Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Community College Dilemma

With the 2020 election coverage heating up (especially for Democrats), there's been a swarm of people discussing the concept of "free college" for all Americans. At, his platform for education is clear, "Everyone deserves the right to a good higher education if they choose to pursue it, no matter their income." Bernie includes four-year, public colleges, universities, and community colleges in this plan. According to his calculations, this would save each student $84,000 (price of four years "all-in" for a bachelor’s degree). I am a huge student education advocate and believe that a bachelor’s degree is simply table-stakes for not only entering the job community, but for advancing one's career.

What puzzles me about "free college" is the wide disparity of the quality of education, depending on which "free college" one might attend. For example, who goes to community colleges (which primarily provide associate degrees)? In the U.S. there are 1,051 community colleges, representing seven million students in 2019 (AACC website). Unfortunately, (according to the Hechinger Report), fewer than one out of five students at community colleges obtain their desired degree in three years or less. A recent study published by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) paints a similarly grim picture by indicating that high college dropout rates cost both state and federal governments billions of dollars each year. As shown in the graph above, data from the National Center for Education Statistics, shows that only 13 percent of community college students graduate in two years. Within three years, approximately 22 percent of students graduate, and within four years, the rate stands at 28 percent.

There have been many studies published in the academic community about the root causes of these high dropout rates and longer attendance periods in order to reach a degree. While more repeatable studies are needed, some investigators claim that the conclusions are inaccurate because a portion of students "dropping-out" of community colleges may be transferring to a four-year institution without attaining an associate degree. Others point out that dropout rates are inflated because they only look at up to a five-year time frame. Due to family/personal reasons or circumstances beyond their control, a segment of dropouts may go back later (5-7 years) and complete a degree. There is also discussion regarding many of the students who show up in reports as “dropouts” did not leave school because they wanted to, rather, they were compelled to by some uncontrollable life event.

I think, regardless of these alternative explanations, there is a serious problem with community colleges and their ability to do better than a 25% success rate (IPEDS). With federal funding (63% of tuition) and state funding (17% of tuition), community colleges are struggling in almost every area: attracting qualified instructors, attracting students (overall), aging facilities, changing student population (older students, diversity students), outdated teaching methodologies, lack of personalized learning, and a lack of digital technologies (while most colleges/universities are in the middle of an enormous digital transformation). These challenges directly impact student engagement and likely amounts to a significant contributing factor to high drop-out rates.

I have an 18-year old son who recently enrolled at my "local - not to be named - community college." I realize that citing one example doesn't really provide any substantial evidence. It does, however, help to illustrate these challenges. His enrollment experience was worse than registering a car with the DMV. The college's move towards digital transformation is practically invisible. From their website, to their ability to help, practically every task was a physical chore. Instructors are teaching from 20-year old textbooks. Their Learning Management System (LMS) is one of the popular ones (brand purposefully omitted here), but instructors simply haven't adopted it. In almost every way, my son's public high school was better.

If this type of environment is even partially similar at other community colleges, it begs the question: is this the "free college" that Bernie Sanders has in mind? Perhaps we need to evaluate how to transform our decaying community college systems in the U.S., before we start giving it away.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Business to Government (B2G) Sales - The Famous Five Stakeholders

In the field of technology sales, we often talk about people from the buyer's organization known as stakeholders. Put simply, these are folks who play a part in the decision-making process in any sales situation. Sometimes there is just one stakeholder (maybe it's a commodity sale), but when it comes to selling to government organizations/agencies, it's very common to have several people (or groups of people) that influence the buying decision. Remember, government entities are using public money, and thus have a fiscal responsibility to use these funds wisely (we don't want the pentagon buying a hammer for $400).

