Future of Sales – elevate your game!

Organisations don’t buy from organisations, people buy from people. This is a fact and will remain as long as we have people managing the buying decisions. However with the advent and now the take over by technology in most of the core processes of an organization we are witnessing a big change in the sales processes.

Information that was scarce and gave people the power and also the permission to enter into conversation with customers is now moving from analog to digital platforms. To get information about products services all I need to know are the keywords to search for and / or the key influencers to follow. So then what’s the role sales professionals now play in winning deals?

Recently I read an interesting article by Scott Hartley – “Robots Want Your Tasks, Not Your Jobs and it made me think how true is this. How much ever you can automate you can only automate repetitive, predictive tasks not the job of a sales professional unless that’s all they were doing. Don’t get me wrong but there are many sales people who do just that – we call them “courier boy” salespeople. Their role is to land up at the customer understand the requirement and submit a proposal (read:cut copy paste proposal). This for sure can be taken care by bots in the new world, cause artificial intelligence can be programmed to find the right fit !

So the only way sales professionals can make themselves irreplaceable is that they can elevate their game ! The roles of sales professionals is not just to understand requirements and submit proposals but to understand the marketplace trends, share perspectives, maybe even challenge current thinking, bring alignment in the buying influences wins and results, showcase the value (read ROI) of their offerings and most of all be proactive.

Technology and Big Data are great tools for sales professionals to be able to build new skill sets in selling. Using analytics coupled with the ability to join the dots you can enable your customers to Be Ready for the future in their business. Leveraging Big Data you can develop strong messaging for strategic conversations with the senior leaders. With the ability to predict coupled with best practices you can create though leadership rather than worry about lagging indicators.

The future of Sales is welcoming a new era of Social Selling, of innovation and collaboration of crowd funding ideas instead of organisations. Just the way learning to communicate in English was a key skill when we went global in our marketplace, being active on the digital platform will be the new literacy quotient.

Just like the elephants do, its time for us to now shed our old molars and make space for the new; it will require us to chew on rocks for a while but this will be our new survival guide.

Happy Selling !

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Vanity, Sanity and Reality

I had to become an entrepreneur to appreciate the importance of cash flow in business. Before I started, all I thought I heard from everyone was how critical it is to have a strategy to get Revenue and have the right operational practices to safeguard your margins. However managing to run a business for 6+ years I would agree with someone who said “Profit is an illusion, cashflow is fact”.

With this new awareness I have started to observe how organisations set up processes to manage this. Am surprised while cash flow is literally like blood flowing in your body not many organisations set up visible practices around managing it. In fact Cash flow velocity can determine the efficacy of processes and even be the really feed forward for strategy. A lot of times cash flow is left for the finance team to manage and the CFO to ensure however like many other KPIs this needs to be a KPI sitting in every dimension of the business.

Lets begin with Sales – the function that leads the conversation with the customers even before they become customers. We need to build sensitivity and clear processes around how the sales conversations can impact cash flows. Firstly, are we qualifying right? In today’s world it’s not about “Can I win?” but about “Should I win” cause sometimes its easy to get a deal but what is not easy is to get a profitable deal ! The second one, that impacts is our ability to negotiate and the sensitivity of knowing the criteria matrix. To use payment schedules and credit period as a part of the negotiations so there is clarity around these in the contract. The third, and possibly the final one for this discussion is the predictability of business. Funnel forecast accuracy is such a big impact on cash flow. If the business is committed for a specific time period but slips over, it impacts the cash flow big time. While organisations have started to monitor forecasts with a magnifying glass there is still a big gap in educating the sales teams as to how this impacts the business and the role they can play in getting this to be more effective.

It’s not only about sales but also about client services / implementation teams that impact cash flows. Many times delivery timelines stretch due to availability of resources not realising this would delay payments if they were tied to milestones and impact cash flows. I so agree with this quote from William Somerset Maugham “Money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it.” We don’t live in a perfect world and slips may be something we can’t always avoid however its about the attitude we have to these that can make us more effective in managing our processes.

