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Sometimes, I reflect on the “good old days.”  Things were certainly different, I do think at a macro level things are far better than whatever our image of the good old days were.

At the same time, I do see areas where we seem to be “settling” for levels of performance or excellence that are far lower than what we expected as standards of performance years.

By way of illustration, I’ve spent much of my career loosely involved with telecommunications, whether the operating companies, equipment, or services providers.

In the good old days of landlines, there was something that all the operators were obsessed with.  In the industry, it was referred to as QoS—Quality of Service.

QoS referred to the quality of the phone call.  Any levels of static, and decline in call quality, any inability to consistently and correctly connect calls was deemed as unacceptable.  The operating companies constantly strove to achieve levels of QoS that seemed absurdly high–typically above 98%.

Sometimes, I thought it seemed a little silly, they were doing things that, as a user, I couldn’t perceive, but they were important metrics and goals for the operators.

Fast forward to the telecom world of today and, “Can You Hear Me Now,” is no longer an advertising campaign, but the reality we live in every day.

We suffer through bad calls, dropped calls.  If it’s a cloudy day, the mobile signal at my desk is flaky, so to make calls I have to stand as close to one of the windows in my office as I can.  I make sure that I don’t move, if I even turn a little, I might lose the call.

Yet this is what we live with and accept today.  What’s worse, we don’t seem to question it, it’s just the way things are.  We accept lower levels of quality as “normal.”

We seem to do the same things in marketing and sales.  I remember reviewing campaigns, where 1% response rates meant we failed.  We would assess what we had done, continually seeking to improve–driving higher opens, higher response rates, better levels of results.

The same with selling, win rates, sales cycle, average transaction values were important.  We always looked to improve those, driving performance as high as possible.  Are we chasing the right customers?  Are we engaging them as effectively as possible?  Are we maximizing our ability to create value with them, differentiating our offerings from others?  Are we continually improving our capabilities as sales and marketing professionals, achieving the highest levels of organizational and individual performance possible.

Yet today, the focus is less on improving, getting better results from what we pursue and what we do.

We focus on volume and velocity.  A response rate of 1% is no longer questioned, in fact in many organizations, it’s viewed as exceptional.  If we didn’t get the right number of responses, we just sent another million emails or make another 1000 dials.

We accept what we get and the way we get more is to increase volume/velocity, rather than figuring out how do better.  We settle for mediocre performance, seeking to achieve our numbers by ramping up the volumes.

In too many organizations, the focus is on doing more, not doing things better or more effectively.

Ironically, doing more, higher volumes and velocity don’t seem to be working.  We can paper the world with millions of emails, we can make thousands of dials, we can double, and triple these.  The incremental cost of doing more is virtually zero.

But we aren’t doing better.  For the past 7 years, according to CSO Insights, sales people making quota has declined roughly 10% to the low 50’s.  Other research show similar issues in performance.

One would think we would begin to focus on doing better at what we do.  Improving how we engage and work with customers.  Improving our effectiveness, improving our impact.

There are sporadic initiatives to do this, but it’s tough work, too often we opt for easy.  I know I’m generalizing, there are many that constantly seek to improve and excel, yet in general, we seem to be becoming increasingly comfortable with mediocrity.

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Somehow, we think features and benefits are important.  Every beginning sales course talks about how we present Features And Benefits (When I first started, I learned how to present Features-Advantages-Benefits —-FABs).  Our product marketing and marketing teams load us up with content and presentations with endless lists of features and benefits.

Visit any web site, and one is inundated with features and benefits.  We see the comparative tables showing features and benefits on one axis and the comparison of our solution with various alternatives–and we know our solution always checks off all the boxes, the alternatives don’t.  Ironically, when you visit the websites of those alternative solutions, their comparisons always show them checking all their boxes and the alternatives–including us don’t.

These are all games we play in pitching our products. and focusing on features and benefits.

But the problem is, not all features benefit the customer.

This is the first place where Features and Benefits discussions fall apart.

