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What Got You Here Won't Get You There in Sales!
How Successful Salespeople Take It to the Next Level
By MARSHALL GOLDSMITH, DON BROWN, BILL HAWKINS
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Marshall Goldsmith, Don Brown, and Bill Hawkins
All rights reserved.
Hi-Tech/No-Touch—The Game Changes Again
In 1987 Larry Wilson wrote his bestseller Changing the Game to let us know how the economy and our customers were experiencing unprecedented change—and how the game of selling needed to change to accommodate major shifts in decision making, sales cycles, a proliferation of events out of our control, and the pervasive demand for more and better solutions and relationships. Sound familiar? Here we are over 20 years later, and the world is even more complicated, competitive, and complex.
Well into the information age, we're again experiencing an accelerated pace of economic upheaval, with periods of calm few and far between. The selling context has changed, customers are different, and buying is different. Selling will continue to be more difficult. With much broader product lines, more complex product and service offerings, and companies jumping into new markets to survive, it is no wonder that it can take two years for a salesperson to ramp up to being productive. To learn what you need to know, meet who you need to meet, and close what you need to close, the average time it takes to get up to speed in sales is over seven months. Sales isn't just different, it's tougher than it has ever been.
Couple this with the fact that we have experienced what some would say is the most pervasive economic decline in living memory, and it is obvious that the game has changed again.
"IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID"
This is a phrase that was used heavily in American politics in 1992 as a way for the Clinton campaign to unseat George H. W. Bush (by the way, it was successful). In drawing attention away from Bush's strengths in foreign policy and instead focusing on the recession that had just ended and its lingering effects, the Democrats resonated with the electorate and were able to defeat a popular incumbent. The phrase resonates today as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century; it is still the economy. The evolution of countries in the Middle East, natural disasters in Asia—everything has economic ramifications.
There are two key factors to consider in understanding the direction of our collective economy and therefore our challenges in the world of sales: employment and capacity. Let's take employment first. We recently lost some 7.5 million jobs in North America alone, leaving some 85 million "out of the workforce." EU (European Union) countries have added some 23 million to the same ranks, and Asia and the Middle East have piled on tens of millions more. The totals you reach on any particular day depend on your source and the definitions used, but let's turn data into usable information.
If you're not working, you're not spending; if you are afraid of losing your job, you are afraid of spending. Consumers (and companies) hunker down and hold back when uncertain of income. Unlike public sector strategies of spending as a way out, in private we get careful when money gets tight. How about the other half of the equation: capacity? This rightsizing of the job force is all about managing the balance of capacity and current demand, and if headlines are any indicator, we're not done yet. Companies and countries are still paring back. The United Kingdom is asking citizens to begin to pay more for health care, and industrial capacity utilization is at one of its lowest levels ever. Although we have excess capacity, we won't be rehiring. Not only have we rightsized the labor pool, we are still bringing pressure to bear to get better, faster, and cheaper as we do it.
But becoming more efficient is a good thing, right? Not for jobs. First, employers will add hours before head count every time. For decades, it was felt that unions had the upper hand, and as workweeks contracted, the workforce grew. Now the trend has reversed: People are working more hours, not fewer. Second—and this is a big one—according to some studies, if we get only 1 percent faster, that's 1.5 million jobs that won't come back ... ever. No matter how you look at it, the math is working against us. If we lose 20 percent of any given labor pool and gain back 20 percent, we're still down. Think about it: Lose 20 percent, we need a 25 percent gain to get even; lose 50 percent, it takes 100 percent growth just to get back to where we started.
Let's finish this economic tour by considering some real-world examples and convert information into effect. Median family incomes are dropping; some are lower than they were 10 years ago. Ask around; most likely four out of five professionals will tell you they are worse off than they were 18 months ago. Private sector payrolls are also lower than they were 10 years ago, and with the government load (taxes), it now costs $84,000 to pay someone $50,000 plus $14,000 in benefits (do the math—it's really working against us). Look around. There are many, many other visceral signs of economic shift: those taking early Social Security retirement, the number of children living with grandparents (1 in 10), the numbers on some form of government assistance, and even the numbers of wedding rings for sale on Craigslist and the increase in individuals divorcing yet still living with their exes (we're not kidding, the data is out there).
Will those jobs come back? It's hard to tell. In the areas of real estate and finance, it is doubtful. Health care most likely will be very resilient with the aging of populations in Western countries. Retail and leisure occupations? Who knows? That will depend on disposable income. Automotive and manufacturing? Those jobs are expected to drop significantly over the next five years (do you know it takes only 24 hours of labor to build most cars today?). We do know that many of us currently work in jobs that 30 years ago weren't even listed as occupations by the U.S. Census Bureau. We'll see what tomorrow brings—only hindsight is 20–20—but let's shift our focus from economic effect to organizational response.
What's an organization to do? How have most responded to the challenge of keeping their salespeople effective in a marketplace gone mad? Unfortunately, the typical response has been an attempt to engineer the human being out of the equation. We know you can think of countless examples of companies that now try to manage the customer-company interface technologically rather than biologically. Instead of providing interaction with a living, breathing human being, many organizations now entice you (and some even force you) to enter your own data, print your own documentation, check in at automated stations or over the Internet, transfer funds electronically, "send away" for credits, buy through assigned customer advocates who have their own "mandates" from their boss, or spend an eternity in automated phone hell—all in the name of some twisted definition of "serving you better." Organizations are betting that if they can remove human unpredictability and inconsistency from customer interactions, we will all be happier and healthier (and cheaper to deal with, of course). The watchword seems to be "if you have the right process, interaction doesn't matter."
What's wrong with this picture? Where does this story hurt? We can tell you from having asked thousands of sales and service workshop participants to chart the satisfying and dissatisfying moments they've experienced as customers that in 9 out of 10 cases the satisfying or dissatisfying variable was the person with whom they interacted. Whether recounting a surgical procedure, buying a car, or taking part in a business-to-business sale, they never speak of the surgeon's technique—it is the bedside m
Excerpted from What Got You Here Won't Get You There in Sales! by MARSHALL GOLDSMITH. Copyright © 2012 by Marshall Goldsmith, Don Brown, and Bill Hawkins. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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