Sales Tactics for Dummies – Part Four

Long time – no see. I do need to aplogize. I haven’t come back to you in months. Really sorry for that. It’s no excuse, but I hope you may understand – it has been too much work and nobody has come to help, poor me.

Let’s recap previous posts. We were discussing a sort of correction system in sales to help when things happen on a tactical level. Remember? You set strategic goals and break down these to an operational level; what have to be done in your sales organization  – every day or week. Easy.

But things never go exactly as you plan. Lots of events occur; new competition, news, macro economy, etc, that force you to act. If you get insights often – for example every week – you are probably able to handle most events on the fly. This is the tactical level.

But is “on the fly” the right way to go? Are your decisions all the time well founded? If you’re experienced, maybe yes. But still I believe you can make better decisions. Think about the case Peter had in my previous posts. Let’s go on with Peter’s way to a well founded decision and the key features a tactical correction system has to be equipped with.

By setting up a few sales scenarios, Peter pointed out his Objective – meaning what problem or challenge has to be solved. In the example, the sales figures for BA Automotive in EMEA were dropping unexpected . Hence, Peter’s objective was: “Meeting the new competition and win the battle”. Help by hand, he presented scenarios he can think of as reasonable. The scenarios were elaborated in his management team to secure the quality.

What is the next step for Peter? In my mind, he’s got two alternatives:

  1. Decide supported by his own thoughts and experience (“my solution has worked before”)
  2. Ask a friend or expert

By definition, an expert knows a lot about one single topic, but may lack the overall picture. But since Peter himself has the overall Picture, why take the risk not to ask an expert to be really informed about his or her knowledge and experience in the topic? An expert may be a very educated person with University Grade and titles, but also an individual sales person facing just that challenge of the new competitor.

Useful information is typically how the competitor is acting in a lost deal, what arguments and sales pitches they are using, what discounts they are willing to give at what pressure, where they in detail are located, which customers they are attacking and so on. Detail knowledge that is too valuable to ignore.

This type of information provide the ability to set certain constraints of what can or can’t be done. For example, if the competitor is highly discounting the price – we may not be able to set our prices too rigid. When Peter decides, he have to be aware of these constraints and the only way to be that is to get people involved in an iterative Discussion. The individual sales person may say “if only the price is low, we will sell”, but the constraint may also be “the margin has to be on a high level” stated from the board or financal manager.

Do you understand what I’m looking for? People are experts in different areas and with different knowledge and experience. A software platform for Collaborative Decsion Making has to support a collaborative way of setting constraints and to let people honestly express their thoughts. Otherwise it’s not a collaborative way of making decisions.

In many organizations I have met, the middle levels of management are a bit afraid of what the levels below are saying. I mean, a sales rep may express thoughts that are a bit rough and may not be suited to be expressed in board meetings. My experience is that the middle management tend sometimes to hide uncomfortable truths for the management team or board. My opinion is that what you know, you are able to correct. If you not love what you hear from the grassroots, act upon it. Don’t try to think the problem don’t exist – it does. And as quickly you act, the better.

A software platform for collaborative decision making has to have the capability to be open enough not to filter out uncomfortable truths since in the long run it will even impact your brand and what values you stand for. A real collaborative decision making software platform also supports feedback from outside your company. Of course, sales figures may be sensitive in some extent to communicate outside your Company, but think of the upside value of having an outside view of your problem. For example, your customers. Having their view how you can reach your goals, isn’t that valuable information? Or what types of sales efforts they like or dislike?

It’s time to collaborate. Start within your own organization, but don’t be afraid to honestly ask for advice from the outside. Otherwise it’s still old truths.

/BR, Stefan