The title of this post is supposed to be reductively simple: To increase sales, spend more time selling.
This morning I’m reading through old HBR articles on ‘selling.’ We do this to find the research, studies, and science, and then use that information to back our approach and/or innovate. Here’s a little ‘finding’ from a 2006 article: The New Science of Sales Force Productivity.
Another question that leading sales organizations ask themselves is, Are the field reps spending as much time as possible selling? When we measure salespeople’s “non-customer-facing time,” we find that it often amounts to more than half of their total hours. If sales executives uncover that kind of problem, they have a variety of tools at their disposal. They may be able to channel some of the reps’ administrative functions to support staff… They also may simplify the systems that the reps are expected to deal with. Several years ago, sales executives at Cisco set a goal of reducing reps’ nonselling time by a few hours a week and charged the IT department with making it happen. The improvement led to several hundred million dollars in additional revenue.
I’m sharing this because it looks so simple. And it IS that simple. The problem is that most social impact organizations hold – as a cultural point of pride – the ability for each person to wear many hats. I was on the phone last week with a director of development who said, “Our president expects EVERYONE in the organization to be on the front lines providing service at least three mornings per week.”
That’s a decision.
In addition, we often see front-line salespeople being tasked with other functions – like running events. Or, in health care, the ‘fundraising executives’ are often asked to be at every health care system executive meeting (often this takes the BEST sales person offline for 40% of the month!).
These organizations are all trying to find ‘new ways to raise money.’
Our advice is not ‘innovative.’ It’s simple: Free up more time for your SALES PEOPLE to FOCUS on SELLING.
Andy Grove was the co-founder of Intel. More than an ‘executive,’ Mr. Grove was a teacher. He taught people how to think. He taught an industry how to think!
When speaking of Intel’s strategy, he often said, “We had to engage and then plan.” And, “Understanding comes from action.”
At For Impact | The Suddes Group we harness the power of these words when it comes to visiting with prospects. You can only do so much planning… so much research. On the whole, the ‘social sector’ is paralyzed by prospect planning. Sometimes we need to ENGAGE AND THEN PLAN.
Vision is simply a clear picture of the future toward which you are striving.
Most organizations benefit from having a long-term vision, and a near-term vision.
Your long-term vision is often time-independent. Example: Ending Cancer.
Vision, in this sense, is more like a ‘higher cause worth pursuing.’ We call it vision, but we can’t always see exactly how to get there.
In these instances, we benefit from a near-term vision that will maximize the contribution and engagement of others. This is usually time-dependent and tied to an achievable goal.
Example: “By 2020 we want to make sure we have a national registry for xyz cancer trials. This will be an important milestone toward ending cancer.”
I’m sure we could simply reframe these visions as ’cause’ and ‘goal,’ but thinking of them as a long-term vision and a near-term vision helps to frame them in a way that is usually more visceral and engaging, because we’re focusing on the ‘clear picture.’
The late J. Richard Hackman, a Harvard sociology professor, found that teams are much trickier to build and maintain than we like to think. The issue is not that teams never work, but that team dynamics are powerful but delicate, and expansion is a surefire way to break them. “[It’s a] fallacy that bigger teams are better than smaller ones because they have more resources to draw on,” he explains. “As a team gets bigger, the number of links that need to be managed among members goes up at an accelerating, almost exponential rate.”
In his handbook Leading Teams, Hackman reminds us of “Brooks’s Law”: the adage that adding staff to speed up a behind-schedule project “has no better chance of working… than would a scheme to produce a baby quickly by assigning nine women to be pregnant for one month each… adding manpower to a late project makes it later.”
Reflect on this excerpt and think about the implications for your team(s).
On a large, late, or urgent project, the tendency is to add more people. We must first put extra resources into clear planning and then be prepared to commit resources (e.g., time and communication) to building/managing the exponential links a ‘team’ requires.
We spend a lot of time studying, practicing, and teaching the art and science of human engagement. It’s essential to communicating, selling, and leading.
We define engagement as: a dynamic which holds attention, heightens interest, and motivates action.
Think about a meeting where you were engaged, and then think about a meeting where you were checked out. In the first instance, the circumstances captured your attention, created interest, and generated more action.
A person’s attention span starts to dissipate after ten minutes — unless you do something to change the form of engagement.
When you’re one-on-one it’s easier to keep their attention. Just get the other person talking. This requires active engagement. (Note: Very few salespeople understand this simple, simple, idea!!!)
But what about when you’re leading a meeting? Or giving a speech? All you need to do is shift the form of (brain) engagement every ten minutes.
If you’re sharing a lot of information, stop and tell a brief story to weave it all together. This activates the emotive part of the brain. Or, stop and give your audience a chance to process information with a partner. There are many ways to reset attention spans every ten minutes. When you do this, the engagement holds, learning increases, and people take more action.
Every few years there is a new fad in fundraising. For the past 2+ years (at least), it’s been crowdfunding (think: Kickstarter campaigns).
I am asked about these at least once per week and here’s my reply: “Crowdfunding is the new yellow bracelet.”
