It Depends Less Than You Think

Last updated: 07-09-2019

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It Depends Less Than You Think

Given that sales is partly are and science, or more accurately “a science artfully executed,” we need to the create the right balance between the two. The best way to do that is to nail down the science part, freeing up maximum bandwidth, focus and creative thinking possible committed to mastering and improving the evolving art side of sales.

Part of my job is to sell salespeople on doing things my way rather than their usual approach, as with any sale, I need to look for and understand indicators that help me evaluate the person I am dealing. I look at their propensity for change, their current abilities, and how coachable they are. This step helps ensure the learning is applied and reinforced in a way that individuals can buy in adopt, and deliver results for their employer.

One indicator for me is their use of the word “Depends.” If we are exploring an element of sales that most would agree is on the “Art” side of the coin, depends is an appropriate way to talk about our actions and anticipated outcomes as a result. Given that there variables beyond our control, multiple subjective interests, lead to enough variables, that we are in effect testing well-based hypothesis. It is entirely clear to see why the outcome will to some degree “Depend” on those variables.

On the science side, it is entirely different; things should be buttoned down and measured. No room for depends, it either is or is not and then why is it that way. The science side of sales is where we test the hypothesis cited above, and make the adjustments necessary to improve execution and results. Much as one would wish, depends is not a unit of measure, in fact when reps use that to describe their selling to me, I see it is an open declaration that they don’t know, can’t be bothered to measure, and are not likely to last.

When I ask reps what their numbers are, the answer cannot and should not be “depends.” The sales may unfold differently based on different product lines, deal size and other known factors, but when we look at a similar type of deals, “depends” is not an answer.

Seriously, Depends is an adult diaper, not a unit of measure.

The reality is that in sales, the alternative to “Depends,” is being accountable for the number in question. Those who respond depends to a question around their sales numbers, are hiding how bad those numbers are, which is usually and an indication of lack of and poor execution, both of which can be addressed by someone who is willing to be accountable for their actions and success.

What does it say about a rep who knows the stats of his favourite athlete, but has no idea of their critical conversion rates?

When reps refuse to be accountable and won their numbers, they should not be surprised if management turns to other resources to do what reps won’t. Owning your number means understanding where you are vis-a-vis quota, as well as your conversion rate in moving prospects from stage to stage of the sale. Armed with this data, you can begin to make decisions about which elements of you execution have to change and how. Is it improving your Discovery, how you prospect or negotiate to realize full value? If you don’t know these numbers, then it is hard to see why you are winning or losing, it makes it hard to plan, strategize and develop improvement plans that improve those same numbers. It makes it much more comfortable to live in a world of depends.

The lack of data, visibility and accountability is why sales leaders are turning to technology; they want to ensure that they have the data with which to make decisions, even as their reps may not. Technology is allowing organizations to make up for blind spots reps create when they are not accountable for their actions or outcomes. If the reps refuse to learn, machines will, and no one should be surprised when an app indeed replaces them. While there may be some downside on over-relying on sales tech, the trade-off often leads to gains in being able to predict better which action lead to which results, and driving consistency in execution and results, and the rep’s long-term development.

On a personal level, this is the most significant gain for reps willing to know and be accountable for their numbers; the ability to understand what needs to change and how which leads to continuous growth. Much like the athletes they follow, top reps are on a journey of constant improvement, which requires knowing where you are, your destination (quota), and what it takes to get there. The ones who build their careers on Depends, will likely need them.

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