So, You’re in Sales? Episode 13 Matt Lamb

Matt Lamb from Facilis rejoined me in this Episode for what we’re hoping to be a recurring segment on the show.

As 2018 unfolds, many of us are still in need of fine-tuning our 2018 Sales Plan. Matt offers us 3 Data-Driven tips for sales success this year. Listen in and learn more about:

  • The Big Purge – why you shouldn’t keep all of your customers
  • Shrink Your World and Sell More
  • What’s Your Closing Percentage? (Don’t say 90%!)

Check out all these topics and more and make sure to stay away from #salesmalpractice

You’re Hired! Tales from the Field – Rianna Cohen

How do you know when you’ve hired the right person? When does a mistake in choosing a new team member start to reveal itself? What steps should you follow when trying to add a new member to your organization?
I can’t say I know all the answers, but I definitely keep these topics in mind when in hiring mode. Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of recruiting, hiring and training brand-new salespeople for organizations. In each of these instances, the teams I assembled were not existing entities – they were built from scratch. The attitudes and approaches instilled in these hires were of my creation and I worked hard to construct a methodology for hiring; one I believed gave the candidates the best opportunity to reveal their talent and also ensure potential new team members had a chance to get a live look at what being a part of the team would look like.
I was curious to understand how my approach feels from the other side of the hiring table, so I asked a few people to jot down their thoughts on the process and how it may have differed from their previous experiences with interviewing for a new job. Here’s one of the responses I received.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 1.01.18 PMRianna Cohen was the 1st salesperson to join the SnapSuits team in December 2016. A concert flutist, Rianna is a classic analytical. I appreciated her inquisitive nature and her willingness to stand up for the things she believed in, and I always challenged her to not hide her light under a barrel. Her thoughts are found below.

“This will probably be the easiest interview you ever do.”

That was a lie.

Sure, the first interview breezed by as we chatted over coffee (tea, in my case), but I had the distinct impression that Roger had already made his decision before he met me.  He had reviewed my resume extensively (enough to be able to cite it from memory) and had stalked me online (hello, Pinterest).  The interview, in essence, was to see if the person matched the page.

Interview Two was completed in pairs and my fellow interviewee and I were tasked with a mind-mapping exercise.  Harmless enough.

And then we were to leave voicemails on three people’s phones: the interviewer, the CEO, and the CFO.  Hello, anxiety.

I scribbled furiously.  I also kept glancing across the table at the girl interviewing with me.  In retrospect, I think her presence brought out my competitive edge.  We worked mostly alone, occasionally comparing notes to make sure we were completing the exercise correctly.

When it came time to actually leave the voicemails, I was so nervous that I had to pace around the room as I recited my practiced lines.  They were undoubtedly terrible voicemails.  I left, hours later, completely drained.  (Roger’s Note: I TOTALLY have those voice mails saved on my computer!)

The interview set the precedent for life in the office: we would be challenged and we would be expected to get creative with our solutions.  Roger became more than a boss: he was a mentor.  The interview process, though perhaps unconventional, produced a level of trust between our team that I think would be difficult to duplicate.  Taking the time to find the right people (even if we weren’t the best at voicemails ahem) created a synergy that remains even when times get difficult.

Cancel, Cancel, Delete (OMG What Did I Just Do?)

  • Just as you tidy up an emotional response to that member of the team letting you down, you inadvertently send it to the group text including everyone at work. EV-ER-Y-ONE.
  • You send an email to your boss, explaining an internal obstacle in the form of a less-than-enthusiastic member of the team performing poorly – your boss immediately sends your note to the colleagues boss, leaving your tirade in the body of the message, and cc’s you on the message.
  • There are hundreds of other “What Did I Just Do” moments. They’ve happened to almost every one of us. This is (one of) mine – lots more of these to come. 

Communication 2017 v. 1997

The difference is incomprehensible and impossible to properly describe.

From the 27 year old vantage point I had in ’97 and the tools I then had at my disposal to be a successful communicator, what’s available to us looks incredibly closer to The Jetsons cartoons I watched growing up by comparison than most of us care to acknowledge. Amazing technology continues to evolve and now almost daily improves the way we live, and communication is core to this advancement, for the net result of advanced communication tools is this interconnected world we enjoy.

Monolithic sales organizations doled out precious little in budget for sales training & development at the intersection of the digital evolution of the equipment we sold.