Customers may not care that we have certain features, they are irrelevant and the benefit is irrelevant.  Let me take an extreme example, say we offer our product in four colors, while the competition only offers their product in black (Think back to Henry Ford–“We’ll give you a car in any color as long as it’s black.”)  The feature is 4 colors, the benefit is you can match your office decor, you have colors that are soothing and restful to your employees.

The customer responds, “I don’t care, all our employees are color blind so that’s meaningless to us.”

Features and benefits are meaningless if the customer doesn’t care about specific features or benefits.  Yet, too many sales people will rattle off all the features and benefits they offer, forgetting the ones they should be focusing on are the ones the customer cares about.  If they only care about one benefit, then the only features relevant to them are those that produce that benefit.

The second area Features and Benefits are meaningless is we have to translate them into specifics that are meaningful to the customer.  Just the fact that we enable the customer to reduce operational costs and improve profitability is meaningless to the customer.  (Plus the competition is saying the same thing).  How much will we reduce expense, how will profitability be improved, how long will it take, when will they see results. Without making the benefits specific to the customer and their situation, we aren’t articulating our value in ways that are impactful and relevant to customers.

Features only benefit the customer if they produce value the customer cares about.  When we’ve narrowed our focus to those relevant features, we must articulate benefits specific to what the customer should expect to achieve.

Absent this, we are not creating value with the customer.

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I always hate starting a post with a pile of disclaimers.  In some of my recent posts, I seem to be bashing sales enablement.  I don’t mean to be doing that.  Sales enablement is a vital function in organizations, it has a hugely important mission that can only be fulfilled with talented professionals.  Many of our best clients and my closest friends are sales enablement professionals (And I hope they remain so after reading this post.)

However, I often wonder if we might increase the impact of sales enablement by making it a “temp job” or “rotational assignment.”

What if we rotated, as a development assignment, some of our best sales people and managers into sales enablement roles?

Some of the issue, and it’s human nature, is that many sales enablement professionals have not been a sales person for years.  Some never have been.  It’s hard to understand the reality, particularly in today’s fast changing world, of sales people’s lives if it’s been a long time since you’ve done the job itself.

Intellectually, one can understand the issues.  Data provides a lot of insight into the issues.  Studying best practices and sharing views with other sales enablement professionals is important.

But great sales enablement is as much EQ as it is IQ.  Too often, we see sales enablement programs that are technically and intellectually right, fail to achieve their potential because they are insensitive to the reality of how sales people work and what they need to do to be successful.

Imagine the power of leveraging that.  Take a high performing sales person and assign that person to work in developing/delivering sales enablement programs for two years.  They bring the pragmatism and real world experience to sales enablement, and can help develop and the programs that are most impactful in a way that will be accepted by the organization.

These people can become Sales Enablement’s “voice of/to the customer.”

Then think at the end of those two years, that sales person moves back to the field, perhaps as a front line sales manager, or as a senior manager.  They become active advocates and provide constant reinforcement of the sales enablement programs.

When I first started as a sales person and went to sales training, the people doing the training were people who had been top sales people.  They brought a reality to the experience that a training professional might not have done.  At the same time they learned new skills that enabled them to step back into field roles at much higher levels and with much greater impact.

Perhaps it’s time to re-look at this.

Afterword:  The same applies to consultants and outside trainers.  If they haven’t done the “job” or haven’t done it for some time–one might question how relevant and connected they can be.

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Sales enablement is a “hot” issue in driving sales effectiveness/performance.  Hundreds of millions are being invested in “enabling sales people.”  Whether it’s new software tools, programs, content, training, processes, dedicated sales enablement professionals and executives are creating and delivering an endless array of things to “help” sales people.

Every sales enablement professional I meet is very dedicated and well intended.  But often, it seems too many have lost sight of the goal–it;s helping our sales people sell more.

Too often, it seems these professionals get caught up in their own activities, which become ends in themselves, but may not be producing the desired outcomes in the sales organization.

