Do you ever feel a little like Dr Stuart Price, the mild mannered Dentist from hit movie series ‘The Hangover’? If you’ve seen the movie’s you’ll know that as things spiral out of control for the ‘Wolf Pack’ there’s always a point where Dr Price loses it, screaming out “What the hell is going on!”
Being in sales either as a leader or sales person we can sometimes feel the exact same way. What with ever growing quotas to meet, the never ending demands of management for reports forecasts and insights, the increasingly rapid pace of business, marketing campaigns to coordinate, multiple leads to follow up, opportunities at vary stages of development to manage, increasingly aggressive competition to counter, pursuits to lead, research to complete, strategies to implement, people to coach and develop………the list goes on and on and on. Phew, it’s exhausting.
Especially so when you also have navigate through this maze of demands with systems and processes that don't talk to each other. As if dealing with external challenges wasn't already challenging enough we seem to go out of our way to create new internal challenges as well. Awesome!
A few years ago I was invited to attend a strategic planning meeting along with the senior leaders of a large company. Although the company was successful there were a number of operational issues they were eager to address. The executive leading this strategic review didn’t hold back, he laid out the issues as clearly as he could so that all those in attendance could have no doubt about what was going on and what needed to be done.
One statement he made stuck with me, he said “The number one barrier to the ongoing growth and success of this company is our CRM”. To contextualise this I should explain that a few years prior the company’s IT department had built a ‘CRM’ for the business to use. I had been given a demonstration of this system prior to the meeting and to call it a CRM was really stretching the meaning of CRM, but the bottom line was nobody used this clunky database. The user experience was awful. It was hard to navigate. Had limited functionality. Didn’t integrate with the mail/calendar applications their sales people used. You had to be sitting at your desk to use it and reporting was severely lacking. I couldn’t see how anybody benefited from persisting with this outdated technology, but persist they did. Pushing, pressuring and ‘incentivising’ their people to use it!
Another related issue was that the company had no organisation wide sales philosophy or approach, with each division, department and region employing a mixture of different activities and practices. Although they had a unified national brand the customer experience was far from it.
I recently discovered that despite the findings of the strategic review, the company is still using the same system today. I was amazed. It was out of date all those years ago so by today’s standards it was positively extinct! The chocolate box mix of sales approaches also remained.
As baffling as this may sound the reality is they are not alone. In my meetings with sales leaders and business owners from companies of all shapes and sizes I see the same self-inflicted frustrations with either completely absent or disconnected systems and processes. And it doesn't seem to matter what sales approach is in favour, if they have the very latest technology or a steam powered system like our friends above.
In today’s hyper competitive world not knowing ‘what the hell is going on’ at each and every stage of your sales process is like setting out on a journey without any idea of where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. You'll invest a great deal of time, resource and energy only to make no progress at all.
Of course alignment is the key, from sales philosophy, throughout the stages of your entire sales process, to your preferred CRM, marketing automation software and other related applications. One needs to enable the other and vice versa. Only then can you provide the instant access to a seamless flow of information, insights and analytics your leaders, sales, marketing and customer support people need to collaborate and make value creating decisions along the way.
Sales success today requires much more than great products and services. They're simply table stakes. We need to make informed decisions and capitalise on opportunities quickly at every level and at every stage. That means we need every part of our sales organisation to work in perfect harmony. If that’s not happening (and it isn't for many) it’s time to rethink, before your competitors do!
Ian J Lowe is the CEO of Go-Givers Australia, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation offering a unique culture-defining philosophy and framework that makes giving value the cornerstone of a refreshingly open and authentic approach to selling.
Image Credit: The Hangover Movie 2009 - Warner Bros