Whether it's a K-12 school, a public university/college, a county, city or state, it's important to identify five key stakeholders that usually exist (even if you think they don't). When developing a sales strategy in the public sector, keep in mind these key Famous Five:

  1. Technology Stakeholders. OK, you knew this one right away because technology salespeople typically gravitate here, and these stakeholders usually grant meetings without much fuss. Obviously, we need these relationships to help define the technical match between what you're selling and the technical requirements in the customer's business. Unfortunately, these folks typically cannot create budget. In fact, they usually are over-extended on budget. Examples include: Director of IT, Data Analyst, Security Engineer, Director of Applications, etc.
  2. Business Level Stakeholders. This should sound familiar because every technology company around the globe is force-feeding this relationship to salespeople regularly. The concept here is to define "business outcomes." These are issues/challenges inside the customer's organization that aren't necessarily about technology. They typically are about: making more profit, becoming more efficient/productive, increasing safety/security, improving their organizational image. These folks are key because they usually have the ability to create budget (or shift budget). Business level stakeholders will not take a meeting to talk about a technology product; however, they'll likely take a meeting to discuss improving one of these key areas above. This is where you should start penetrating any new prospect. Examples include: CXO, General Manager, Superintendent, President, City Manager, Office of the CIO/CTO, Provost, Chancellor, Dean, Chief of Police, etc.
  3. Financial Stakeholders. While some government organizations roll this into procurement (see below), there are plenty that have specific people that bless deals over a certain dollar threshold. While these folks typically do not create budget, they usually manage all budgets and sometimes they are very powerful in approving or denying a large purchase (even if your other stakeholders are ready to go)! It's important to learn who these people are and understand what ways they will evaluate large budget approvals. Examples here include: CFO, Director of Finance, General Manager, City/County Finance Director, etc.
  4. Political Stakeholders. These people are some of the most overlooked decision influencers in any sale, and they shouldn't be forgotten! Public organizations typically have an elected official(s) that correspond and work jointly with, the Business Level Stakeholders above. For K-12, this is the school board (board members/officers). For Higher Ed, this is usually the Board of Trustees/Regents/Governors (board members/officers). These people work with provosts, chancellors and presidents of colleges/universities. In local government (city, county, towns, etc.) you'll also find elected officials. These can be council-members, boards of supervisors, mayors, etc. States typically have houses of legislature that are elected, along with governors. Make no mistake: These folks can create budget and usually have their own personal agendas (wins) that were made/developed during their campaigns. If you can align your technology solutions with these important stakeholders, it's possible to leap-frog many steps in the sales cycle. This level is a great place to begin with your prospective government agency.
  5. Procurement Stakeholders. In government sales, you'll often hear the sales expression, "find out HOW they're going to buy, before you invest time in qualifying the deal." Woe is the salesperson who invests 60 hours into a large deal, forgetting this key adage. They've been told they have the deal, only later to find out that the procurement office is going to shop the deal, or take the deal to formal bid. Even worse, some government entities have existing contracts which mandates who must be used for different types of procurement. Don't let this happen to you! Establish a relationship early (and often) with the procurement office of your prospect. Understand the procurement policies and quickly disqualify opportunities in which you simply cannot win (even if you're chosen). Examples here include: Procurement officer, Head of Procurement, Chief Procurement Officer, etc. Remember that many times, these folks are attorneys (especially in large counties, cities and states).
Got a big prospect you're exploring? Make sure, during your strategic business planning, that you include the Famous Five stakeholders above and you'll cover your bases as you begin engaging. Each of these five can be the determining factor of whether you'll win or lose.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How Fred Rogers Changed My Life

"Won't You Be My Neighbor."  I finally got curious enough to watch this special documentary on HBO about the life of Fred Rogers and his impact on not only television, but on all of our lives.  I fondly remember watching his show as child in late 60's and 70's.  Sure, it wasn't as cool as the cartoons or reruns of Gilligan's Island, but there was something special about Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (which ran for more than 30 years (800+ episodes).  I remember the Neighborhood Trolley, King Friday, feeding the fish, "picture-picture," and who could forget the special deliveries that came to Mr. Rogers' door everyday.

As the documentary develops, you really get to see who Fred Rogers really was behind the camera (spoiler:  he's the same as he is in front of the camera).  Did you know that he swam a mile in the pool everyday and weighed exactly 143 pounds for 30 years?  He was so concerned with the feelings of children and how our environment impacts them, he went to congress when funds were being threatened and got $20M for PBS.  Needless to say, I highly recommend that everyone watch this one.