Content is one of my favorite areas—sales enablement seems to be producing endless amounts of content.   Case studies, presentations, playbooks, battlecards, proposal tools, testimonials.  All are segmented by persona, industry, market, problems.  Yet when one starts auditing content utilization, we see the same thing—people are only using a small amount of content.  Or they are doing their own thing.

Training is the same, we’re providing more and more training, leveraging technology to deliver bite sized modules to the sales person’s device, creating just in time elearning modules to develop people’s skills.  Sometimes we “mandate” the training, or require some level of certification.  But then we watch sales people as they work, many simply aren’t using it.

Tools is another area.  The “sales stack” has entered our vocabulary, and so many of the conversations among sales enablement professionals end up being, “mine is bigger than yours…..”  As a sidenote, the picture accompanying this post demonstrates a symptom of the problem.  Sales enablement isn’t about all the technology platforms we provide, but how what technology we do provide helps sales people improve their performance.

Every sales enablement professional I encounter is crazy busy–all creating new programs and new initiatives to help the sales people. I sit in quarterly executive reviews and see the sales enablement people listing all the new programs and initiatives they are creating and driving.  And, again, all well intended.

But results aren’t changing.  We see YOY declines in people meeting quota.  We see churn in the sales organization, with job tenure going from 26 months, to 22, to less than 20 months.

And then we audit utilization—people aren’t using the tools, training, content.

Oops, I may have misspoken.  I can count on one hand the number of organizations that actually do audit utilization.  Too often, sales enablement professionals are too busy doing the next greatest program, they don’t take the time to see if the “dogs are eating the dog food….” and they aren’t!

We’re forced to understand why—Are they aware of the availability?  Do they know why, how, when, where they should be applying it?  When applied, is it actually working-or do we need to reassess what we are doing?  Are we overwhelming them and providing too much, are they confused?  Are we providing programs du jour, whipsawing our people with continued shifts in focus and direction.  Is what we are doing even relevant–how many of our sales enablement professionals have actually carried a bag within the past few years–or have they become so distant from the reality of what sales people face/do/don’t do, that they aren’t focusing on their worlds.  Do they have the right “EQ” for the lives of sales people?

In fairness, it’s not just a sales enablement issue.  It’s also a management issue–both executive management and front line sales management.  Effective sales enablement requires the active engagement of these people–both in setting the priorities, and as a partner in enabling the solutions.

Front line sales management has the responsibility of reinforcing and coaching the programs created and delivered by sales enablement  They also need to provide feedback on what works, what doesn’t.  They need to provide feedback on where sales enablement provides the biggest leverage and what should be stopped.  They have to say when enough is enough.  (And sales enablement must actively seek and listen to this feedback).

Sales enablers will fail to achieve the outcomes expected if they act as entities to themselves, focusing on their activities, programs, and justifying ever increasing budgets.

I’m a huge fan of sales enablement and sales enablement professionals.  Much of our own work is categorized as sales enablement.  It’s an important function/job that can have huge impacts on sales performance.

However, I’m an unabashed sales enablement minimalist.  We need to provide just enough, but not too much.  We need to seek less to provide all the answers, but provide the capability for sales people to figure out the answers.

In the end, sales enablement exists only to serve the sales people, not executive management.

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So much of the conversation we see in selling is on enabling the sales person  (not just limited to the sales enablement function).

Millions/Billions are invested in sales tools, training, content, and programs.

We structure organizations “to optimize” performance, creating specialist roles so sales people don’t have to manage the whole process.

We provide programs, scripts, systems/tools, to help the sales person in engaging prospects and customers.

In some sense, it seems we are trying to handhold sales people through every conversation, every step of the process, every variation they may encounter.

In spite of all these investments, sales performance isn’t improving.  In fact, over the past 7 years, the number of sales people achieving their quotas has declined by about 10% to 53%*.

As I talk to sales managers and sales people, I find, increasingly, they are unable to navigate conversations and customer engagement in ways that are meaningful to the customer and produce results.

