My team and I have spent the past several weeks getting ready for our sales kickoff taking place next week in sunny San Diego. The number of hours going into the work is sizable but the expected payoff is a field sales force fired up for the new year. After four quarters of battle and the big push to end the fiscal year, getting everyone refocused and reenergized is critically important to the company.
Blocking and tackling
But selling can’t rely on emotion for the long haul. The long game looks a lot like any other kind of work…very connected to process, constant metrics, and measurable outcomes. The sales game isn’t won at the 11th hour on the last day of the quarter but is instead won in the mundane blocking and tackling that happens every single day. For those that aren’t familiar with U.S. Football terms, that’s the way coaches refer to performing the basics of the game very well: Blocking your adversary, tackling the guy with the ball. Do that well and everything else falls into place.
The reality of sales in nearly every software company is that a few sales people will sign enormous contracts and bring in the lion’s share of the revenue. They are known by many names like superstar, stud, rainmaker, and hotshot. I even worked with one who was called, “The Hypnotist” for his ability to convince a customer to buy. That term did him a disservice, though. He didn’t rely on parlor tricks to get customers to buy. Not at all. He was probably the most process-focused person I’ve ever met.
Laying the tracks
By the time he arrived at the moment to ink the deal, The Hypnotist had already laid all of the tracks necessary for the train to run on schedule. He had a perfect understanding of:
- Business issues
- Technical landscape
- Value of the solution to the buyer
- Complex relationships of the buyer’s organization
- Timeline for creating change
- Process for procurement
- Buyer’s budget cycles
- Necessary references
- Proof points for a solution
- Risk and benefit of change
Far from hypnotism, The Hypnotist arrived at the key moment with everything necessary for the deal to close quickly and with maximum benefit to both parties. The good news? Nothing The Hypnotist did is out of reach of most sales people. These things may be beyond what people are willing to invest in their jobs, but not beyond their abilities.
And The Hypnotist wasn’t laying the tracks for just one train…he was creating a relationship that would lead to a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships. Many trains would run down those tracks.
Phoning it in
With that said, there’s a living to be made by doing the minimum and hoping the roulette wheel comes up black. It works often enough to keep people at the table and gambling, but not often enough to make them a superstar, hotshot, rainmaker or stud. That path is far less risky but takes discipline and direction. Those are qualities that have to be rewarded but importantly, a lack of discipline or direction needs to be caught early and corrected in one way or another.
Big rewards come from being good at the process of sales.