At the risk of exposing too much of my feelings, I'm going to "put myself out there" with three key things that really "challenged" me (in a positive way) by watching the film:

  1. It's how you feel about yourself that really matters!  OK, a few therapists over the years have said the same thing to me, but Mr. Rogers really substantiates this concept in a different way.  Children grow up in an unforgiving world.  It makes them question their own self-worth.  Even little things, like being told the truth about difficult subjects reinforces a child's emotional well-being (Mr. Rogers spoke about divorce, racism, death, the Challenger disaster, 9/11 and more).  True to his song:  You're perfect just the way you are;  I like you for who you are.  (FYI - Rogers wrote every song, lyric on the show and did most of the pupetts himself). 
  2. Forgiveness, Empathy, Love, and Honesty must be taught and nutured.  It's just the truth!  Our world is in a tail-spin over religious intolerance, nation vs. nation, politics and corruption.  Wouldn't a little empathy go a long way?  Can't we just tell each other the truth instead of bringing out the Special Investigation Committee?  Can't we empathize with the millions of refugees who are starving and without shelter?  Today, I'm going to think about how I can forgive other people (and forgive myself).
  3. Learning is something we do for a lifetime.  Funny story from the film:  Rogers does his show for 20 years and decides he's covered every topic he could (plans on showing reruns).  Two years later, he's back on set because there's more to teach.  Does it for another 10 years.  AMAZING.  I see this every day in myself and others.  We get good at things (being a parent, our job, a sport, a game, etc.) and we stop learning.  Mr. Rogers taught me that we must always care about each other and our world.  We need to take care of our families, our societies and our planet.  We only do this with knowledge.  If we don't understand something, it's hard to change and prioritize our lives (take climate change as a great example).
I'll say it.  Mr. Rogers is an inspiration for me.  I think he was ahead of his time and knew something that we don't.  In his soft spoken voice, I think he would tell us to spend our time, effort and lives doing something that promotes kindness and love towards one another.  Pretty cool.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Without E-Rate, the US Primary Education System Would Collapse

At the time of writing, the United Sates has just endured the longest partial government shutdown in our nation’s history – 34 days.  There were over 800,000 federal workers who failed to receive a paycheck. 

What would happen if our public-school system for primary education was funded by the federal government?  Would our national school system shutdown?  Luckily, state budgets pay for K-12 education in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our public schools are well funded.  The political challenges that has brought the government to a standstill, is alive and well at the state level.   Even states with some of the largest budgets for education and the highest teacher salaries (like California, New York, Florida and Texas) have their share of incredibly poor schools.  The US ranks 17th in educational performance worldwide, while spends only 10% of our GDP on education.  We rank 23rd in science assessment. 

On May 7, 1997, the FCC adopted Order 97-157 as its plan to implement Section 254 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC determined that “telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections,” including “installation and maintenance,” were eligible for discounted rates.  The program, now commonly known as E-Rate, has disbursed over $38B to K-12 schools in the US since 1998 (averaging around $1.5B to $2B per year).  Without these funds, technology simply fails to exist (especially at the poorest schools).  From phone bills to data cabling, to switching/routing, E-Rate pays for the network infrastructure, firewalls and power-protection to allow students to access the internet.

Where would our schools be without the federal E-Rate program?  How far behind would our national educational system be?  With teachers going ton strike due to low wages and poor benefits, there is a slow-rolling revolution happening in US education.  Many teachers’ salaries are now below the poverty level and qualify for food stamps.  Many schools, without the E-Rate program to propel learning into the 21st century, might simply collapse.  Thankfully, E-Rate is relatively recession proof.  Taxes that fund E-Rate come from both telephone land-lines and mobile phone lines (which is sky-rocketing).  Let’s continue to support our children.  Support teacher salary increases, union support, educational bonds, and the federal E-Rate program.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Voyager - I want to be on board!

This week I watched an incredible documentary called, "The Farthest - Voyager in Space."  The PBS show does an amazing job of showing us the people, the science, and the story of the NASA Voyager spacecrafts.  My family and I were so blown-away by all of the things we just didn't know about our solar system, that we we were compelled to discuss the documentary and even went on the internet to learn more about what we experienced.  A few days later, I started to think about what it was about Voyager that was so compelling.  I realized that if I could make my customers feel so compelled, I would have lightning in a bottle.