While the introduction of networking technology was a boon to those of us savvy enough to learn how to sell it, it was a virtual pipe-dream to actually obtain (and therefore learn) the technology we were selling, as nearly all our sales offices lacked the basic networking infrastructure necessary to connect devices (much less hope our computer spoke the same operating language as the device). We had workplace-altering capability, and we needed to learn how to sell without the most basic understanding of the products we sold. (Sound familiar?)

Information about digital technology and it’s capability were not easily accessed by anyone (sellers NOR buyers, we all had the same problem) but the earliest of sales adopters outsold their peers primarily as a result of acquiring and refining one key non technology related skill in selling new technology to buyers of varied expertise themselves- the ability to equate the benefits of the technology to decreased costs associated with running their business – the harder the cost, the faster the yes.

Achieving this objective required a developed skill for earning the trust of potential buyers, as they often needed to share key financial information about both their business as well as it’s associated cost of operation in this key cost container to make an educated decision. They didn’t know the formula, but they had the inputs. Only by working together could the analysis be effective, and only by figuring out what motivated a buying decision of this magnitude could success be courted, much less expected.

I was the lead in teaching this new technology to our Midwest sales force, mostly by pitching existing clients our staff were selling other product lines. While there were pockets of quota-busting success, there were also entire sales teams taking a “something to ignore” position. Specialization projects had historically left reps & prospects unfulfilled and occasionally cost salespeople a portion of their client base. One such team lived in my assignment. Their scorn was built more from experience than disdain, and they had a historical right to feel that way. Not this time, however!

Forced compliance to the program took the form of a monthly conference call to discuss developments in our offering, new sales intelligence about ours & competing solutions and answer any prospect or deal questions the team might have. Sound inspiring?

It was nearing the end of the last of what had by then become a 6-call in a row death-march. The misery was palpable, and as we ended the call and as I proceeded to slam the phone back in it’s cradle (yes, it was THAT long ago), I let loose a bellow;

“That is by FAR the WORST sales group in the entire company. I LITERALLY* (*contents edited to make the story suitable for parents and their children at bedtime) hate talking to them”

We were on speaker phone.

They were still there.

It’s a day I cannot and don’t intend to forget.

While I defended myself vehemently at the time, it’s obvious in retrospect that a BIG motivator behind them not coming around was a mix of tenure, diminished excitement after adopting numerous other failed corporate objectives (they were the sales team in the Company HQ city and wanted to put their best foot forward) and those circumstances together had left them cynical. I hadn’t done enough to convince the manager the potential value of time devoted to the growth of my vertical. His people were ok with me, he was not and the results reflected that fact.

While it’s been 15+ years since that story actually occurred, the moment seems as clear as yesterday. Within the collection of moments like these, you grow most often when turning away from self-promotion and seek ways to help people in your tribe be successful and make memories for themselves and their families.

Relationship building requires the ability to overcome the obstacles.  That pre-internet Sales Team faced the same obstacles many of us have today, even though the means we have to communicate with one another have exploded.

I hypothesize a problem – we don’t tell each other how we prefer to use varied & shared communication methods. It either works itself out, or you lose touch. Maybe you’re texting me and I want to talk on the phone. Maybe you like SnapChat but I only want to trade goofy filters on that channel. Can’t you just send me the link to IG? It all comes back to the concept of communication. Be purposeful in the ways you use communication platforms, and don’t be afraid to share your preferences, lest you find yourself on the wrong end of an errant “reply-all” e-mail.

An Ode to Order Managers

It was a sunshine-splashed day in our Itasca, IL office, but the mood of the women in the bullpen was anything but sunny.  As I made my way into the office and got over to the coffee machine, I realized that something was wrong.  Not your everyday “someone has a case of the Monday’s” kind of wrong, but real, palpable issues that were going to need my attention.

I had expected some tension; we’d recently won a multi-million dollar account, and after the predictable calm that comes with the on-boarding of a new client, the web-site had gone live and we’d been promoting it with the client in earnest in the month leading up to my visit. With increased workload comes the prospect of tension, and this group had little experience in processing the kind of orders our efforts were creating, so the notion of some unease wasn’t out of the ordinary, but what I encountered was something for which none of us were prepared.


I’d no sooner finished stirring in my flavored cream before they’d surrounded me.  A semi-circle of confusion, exasperation and anger. Worse yet, one of them was on the verge of tears.

Like the weakest link in a chain, a process is only as strong as the combination of it’s systems and people.  We had excellent staff; tenured, professional and hard-working, but the system they were required to use to execute on the business we were creating was SO flawed and convoluted that it was pushing them all to their breaking point, and they needed me to know about, NOW.

