Updated: Aug 14, 2019
The most difficult lessons aren't the ones we learn the hard way. They are the ones we re-learn the hard way. I know, I've done it.
Years ago, I managed a sales team who sold a product that could have a dramatic impact on our customer's workflow. It was a disruptive technology. Our biggest challenge was that to take advantage of the benefits of the instrument, it required re-engineering the entire process. Our customers needed to improve their process before and after our product's placement in the process. Dramatic improvements are the result of fixing the system, not just a sub-process.
Dramatic improvements are the result of fixing the system, not just a sub-process.
This is true in sales process engineering as well. Issues that manifest in sales can be rooted in deeper company-wide problems. These core issues go beyond business development, they permeate the entire organization. Without fixing these problems, you can't have the improvement needed. Problem areas can include:
Company focus (or lack there of)
This is something I understood, but overlooked not too long ago when taking on a new client. During my qualification, I did not dig deep enough. On the surface, they seemed like a company my services could help. There were warning signs to the contrary, but like all of us who have been in sales, I ignore them. I wanted to help this company and its founder.
Looking back at our qualification criteria, it is easy to see where the mistake was made.
The disconnect came because they knew what they wanted to be so they said the right things. The problem is, they weren't what they knew they should be. Moreover, they didn't know it.
Our first criteria is Teachable. When qualifying potential clients, we look for humility. Humble people are receptive to coaching. For that reason, it is a critical criteria.
Humility however, does not exist without respect for others. In a corporate culture respect includes a respect for time. The No Agenda, No Meeting rule is a manifestation of this. Leaders who respect their team would never dream of calling a meeting without an agenda. A meeting agenda is more than a tool to be productive. It is a sign of respect.
A meeting agenda is more than a tool to be productive. It is a sign of respect.
When I qualified my former client, I sat in several of their meetings and not one had an agenda. I dismissed this as a bad technique and did not take it for what it represented. Later and on many occasions, I would hear the CEO state, "Let's get everyone together and have an 8-hour meeting to discuss this."
This lack of respect, and hence lack of humility, was accepted company wide. And I should have seen it. I didn't do a good enough job qualifying my prospect.
I went into detail in describing my recent experience to illustrate a point. While Teachable is our criteria, we often need to get more granular when evaluating. Those who are teachable are humble. One who is humble is not disrespectful. Respect does not exist without valuing others' time. Meeting agendas are only one example.
Lesson re-learned: Don't take shortcuts when qualifying. Take more time defining who you should pursue as clients.