Lack of Leadership Equals Lack of Results

No one wants to work for a micromanager, just as no one wants to be one. Like most things, when people believe that one thing is bad, they presume the opposite must be good. If micromanaging is bad, then leaving people alone must be good, or so this is what some managers believe and many managers practice.

The opposite of micromanagement is macro-management. Where managing every detail of an employee’s work is terrible, managing the significant outcomes that lead to success is useful and necessary. Too little management, too little leadership, and a lack of direction is something much worse than micromanagement.

Too Little Direction on Outcomes

Where a micromanager would provide too much direction, someone who fears their team thinking of them as a micromanager might avoid guiding the outcomes the individuals on their team need to create. Managers don’t exist to manage paperwork and provide reporting. All managers must be leaders, someone responsible for future results.

In sales, managers and leaders who avoid providing guidance around the number and quality of the opportunities the individuals on their team needs to create each week, or month, or quarter is not providing enough direction for many of the individuals on their team to succeed. Instead, they are merely hoping for the best. You see this when sales leaders allow their salespeople to show up to a pipeline meeting with no new opportunities week after week, without admonishing them for failing to build their pipeline.

Macro-management means providing strong direction on the outcomes your team needs to create. It means ensuring the people on your team know what you expect of them, that they are capable and equipped to produce those results and holding them accountable for doing so.

Too Little Activity

There are two reasons an individual may not produce the outcomes for which they are accountable. First, and most likely, they aren’t doing the work they would need to do to generate the result. Most people who fail in sales don’t fail because they can’t sell; they fail because they don’t sell. Call this a lack of sales activity or “anti-hustle.”

Some sales managers and leaders don’t address the problem of too little activity when it comes to prospecting. Instead, they ignore it, providing too little leadership around a significant outcome in sales. What is worse than having to talk to a rep about the fact that they aren’t doing the work to create new deals is allowing them to fail because you don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation. The failure to have these conversations with senior salespeople means your best reps are not in the game.

Activity management is micromanagement if a salesperson is producing the deals they need to be successful. That same activity management is macro-management when one is not providing the result they need due to too little activity.

Too Low Effectiveness

When an individual’s failure to create new opportunities is not due to any lack of effort on their part, the root cause is almost always a lack of sales effectiveness in their role. The second thing you need for growth is closing more deals.

Sales effectiveness is also something that many managers ignore. When salespeople believe their “style” should trump a modern a sales approach, one the client finds valuable enough that they prefer to work with the salesperson and their company, their managers allow weak sales practices to cause losses and the poor results that follow. Losing isn’t a style.

There are a lot of ways to get to yes and win a deal, but when a person is not winning, the choices they are making in sales are detrimental to their success. Allowing someone you are responsible for to fail is not leadership. Waiting for a person to figure out something they believe they already know isn’t going to help them improve. That improvement is only going to come from a manager willing to manage the macro outcome that is “won deals.”

There is No Benign Neglect

As a manager or leader, there is no such thing as benign neglect. There is only neglect, something that harms others. It is an abdication of leadership hat one should not micromanage, should not have to provide direction, and should not need to require the activity necessary to produce results.

It is easier to fail your sales team than it is for your sales team to fail you. The imposition of a standard not only serves your goals and results, but it also helps the people that make up your team. Leaders see something in people that they don’t yet see in themselves, and in doing so, improve them both personally and professionally.

Providing leadership means providing high standards, something people will have to strive to achieve. A lack of standards means anything is acceptable.

Lack of Growth and a Lack of Accountability

When you find a lack of growth and sales performance, you also find a lack of accountability. The unwillingness to provide consequences and help when people don’t do what they are responsible for doing allows them to continue to fail. Without accountability, that failure belongs to the person providing too little leadership, not the person who is failing to perform.

Hard Times

Many factors lead to stalled or declining sales. They are known, as are the remedies that would result in increased sales. Only those willing to acknowledge the root causes of poor sales results and changing their actions have any hope of turning things around.

Too Few Opportunities

Like it or not, the first reason your sales are not growing is that you are not creating enough new opportunities to generate incremental growth. Without creating the necessary opportunities to provide additional revenue, not only are you not going to grow, you are more likely to experience declining sales due to lost clients.

Creating new and incremental opportunities is a critical outcome for those who seek growth. When you are not creating new opportunities, there is one thing that is almost universally true: You are not doing enough prospecting.

There are a lot of factors that precede too little prospecting. Some sales leaders incorrectly believe that their senior salespeople should not have to prospect for new business, even though their more experienced salespeople have the most significant ability to create value for their prospects and create new opportunities.

Other organizations struggle to create a culture of accountability, expecting their salespeople will prospect without any direction. These organizations and their leaders don’t impose any standards, allowing poor results, believing that the autonomy that comes with sales doesn’t need to be accompanied by strong direction.