When Livestrong sold the yellow bracelets, it became fashionable for every cause to have a rubber bracelet.
I’m often asked about the ice bucket challenge, specifically. That’s a phenomenon, not a (repeatable) funding model.
I believe social media is a big medium for communications. It should factor into how we build relationships — but it’s a tool, not a funding solution.
Though the specific advice varies for each organization, here is what I shared with one team last week:
“If you’re trying to build a movement and you want to incorporate crowdfunding, go for it… but you would be justifying it (to me) by bolting the funding onto something with a different end (goal). If you’re trying to add crowdfunding as a core part of your funding strategy then it’s my belief — based on seeing actual numbers at organizations — that you’re going to spend 80 cents to raise a dollar AND it won’t be a sustainable source of funding. On top of that, you have an opportunity cost; you’re putting resources into crowdfunding when you need to be putting more into 1:1 sales first.”
Ray Dalio built Bridgewater into one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. He correctly predicted the 2008 financial crash, and he attributes much of his success to the life lessons he later encoded in the form of Bridgewater Principles. His new book on this subject was just published.
I’ll come back to his book in a minute. But first, I want to talk about the impact these principles have had on The Suddes Group.
After Dalio first published his principles for the public in 2010, I was one of the 3 million people (!!!) who downloaded and devoured them. Inspired by Dalio, I starting writing up Suddes Group’s Principles and first shared them with our team in 2011. TSG Principles have proven to be an effective way to encode and transmit lessons to our team.
Here are a few Suddes Group Principles:
#3. The best knowledge is built (and then owned) by the clients.
We can develop the coolest strategy… or the greatest message… but if it’s not ‘owned’ and internalized by the client, it will not have the full effect. Often, it will not even have a shelf-life!
Facilitating the learning for clients often takes more effort, but it is essential in order for us to have the intended impact.
#10. Do what you need to do for YOU to be able to sell the impact. (I Am Sold Myself)
We’ve developed a lot of systems and frameworks over the years. As much as a team member can and should rely on those ‘encoded lessons,’ each person must take personal responsibility for doing whatever it takes to be SOLD on the program impact (or vision).
We’ve had team members:
Sit in an ER for two days to observe the traffic.
Travel to rural outposts to see how health evaluation happens in those communities.
Dig through aisles of dusty archives to find the perfect ‘historical funding story.’
#19. Never assume a client ‘already knows what he/she is doing (with respect to the scope of work)’. NEVER. (Repeat, a 3rd time, NEVER.)
My greatest mistakes have been when I’ve tried to skip part of our process… when I’ve thought, “He or she knows that already. I’m going to skip over that.”
Don’t assume. Work the process like an airline pilot working a pre-flight checklist.
I’m only half-way into Dalio’s book, but like any book in this format, there are gems and nuggets for the taking; you can choose what resonates most for you. I find the real meat to be in the commentary Dalio provides behind each principle. For instance, he shares this explanation on the distinctions between first-order thinking and second-order thinking:
By recognizing the higher-level consequences nature optimizes for, I’ve come to see that people who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects of second- and subsequent-order consequences rarely reach their goals. This is because first-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision-making. For example, the first-order consequences of exercise (pain and time spent) are commonly considered undesirable, while the second-order consequences (better health and more attractive appearance) are desirable. Similarly, food that tastes good is often bad for you and vice versa.
Quite often the first-order consequences are the temptations that cost us what we really want, and sometimes they are the barriers that stand in our way. It’s almost as though nature sorts us by throwing us trick choices that have both types of consequences and penalizing those who make their decisions on the basis of the first-order consequences alone.
By contrast, people who choose what they really want, and avoid the temptations and get over the pains that drive them away from what they really want, are much more likely to have successful lives.
This makes me think of the fear that some people have around fundraising. They are stopped by the ‘first-order thinking,’ instead of continuing to consider the second-order consideration: the impact it will have… the lives saved or changed.
Amazon sells over 21,000 books on leadership, and we’ve read a lot of them. When it comes to effective leadership, the famous Supreme Court framing could apply: “We know it when we see it.”
A wonderful philanthropist, veteran business leader, and For Impact friend Bob Werner says it best: “Leaders Lead.”
Here are some themes and definitions we commonly use across all sectors, geographies, and types of organizations:
Leadership is about making decisions! This is a top challenge we encounter. One of the most important tasks of leaders is to MAKE DECISIONS. Teams can usually adjust and learn from a wrong decision, but they can’t adjust and learn from INDECISION.
Casting the Vision. It could be argued that this is a form of decision-making, but someone (read: ultimately ONE PERSON) needs to set the vision. Too often we see people in leadership positions waiting for the vision to emerge by magic, or by consensus (which–in this case–is also magic).
“Lead toward a brighter tomorrow.” I think I picked up this definition from Marcus Buckingham. But so much of leadership is about setting the STORY and CONTEXT for the organization, team, or project. As humans, we want to feel a sense of progress in what we do. We need leaders to chart that path forward.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
– John Quincy Adams