Tiistai 6.10.2015 - Jarkko Niemi
Menestyksekäs asiakassuhde B2B-myynnissä rakentuu monista aineksista, kuten tämän blogin aiemmissa teksteissä on todettu: siinä on kyse muun muassa ihmisten välisestä vuorovaikutuksesta, asiakkaan kuuntelemisen taidosta, yhteistyökyvystä, koko organisaation panoksesta ja toisaalta pienistä detaljeista sekä sattumista, jotka helpottavat suhteen rakentamista ‒ tai tekevät sen vaikeammaksi. Miten näin moniulotteista ilmiötä voisi tutkia? Monitieteinen Mania-projekti tarjoaa asiaan ainutlaatuisen näkökulman. Projektissa myyntityötä tutkitaan paitsi myyjä- ja asiakaspuolen haastatteluiden ja arkisen myyntityön seurannan kautta, myös työssä mukana olevien henkilöiden persoonallisuusprofiloinnin ja todellisten myyntivuorovaikutustilanteiden videoinnin ja vuorovaikutuksen analyysin avulla. Mania-projekti avaa niin kansallisesti kuin kansainvälisesti käänteentekevän perspektiivin B2B-myyntiin.
Kielen ja puhutun vuorovaikutuksen tutkijana olen kiinnostunut vuorovaikutustilanteiden osin tiedostamattomista säännönmukaisuuksista ja rutiineista, joiden avulla keskustelijat tekevät tunnistettavissa olevia sosiaalisia toimintoja. Vuorovaikutuksen analyysissa aluksi mahdollisesti mitättömiltä vaikuttavista yksityiskohdista haetaan lopulta vastauksia muun muassa siihen, miten keskustelijat voivat saavuttaa riittävän yhteisymmärryksen ja kuinka tilanteen tunnelma rakentuu. Abstrakti asia kuten tunnelma ei ole tilanteessa valmiina läsnä, vaan se rakentuu tilanteen osallisten havaittavista toiminnoista ja niihin reagoinnista. Myyntitilanteiden videot, joiden kuvauksesta olen henkilökohtaisesti ollut vastuussa, mahdollistavat yksityiskohtien tarkastelun, sillä niitä voi toistaa uudelleen ja uudelleen. ‒Tässä yhteydessä haluan kiittää kaikkia videointeihin osallistuneita henkilöitä!
Toisaalta lähtökohdaksi voidaan ottaa tietty tunnistettava keskustelujakso, kuten tuotteen tai palvelun hinnasta kysyminen ja hinnan neuvottelu. Tämä onkin aihe, jonka parissa teen tällä hetkellä töitä. Aihe kiinnostaa minua, koska se on myyntineuvottelujen toistuva mutta ei kuitenkaan pakollinen osa, jonka keskustelijat omilla toimillaan merkitsevät sensitiiviseksi. He saattavat vetäytyä kauemmas neuvottelupöydästä, oikaista ryhtinsä ja muotoilla sanottavansa tavallista huolellisemmin. Tällaisena toistuvana osana se on kiinnostava myös siksi, että asiakkaan aloittaman hintaneuvottelun tehtävässä näyttää olevan variaatiota: yhtäältä hintaneuvottelun voi nähdä merkiksi asiakkaan kiinnostuksesta, toisaalta se voi hahmottua keinoksi ohjata tilanne kohti sen lopetusta. Tutkimuksessani tarkastelen, löytyykö ilmiöstä säännönmukaisuutta ja toistuvia piirteitä, joiden perusteella asiakkaan hintakyselyn voisi tarkemmin tulkita positiiviseksi merkiksi kiinnostuksesta tai negatiiviseksi merkiksi halusta irrottautua neuvottelutilanteesta. Yleisenä kysymyksenä on myös, millaisen myyntitilanteen osa hintakysely suhteellisen yleisenä muttei pakollisena keskustelujaksona on. Onko myyjän syytä olla tyytyväinen, jos asiakas aloittaa hintaneuvottelujakson?
