Death to the (Sales) Stress
Conversations are more important than activities!
We have all, in sales, chased activities! Since the time I started in sales, I have grown up hearing - "The more number of activities you do the better your pipeline will be".
Sales Managers still live and swear by it. The reps globally would all nod in unison.
Lesser activities meant dull pipeline, while increased and improved activities almost ensured a healthy pipeline.
'Activities' are the bloodline for sales, it is also very true for Business Development and Inside Sales where I spent my entire career.
"Higher Calls, Emails, Talk-time, No. of Dials => Better Leads, Better Sales."
Let us reverse this for a second - If you need better Sales, you need better Leads, which in turn demands better activities to be done in the first place.
Now, let us look at what constitutes stress for salespeople: Read the earlier line again and the salespeople need to do this over and over again.. repeatedly. While most would do it Monthly / Quarterly, others not-so-fortunate might do it every day!
Imagine the stress levels for those in Sales!
And to top it off, there are the Managers who use these very numbers to grill and roast the sales reps in the sales meetings, whenever the targets are not achieved.
What if I told you that every salesperson must have heard his share of cuss words for screw-ups, not hitting the numbers, or falling short of revenue targets.
And what if I told you that these cuss words invariably (almost 95%) have come not from irate clients but from their own Managers!
How would it be if we can make the sales rep's life a little comforting at least in his own office, amongst his own team members?
Here is what I wish to do for my own Sales Team, I am hiring -
"Replace the entire set of 'Activities' with 'Conversation' Metrics."
We might kill some Stress, eventually.
Instead of talking about the Number of Dials, Talk-time, Number of Emails sent, We would look at - How many meaningful conversations each rep had during the week.
Incentivize the Activities - highest dials, highest talk-time, highest email conversations, highest leads and of course highest deals - the reps who do these must get a spiff or a good kickback. (You need an internal competition to ensure the activities are still happening :) and the benefit should be sizeable for the reps to compete for)
This is apart from what you have already promised your sales teams - Bonus and Incentives on performance (leads, Sales, Revenue, etc.) as per the initial contract.
All internal meetings to Focus on Conversations. An open forum where all the reps can share interesting and meaningful conversations they had with each other ensuring, positive things being discussed, and feeding everyone else with great sales - stories!
Reps who do not have any stories will themselves start feeling the need to start making it happen hence pushing them to have meaningful conversations.
So what are the takeaways?
For Sales Reps -
Focus shifts from Activities to having more meaningful conversations.
Having 2-3 meaningful conversations daily is way better than 4-5 unsuccessful meetings or 100 cold calls.
Translating into better trust and relationship with prospects
Less internal stress.
So what would Managers do during the sales meetings?
Talk about how many meaningful conversations happened during the week
Talk about the best and the worst conversation each rep had
Share the story on how someone managed to close a deal (big or small)
Storytelling skills get enhanced (as well as a sense of achievement for the team member, and pushes others to contribute as well)
The sales team can use the stories of each other when they are speaking to clients (stories last longer in memory)
This way the managers wouldn’t be increasing the stress levels.
Sales reps would not be dozing or WhatsApp'ing during those meetings.
Each meeting will be learning, and hence productive, for everyone.
They will be better equipped after each sales meeting to talk to clients.
And, most importantly, they won’t feel they are micro-managed!
Please share your thoughts on whether we should still stick to the age-old activities or we can move on to Conversations!
How would you do it differently?
The author is a Business Development and Inside Sales veteran with over 14 years’ experience and helps small companies with Inside Sales Consulting.
Book a free consultation session with him if you are facing challenges in setting up Sales and Inside Sales Teams, Sales Training and Coaching.