With the millions/billions we are investing in improving sales people’s abilities, why aren’t we seeing dramatic improvements in sales performance?

Some thoughts/guesses:

  1.  Just because we provide training, tools, systems, programs, doesn’t mean the sales person is using them.  Most studies show the impact of training last less than 90 days, unless there is constant reinforcement and coaching.  But the majority of managers spend less than 2 hours a week, total, coaching their people.
  2. Related to the previous point, people aren’t using the tools and things we provide.  If they were, we wouldn’t talk about things like CRM compliance, or many of the other things that dominate blog posts and discussions at conferences.  In our work with clients, we often find utilization of tools and related programs very low–people aren’t using content–they rely on a few pieces, using them over and over.  They aren’t using the tools/programs.  In one organization that had made great investments in providing all sorts of things to sales people, we found fewer than 2% were using them.
  3. Much of what we put in place focuses on us and our products/solutions.  The problem is, the customer doesn’t care about these.  As a result, even sales people leveraging these well, isn’t connecting effectively with customers.
  4. Increasingly, the focus on product knowledge and selling skills, doesn’t enable our sales people to engage and create meaningful or differentiated value with customers.  The absence of business/financial acumen knowledge, critical thinking, problem solving, curiosity, collaboration and project management skills adversely impact their abilities to effectively engage customers and produce results.

We have to take time to see understand how our people are using or aren’t using what we provide.  Until we get them using what we know works and produces results, we may be wasting time, money, resources

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My friend, Andy Paul wrote a brilliant newsletter piece this weekend, entitled What We Do Is Not Complicated.  His newsletter struck a chord.

What we do isn’t complicated–yet somehow we tend to make it so–for ourselves, perhaps more importantly, for our customers.

At it’s core, selling is simply about:

  1. Find a customer that has a problem they want to solve, that we are the best in the world at solving.
  2. Help the customer understand how to best solve their problem, achieving the outcomes they want, demonstrating the superior value you create with them.
  3. Assure they achieve the desired outcomes.
  4. Start all over, executing again and again….

That’s really all selling is about.  But somehow, we make it much more complicated.

  1. We don’t understand the problems customers have and the consequences of not solving them.  So we have difficulty engaging the customer in talking about solving their problems.
  2. All we know is what our products do, but we can’t translate that into the context that is meaningful to the customer–the impact on their business, and why it’s important to them.
  3. Or we don’t connect effectively with the customer, we talk about what we are interested in (our company/products), failing to engage the customer in discussing what they are interested in.
  4. Since we don’t do 1, 2, or 3 well, it becomes the customer’s problem to do these things.  They struggle, because they may have never done this before, they struggle because they don’t know what things they should be looking at or the benefits they should realize in their specific situation.  Or they may struggle in the buying process, having difficulty aligning their own team in making a decision.  Or one of our competitors steps into this vacuum, helping the customer address these issues.
  5. We don’t understand our ICP, consequently we waste lots of time calling prospects we have no business calling.  We waste their time as well, developing a negative impression.
  6. We don’t help them build the business case to present to their management, gaining approval for the investment.
  7. We simply don’t demonstrate that we care–as Andy points out, we aren’t curious about the customer, their goals, and their concerns, we don’t show them, as a result, we never connect with customers in ways meaningful to them.
  8. We (or our marketing organization) make it even tougher.  We send out poorly worded, poorly targeted emails, we spend no time preparing for our prospecting calls, choosing instead to “shoot from the lip.”
  9. We manage our time poorly, choosing to be diverted by the urgent, rather than focusing on the important.
  10. Our companies, purposefully, or inadvertently, put hurdles in place, making it more difficult to develop and execute our sales strategies.
  11. and………….

I can go on and on……

Selling is not that difficult.  It’s about high impact conversations with people who care and want to be involved in those discussions.

We put so much in our way, or fail to do the work to create those high impact conversations, as a result, we make things far more difficult than they should be.

High performers protect themselves and their time viciously, minimizing these distractions.