Yllä kerrottu on esimerkki siitä tutkimuksesta, jota nyt käytännössä teemme. Muita esimerkkejä tutkimistamme aiheista ovat muun muassa luottamuksen rakentaminen, jonka tarkastelussa tärkeässä osassa on vuorovaikutustilanteiden ensimmäisten minuuttien tapahtumat, small talk, tietotekniikan käyttö myyntitilanteissa ja videoitujen myyntineuvottelujen jälkeisissä haastatteluissa ongelmallisiksi nimettyjen tilanteiden käsittely. Aihepiirit voivat vaikuttaa toisistaan irrallisilta, mutta niistä kutoutuu keskeinen osa myyntitilannetta ja sen rakentumista myyjän kannalta positiivisempaan tai negatiivisempaan suuntaan. Ne ovat niitä detaljeja, joiden varassa kauppa syntyy tai jää syntymättä.
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:
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!
April 20, 2015
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.
Researcher, lecturer, sales practitioner
Perjantai 3.10.2014 - Ellen Pullins
Greetings from the USA! I am back at the University of Toledo, and have had some time to think about my visit in Helsinki, Week 37. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, which is good, but more importantly, it served to get me even more excited about the important work we will do with the Mania Project. There is so much potential in the project, and the team is fantastic!
Let me start by saying that I have been doing sales research for over 20 years now. Actually, I did industrial research in the sales area even before that, so my practical work experience included conducting studies about salespeople, how they use their time, how training makes them better, best practices, and so on. In addition, I was out in field sales interactions, trained salespeople and more. My academic research has focused on creativity, trust, group differences, negotiation, performance, creating value, compensation, sales technology, mentoring, culture, stereotypes and so forth. My experience in the sales research domain has exposed me to a large body of work. There is one area, though, that I have rarely encountered much research on: the actual selling interaction.
This is what makes the Mania Sales Research Project so intriguing. In an academic world that notes our sales research is often not really practical, or at least not shared with practitioners, and where we are criticized for looking at only one side of the sales transaction, this project is sorely needed. On top of that, sales research tends to do what economics research is often accused of: assume rationality. But we all know that no sale is that easy. Sometimes our own motives, or our client motives, get in the way; sometimes they help facilitate a deal. Some selling relationships are enhanced by our emotions and moods, others are hurt by this. And yet academic research has had little to say on how a practicing salesperson, or the sales manager or director, can influence this process, capitalize on it, or mitigate negative impacts. How can we use emotions, conversational responses, motives, to our advantage to promote relationship development and the development of collaborative solutions to enhance business?
My week began when I was picked up at the airport by Timo. Can you believe that we have never actually met in person, only by skype or videoconferencing? It was great to get to know him better. The next Mania interaction I had was with the Mania academic research team. These folks are great! I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and deepening relationships. This team brings some very interesting tools and experiences to the table. There are traditional academics and practically-leaning academics. There are doctoral students and seasoned professors. There are professors of practice and business professionals. There is marketing and sales expertise, but also members with little knowledge of the context, and great knowledge of other important aspects such as organizational drivers and conversational/interactional understanding. I think the richness of the team, of the perspectives, and of the tools is one of the things is wonderful.
We spent a long afternoon exploring some of the data that has been captured and brainstorming the kinds of question we might answer. I am so intrigued by the possible answers surrounding the actual interaction, and having the data from both sides to shed light. I’m glad we are able to get latent variables, and not just to consider the obvious and the observable behaviors.
After digging deeper into the academic aspects of the project, I was really privileged to have a chance to meet the businesses that are investing in the work. Timo was gracious enough to arrange a seminar for the firms to come and participate. It was rewarding for me to see these fine minds in action. Everyone had great insight to share, and I personally found it interesting to confirm that the ideas seem to translate well despite cultural differences. These businesspeople especially impress me in their willingness to become involved in more academic work, and to really invest in new knowledge development. There are potential tools to be developed, competencies to be explored, new training to be developed. Again, my suspicions were confirmed that this project has all sorts of important contributions just waiting to be made.
