Happy Selling

Torstai 18.6.2015 - Ellen Pullins

I am excited to report that a team from Mania recently submitted our first academic article. I feel lucky to have been a part of this project, and to have the opportunity to share a few things about what we found, and how you can start improving your sales results right now.

For awhile, sales thought leaders have called for changes in how we sell, moving toward a more collaborative, value creating model. New frameworks and theories abound, but firms are still struggling. At Mania, one of our early research questions is how well sales knowledge is implemented in practice. We find there is a Knowing-Doing Gap. Sometimes employees know what should be done, but they fail to do those things.

In our analysis, we find that salespeople can tell us what they should do in many areas, but customers report that they aren’t doing them.  For example, salespeople know they need to follow-up with customers, but customers complain that salespeople fail to do so in a timely manner. Given that follow-up has been around since before NCR wrote it in the first sales training manual in 1911, and has been a part of virtually all sales processes and sales training since, this seems dumbfounding.

A number of buyers tell us that they experience a lack of follow-up: “Well, OK, maybe it's not enough that they just send a Christmas card, so I would maybe like them to get in touch after the sale; to ask whether the product or service has met the expectations... at least some kind of contact.” Another buyer told us that he had concerns over the credibility of a supplier due to issues in follow-up: “The initial meeting went quite well. We agreed that we would continue the discussion. There were a few matters that had to be checked, and the salesperson was going to send the minutes at some point on Friday. I don't really know … it's now Monday evening and I haven't heard anything.” These kinds of examples are abundant and not limited to follow-up. 

Similarly, salespeople know they need to listen, and that dialogue is better than a canned presentation. Yet there are many examples where customers report salespeople not listening, not being interested, and not adapting dialogue accordingly.  Failures may cause frustration and lack of trust and credibility. Based on these types of examples, we conclude that there is a Knowing-Doing Gap. So how can businesses address this? There are a number of potential actions you can take to decrease the Knowing-Doing Gap:  

  • Doing sales right requires strong leadership. Salespeople need to know exactly what is expected, when it is expected, and the consequences of achieving expectations. Managers cannot be vague on what they want salespeople to do.
  • Organizations must make sure that the sales culture supports doing desired behaviors. A culture that focuses on competitiveness will not spawn collaboration. A culture that is autocratic doesn’t breed good dialoging.
  • Sales process defines how to sell and work with customers, and is good unless overly structured. Highly regimented, complex sales processes confuse and take away flexibility. Standard processes must be flexible enough to account for idiosyncratic cases by being built on shared basic principles.
  • Although training may addresses required behaviors, much sales training suffers from a lack of follow through. One day of training is not enough to establish routine behaviors.  Systems for further practice, evaluation and feedback need to be developed.
  • Busy managers may overlook coaching and mentoring, even if they are often more efficient than traditional training. Effective sales managers realize that placing a high priority on coaching will drive better implementation, as will encouraging mentoring relationships with strong role models.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is being seen in the Mania data, but we thought it might be a good place to start sharing some things you can look at in your own organization right away to start driving better results. I look forward to continued work with this excellent team!

Happy Selling,

April 20, 2015

Ellen Pullins
Schmidt Research Professor
University of Toledo

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: MANIA research project, sales, gap, findings

Selling belongs to everyone

Tiistai 24.2.2015 - Heidi Kock

I’ve been working in various sales management positions for over 20 years, and three years ago I decided to take a leap into the academic world. Due to my past experience, I was very familiar with the sales challenges companies were facing.  I must say, it took me a bit by surprise at how little academic research there was on some of the sales topics I found utterly critical in business life.  

As sales has become more and more demanding during the past years due to the transformation of buying and selling, I’ve witnessed how vital it is for companies to have employees who are capable of selling. I do not mean only salespeople, even though they form the backbone of a company’s sales function.  I mean all the people involved in selling including (but not limited to) technical consultants and support, customer service, and maintenance, all the people who either directly encounter customers or have a supporting role within the company.  In my mind, they are salespeople too. In our Mania research project, the importance of this area has become quite evident. My interest lies especially in how the whole organization can be active in selling, and how to aid companies to develop their sales function accordingly. That is the topic of my doctorate thesis, as well.

In sales, I think combining the practioners’ and academics’ viewpoints is a good way to provide research that makes a difference for the business world, as well as making an academic contribution. Our research team is a good example of this. Getting the best out of both worlds will definitely help create something novel and different, and, more importantly, impactful.

The companies in Finland have been very open and generous towards our project. Company representatives are willing to give interviews, and even allow video recordings on authentic sales meetings. So far, we have collected an impressive amount of data, 100+ seller and buyer interviews and 20+ video recordings on authentic sales meetings between buyers and sellers.  This makes it possible to ask and analyze matters more deeply instead of making generalizations based on quantitative (questionnaire) data collection. At this point I feel as if I were sitting on a pile of gold.

As an academic researcher, this is a learning process for me, one more reason this is even more interesting. Thanks to my highly competent academic colleagues, I have gotten the kind of coaching, mentoring and practical advice that makes me want to sell the concept of practitioner/academic collaboration to Finnish universities.

Our research project will be completed by the end of this year. We have currently started to analyze the data, and we have already written several scientific articles to be published in conferences. By the end, we will publish more findings in academic journals, as well as develop sales tools for companies.  Hopefully, one piece of that will be to spread the sales culture further throughout businesses.

Selling belongs to everyone. Spread the word.

Heidi Kock

Researcher, lecturer, sales practitioner


Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: selling, sales research, mania research project