It’s the mediocre and poor performers that use these distractions as a refuge to hide out, as excuses to their inability to perform.

Are you making selling more difficult than it need be?

Afterword, thanks Andy for the great idea!

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Too often, we get caught up in the rush of everyday life.  The press of everyday activity, the constant intrusion and interruptions drive what we do.

These become standard, we go on autopilot–even as a coping mechanism.  Most important we stop paying attention, we stop being present.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t accomplishing things.  The most successful tend to build routines based on what works, and we repeat them over and over, until we become un-conscious (read not present) in our execution.

It’s at these points be become most vulnerable, but we may be unconscious to the signals.

Inevitably, things change, what used to work isn’t working as well.  We tend to double down on our efforts.  We don’t get the response we need from our prospecting, rather than inspecting what we are doing, we double down on our efforts.

For a period, that works–simply because of the math.  But ultimately it breaks down.

What used to work, no longer does.

We start experiencing setbacks.  Whether it’s outright failure, or the feeling we are working far too hard for what we are getting, or that vague discomforting feeling that something isn’t right–but we just can’t put our fingers on it.  Often, it’s what was fun/enjoyable becomes a hassle or no longer enjoyable.

Sometimes setbacks are the result of things outside what we are doing.  Things change, someone or something has disrupted things–new/non traditional competition, business model changes, market shifts, changes in the economy, a butterfly landing on a leaf in a Brazilian jungle (talk about an obscure reference–ask me if you don’t understand.).

It’s human nature to hate setbacks because…….. well, they are setbacks.

Too often, we ignore them.  We think it’s a one time occurrence, “This too will pass…..”

Often, when I get called into situations, it’s the result of a continual stream of setbacks.  Things that were ignored, and ignored, until there is a consistent appearance of setbacks that can no longer be ignored.

What had been viewed as setbacks, have accumulated to become crises.

Recently, in a conversation with an executive, we discovered the same pattern.  The company wasn’t failing, but it was struggling.  Results were OK, far below expectations, but OK.  But one could easily see they were going in the wrong direction.

We went through the usual conversation:

This doesn’t look new……….No it isn’t……

It looks like it is getting worse……..Yes it does……

Why do you think these are happening…… I don’t know, we haven’t been paying attention, perhaps we’ve been hiding….. (a great moment of honesty)

Have you tried to do anything about them……Increasing the pressure, increasing the activities, churning through people….

But you’re doing the same things you always have, more intensely………Now that I think about it, Yes……

Will that solve your problem……… Clearly it isn’t…. (another moment of honesty).

What have you learned from these setbacks……..  We haven’t taken the time to learn and understand them…. (and yet another moment of honesty).

What do you want to do about this……..  I don’t know, clearly we have to do something different, but I don’t know what to do…….

Setbacks are important, if we pay attention to them.  They provide clues that things aren’t working—either because of things that we are or aren’t doing, of changes outside our control but which impact us.

Setbacks happen to each of us–we miss opportunities, we aren’t performing at the same level we have.  Inevitably management gets on our backs.  Too often we ignore them we don’t analyze them, we don’t try to understand and learn.  Sometimes we avoid them—we get a new job with another company, continuing to do the same things until the setbacks mount up again.

We do the same things organizationally, sometimes churning through executives, management, people–wasting time, resources, opportunity because we are oblivious or in avoidance.

Setbacks, while often unpleasant, are a blessing.  They are wake up calls, they tell us something is happening and should incent us to consider doing something different.

Setbacks happen to all of us–perhaps if we don’t encounter setbacks we aren’t trying hard enough, but regardless of our effort levels, they will always happen because many are the result of other things.

Responding to setbacks force us to learn, question, discover, experiment, and improve.  Responding forces us to think about change.

Setbacks are a great opportunity.

Are you paying attention to these wake up calls, are are you hitting “snooze.”

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As sales people, we are driven by our need to sell.  Whether it’s the drive to win, attainment, commissions/earnings, or pressure from our managers, we have a high need to sell.