Timo and I ended the week by summarizing and prioritizing. I am ready to come back to Helsinki and Haaga Helia in January and begin writing results. Since my return, I have already pulled literature on the rapport building and have begun development on a special session for the National Conference on Sales Management on rapport and relationship building in initial sales calls, which will include an opportunity to explore some of the tools that can be developed from this work to aid businesses with this part of the sales process. This is just the tip of the iceberg though!
So, to my new friends, and those of you who I have yet to meet, and to everyone that I want to get to know better, I say simply, Kiitos for the opportunities and for the future contributions we will make. I am humbled by the chance to work with all of you and to participate in the project. I look forward to seeing you in January!
Torstai 12.6.2014 klo 12:28 - Hanna Timonen
In the MANIA research project we see business-to-business selling as an inherently social and human phenomenon. In fact, the value created by business relationships can never be purely established by looking at the price or quality of the sales offering, but is always uniquely created and determined by and in the relationship itself. As a result, in MANIA we want to take a closer look at the social processes and human interaction that takes place within business-to-business sales.
So, how do we actually do this? With our multidisciplinary research group we are trying out and developing a novel mix of research methods through which we could study both the actual activities taking place in the sales interaction and the underlying processes in the sales and customer organizations. In addition to qualitative, mainly narrative interviews in both the sales and customer organizations, we are also observing the daily activities of salespeople, video-recording actual real-life sales encounters with customers, and conducting MBTI-profiles on both the sellers and the customers involved in the interaction.
Yes, I know! We truly get to see not only internal workings of the sales organization, but can also follow the actual sales meetings and interview also the customers! For us researchers this is all very exciting. It’s a really unique research setting, but it does have its challenges as well. We can only truly thank our company partners and their individual sellers in being open-minded and brave enough to open us not only their own doors, but the doors of their customers as well. Setting up a first meeting with a new customer through cold calling is a challenging-enough task even without having to ask about bringing a researcher with a video camera to the meeting as well.
But if my first months of data collection in two of our company partners have taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate the wily attitude and the social eye for the game of a salesperson. Not only have some of our sellers used the research project and video recording as an argument to get a face-to-face meeting, but also the company representatives managed to fix up several sales meetings amongst themselves during our steering group session. Also, it’s quite impossible to be a passive observer when following salespeople. From the negotiation table to the golf course and to the interview, the sellers actively challenge us researchers too. I’ve found myself speculating customer behavior after calls or meetings, doing a sales pitch of our own research project, and even analyzing the authenticity of my own interaction in the middle of an interview! But it’s only through challenges that we actually learn. Little by little, I’m getting a better idea of what this sales thing is really about.
Torstai 13.3.2014 klo 17:09 - Timo Kaski
I am excited about the MANIA sales research project which has now started. Thanks to Tekes and our company partners for offering us this opportunity!
This project opens doors to new scientific findings and produces practical results that will benefit numerous companies. This research makes my work so inspiring.
Often, especially in Finland, the challenging nature and multiple dimensions of b-to-b selling are underestimated. Now it is time to look at b-to-b selling as multi-faceted, demanding work that needs to be studied and developed systematically. That is why the MANIA project was started.
In the MANIA sales research project we think b-to-b selling is a multi-person and multi-point, unlinear interaction phenomenon that aims at exchange of value. We study this phenomenon from various perspectives combining numerous research methods in a novel way. Special focus is given on emotions, latent needs and motives influencing b-to-b selling.
In order to achieve the objectives, we have compiled a strong and multi-skilled research group. The researchers present various fields of interest: sales, innovation, organization, interaction and language. Aalto University and University of Helsinki aim at novel methodological and scientific findings whereas HAAGA-HELIA is focusing on applying findings into practice. However, all the research phases are carried out together. Our company partners offer us business insight and access to real-life data along with the whole project.
I am happy to work with this great group of people. So far, discussions have been constructive and very inspiring, continuously bringing new ideas on the table. It’s my role as a project leader to help us to turn all the energy and enthusiasm into concrete results!