Coincidentally, the name of the spacecraft, Voyager, describes the secret behind everything - the voyage of the mission itself.  It was the planning, the collaboration of scientists and organizations, the goals of each part of the mission, the passion of the people behind Voyager, the visual way the story was told, and the milestones along the way.  As human beings, we love to be part of something significant.  We want to hear about the voyage and be drawn into being a part of it. People are much more engaged when you describe journeys that share some of the components I've mentioned above about the documentary of Voyager.  One of the ways to see this in action in a sales situation, is to convert your messaging to the customer in terms of a voyage.  If you look deep enough into the products/services that you sell, you'll find that customers are NOT really buying the "thing" you are selling.  They are buying the IMPACT they believe their company will have after the purchase.  You can take this OUTCOME, and make that the end of the voyage.  This way, the buying process becomes the journey that you can take your customer on.  Many times, you'll find out that your customer has no idea how they'll get from where they are today, to what they really want their organization to be like.  Describing the steps/milestones along the journey, and helping them to define the voyage (road-map), is part of providing value to your customer.  After some commitment from both parties, you'll find that you're both on the voyage together.  Both parties benefit from such a voyage.  

Today, figure out how you will change your "sales pitch" into a journey.  

Monday, November 27, 2017

Post-Thanksgiving Promises - "The diet starts tomorrow"

Another Thanksgiving under the belt (literally).  Three days of fats, carbohydrates, and more carbs (pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and candied sweet potatoes).  Not only am I stuffed, some of those complex carbohydrates circulate up into my brain.  Those funny little neurons that talk to you silently as you're web surfing after the feast:  "Maybe you should start watching what you eat," "Why can't you stick to a three-day a week workout program?" "You should start being more strategic and invest more in the customers you have! There it was.  The last one.  The one about value.  Yes, I do need to eat better and exercise more, but it's that thing about creating value for my customers that is the real Thanksgiving lesson.

Like many salespeople that are successful, they have a handful of really big customers that buy over and over again.  These are meat-providers for your family.  The problem is that every one of your competitors wants those customers and lately you've taken them for granted.  We all know that getting a new customer is way more difficult than keeping an existing customer.  As we think back at the turkey and cranberry sauce, let's review a few things to remind us of how to be thankful and keep our best customers by providing value:

  1. When was the last time you met, face-to-face, with your customer and told them how much you appreciate their business, that it means something personally to you, and you're not here to ask for anything else?  Sometimes, we think we are doing this, but in today's tweet-sized communications, we must go out of our way to make a special visit just for this purpose.
  2. Besides trying to make another sale, when was the last time you simply provided something of value to your customer?  Don't think about the value of your product or service.  Think about things that your customer values.  When have you helped them with a business problem that has nothing to do with what you sell?  When did you provide industry information that has the potential to help your customer?  When did you refer an employee or offered to help with their charity?  Having trouble thinking of something - ask your customer:  "Bob, I love the business partnership we have together.  Let's keep doing that!  Besides our products/services I'd like to provide more value to you.  What are some of the things you're working on in your business that I might be able to help you with?"
  3. Think about lowering your price or providing them with more of what you sell/do for the same price.  We all know markets are dynamic.  There's always a demand for the latest products/services that will help your customers be more competitive, give them a stronger image, help them become more effective/efficient/productive.  If you don't figure out a way to continue to give them more for the same cost, or lower your costs for the same thing you've always done - some other competitor will.  There's likely a few competitors already thinking and planning this right now.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Happy Selling.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sales Tools in 2017 - it's different!

Every year it seems like the same exercise.  The holidays approach, winter sets in, we spend time with family and friends, and we start to think about how next year is going to be better (or at least - different).  Different is not always better, but when you try things differently, you may get a different result.  Different is a start.  Different will always be a good experience for you because it will either affirm that the current way you do things is still great, or it will show you a new pathway to even greater success.  If you're unhappy with how things are right now, the exercise is critical.  Change now, do something different, or be stuck with your unhappiness.

This begs the question:  How do we change things?  Whether it is your professional sales career or something more personal (like getting more exercise or eating cleaner), the experts will tell you that you need to plan for your success.  Actually you need at least four things:  1) Define what you are currently doing;  2) Accept how you are feeling about it;  3) Agree upon an objective goal that you can measure; 4) Create a plan - with milestones - that is reasonable and achievable.  All of this is difficult to do in your head, and there is a mountain of scientific evidence that demonstrates that you will see significantly better results if you do this on paper ("on paper" today includes things like on a computer, on an iPad, using a tool, etc.).  Before the age of constant connectivity, science would still insist that you physically write this down.  Even today, productivity experts still suggest that your brain knows the difference between handwriting and typing.  There is a physical/mental connection between the hand-motions of writing versus typing (weird, right).

