Whiteboard Thinking: A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture

We’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true then the converse is also true: a thousand words are worth a picture. What I mean is that if it requires a thousand words to explain, then it’s complex. If it’s complex, then it needs to be mapped out. It needs a picture.

One of Sales Ops Solutions’ fundamental principles is that every complex problem can be translated into a series of simple problems. Think about it. Your business has a lot of moving parts. A dashboard provides a series of simple charts that together provide an overall view of your business. The secret to solving a complicated problem is in mastering the art of translating it into bite-sized, manageable pieces.

I help clients solve complex problems. One of my first questions when I visit a client is “Can I use your whiteboard?” The whiteboard helps us to produce clarity around the problem we are trying to solve and how to prioritize its components.

I like to refer to the following simple steps as “Whiteboard Thinking”. They are designed to help you get started in attacking a complex problem with clarity and confidence:

    1) Settle in your mind that you will solve the problem. The only question is how.
    This will eliminate the fear factor, which often slows us down.

    2) Define the ultimate goal.
    What are we primarily trying to accomplish? Often in trying to solve one problem, we discover 3 more. This causes us to shift our focus on trying to solve all 4 problems at the same time. Bad idea. Define your ultimate goal and stay focused. Often this goal is refined through the process; that’s ok. But stay focused. Each problem will have its turn.

    3) Define the various components.
    What often complicates a problem is the existence of several interrelated moving parts. Define clearly what those parts are. Draw each one as a circle on a whiteboard. Literally looking at these circles helps to bring clarity to our thinking. If you have too many parts, then you may need to create sub-components, so each level contains no more than 6 or 7 components. Deal with the highest level first, then tackle each multi-component level. To demonstrate this step I have provided below a simple diagram that I created to help define Sales Operations. Viewing this diagram provides clarity around what I mean when I refer to “Sales Operations”.
    Sales Operations - Simplified and Defined

    4) Define the purpose of each component.
    Why does each component exist and how does it contribute to your ultimate goal?

    5) Define the relationships between components.
    How does each component effect every other component? This is often represented by a line interconnecting the circles. Often a matrix is helpful in this exercise, with each component having its own row and column. Does each effect strengthen or weaken the respective components’ purposes?

    6) Define the players.
    Who in your organization owns each component. If you cannot identify an explicit owner for each component, then this may be part of your problem.

    7) Define the problem.
    a) What are the fruits? These are visible symptoms that indicate that a problem exists.
    b) What are the roots? These are the ultimate causes of the problem. This is what needs to be corrected in order to stop the problem from recurring. Sometimes identifying the root cause requires digging deeply and speaking to several effected parties.

These 7 steps to Whiteboard Thinking will help you to define and simplify the complex problem so that you can tackle it with clarity and confidence. This exercise is worth your time, because a thousand words are worth a picture.

Enjoy!

I welcome you to post your feedback.

How to Inspire End User Adoption

If your organization struggles with end user adoption for new processes and technologies then this post will help. The practical insights provided below have been proven to work whether deploying a new CRM system or a new process within existing technology.

The seeds of end user adoption are planted long before implementation. The secret is to create a sense of ownership and positive anticipation leading up to deployment.

Consider the foundational meaning of the word “adoption”. When a parent “adopts” a child, they take one that belonged to another and makes them their own. By this definition, true adoption goes beyond meeting the minimum requirements to a sense of personal responsibility and expected value.

To create a sense of ownership, create a committee (whether formal or informal) that is to actively participate in shaping the process or technology being deployed. This team should have at least one representative from each role being effected. Guide them to provide input at pre-established milestones.

Be sure to listen carefully and value their input. Give them a sense of ownership. Only the true owner of a project can offer a sense of ownership to selected others. If you do this well, they will advocate the new process to their peers well before implementation. You will have actually effected the culture, which will not be easily changed.

Now, what if we still have an issue with adoption; what if 100% of your sales team members are not passionate evangelists of your process (imagine that!)?

This is where the stick comes in. The stick is to be used only when the carrot doesn’t work. Willful adoption is always more effective than forced adoption.

The following guidelines will help you to continuously increase adoption:

1. Establish metrics to measure adoption AND the expected results of adoption.
2. Use the metrics you established.
3. Acknowledge those who are adopting well and highlight their positive results to their peers.
4. Point out those who are not adopting well.
5. Managers, hold your team members accountable. Manage beyond metrics. Interact with each member.
6. Executives, hold your managers accountable to holding their team members accountable.

How do you drive adoption? You don’t. You inspire adoption!

“Weighted BANT”: A Simple Lead Qualification Methodology

If you have any experience in Lead Generation, then you are familiar with “BANT”. Budget, Authority, Need and Time frame are commonly used criteria for qualifying leads. If all four criteria are confirmed, then the lead is considered “qualified” and it enters the sales pipeline.

The Common Challenge:
Here’s the challenge that many companies will admit: “If I hold to all four criteria, then I will not qualify enough leads. But if I remove any one criterion, then I will qualify too many leads. Either way, I can’t win!” Yes, you can win. There is another way…

The Simple Solution:

The following lead qualification methodology is easy to deploy and can be quickly configured in most SFA or CRM systems.  I call it the “Weighted BANT” methodology:

Apply a weighting to each of the BANT criteria (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4) and define each weighting. Below is a sample set of definitions for Authority:

0 = Has no authority and has no access to the decision maker(s).
1 = Has no authority, but has direct access to the decision maker(s).
2 = Has influence and has access to the decision maker(s).
3 = Is one of several decision makers.
4 = Has complete authority as the sole decision maker.

Define a similar scale for Budget, Authority, Need and Time frame.

Now qualify your leads based on the sum of all four scores. For example:

0-4 = Unqualified (don’t waste your time).
5-8 = Slightly Qualified (nurture it).
9-12 = Qualified (follow-up).
13-16 = Highly Qualified (follow-up immediately).

The “Weighted BANT” methodology provides enough flexibility to customize for your sales organization and enough simplicity to deploy and train quickly and easily.

If you choose to adopt this methodology, please share your results with me.

Enjoy!

Character Over Talent: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment” – Roger Gushway

Three years ago I heard Roger Gushway speak these words: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment.”  Immediately I thought of various people who had reached great heights of success after a lifetime of hard work, only to see it all tragically destroyed because of one pivotal moment’s decision.  I had to ask myself, “Am I prone to the same tragedy?  When I achieve my desired success, will I have the character to sustain it?

As we aspire to achieve our goals in business and beyond, let us maximize every opportunity to build character.  Character is not acquired through learning or reading.  There is no “Character 101” course or “Character for Dummies” book.  Character is established through a series of daily decisions where the rubber meets the road.

When we choose not to compromise our morals, even if it results in loss, character is built.  When we insist on the betterment of someone else in stead of ourselves, character is built.  When our patience is tested in the fires of daily life, character is built.  When all odds are against us but we do not quit, character is built.  And as our character is built, so is our legacy.

Character does not have a time and a place.  It is always relevant, always appropriate.

In the business world, when I evaluate a vendor, a partner, an employee or a customer, I always look for character first.  I’ll take character over talent any day.

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)

Moderator:
Can top sales performers be duplicated?

Sam:
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.

Jen:
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)

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

Jen:
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.

Sam:
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.