Unfortunately, our need to sell is absolutely meaningless to customers.  In fact, the more strongly we execute on that need, the more we alienate our customers.

Regular readers know I’m prone to analogies.  The analogy here is that our need to sell can be likened to pushing a rope uphill.  The more we push, the less progress we make–ultimately, we have a tangled mess.

But if someone’s at the top of the hill, pulling on the rope, selling, all of a sudden becomes much easier, and we are aligned with the customer.

Continuing on the analogy, how do we get our customer “pulling?”

Clearly, if the customer is into a buying process, they will create a “pull.”

The higher their sense of urgency, the greater that pull.  As a result, if we want to create a very strong pull on the part of the customer, we have to focus on creating a high sense of urgency.

That urgency has nothing to do with what we sell, it’s always about the customer and their business.  If the customer has no compelling need to change, then they have no urgency or no need to buy.

If the customer believes the risks/costs of the change are greater than doing nothing, then they have no need to buy.

Sometimes we have to get the customer pulling on that rope.  We have to incite the need to change—notice I said the need to change, not the need to buy.  At the risk of repeating myself, until there is a compelling need to change, there is no need to buy and we are pushing the rope uphill.

Inciting the need to change is, all about them.  What opportunities are they missing?  What could they do to drive growth?  What could they do to improve their ability to acquire/serve their customers?  What risks do they need to address?  How can they improve their operational efficiency–cut costs, improve margins?  How can they put sanity back into their personal lives?

All of these things are about creating a compelling need to change.  Once they realize, “Our current state is unacceptable, we must change,” we can help create the vision of where they need to go, how they get there, and how we can help them get there.

Selling becomes so much easier when we stop pushing ropes up hill and get the customer pulling.

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A friend forwarded me an article entitled, “Giving People More Time To Sell Is BS.”  Intrigued, I clicked on the link.

The article started with a statement to the effect of “ill informed pundits quoting data that sales people spend only 10-30% of their time F2F with customers.”  I thought, “Hmm, that must be me…”  I’ve used that data, but so have a lot of others.  I call that TIme Available For Selling, (TAFS—just what we need, another acronym.)

He went on discuss the selling distractions, arguing,  “why would a sales person choose to spend their time on admin processes and things like updating CRM?”

He goes on to take the customer focused argument, saying, the problem isn’t with the sales people, it’s the customer.  Customers don’t want to spend  time with sales people.  They  prefer to get information through other sources, are busy, and prefer to spend less time with sales people.

It’s a valid point, but he leaves the argument at that point.  I was left with the vague impression that, because of this 10-30% time available for selling is OK, it’s what customers want…..

I’m left scratching my head, “Huhhhhhh……, what gives……?”

Let’s dissect this—-but before I do, if I’m not clear, this is among the most misguided logic/arguments I’ve ever encountered.

Some thoughts.