Given so many ways to take notes, set reminders, be alerted, email/text/instant message, etc. what should we be doing today, in 2017, to be most effective at instituting change in our work and personal lives?  How do we structure and use tools differently than we might have done in the past (even as recently as last year)?  Here's some ideas that should get you thinking about self-improvement.  The most important take-away is to begin somewhere.  Don't wait.  Don't think about how to do it perfectly, just get the four items above written down somewhere and read it the next day.  Then do a bit more.  Read the items every day.

  • Planners and Notebooks.  Still the king.  Doesn't require electricity, a charger, a reminder, or an internet connection.  Still has the most scientific evidence of being your best tool out there.  Still produced in enormous quantities, but things have changed for the planner you used a few years ago.  Today, planners have crossed the Millennial line, and are being manufactured by small start-up companies hoping to get you just a little more productive.  Planners like Passion Planner and Panda Planner have sold millions of units aimed at integrating journaling (which is another time-tested way to implement change) and productivity planning.  While traditional planners like Franklin Covey and Day Timer have focused on prioritizing tasks and time, today's more flexible planners (neatly bound in a flexible, rubber-banded package) push users towards creativity and "infinite possibilities").  I've found these new planners to do everything the older-style planners did, and more.  They actually pushed me to write more things down, document the wins, focus on positive thinking and track patterns at-a-glance.
  • OneNote, EverNote, AnyNote.  Regardless of the name, these constantly connected, cloud-based note-taking applications are slick and enable mobility without carrying around a planner.  But wait.  Don't you have to then carry-around a device that's good for typing or hand-writing?  Now you have to start thinking about how good your note taking/reading is on an iPhone, iPad, or laptop.  You have to start worrying about connectivity and synchronization.  You also have to think about battery use and accessories.  Unless you are somebody who simply sits in front of a computer for 16 hours a day (even on weekends), there's something here that just requires more effort and, thus, less productivity.  Isn't the whole thing supposed to give you more productivity?  Isn't it interesting that Microsoft OneNote goes to great lengths to mimic a real notebook, with tabs, pages and more?  The big advantage of using these online, connected SAAS products is that you can copy metadata, links and photos directly into the tool.  This is way more productive than printing, cutting, pasting and 3-hole punching your way into a planner.  It's a trade-off.  Sometimes the easiest thing is not the best thing.  Maybe there are two things going on at the same time (the need for productivity management and the convenience of photos, artwork, and web links at your fingertips).  What will really bend your noodle is tools like the Microsoft Surface, which create a very realistic digital writing experience in OneNote, and perform pretty good optical character recognition.  Hmmm, the debate will go on and as a society, we will spend a lot of money and time figuring this out.
  • Post-It Notes, Sticky Notes, Outlook Tasks and Reminders.  Productivity experts will frown on using these throw-away tools.  They will tell you that you are decreasing your productivity by using a second tool to do something that should be all in one place.  This is as true today as it way ten years ago.  If you are keeping all of your priorities, tasks, reminders and data in a single tool, why distract yourself in this way?  Sticky notes and card systems are similar to email flags.  In order to see the flags, you have to read through everything, or create a separate view to see all your flags.  It seems good at the time, but all of these things actually diminish your productivity. If you have a desk full of files, documents, sticky notes, notebooks and cards - this is a sign of disorganization and big-time loss of productivity.  Stop and make some decisions to streamline your work life.
Regardless of the tool, think about change.  What do you really want in 2017?  How will you do things differently?  What are the four items required for change in your situation?  While I am typing this blog on the computer, I only composed this because my planner helped me to prioritize and reflect on the importance and reasons behind it.  Perspective is sometimes the thing we need to change most.

Happy selling in 2017!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Clinton or Trump - How does it impact salespeople?