As is often the case, we had not taken steps to understand what an increase in order activity would do to their workload, and we had not hired additional staff to shoulder the burden. We were asking them to do more with the same resources, expecting that the systems would be capable of processing the increased volume. We couldn’t have been more wrong, and it was quickly ruining our best people.

 We were asking them to do more with the same resources, expecting that the systems would be capable of processing the increased volume.

Here’s what I’ve come to understand. Often, your order management staff are bound by your systems, almost all of which have some degree of constraint that come along with them. Because they are focused on productivity, your order management staff limp along with those limitations and become accustomed to working within them so as to ensure the continuing flow of revenue. But that doesn’t mean the system works well. When you add more volume to the mix, it’s only natural for the possibility of the type of revolt I encountered to occur should your team be pushed beyond their threshold of ability to manage that new volume within the context of their overall workload. It often won’t be until the moment that you’ve pushed them too far that the problem will truly reveal itself, and then you have a real issue on your hands in that you need to service both your existing AND new accounts with the kind of service you’ve promised (which most likely won you the business in the 1st place). It’s very hard to remodel a plane at 30,000 feet.

As owner, your responsibility must include some degree of attention to your systems, thereby allowing your staff the opportunity to successfully shoulder increasing levels of volume without the expense of additional headcount.  Fortunately, as is the case with what we’ve created at Order Commander (as well as many other service offerings available today), there is ample opportunity to partner with service providers to offload time-consuming tasks, thereby freeing your staff to take on that additional volume responsibility as your business grows.  A key objective must be to work closely with order management team leaders to prioritize those services which would free the most time for your staff, make the appropriate time investments in learning about those potential service providers and understand when best to introduce them into your order management mix.

The economy is rebounding and many owners that I speak to are enthused about potential growth opportunities.  Plan now for that growth and avoid the evil eyes that you might encounter in the bullpen once your business begins to take off.

Campaign Development (A Cure for the Prospecting Forehead Crease)

Ever walked into your office and seen one of your salespeople behind their monitor with a crease in their forehead?shutterstock_153751445

After some investigation into this phenomena, I came to realize that which often caused said condition. Prospecting.

Let’s face it, prospect development today is, how shall we say it?  Like pushing a massive rock up a very steep hill.  Once-successful tactics are often met with disinterested silence.  Poorly written e-mails are often seen as intrusive, and while a suspect may accept your LinkedIn connection request, that by no means equates to an opportunity.

So, what’s a sales professional to do, and how can you help them erase that prospecting-induced forehead crease?

Campaign development is a fancy term for creating a set of targeted activities and a corresponding schedule of follow-up designed to achieve a specific outcome.  In this instance, the campaign you’re seeking to develop is meant to progress a potential candidate for that which you sell from being unaware and uninterested to aware and willing to talk.

In creating this type of campaign, you have the opportunity to direct your salespersons prospecting into a predetermined cadence of targeted activity designed to achieve the outcome we previously mentioned, plus, it inspires confidence in your people, as they need not concern themselves with HOW to get the attention of their prospects, but rather focus their attention on identifying those prospects best suited for the products or services you sell, entering them into the cadence of the campaign and following a predetermined schedule of follow up activities.  If you are using a CRM tool (and if you’re not, why?), imagine the relief a salesperson might feel in opening their computer each morning to a set of pre-scheduled activities as dictated by the campaigns for which their prospects have been slotted?

More than anything, the crease in those foreheads has to do with your salespersons uncertainty about effective suspect engagement. Campaign development eliminates that uncertainty, creates an overall increase in salesperson activity (as they are merely executing on a predetermined strategy) and shifts your managerial focus from a review of the overall quantity of salesperson activity to a thorough review of the campaigns across the sales team, their overall effectiveness, and where in the campaign those suspects are most frequently migrating into prospects.  Over time, your sales team will begin to view prospecting as a more enjoyable activity, as they’ll be able to witness their activity blossom into a more robust pipeline.

Start the process with a team brainstorming session of their most effective suspect-engagement activities.  Create a schedule of those activities and the corresponding follow up that should accompany the activity.  Lastly, target a subset of existing suspects to use as your focus group and create a schedule in your CRM to follow the cadence of activity and follow up you’ve developed.

Any sales manager worth their salt knows activity feeds the sales pipeline.  Lend a helping hand with the types of activities your salespeople should employ and watch those forehead creases turn into smile lines.