Mark Boundy

By Mark Boundy

Five Sales Leader Blinds Spots

Five Sales Leader Blinds Spots 150 150 Mark Boundy

We all have blind spots, but not all of us make a point of trying to uncover and cure them.  When the blind spot belongs to a leader, an organization can pay the price.  I see several recurring blinds spots with sales leaders and wanted to share these five.

Not Realizing “After the Sale” is Really “Between Sales”.

This blind spot is driven by silo-limited thinking…or to use management-speak: staying in your swim lane.  Certainly, it’s unproductive to distract sales with all of the issues around service and installation.

That being said, the idea that a customer becomes 100% someone else’s problem when a sale closes is simplistic. It becomes downright dangerous for any industry involving repeat, renewal, cross or up-sales opportunities.  Your mindset in these industries should be one of growing your customer’s business, delivering outcomes so that “after the sale” evolves into a more natural “between sales” cadence.  This starts with making sure that the expected outcomes you discussed to win the sale actually materialize.

The sad thing is that sales groups using any good methodology already gather valuable information on outcomes desired by key personas.  Salespeople gather and use this intelligence to close deals, but don’t turn it over to the people responsible for ensuring those outcomes (installation, implementation, customer success, etc).  When I tell most service organizations this data already resides in their CRM, they are often flabbergasted.

Using Activity Metrics Instead of Predictive Behaviors

Sales leaders know they want their salespeople to be measured on quality, not quantity, but they often struggle with what quality looks like.  One of the traps people fall into is that the wrong activities (quantity measures) are so easy to measure and track, while many of the measures of quality are hard to quantify.  As a famous statistician said, “far better an approximate answer to the right question than a precise answer to the wrong question…”

Measuring meaningful conversations that advance a sale is hard to measure, but it’s what a sales leader is really seeking when they instinctively know they are after quality. Good selling behaviors predict and drive success. Activities, like phone dials, don’t.

There really are ways to measure the quality of selling conversations.  I favor analyzing what the salesperson learned about desired outcomes, new outcomes introduced and value…plus insights into the customer’s buying process.

Not Performing Actual Sales Coaching

Study after study shows that sales managers think that they coach well…while the salespeople they claim to coach don’t think any coaching takes place at all.  That result looks like more of a black hole than a blind spot.

The gold standard of coaching is coaching by questioning. Great coaches guide salespeople to think up selling behaviors through a Socratic (question-asking) approach.  This way, salespeople learn to self-diagnose, internalize, and solve sales problems for themselves over time.

Proper sales coaching like a sales process where the boss/subordinate relationship can get in the way. When it’s easy to direct a subordinate, a questioning approach seems like so much more work.  Additionally, it’s hard for a directive boss to communicate that they have the subordinate’s best interest at heart. This, in turn, makes it hard to influence sellers to expend discretionary effort.

Bottom line, coaching by telling isn’t as effective at changing those great predictive selling behaviors you’re really after.  Remember, telling a salesperson what they should do isn’t coaching any more than telling a customer what they buy is selling.

All Sellers, Not Just Sales

I’ve worked in companies who made sure everyone who touches a customer knows how to have a conversation about customer outcomes and value.  It’s radical, but I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it and led it.  It’s radical in the face of today’s highly structured (and highly turf-conscious) organizations. That’s why I call it “radical value focus”.

This blind spot is so widespread that even sales industry executives try to “widen” our definition of sellers to “everyone who touches revenue” (translation: everyone I can put into a silo led by me). Talk about silo-limited thinking. The standard should be “everyone who touches the customer”, even though this conversation is more difficult.  Even though the CEO needs to get involved in this – a culture change.

Again, I’ve seen it done.  It’s radically value-focused, and it works wonders.

Selling Profitably via Value-Based Pricing

I’ve met sales leaders who measure success by revenue rather than profit.  I’ve worked for them as well.  Unfortunately, I’ve managed too many P&Ls to accept a revenue mindset. In fact, a sales leader who chases profitless revenue will never have a seat at the corporate leadership table…and with good reason.

The purpose of business is to add more value for customers than it costs them to produce.  If sellers can’t capture that value (in the form of price), how can your company afford the costs to produce the value you’re so eager to offer your customers?

Learn how to price to value. When you do, you jointly determine an (almost always higher) win-win, value-based price in conjunction with your customer.  Value only exists in the customer’s mind, so a value-based price should be one that they’ve justified for themselves.

Summary

If these are blind spots for your organization, fill them.  They are intertwined in a radically value-focused culture.

  • Learn how to integrate those value-focused conversations by everyone who touches your customer. Create a more complete value-based picture of outcomes you deliver.
  • Teach value-focused conversations by every seller, not just sales.
  • Turn the teaching into long-term muscle memory through proper coaching.
  • Confirm the value your customer thought they were buying by giving your implementation teams each persona’s value/outcome goals.
  • Price to the value your entire company has learned to consistently deliver to customers.

Does this open any new vistas in your world?  Contact me if you’d like to discuss.  As always, please share and/or comment below.

To your success!

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