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