Influencing the Influence of Others

Influential sales reps can have a great impact on sales teams, whether good or bad. The wise manager will know how to identify and leverage that influence to his or her advantage.

Turn the Negative into Positive Influence:

When an outspoken sales rep is spreading complaints, the effects can be devastating on the sales culture and over-all morale.  Managers who try to suppress this rep may get the opposite effect from what they had intended.  Have you ever tried to suppress a ball in a swimming pool?  The further down in the water you try to keep it, the greater the resistance you get in return and the bigger a splash it makes.

Instead of trying to stop the complaining rep, engage them, listen to them (whether they are right or wrong) and try to win them over.  Ask their input in advance when certain changes are on the horizon.  Instill in them a sense that you trust them and view them as a leader.  This will give you the right to expect them to use their influence prudently.  You now have a relationship where you can leverage their influence instead of fighting against it.  You will have transformed negative influence into positive.

Maximize the Positive Influence that Already Exists:

If a rep has a positive influence on your team (for example they advocate positive change and prove it quickly in practice) then don’t just leave them alone, maximize their influence on purpose.  Involve them early to help shape important changes (such as new technology and processes that will affect daily life).  This influence can be a powerful force in uniting the team towards a common goal.

As a manager, it is in your best interest to identify and guide existing influence.  Note that not all outspoken people are influential.  Focus on those with real influence.

Effectively channeling existing influence is one of the unquantifiable yet powerful ways to increase sales performance.  This ability often separates the good sales leaders from the great. Your indirect influence through others is greater than your direct influence through yourself alone.


Can Top Sales Performers Be Duplicated? (Sam vs. Jen)

Can top sales performers be duplicated?

Top performers always carry two qualities: a positive attitude and strong discipline. These two critical qualities cannot come from reading a book; they must be developed through experience and by overcoming challenges. So the real question is whether you can duplicate attitude and discipline. I believe that they can be influenced. They key drivers of attitude are vision and motivation. Good sales managers will identify ways to communicate a compelling vision and keep their team motivated. The key driver for discipline is accountability. This comes with regular communication and visibility of the right metrics. In short, top sales performers cannot be duplicated, but good sales performers can be inspired to be their best.

Top sales performers must possess a combination of talent and skill. You can teach skill, but you can’t teach talent. I have seen many sales managers try to turn average performers into superstars. It’s like trying to turn a chicken into an eagle! You can teach it to flap its wings, but it still will not fly. You can teach a sale rep a thousand skills, but they will not compensate for a lack of talent. Managers struggle with this, because you cannot measure talent. So when you build your sales team hire people with talent, then you can teach them the skills they need to become top performers. If they lack talent to begin with, then they will become average at best.

Readers, what do you think? Can top sales performers be duplicated? Post your comments.

Does Automation Automatically Mean Efficiency? (Sam vs. Jen)

When you hear “automation” as a sales person do you think of efficiency or of losing control over your sales process?

I love automation if it means I can keep my boss happy and do less.  I hate automation when it tries to do the thinking for me.  Given that sales is primarily an art, I welcome anything that will free up my time to sell; that is to deal with people.  I must admit that when management speaks of “automation” I wince, because it usually means they are introducing a new tool that actually requires me to do more.  They want me to spend more time learning a new system – which means less time selling – and expect that as a result my sales will increase because something is being “automated” for me.  When I hear “automation”, I think of losing control over my sales process.  I’m a professional.  Tell me what to do and let me handle the how.

I actually have to agree with Jen on this one.  Save me time, but don’t try to think for me!  Now, given that sales is primarily a science, there are components that are repeatable and therefore can be automated.  I’d love a system to automatically log my calls for me, so I don’t have to.  But I don’t want it to draw presumptive conclusions from those calls.  For example, fewer calls in a day may not be a bad thing if they are longer calls with meaningful conversations.  I welcome automation, but sometimes I think the wrong things are trying to be automated.  When I hear “automation” I hope for efficiency, and sometimes I get it…sometimes.

Readers, what do you think?  Does automation automatically mean efficiency?  Post your comments.

Acceptable Negotiation Practices (Sam vs. Jen)

Sam and Jen, your topic of debate has to do with acceptable negotiation practices. Is it acceptable to falsely inflate your initial price in order to discount during negotiations?

People buy from people they can trust. If you cannot be forthright with your pricing, then the trust factor is absent. I have watched some of my colleagues inflate their prices by 20%, then offer a so called “15% discount”. The customer is deceived into thinking they are getting a deal, when in reality they are paying too much. That is not negotiating, it is stealing. This practice is a crutch for the simple-minded, who do not know how to truly position and sell value.

Sam’s position comes across as pure nobility, but I think it is sheer stupidity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to leave money on the table. If the customer agrees to a certain price – whatever it is – then they must feel they are getting enough value for their money. Otherwise they would not buy. Every buyer wants to know that they are getting a discount. If you begin pricing at list, then you give yourself very little negotiating flexibility. Company A may get $1M of value from your product, while Company B gets $10M of value from the exact same product. In this case, even if you double the price Customer B will still get ten times the value! Many pricing structures do not take this into consideration and list their products for exactly the same price in both cases. To not inflate the price, is to do a disservice to your own company.

And what will you do when Company A and Company B meet at your next conference and trade notes? You just might lose company B altogether! Would that not be a disservice to your company?

Chances are Company A and Company B will have bought at 2 different times, with very different specs. They will not be able to compare apples to apples. And if they do, they should compare value, not price.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree with Sam or Jen? Join the debate and post your comments.

Is Sales an Art or a Science? (Sam vs. Jen)

Meet Sam

Sam is a firm believer that sales is a science. Any sales person who takes their profession seriously will establish a very structured and planned methodology. Sam has mastered the process of establishing a target list, carefully scripting conversation tracks, setting pipeline targets and tracking progress through the sales cycle. He always knows where he stands and can adjust quickly when required. “Make your proven sales process repeatable”, says Sam “and your successful results will be predictable.”

Meet Jen

Jen is a firm believer that sales is an art. No two deals are the same; there are too many variables. Timing, economic landscape, personal drivers, budgetary constraints and unexpected circumstances are just some of the moving factors that cannot be predicted and therefore cannot be boxed into a “one size fits all” process. Every conversation will take on its own life and every sales cycle is unique. “Sales is governed by relationships, and relationships are not predictable”, says Jen “therefore sales cannot conform to a repeatable process and definitely cannot be captured in a CRM system!”

Join the Debate

Do you agree with Sam or Jen?  Please explain.