  1.  It’s true, our customers are crazy busy.  They have other things that are more important than spending time with sales people.  When they are buying, they leverage multiple channels for educating themselves on products/solutions.  They tend to have “salesperson avoidance,” because so many sales people waste their time.  The common reasons are, “sales people don’t understand me/my business, they are focused on themselves/product, they don’t understand their products, they waste my time…..”  All perfectly valid, but it’s not clear that customers don’t value sales people, it’s just that sales doesn’t help them with what’s important to them.  So one conclusion is that sales people have to change, they have to create value meaningful to customers.  Absent that, customers have no reason to see sales people.
  2. But even with that, there’s data that says, even in the best of cases, any buying group is unlikely to spend more than about 20% of their time with sales people–and that’s all the competitors.  So if you are on a shortlist of 3, it means you probably get no more than 7% of their time.  This reinforces the author’s premise, that even in the best of cases customers don’t want to/need to spend a lot of time with sales people.
  3. Here’s where that part of the argument starts falling apart.  Sales people aren’t just spending their time with 2-5 customers!  Yeah, you run some rough math, at 7%  per customer you can see that works out to be 14-35% of their time.  That’s not how the 10-30% TAFS data was determined, but that seems to be the way to bridge to the implication in the article that 10-30$ is a customer driven reality.  Clearly the flaw in this thinking is that while any one customer will spend a very small part of their time with a sales person, sales people must invest their time with lots of customers!  Great sales people are constantly looking for customers by prospecting, filling their pipelines with high quality opportunities, helping the customer navigate their buying cycle.  Our ideal is they spend 100% of their time engaged with customers, selling.
  4. We know that 100% TAFS is aspirational, but not possible, and in our saner moments, probably not desirable.  While the primary focus of sales people must be with the customer, there are other important areas in which sales people must invest time.  For example, learning–whether its about new products, selling skills, business/financial acumen, creativity, critical thinking……  Sales people who aren’t investing time in learning will not be competitive.  The sales person has a responsibility for providing information to their management and companies.  Forecasts, customer feedback, all sorts of things.  They need to keep their management and company informed of what’s going on.  They need to keep their management and company informed to get the support they need for their deals.  There are other administrative tasks, all of us have certain amounts of record keeping (e.g. updating CRM expense reporting, etc.).  We have to do these things, but we need to minimize the amount of time spent on these–here’s where technology helps quite a bit.
  5. There are other “seller burdens,” we often, unwittingly impose on sales people–often in the spirit of being helpful, but which have the unintended consequences of “loving our sales people to death.”  These can become huge time drains.  They are unintentional but the result of people doing their jobs.  For example, marketing and product management want to learn more about customers and how to better serve them.  Sales people are the obvious choice to help do this.  There are other things that take time.  For example, getting legal approvals for contracts, getting pricing for a complex solution, coordinating resources to support a sales effort.  Each in itself, is probably not a lot of time, but stacked up, they suck huge amounts of time from sales people, diverting them from working with customers.
  6. The previous point is simply the reality of our increasingly complex businesses.   The problem is, some of this is necessary, but much of it distracts from TAFS.  We have to be constantly examining our businesses, reducing complexity and seller burden.  Often, this falls to Sales Ops, Sales Ennoblement and Sales Management.  Ironically, the author claims to be a Sales Ops expert, but doesn’t discuss any of these issues and what Sales Ops can do to simplify the business.
  7. The author has the premise that all sales people are compelled to spend as much time with customers as they can.  “Show me a sales person who would let some administrative task like…….., get in the way of meeting.”  He goes on to say, if you have people who like to do this, you have a problem with your recruiting process.  He’s bang on with this, but this is an unfortunate, often seductive reality.  Too often, we find sales people unconsciously reveling in the distraction from being with customers—being with customers is tough work!  You have to prepare, you have to think, you have to engage……  In our efforts to dumb down our sales people, administrative work becomes a refuge and convenient excuse for sales people.  “Boss, you told me I have to keep CRM updated, that’s what I’m doing….”  This is a bigger issue than many are unaware of.  It’s something that demands constant attention and coaching from managers.
  8. In many projects in which we have addressed this 10-30% TAFS, removing complexity, freeing up more time to sell, the sales people respond, “What do I do with all this new found time?”  It’s a more real issue than we would like to believe.  It requires huge management attention, coaching the people on how they should be spending their time, giving them the skills–perhaps better prospecting skills, how to be more effective with customers.  Managers need to set expectations–less on TAFS, but more on where and how sales people need to be investing time.
  9. TAFS is important from a business management point of view.  It directly impacts sales productivity and cost of selling.  Management must constantly focus on these issues, doing everything possible to maximize productivity, and manage cost of selling.  Yet the author didn’t address any of these issues.

I’ve ranted for too long.  I’m not sure what the author of this article was trying to achieve.  He identified an issue, but did nothing in addressing what to do about it.

TAFS is not BS, it’s a critical sales performance and productivity issue.  If we aren’t paying attention to it, we aren’t doing our jobs.