Within the first two minutes of a pipeline meeting, you can tell that a sales organization isn’t going to have easy growth. When the first salesperson shares their update on the same account that they shared the prior week instead of rattling off the new opportunities they created in the past week, you know there is a problem. The cardinal sin here is believing that capturing opportunities is all that is necessary for growth.

Too Few Won Opportunities

You are not going to grow your sales by creating new opportunities only to lose so many that you can’t generate incremental new revenue. The data suggests that companies competing for blind opportunities win some percentage between ten and fifteen percent. Different businesses and industries have varying numbers here, and a reasonable win rate in one may not be acceptable in another. That said, it’s hard to outrun poor effectiveness by creating more opportunities only to lose them.

It can be incredibly challenging to outrun a “too low” win rate by creating additional opportunities, as many who have tried can attest. There is a good deal of confusion around the ideas of “efficiency” and “effectiveness” in sales, in large part because of the technological tools that allow for automation and save time. Improved efficiency means producing an outcome with less energy and effort. Not producing the result means all of your efforts were wasted, making you inefficient.

The reasons you lose deals are many and varied. The best place to start, however, is with your sales approach and how you lead the sales conversation with your prospective client. Traditional methods built on the idea that you have to get your client to acknowledge a gap in the results they need and solve that by recommending your solution are often inadequate to creating a preference to buy from you.

There is too little value created in comparison to other, more modern sales approaches. If your strategy doesn’t allow you to provide your client with a new, higher resolution lens through which to see their current and future states, the approach isn’t something that you can call consultative selling.

You can add to the inadequate approach the inability to control the process, allowing your prospective clients to determine the method. You make losing likely when your contacts are not engaged in the conversations they need to have internally and with you, avoiding making and keeping the commitments that would ensure they make the right decision.

While there has been a lot of conversation about the need to build consensus to win deals, deals are lost every day when salespeople still believe their “champion,” “power sponsor,” or “main contact” is going to be the only person they need to win a deal, even when their solutions will impact the client’s entire enterprise.

When you lack a philosophy of modern selling, and the processes, methodologies, strategies, and language for consultative conversations, the result is lower win rates and a lack of growth.

Leadership and Leading Yourself

The great part about being a leader is that everything is your fault, including too few opportunities and low win rates. Believing that everything is your fault is also the most empowering position available to you; if you are responsible for poor results, then you are also the one who can make the changes to improve your results. For a lot of companies, it starts with opportunity creation.

Increasing the number of opportunities and improving your win rates is as good a recipe as you will need to increase your revenue and start to grow your business.

Those of you who sell should not wait for anyone to tell you that you need to create more opportunities, nor should you wait for anyone else to improve your effectiveness in your chosen profession. No one succeeds or reaches their full potential when someone else has to tell them what to do.



Managing Multiple Stakeholders

If you’re going to bypass mid-level gatekeepers, you have to be strategic, and you also have to use the right tone and pace, so you can be perceived as someone who truly cares about their needs.

It’s inevitable… Every salesperson has been there. In your attempt to prospect at a high level within an organization, you get kicked over to someone in middle management or a couple rungs down the decision making ladder.

It’s necessary to build rapport with these mid-level facilitators, because often times they are influencers who ultimately will sell you and your product or service at a higher level to their boss or leadership team. So, you can’t completely write them off as if they don’t matter, but you also can’t always trust that they will get the job done.

What do you do when you get into a never ending follow up rut with these types of buyers and they consistently tell you, “I still haven’t had a chance to meet with my boss.”?

Should you just keep following up and hoping at some point they finally will meet with the higher ups and get the job done, or should you bypass them and go straight to the decision makers yourself? Either way, you risk losing a sale!

If you follow up too many times, you start annoying them, and they can decide to cut you out entirely, and if you bypass them and go over their head to the ultimate decision maker, you can risk sabotaging the relationship with the ultimate prospect and the mid-level person both at the same time, because it can be perceived as a scumbag move.

If you’re going to bypass them, you have to be strategic, and you also have to use the right tone and pace, so you can be perceived as someone who truly cares about their needs.

Here’s how I have found success:

I typically give the mid-level person 4-5 nice nudges, and if they still haven’t sought approval on my proposal, I straight up ask them, “Sally, do you know when you’re going to meet with your boss… Sorry, I don’t know their name…” and then I pause for 3 seconds. They usually will respond something like “Well, his name is Steve, and I’m going to meet with him later this week.”

BOOM… Now, I have an ultimate name of who is signing the checks and making buying decisions in that company… I make a mental note…

Then I ask another question that gives me honest insight into how likely it is that my proposal is really going to get brought up in a meeting with Steve…

“Okay, so when you meet with Steve, are you going to recommend that your company proceeds with the proposal?”