All the other enabling functions like HR, Legal, finance also play a critical role in managing this for the organisations. HR – getting the right people, in the right job, at the right time can impact cash flows too. It’s also about some of the other lesser discussed motivators like incentive policies, setting up KPIs all that impact the attitude towards the importance of cash flows. For legal and finance its about ensuring the contracts clearly spell this out and also being sensitive to TAT on delivering contracts and invoices that impact cash flows as well.

Many a times I use the analogy of blood in your body as an easy explanation of cash flow. You need to know good blood (positive cash flow) versus bad blood (negative cash flow) and also the pit stops of cash in your system to avoid diseases proactively. Is it delay in invoicing or ageing inventory, is it negotiation or collection practices, is it people issue or process re-engineering ?

Recently in a meeting Umang Gupta shared an interesting perspective on this and I quote “Topline is Vanity, Profit is Sanity and Cash is Reality!”

So stay Real, keep your cash flow managed well and business will prosper.

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Sales & Golf

Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair.

Many people have associated Golf with Sales, but more for the fact that it gives you great opportunities to network with the C-suite, however, the more I am learning about the game (yeah still there!) I am amazed how golf is similar to sales.

So let’s look at the game – a ball (the customer), 9 or 18 holes (complex buying decision cycle), different clubs (sales techniques) and then everyone has his or her own unique swing (style) and you work to lower your handicap (shorten the sales cycle). Each hole on a course is unique in its specific layout and arrangement. Hence, formulas don’t work it is about then developing your situational awareness and ensuring the best stroke play.

Every round of golf is based on playing a number of holes in a given order. In sales, this order is the buying process of the customer. It’s not just getting through all 18 holes but ensuring you build on your strengths playing each one. Each time you use different clubs for different strokes, a large-headed wood club called driver for the drive or the irons for the shorter holes. The weather impacts the play because it does alter the greens and the wind, humidity all impact the way the ball moves just like in sales our marketplace is as dynamic as the weather.

What’s most interesting is that while you may compete in a challenge with others, the game needs you to be better than each of your own strokes and get better than yourself. How many yards can you drive? What’s your handicap and how do you lower it? While there are rules to the game it still gives you enough freedom to develop your own style. The player can choose which club to use and the effort is to win the hole. A lot of sales methodologies are similar, based on principles that become guidelines for the sales person to be effective yet giving them enough freedom to develop their own style. What’s important is just like one invests in learning the game one needs to invest in learning the game of sales too. There is both a science and an art in developing the sales behaviours and the more you play the better you get at it.

Rounding back to the point we started with, yes just like Golf, Sales also helps you spread your network. It’s not if you win or lose a deal but it’s each conversation with a client that builds your personal brand in the market. So be willing to play the ball as it lies, because the customer buys what they need not what you want to sell, play the course as you find it and the only thing that helps you there is to know the principles so they can increase your situational awareness and most important to be fair because sales is not about selling ice to the eskimo but bringing win-win outcomes to each conversation.

And the final thought – Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course — the distance between your ears. –Bobby Jones

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Paradigm shift – Doingness to Beingness

If you think your life is about DOINGNESS, you do not understand what you are about. Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living-and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you’re BEING while you’re doing whatever you’re doing. It is a state of BEINGNESS the soul is after, not a state of Doingness.” ~Neale Donald Walsch

Wise words, simple yet so powerful. So we shouldn’t ask each other “what are you doing?” But ask “who are you being?”

Are you being happy? Are u being successful? Are u being my friend? Are you being honest? Are you being effective at your job? Are you being innovative? Are you being present for your customer? Are you being a leader for your team? Are you being dumb? This is not just a mere play of words but can create a huge difference in your “Beingness”.

So do you do a job or are you being effective in your job? Just the swap of words from Doingness to Beingness creates a complete different accountability. I can get things done just for the heck of doing them yet when it’s about Being the total onus of what I am being sits me. Look around you and you will find that there are many who just do things, get to work cause I need to do it, go for a meeting cause my role needs to do it. Working with sales people specifically in the past few years I have noticed this is the biggest different in a sales person and a sales professional. A sales person goes to do a meeting with his customer, but a sales professional want to BE a trusted advisor to his customer. This difference reflects in the way they prepare for the meeting how they put together their proposals and even in the customer conversations.