We're in for a fight on our hands, and the next President of the US (POTUS) will be elected by nothing short of a back-alley knife fight.  The last one standing (or should I say, the one who can withstand the constant barrage of name-calling, insults and racist remarks the most), will be our new POTUS.  For the purpose of this blog, let's refrain from the personalities.  Instead, let's look at how your sales environment might change, once our new leader is in place:

If Donald Trump wins:

  • Expect the economy and your customers to reflect a more aggressive reflection of the new President.  If Trump has his way, there will be massive tax cuts for business.  This might mean more capital to spend on whatever it is that you sell.
  • If you or your company sells weapons, firearms, survival gear or emergency supplies - boy, are you in for a windfall!  If Trump makes good on his foreign policy promises, the country will need more weapons.  We may need to defend ourselves.  If any of you sell underground bunkers, please call me for an estimate.
  • When it comes to illegal immigration, if Trump builds the wall, and throws out millions of illegals,  there may be a big demand for manual labor.  Our country has seen a lot of jobs lost to overseas manufacturing.  If Trump can reverse this, it may be a salesperson's paradise for labor recruiters across the nation.
  • If you sell retail (clothes, appliances, cars, etc.), it's hard to predict how a Trump Presidency would impact you.  On one hand, the public may spend more, if they are taxed less.  On the other hand, Trump has created a great deal of concern over what happens next in our country.  This may cause buyers to save as much as possible (they may want to buy anti-radiation pills or a gas mask).
If Hillary Clinton wins:
  • One possibility here is that absolutely nothing will change at all.  Sales may continue to be either good, bad or indifferent - just like they were during the last eight years under Obama.
  • If Hillary continues to spend money on government programs at the same rate (or faster) than Obama, the US debt will be at an all time high.  This means we may be in another economic bubble.  One small interest rate by the feds may tailspin this country right back into another recession.  If that happens, life is not good for salespeople (but good for lawyers).
  • It will be interesting to see Hillary's "Debt-Free College" program.  Somebody will be paying those schools to teach.  This likely means the US Community College system in America will be asked to step up.  Unfortunately, our Community Colleges are some of the most challenged schools in the country, many of them suffering from huge debt and inadequate funding.  Those salespeople selling college admissions or selling to colleges or universities may be sitting well, if Uncle Sam begins funding these schools.
  • If Hillary takes the White House, it may mimic what her husband's tenure looked like for salespeople - which was a general, steady increase in household income.  Maybe the upper class will save more, but the middle class will continue buying cars, insurance, and houses.  
Take a look at what it is that you sell.  Would it be better with Trump or Clinton?  You decide.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blog after blog.  Journal after journal.  Why aren't people listening?

Here is the most important concept in all of selling (boiling the entire ocean):  People tend to do whats in their own best interest.

That's it.  There's nothing more to it.  Well, actually, everything you do or say comes after it.  The sales industry calls this Consultative Selling.  It's been around for 45 years or more.  There are giant sales training/methodology courses teaching the full 360 degree view of this simple concept. For some reason(s) (keep reading), salespeople still do not take the time to learn and master this approach.

Let me put in another way.  There's no trick.  There's no gimmick.  There's no closing technique.  There's no political component to it.  All sales are made by a person or people who are looking out for what's in their best interest (hopefully that is also in the best interest of your customer's business as well, but that topic is for another day).  Every time you try to add to this, turn it around, "disrupt it," remodel it or shine-it-up, it will backfire.  We have all experienced this as a customer buying something of consequence.

Today, I read for an hour on the web about salespeople's challenges and what their company wants them to say or track.  Here's how to evaluate anything your company asks you to do:  Is what they are asking in your best interest and the best interest of your company?  If it is, then do it.  If it's not, say something about it with a suggestion on how we can get back to the core principle of selling.

Today, make a pledge that you're going to stop the rodent wheel, take a deep breath, and find out what's going on with your prospects and customers.  What do THEY care about.  What are THEIR initiatives?  What are THEY struggling with?  What do THEY do great?  If your product/service/solution can't contribute to these things and really help them (either directly or indirectly), you are done.  Approach your customers like this:

"Bob, you and I have talked about the products/services that my company offers (or I offer).  Today, let's put that aside and talk about you and your business/organization.  Why do your customers choose you?  What are things that you really want to accomplish?  How does the business really operate?"

Stop being "disruptive," because some manufacturer or trendy blog post told you to.  This goes back to how we operate as human beings.  Want more.  Buy my book on Amazon.  If you have Amazon Prime, it's a free download.

For those of you who were patient and want to know why salespeople don't sell in a consultative fashion, here's the answers:

  • Maybe they are new.  Nobody has taught them this.  It must be learned by others.  Then practiced (which leads to the next one).
  • People are lazy.  They don't like change.  They don't want to practice.  They accept mediocrity.
  • Their ego will not allow them to see anything that they didn't come up with; or
  • Their ego is so big, they can't even hear you.
This makes up about 98% of salespeople.  What are you going to do about it?