I like to ask them this straight up, so I know exactly where I stand with the mid-level person. If you can’t get a positive “Yes, absolutely!” commitment from them, you have no chance of closing a deal. Do you really think they’re going to be able to sell you and your product/service to their boss when they don’t really believe in what you’re selling?

If they tell me, “Yes, I am going to recommend we proceed,” I always give them a chance to get the job done. After all, if they believe in what you’re selling, they can be your biggest advocate internally, and you should trust them to do their job!

Next, I will typically call back the day after their scheduled meeting, which ultimately decides what I do next.

Situtation A: The meeting went well, and they agree to buy! Sally stayed true to her word and got approval from Steve. (No further steps needed)

Situation B: After this follow up or a couple more follow ups, they still didn’t meet or you can’t reach the person, and it seems as if they’re now dodging your calls. (Take the situation into your own hands). This is where I take over the scenario. I stop dealing with the mid-level person and then I start prospecting Steve directly.

It usually looks like this: “Hi Steve, This is Brian Donohoe. I’ve been working with Sally on your team, and I think she was supposed to meet with you a few times now about our proposal. Has she mentioned anything to you yet? She was telling me she was seeking your approval, but I still haven’t received final confirmation, and I’m worried something could be falling through the cracks on my side.”

This usually piques Steve’s interest enough for him to have a conversation, even if a short one, and then you get a brief slot to state your case and sell yourself!

Situation C: Sally informs me that they’re going to pass. (Inquire more and then start over with the ultimate decision maker again). – Sally tells you she tried to get approval, but her boss wouldn’t go for it. I don’t argue with Sally or try to re-sell her, because ultimately she isn’t the decision maker anyway.

I do ask questions though, like “Can you please share what happened? I thought you were recommending us!” I always ask in a curious, non-intrusive way, and typically, they will answer me.

This is where you get to the bottom of whether or not they are telling you the truth and/or you discover what their true objection is, and you can better craft your presentation to fit those objections when you finally reach Steve down the road.

Just this week, I got caught with a mid-level buyer who continued to push me off… “I still need to meet with Ryan,” she kept telling me. It got to a point where week after week for about two straight months, she kept telling me she needed to meet with Ryan. I got tired of following up and getting nowhere with her, so I finally called Ryan directly and one call closed him.

My mid-level prospect then had to call me back to execute the paperwork and do Ryan’s logistics for him. She was entirely embarrassed that she sat on my proposal and didn’t take it to Ryan for his approval, especially when Ryan ended up seeing enough value to go with the purchase anyway.

She missed out on an opportunity to bring a valuable service offering to her boss. Since he liked it and bought from me directly, it would’ve made her look good to propose it directly to him.

Yes, this is a risky move, and it can sometimes backfire on you, but if you don’t have ink on paper in the form of a signed and sealed contract, you don’t have a sale in place anyway, so what do you really have to lose?

Sometimes, it’s worth taking the risk and bypassing the mid-level gatekeepers to get a deal closed…

After all, we are in sales, and we get paid to make sales and perform at our best, not play the nice follow up game with people who are never going to internally sell for you to their bosses…

Be risky, swing for the fences, and go for it! Do it with tact and grace, though, because odds are you’ll still end up crossing paths with the mid-level people again, and you want to keep them on your side.

Your Value Proposition

You want your value proposition to compel your dream client to take action? Here are seven questions you need to ask and answer to test the potency and effectiveness of your value proposition.

(1) Is it different? If you want your value proposition to do its job for you, you need it to speak to your differentiation strategy. You need it do drive a wedge between your dream client and your competitors. Can anybody do what you do the way you do it?

(2) Is it compelling? If your value proposition doesn’t speak to your dream client’s business drivers and their strategic goals, then it isn’t compelling. If it isn’t compelling, then it isn’t an effective value proposition. How does it speak to the need for change?

(3) Is it tailored? You start with a very general value proposition as to how your company creates value. But as you engage with the stakeholders within your dream client company, you create a more specific value proposition tailored to their needs. If it isn’t tailored to their individual needs, it isn’t compelling.

(4) Is it measurable? Your value proposition must be measurable. You may not need to get to a complex or complicated return on investment analysis, but you do need to describe how you will measure the new results you help your dream clients produce.

(5) Is it time-bound? Part of what makes a value proposition compelling is that it describes a benefit against time. Without making your value proposition time-bound your dream client doesn’t have to act with any urgency. By tying it to some measure of time you can better describe the cost of inaction.

(6) Is it easy to remember? Your value proposition can’t be so complex and complicated that your contacts can’t remember it. it It needs to be a simple summary of the value you create. Remember, you can support it with as much documentation and as much proof as necessary. The value prop is a summary statement.