Though this is not limited to sales right? Look at the difference between a manager and a leader. A manager is dong his job by managing resources while a leader is being effective and grooming his team to replace him ! Being a leader is about taking average people to excellence. The HR manager is not just Doing an interview but Being a catalyst to hire the best profiles. A marketing manager is not just doing their role by running a campaign but by Being effective in communicating the brand promise.

Even as an individual just this one change in the word can change the way you lead your life. Are you doing exercises or are you being fit? Are you just doing the daily chores or are you being the creator to building and developing lives in your household? Are you doing social activity or are you being the catalyst to happiness and well-being?

Change the Doingness to Beingness and you will notice small shift happen around you. It will not be easy but will surely be worth the effort. Lets just start with using the new language and start asking “Who are you Being today?”.

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

 

Did You Shed Your Molars?

Sales professionals are somewhat similar to elephants in this regard. To be able to eat, chew and survive on their staple diet of eating on vegetation or in their case winning complex deals they do wear of their molars. It is essential then for them to go through the pain of shedding their molars and allowing the new ones to grow to keep them alive.

Elephants being the large animals they are, need to eat a lot of food and most of it is vegetation. This creates a lot of wear and tear of their teeth specially their molars that are used for chewing. In their life they  have 6 sets of molars and they shed their molars to get new ones almost every 2 to 3 years. In fact a lot of elephants die when their molars wear off and they can’t have a new set as then they are unable to chew food to survive and die of hunger. Just like in humans shedding teeth and having new ones come out this is a painful process and at this time to ease the pain and irritation of new molars sprouting elephants often chew on rocks !

Compare this to sales professionals now. In the case of sales it is the change in the marketplace that does trigger the existing molars or your sales techniques to lose their ability to cut deals. Then one has to shed the molars in order to stay relevant and grow a new set. While one is learning the new rules of the game in the dynamic customer buying process sometimes one has to chew rocks. It is going to be tough and painful however it is the only way to survive. In the career of a sales professional one may need to also do this with periodicity and maybe have 6 sets of molars in a lifetime. What worked in sales 2 or 3 years ago is not relevant any more and hence there is a need to reinvent again.

I started my career in sales almost 25+ years ago and really the way we could sell then seems like a joke now ! Customers would wait for us to get information and a lot of times with limited competition we were guaranteed some deals, cut to today’s environment where the customer gets all information on the digital platform and competition is not just a competing brand but is any alternative solution. Banks never thought they would compete with bitcoins or digital wallets for their products and services, yet that is a reality today.

To stay relevant in sales and in fact in any domain you operate in keep shedding your molars. It may be painful but is a necessity for your survival. If you lose the sharpness of your bite you will die of hunger !

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Rabbit, Deer or Elephant ?

Are you hunting rabbits, deers or elephants? Or, do you hunt whatever comes your way? What’s your growth strategy?

Rabbit hunting in sales is being busy with transactional deals. They are a bit frisky, require high energy, may be available in large numbers and have very little meat to feed you. Rabbit hunting requires coverage and good qualifying criteria because a lot of time it’s about being in the right place at the right time that could help you win the deal. These deals give you volume and velocity in the funnel but are usually small deal sizes, because if not managed well can lead to high cost of sales. From a sales person perspective sales people are usually happy rabbit hunting because its less effort in terms of building relationship and differentiation and hence easier to sell compared to the others. The service expectations of these customers is fairly basic too and maybe its because of the transactional nature that the net effect may be higher customer turn over.

