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How to manage an enterprise sales team in the era of bring your own everything May 2, 2014

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Deal-making, Enterprise Sales, Enterprise Web 2.0, social networks.
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This is # 9 in a serialized book called Enterprise Sales for the Digital Age, delivered here as 11 blog posts. You can get value from each in isolation, but if you really need to understand enterprise sales, reading the whole series is worthwhile.   You can buy an improved version, neatly printed and bound, for $6 from Amazon.  

Note: a version of this post has already been published on ReadWrite.

This applies to outside sales, particularly the rain-makers who get the early customers for startups.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is now a well understood management issue. What mobile device a salesman uses is not that tough an issue to manage now that HTML5 has matured to a level where it is perfectly acceptable for most business apps. Its the app that matters, not the device.

However management is only just starting to wrestle with a world of “bring your own everything” including:

1. Bring your own social networks.You want to hire sales guys who “bring their own rolodex.” and technically speaking, the social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, are their rolodexes. This is not the same as just having a lot of Friends or Followers or Connections. What matters is the depth and quality of those relationships. Sales is all about “what have you done for me, or somebody like me that I can relate to, recently?” It is much better to have 10 who say “you have done something for me recently” than 100 who say “I vaguely recall interacting with that guy”. The key point here is that these are personal relationships, where the relationship data is stored in the cloud service and belongs to the individual, not corporate data in a CRM system that is used by the hired salesman while they are on the corporate pay roll. There is a change in the individual relationship to their employer that is going on here. Data is power and that data power is shifting to the individual. We can cheer the empowerement of the individual while also recognizing that this creates a management challenge which is quite legitimate.

2. Bring your own contact manager. LinkedIn has a special role in business social networking because it is the self-updating rolodex of business, managing content on people independent of their company affiliation. The individual owns and controls the data, not the employer.

3. Bring your own sales methodology. In ye olden days, the company told sales people what sales methodology to use. It was part of “the way we do things around here”. Onboarding included training in the company standard sales methodology. There are lots of these sales methodology and most of them are good. Famous ones are Miller Heiman, SPIN and Target Account Selling (TAS). However, will your startup be defined by your sales methodology? Or will you reject a sales star who made the key sales for a competitor because she prefers SPIN to your company standard? No, I did not think so.

4. Bring your own sales productivity tools and apps. This brings us back to mobile. It does not matter too much to the company whether a sales guy uses iPhone, Android, Windows or even Blackberry. However, what apps they use on that device has a bigger impact on management, because it relates to control over data and integration. The good sales guys will come in with their apps on phones and tablets hooked up to the networks and services they use in the cloud. They are onboard and productive on day one.


5. Bring your own content. The thought-leadership sales guys who are rain-makers for startups could be described as “bloggers who sell” or, if you prefer, “sales guys who blog”. They will of course use the content created by the company, but when prospects can self-educate online before meeting anybody from the company, there has to be a reason why the prospect wants to meet that sales person (as opposed to meeting the CEO or CTO or CMO who is doing the company blogging). This is another management headache or tremendous opportunity depending on how you deal with it. 

The mission you are giving these sales guys is tough – break into a new market for a relatively unknown startup and do it fast and do it big. You cannot also say “oh, and by the way, you also have to use all the systems, processes and tools we give you whether you like them or not”. Imagine telling a sales guy who has used one methodology and tool set successfully for years that she must switch to your company standard. Do you want her to do that – or generate sales quickly, put you on the map in a new market and make $ millions for your company?

This does change the balance of power between sales guys and their employer and creates a management headache. Luckily there are new solutions appearing to crack this problem.

New ventures focussed on this challenge include Nimble, RelateIQ, ClearSlide, Yesware, Tylr Mobile, Social Pandas and Selligy. These “sales productivity” ventures focus on making sales people more productive as opposed to traditional CRM which made their managers more productive. They focus on two types of solution:


  1. Integration at the mobile device level. Outside sales people should be – outside. Any system that is not mobile first, that does not allow sales people to do most of their work when they are out of the office, is a productivity drain. A sales person who is in the office too much is not a good sign. Mobile is the obvious answer. Mobile is also key to the integration of all those single feature cloud apps. Thanks to APIs, it is relatively easy to integrate these at the mobile app level. This is where the types of services that sales people use every day to get their job done – LinkedIn, email, presentations, CRM, maps, online meeting systems etc – can be integrated and presented in a single user experience.2. Digital exhaust to replace sales data entry. If the sales guys are in the office filling in reports for management, that is a management and systems failure. You want them meeting customers and prospects, that is when they are adding value. The great sales guys can write really short reports such as “beat quota by x% this month/quarter”. The long reports are all about reasons why the sales guy did not hit the numbers. Yet management does need data. The mobile apps do enable quick simple reporting while in between meetings (in the elevator, on a train, getting coffee). More strategically interesting is the trend towards auto aggregation of what may become known as “sales big data”. Like all big data, this is aggregated automatically from “digital exhaust”, in this case from what the sales guys are doing all day on their mobile devices. This answers questions like:1. Who did you meet?
    2. Where (in the cloud or F2F?)
    3. For how long?
    4. How engaged was the customer?The first three questions answer the most basic management concern whch is “are the sales guys doing their job, are they working hard?”. Much better to get this reported automatically rather than asking the sales guys to spend time doing this, knowing that they are incentivized to not tell you the truth. The current system of CRM reporting is doubly broken – it wastes valuable time and delivers suspect data. 

    However the really valuable data comes if you can answer the last question. This could help companies to do consistently what really great sales people do, which is to qualify prospects with great care and discipline. We all know that is what we should do, but very, very few sales people do it at all well. We think that sales is all about hard work, persistence, determination and all those other good Protestant work ethics. So we drive relentlessly on, calling that prospect for the umpteenth time.

The best sales guys wait until they can see that the customer’s need is real and urgent. They “wait until you hear the screams.”

One way of checking for pain and urgency is how much effort the prospect puts into the relationship. You need to see some equality of effort. If you call five times before the prospect returns your call that is not equality. If you send reams of information and give multiple presentations but the prospect won’t fill in a requirements questionnaire, then that is not equality of effort. With every call you want the prospect to DO something. If this does not happen then the screams are not loud enough and you should move onto your next opportunity.

Sales big data could start to answer questions like this at the customer level, by aggregating data such as:

  • How many hours has this customer spent talking to us?

  • Do they open mails from us and how quickly?

  • Are they clicking through our slides during webinars or is their attention engaged elsewhere?

  • How many emails did they send us?

It is still really early days in the market for sales productivity tools, but the need is there, so it is likely to happen quickly. In the era of “bring your own everything” our sales management systems and tools need to evolve. We need tools that primarily focus on making the front-line sales folks more productive while incidentally also allowing better management oversight.

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