(7) Is it defendable? The contacts within your dream client company are going to have to defend the value you create within their company. The more clearly and concisely you can define that value, and the more clearly it is tied to their strategic initiatives and outcomes, the easier it is to defend. Remember, you won’t be there when these conversations take place.

Did your value proposition pass these tests?

Helping Others

A few days ago, on the way home from dinner with my wife, I noticed a dark figure standing on a street corner in the cold, rainy weather. He was holding a cardboard sign, but I couldn’t make it out because it was too dark, and the weather was too bad. I knew what the sign said without having to read it.

I asked my wife to roll down the window and ask the man holding the sign to come over the car, and I asked her to hand me my bag so I could grab my wallet. I was just back from speaking in Las Vegas, and I knew I had a little cash. I handed the man two $20 bills, all the cash I had on me.

The homeless man took the money, said thank you, and head down, turned away from the car. He was ashamed to look at the money in front of us, so he carefully looked as he walked away, maybe hoping we wouldn’t notice. When he realized he had $40, he turned around and started crying.

Bawling his eyes out, the homeless man said, “Thank you. I can go home. I can go home. Thank you!” He ran behind my car and kept right on running. We were all emotional because the man was crying as he literally ran to his “home,” whatever that meant, and $40 isn’t life changing money—for us.

My daughter asked, “What if he uses that money for drugs or alcohol?” I told her that there is nothing that I could do about that, and that I would have given him the money regardless. We don’t help people in need so we can judge them or control their behavior. Any one of us can make life decisions that don’t turn out the way we want them to and find ourselves in need of help.

We help people because they need our help. We give because we are fortunate enough to have the means to do so. The more you are given, the more you have to give.

Whatever your religious beliefs, this season is a good time to remember that you are here for a reason. Your life is the greatest gift you have ever been given, and you are here to do something purposeful and meaningful with that life. For my money, nothing shows your gratitude for that gift as much as making a difference in the lives of others.

Talent v’s Hard Work…

Anonymous asks, “Which is more important to success, talent or hard work?”

When Talent Fails

Countless talented people fail. They are better equipped through some natural gift, some set of experiences, or through training. It is clear to everyone around them that they have greater competencies and greater abilities. Almost all of these talented people recognize that they are more talented than their peers.

The reason these talented people fail has nothing to do with their lack of talent and everything to do with their unwillingness to put that talent to work. Talented people sometimes believe that talent alone is enough to succeed. But being unwilling to do the work, they fail.

When Hard Work Fails

Some people who work very hard fail, but not nearly as often as the talented person who is unwilling. A hard worker tends to produce results through the sheer force of will. They’re willing to just keep at something until they produce some result.

When hard workers fail it is because they believe that working hard alone is enough. Because they don’t work at learning more and improving their effectiveness, they fail. I have seen many a hard-working salesperson fail because, despite their willingness to work, they wouldn’t work on developing their chops.

Talent + Hard Work

The question anonymous asks supposes that talent and hard work are mutually exclusive, that you can be one or the other. But the most successful people are the talented people who work hard putting those talents to good use. They are matched only by the hard worker who is thoughtful enough to learn quickly, make distinctions that produce better results, and hustle to grow their overall competencies.

The only choice to made is whether you are going to work hard if you are gifted with some talent, or whether you are going to develop yourself and learn if you are a hard worker who lacks the natural talent…

Conference Time – Balancing casual and professional

Your attire speaks volumes about you. When you are attending a professional conference, keep in mind that you are working, and this is all about business and professionalism.

As fall approaches, conferences and conventions loom large on our calendars.

While some organizations use the summer months to take advantage of lower rates, most corporations recognize that their employees use this time to vacation with family and friends.

Once the gong sounds on the Tuesday after Labor Day to mark the end of summer, it is back to business as usual.

The conference brochures and meeting notices start arriving, and you wonder what to pack.

Under “What to Wear,” you read, “The official dress for the conference is business casual. Wear what you are comfortable in.”

What in the world does that mean? Those words provide no guidance at all.

Your attire speaks volumes about you.

When you are attending a professional conference, keep in mind that you are working, and this is all about business and professionalism.

This is not the time to throw caution to the winds and show up in your favorite jeans and that t-shirt you bought at the convention three years ago.

It’s fine to take your comfy sweats and old shorts, but save them for the workout room.

Think of the image you want to project, and make sure it reflects professionalism.

While the true definition of business casual is to dress down one notch from business professional, you might relax the rule slightly for your meeting event, but only slightly.

While traveling to the conference, consider that you will be meeting people and making connections—of the business kind.

Make sure that everyone you encounter before, during and after the conference, forms a positive impression of you.

Professional conduct and appearance are the keys to adding the polish that builds profits.

And if you are in need of a speaker at your next conference or convention—one who can address professional conduct–please contact me. I’d be delighted to join you.

Here’s to conduct professional!