Too Many Industrial Sales Reps are Zombies!

Ed Marsh | Dec 7, 2017

Refuse to Use the Tools They're Given!

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Transcript follows

Hi. I'm Ed Marsh, welcome to this episode of Signals From The OP. If you seen Signals, you know that normally I talk about issues that I believe should be a strategic importance to manufacturers. Next week, we're going to do that in depth, we're actually going talk about the strategy of strategy.

So, this week we're going a little bit lighter. Let's talk about an issue that's primarily tactical, but I think has serious strategic implications - the way Reps fail to research and to learn. By Reps, I mean Sales Reps.

Roger Staubach said that, "It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results." That of course is true about so many aspects of life, and certainly about B2B Sales these days.

There's two pieces of this. One is the simple prep & research that ought to be bread and butter for many sales reps, and I find just often doesn't happen.

There is data, and then there's analysis of the data. So, looking at LinkedIn, looking at a prospect's, or a customer's twitter feed, looking at their Facebook. Not just for hobbies, and that kind of stuff like, "Oh well, there's a cool golf thing you have on your wall" sort of a thing, but, for real insights into the way they look at things. Once they are connected to the kinds of things that they like and that they follow etc.

Even setting up Google alerts on a person, making sure that you're getting info on them and their company. There may not be a lot of it; maybe there is but certainly what's there would be relevant. And something that proactive sales people ought to be thinking about.

But, even more than that I'd say digital body language. This is something that I talk about frequently, and I find a lot of blank stares. People tend to think of CRM as a contact manager.

I speak of it as a way to bring some of the efficient process that companies work so hard to develop in the backend, to the front end of the business. To make sales reps more efficient, more consistent, to eliminate the waste in their sales process etc.

But, if you use the right tools, if you have the right text stack including CRM, marketing automation, and some of the other kinds of tools, then, going into the CRM is more than seeing, "When did I last talk to them, and refresh my memory about the notes." It's seeing their interactions with you that you don't even know about. Like whether they've reopened an email that had been sitting in their inbox for a while. Whether they've been back on your site. What pages they've been on your site, in what order, and at what tempo or velocity are they re-engaging with you.

All of those provide information that when you're sitting across the table from somebody, you'll be able to infer through body language. But, with our virtual relationships digitally based with people now, we don't get that chance except you do a digital body language.

That's the kind of basic blocking and tackling, or bread and butter; depending on what analogy you wanna use, sort of research activity that sales reps ought to embrace out of passion for gaining every reasonable insight they can in prospect and customer discussions.

I believe they should search for opportunities of this sort, and instead in many cases they just piss and moan about having to use the CRM, and big brother watching them, and this and that. Somehow there's a disconnect.

Second is another level of work and learning, it's walking the talk. Do they sell and market themselves? I mean, seriously I don't think I'd hire a sales rep that didn't have at least 500 LinkedIn connections. You don't know how many they have after that, but that's a pretty easy number to accomplish these days.

Do they have a blog? Do they write anywhere? Maybe on Medium if it's not their own blog. But, some place that they kind of stake out some intellectual territory around something that's of importance to them. Maybe it is not about business, maybe it's not about sales, but maybe it's ... There should be something about which they're passionate, that they actually exercise some intellectual rigor around.

It's important because that's what you're asking them to do on your behalf. So, you need to see that they can model that in an area that's important to them; selling themselves.

What's their digital footprint like? How many social media platforms do they use? Do they post on them? Do they curate information? Do they share things from other people? The kind of stuff that's important to selling in a digital age.

They probably claim to be a resource to buyers, but are they really? Do they understand business finance? Have they done anything to understand business accounting, so that they can at least be conversant in their sales process?

How many books do they read a year? How many books do they read a month? I believe very strongly that if you're not an active reader, you can't possibly expose yourself to the breadth of ideas that are important, in order to be a successful sales person these days.

What's their opinion on an industrial trends like 3D printing and IoT (Internet of Things)? How about PaaS (product as a service)? Do they even know what these things are? Can they converse about them? Do they have any sort of data, or facts, or articles that they've read that they can refer to in that conversation?

Do those things necessarily make them a good candidate? Hardly. Obviously, there have to be a lot of other attributes. However, I would say that the absence of those makes them a poor candidate. And that's why it's important to build profiles for the folks you want to hire rather than the ones you feel affinity for during an interview.

Yet, I routinely hear about companies that are hiring reps for industry experience. "Oh well, they're gonna bring contacts with them. They're gonna bring accounts with them. They're gonna bring leads with them." We all know it doesn't happen.

You know what Einstein said about doing the same things and expecting different results, right? So, hiring the right reps is about finding people with a growth mindset. If you're not familiar with growth versus fixed mindset, absolutely research it. I think it's hugely powerful, and fundamental to finding the right people for your business in a very dynamic, and disruptive kind of a world.

They need to be able to optimize themselves, and think about it deliberately even if they don't have a formal tool set in marketing. You could just see whether they manifest those behaviors, because those are going to be important the way they interact with buyers.

As I said at the beginning, this is a tactical issue that has strategic implications. The way you staff and build your sales force across the continuum of your revenue growth function, will absolutely determine your ability to deliver consistent, profitable, predictable, scalable, manufacturing revenue growth. That makes it strategic.

If you like this kind of counter-intuitive, or kind of poke a finger in the eye of common sense sort of a perspective on industrial revenue growth. By all means, I'd love to have you join me in the future.

You can subscribe to be informed about more posts at I'm Ed Marsh, thanks very much for joining me.

Want to chat about how to configure your sales team, marketing effort and entire revenue growth function to match today's market and buyer expectations? Let's chat.