Deer Hunting is really going after mid –size deals. They are less in numbers than rabbits but still enough and do feed you for a while. Deer hunting requires strategy and one can be most effective if you hunt as a pursuit team. It’s critical to develop a differentiation to lure the deer and to catch them smartly as they are good at camouflaging. Deer hunting requires you to be agile and proactive if you need to get the kill. A lot of times sales organisations focus on rabbit and deer hunting combinations, Rabbit hunting for velocity and Deer hunting for Value.

Elephant hunting is really a different ball game. These are large deals that are complex with long sales cycles. You get one in and it may be enough to last you for a long time. Elephant hunting cannot be done alone by a sales person and it requires the organisation to have internal alignment. Elephant hunting requires a different level of maturity in the sales person as this is not just being able to make the kill but also having a system to preserve it to feed of it for a long period of time. Remember if you want to eat an elephant you can still only eat a mouthful at a time. Elephant hunting requires the sales organisation to have a separate focussed group working on acquiring and servicing these deals. The advantage of elephant hunting is that once you get the deal the customer will stay with you for a long time hence low customer churn and this is also because the cost of change for them is really high.

Once you identify your market segment and go to market strategy one should invest time in also identifying clear criteria for rabbit, deer and elephant hunting. Each of these segments require different internal alignment and different maturity of the sales person. A rabbit hunter may not succeed in elephant hunting and vice versa as the competencies required are really different. Target setting and lead indicator KPIs also need to be different for different segments. Maturity of your product on the product life cycle could also be a trigger to building this strategy. In the late market rabbit hunting can be really expensive and some organisations then delegate this to a channel / reseller model.

Develop your hunting skills basis identifying your segment and then align the internal organisation to help you win.

 “Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets” – Nido Qubein

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

What is Success?

“Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” – Arnold H. Glasgow

Half-baked is not even half done and this is true for success. Many aspire to be successful yet not all make it there, wonder why? I think like everything there are multiple dimensions that impact success and if one misses working on any of these, success does elude you.

First element is “metrics that matter” ! It’s really about defining what success means to you. I know many people may roll their eyes on this but reality is success means different things to different people and also different things across different stages of life. While it may seem that money is the key measure for success I guess this gets defined by theory of relativity. Also “being popular” sometimes tops the charts instead of “being rich”. Recently, in my conversation with James Kinney , he said “My measure of success is the number of people whose lives I can change”. He made me think that this is such a powerful metric to have, because it goes beyond “what you doing” and focuses on “who you are being”. While some people may define success by getting a job in a certain company they aspire for, others may define it by living in a city they dream of or doing what they are really passionate about.  Spend few minutes every week visiting and revising these metrics – what does success mean to you?

Once you identify the “metrics that matter” next one needs to be honest to the extent of being ruthless to identify what are my strengths and the areas of gaps that could lead me to success. It’s like having a “barometer” that can tell you where you stand across key competencies required to achieve this success. The best way to be able to do this is to seek feedback. Reach out to your core circle – friends, family, peers and get feedback on what they believe are your strengths and gaps. Most successful people always have the ear on the ground receiving feedback and developing themselves accordingly. Keep a check on this barometer to know that you are progressing.

The other key dimension is to be passionate about achieving success. It needs to be like a kind of madness that ensures you don’t give up or get distracted. We today live in highly cluttered world and with all the moving parts it is easy to get distracted. If you are not desperate to achieve success just the way you would gasp for air if your head is held under water you are not going to achieve it. Pick any autobiography of a successful person and this is one thing everyone will highlight. This is about setting yourself on Fire !

Bringing all these together – defining success by the “metrics that matter”, having a barometer to check progress and direction and being able to set yourself on “fire” surely are dimensions that can help you achieve success.

So don’t just burn yourself out, go make yourself successful !

By

Priya Sachdev

CRO, Business Salt

Three Things for a Successful Life!

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”- Reba McEntire

Think about these and you will realize how critical they are for one to be successful. The wishbone that motivates you to have audacious goals and throw them out in the universe so you can go create a path to fulfilling them, your backbone so you have the ability to stand up for what you believe in guided by your value system and finally the funny bone that gives you the ability to live life with a lightness, giving you the ability to laugh at your mistakes, learn and move on.

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