are about building relationships, understanding customer needs, and the art of persuasion, are held with reverent regard by many in sales. We were recently debating this and we challenged ourselves a bit. Are we missing anything significant in our quantitative approach to rethinking sales organizations? Worse, is our methodology possibly harming the delicate juju found in top sales teams?

We feel that our approach is unique in the industry because we are taking into consideration not only the tangible impact of a data driven organization, but we also incorporate strategies that help foster intangible sales assets as well. Our mantra from our beginning has been that creativity is our top virtue and that collaboration is a critical element in organizational strategy.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review called Dismantling the Sales Machine validated our approach. The authors argue that a certain process-driven discipline has dominated current sales management thinking, based on scorecards and activity metrics intended to ensure compliance to an “established optimal behavior”. They state that sales managers can gain significant advantages by shifting emphasis towards “judgement of individual reps” and manager’s focus on “providing guidance and support rather than inspection and direction”. We agree. We feel that managers create outperforming teams by nurturing creativity and collaboration, which can be achieved by defining very clear strategies and goals, then using information and productivity tools to make client teams more effective. Managers should think of data and analytics as ammunition that can direct teams to perform in a more coordinated and intelligent way.

We feel that oversight metrics, while they can provide certain “fear” motivators, have the potential of harming a sales team in the long run.

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What Does It Mean to ‘Collaborate’ in an Organization?

WalkWe have been having a lot of discussions recently about the definition of collaboration. For most of our clients, increasing collaboration is one of their ultimate goals. But what does it mean to increase collaboration? At first thought, it would seem obvious what it is: increasing the amount of communication exchange among team members in order to identify new opportunities to increase business. The natural next step that sprouts from this conclusion is to invest in technology solutions that allow for an exchange of information: CRM, instant messaging, collaboration sites like Sharepoint.

These tools facilitate collaboration, but they don’t in and of themselves create or inspire collaboration. Collaboration is at its core a cultural phenomenon. Collaboration springs from the development of a community that has shared interests and common goals, and clear visibility of the path to take to reach those goals.[more…] Organizations need to develop a culture where everyone buys into the idea that sharing information benefits the greater good of the firm. Leadership sets the cultural agenda, by creating principles and providing guidance on expected behaviors.

At this point in the conversation is when we start to lose our more systematic-minded peers, who object to the abstract direction of the discussion. In their view, people by nature want to collaborate but there are systemic barriers that prevent the free exchange of information. They feel that these barriers can be broken down with the use of technology. They state examples of how new media has expanded the ability to share information which, in the cases of Wikipedia and Twitter for example, are being done with little financial incentive. It’s human nature to share.[more…]

It’s important to try to balance the two dimensions; they work in tandem. You can have an organization where everyone buys into the benefits of sharing information, but without the tools that enable a free, relevant, and targeted exchange, people will easily give up. In firms with the right culture but the wrong systems, people will want to collaborate, they can’t, and they will feel guilty about it everyday. Alternately, you can have an organization that spends millions of dollars on any variety of tools to talk to each other, but no cultural transformation to buy into a broader benefit, then the investment is completely wasted. Worst of all, these are usually recurring costs.

The leadership of any organization needs to understand how interrelated these are and have a coordinated plan to address them. In the simplest terms, they represent the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of collaboration.

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