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Companies are obsessed (Hmmm, maybe not) with customer experience.  Many seem to want to understand people’s customer experience–how or if they pay attention is anyone’s guess.

Along with this obsession comes the obsession with measuring that customer experience.  That along with technology making it easy to do surveys in real time, it seems as though almost every interaction is surveyed and measured.  For example:

  1. “Thank you for buying our products, we’d like to understand your satisfaction by having you complete this customer satisfaction survey.  If you complete it, you will be put in a drawing for a Starbucks card valued at $0.50……”
  2. “Thank you for your call to our customer service center, we’d like to measure your experience…..”
  3. “Thanks for downloading the white paper, we’d like to understand how happy you are with it……”
  4. “Thanks for visiting our website, we’d like to get your feedback….”
  5. “Thanks for logging on, we’d like to understand what we can do to improve the logon experience….. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating).

I used to be dutiful about responding to surveys, after all, it is in my best interests to see them improve customer experience.  But the volume got so large with everyone surveying everything, I’ve stopped responding—for the most part.

I do respond in two cases, when I’m rip roaring pissed off and I want to make my dissatisfaction known.  In this case, if they don’t reach out, I’ll try to find a way to be surveyed, letting them know how angry I am.  The second is when I receive extraordinary service and I want to make sure they know the individual or the service was outstanding.

This week, there were three surveys I responded to.  The first was for the technical support from our enterprise cloud software supplier.  We are making some major changes to our infrastructure.  We’ve been having a few challenges, so I spent some time talking to tech support.  They did outstanding jobs, not only in helping us solve the problem, demonstrating empathy for the difficulty of the problem (too often, I feel like they are thinking “You moron, any fool can do this, so you don’t qualify as a fool….).  This experience was extraordinary.  They even called up a couple of times after we solved the problem, just to make sure things were OK.

I looked for their survey and was eager to respond and compliment the overall process and the individuals I worked with.

The second case, was the polar opposite.  I was rip roaring angry with a supplier.  It took many calls, ultimately an escalation to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company—Yeah, I’m one of those guys.  If the normal channels don’t work, I know I can always reach a CEO to get my problem handled.

I got the survey, I started it—as you might guess, I was consistently on the “Significantly disagree” side of the numeric score they are trying to get.

I got through about 10 questions, reached the end of the page, it seemed as though there were more questions.  I hit submit, the survey was submitted and the screen went blank.  I suppose I wasn’t giving them the answers they wanted so they terminated the survey abruptly.  Maybe I had finished the survey, but there was no, “You’ve completed the survey.  Thank you for taking the time, your feedback is important to us….”

I’m left with a feeling of “incompletion.”  Did I finish the survey and they just didn’t tell me, was I for some reason being disqualified, based on my responses, so they were terminating the survey—but they didn’t bother to let me know and thank me for my time.

I suppose they got want they wanted, and that’s what they cared about, not my experience at that moment.

The third survey was a little like the second.  I was at a website.  All of a sudden, “would you mind responding to a few questions….” popped up.  I was neither happy, nor unhappy, but for some reason I decided to complete the survey.  I actually got through a couple of pages and about 15 questions, including some essay questions.  I hit a submit button, the survey disappeared.  No, “you’ve finished, thank you for taking the time,”  nothing.

Again, I’m left to ponder, I guess they cared about what they cared about and not really about my experience in this process.  My level of dissatisfaction with the experience from this company was ratcheting up quite a bit.

It seems to be bad design, self centeredness, and a number of similar issues dominate surveys.  Unfortunately, too many companies think that the customer experience survey isn’t part of the overall customer experience…….  Hmmm, are they really serious about customer experience?

Every direct and indirect interaction customers have with our company are part of the “customer experience.”  If we are serious about customer experience, it’s all in the details of how we design every interaction—including interactions about feedback on customer experience.

These concepts are so simple and universal, why are they so difficult to put into practice?  I’m fast coming to the conclusion that too many are going through the motions.  There is a thin, “we care” veneer, in reality they don’t……..

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