Happy Selling!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why do you want to be a Sales Manager?

It happens on every sales team, in every industry.  We typically see the 80/20 rule, where the top sellers bring in the lion's share of the revenue (Pareto Principle).  These top 20% also get paid top commissions.  They receive the highest accolades, earn club trips, are thanked by the executives, and receive recruiter calls like flies around a rib roast.  Some are given luxury cars to drive and minions to do all of the dreaded administrative stuff they hate (e.g. opportunity management and forecasting).  Seems like a pretty good gig, right?

When a sales management role suddenly becomes available, many of these top performing salespeople show interest.  Granted, many do not (they see all of the challenges/issues they escalate to their sales manager and realize the truth that they will be taking these problems on - along with everyone else on the sales team).  After they come to grips with this concept, there are other downsides to being a sales manager.  For the sake of brevity, here's a list of some of the big ones:

  • You inherit all of your team's problems and escalations (already discussed above).  This adds up fast.  On a typical sales team of six to ten salespeople, you'll have a mix of a couple of totally independent salespeople; however, when they have a problem - its enormous.  Other reps will have a steady flow of challenges week after week.  Then you have the salespeople that are either going to be leaving the business and those that are being ramped-up.  This set takes up a signifiant amount of bandwidth.  It's very difficult to manage tactics vs strategy and proactive vs reactive activities.
  • You typically make less money.  Beware strangers bearing gifts here.  Yes, it is possible for sales managers to have a blow-out year, but it comes rarely and is usually unpredictable.  Savvy sales organizations know exactly how to set quotas based on multiple criteria.  Their objective is to set a target that you could achieve if most of your team is performing above target.  They want to set the bar higher than you'd expect, so you'll stretch to perform.  This usually means that in any good year, you'll over-achieve just a small amount (around 10-15%).  This usually amounts to total annual compensation that is still around 20% less than top performing salespeople.  Only when the quota is set a little lower than it should be, and everyone on your team blows-out their numbers, can sales managers really rake in commissions.  This rarely happens two years in a row, as your company will take note of the success and try not to let this happen again.  It's not that they don't want you to be successful, they just don't want to pay more than they need, to achieve success.  As sales leaders are promoted, the same principle applies.  Sales directors, area VP's, regional VP's, etc. all get incremental increases in base salary, but the target is more difficult to overachieve and the payouts are less (percentage-wise) the higher the role.  There reaches a point where executives are compensated more on the performance of the entire company rather than any particular team/group.
  • Hitting your target is expected, but NOT the most important criteria of success.  I know many of you reading this think this one is a myth, but I've seen this one time and time again.  You'll have a good-to-great sales manager, who gets to 70-75% of target, and really knows what sales management is about (hiring right, on-boarding, coaching, performance management, political management, knows how to internally block and tackle, etc.).  These type of managers don't blow out the number, but they also usually don't create problems.  The opposite sales manager, who does 150-200% of target, doesn't really do anything to help his team, hire good people, create succession, nor create excellence.  These sales managers create "broken glass," are negatively perceived for bypassing process/protocol, rely upon star players, can't really develop talent and usually these managers cannot maintain this level of success. 
  • Sales Managers have LESS customer contact and MORE administrative work.  Unfortunately, most sales managers get pulled into customer engagements when there is a problem, reactively.  Administrative work goes up dramatically as a sales manager, including forecasting expectations, strategic planning, demand generation events, and documenting performance and escalations.
With the challenges of being a sales manager so large and many, why would anyone purposefully want to leave their individual contributor status and move into sales leadership?  While some of you may need to ponder on this for some time, there's only one real answer - and it comes down to motivation.  For a certain type of individual, helping others to be successful is a key motivator (sometimes heavily weighted above making more money).  The idea of creating success in a team consisting of different personalities and styles is a challenging one.  Some people thrive on this challenge.  This is why finding great first-level sales managers (full time leaders managing salespeople with individual contributor status) is so difficult, and many agree that this role is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) of all sales leaders.

If you're thinking of making the leap to management, or if you're already a manager, it's likely you are this type of person.  You gain satisfaction out of creating excellence with a team and with other people.

Happy selling.