Failure Takes Effort

— December 16, 2016

Failure, for the most part, doesn’t happen over night. Sure, there are catastrophic events, things far beyond our control. But I’m not talking about those.

The failure I’m speaking of is systemic performance issues–perhaps not big when taken individually, but collectively cause us to fail.

Stated another way, failure takes work, for the most part, it doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it to fail.

Some of you are getting pissed off, you’re possibly offended, possibly confused, “What do you mean Dave?”

Let me deconstruct it a little.

Sure you can fail by not doing anything, but people doing this get called out and fired quickly.

But what about the thousands of sales people, very busy, working hard, but all the work is oriented to failing? They don’t consciously want to fail, but what they are doing causes them to fail.

These include:

  • Not using our sales process. We know our sales process maximizes our abilities to win, but too often, sales people fail to use it (or management fails to put one in place). It’s a huge amount of work to navigate each deal with no process in place. We waste lots of time doing things that don’t help our customers move forward in their buying process and keeping them engaged. It’s not easy to sell not using a sales process, it’s not easy to figure out the next step if we don’t have a sales process to guide us, it’s not easy to maximize our ability to win, when we don’t leverage the things we know cause us to win.
  • Not preparing for sales calls/meetings. We know we should have clear objectives and commitments we expect in each meeting. By doing this, we make sure the customer is aligned, engaged, and we are moving through the buying/selling process in sync. If we don’t plan and prepare, if we don’t make sure our customers are prepared, then we are unlikely to achieve our goals and may be wasting our and our customers’ time. If we don’t plan and execute our plans well, we don’t accomplish much. So that means we have to arrange more meetings–by now with a possibly reluctant customer. We have to work much harder.
  • Not having a high integrity pipeline. Our pipeline metrics are critical to helping us understand how we are doing against our numbers. If we fill our pipelines with garbage and wishful thinking, we have no idea whether we will achieve our goals. If we fill our pipelines with bad deals, we have to work that much harder to cover all the deals. We spread ourselves and our time thin. It’s so much easier to work on a small number of high quality deals, leveraging a sales process that maximizes our abilities to win.
  • Not prospecting and not doing it smartly. We know we have to have a sufficient flow of highly qualified new opportunities to maintain our healthy pipelines. If we don’t invest adequate time in prospecting every week, we won’t generate the new opportunities necessary to create healthy pipelines. As a result, we tend to put more work on ourselves, we cast a wider net, calling marginal customers, wasting time that could be used with high quality prospects that may be interested in us.
  • Not understanding what our customers value. Value is defined by the customer, if we don’t understand what they value, we can never present the value of our solutions in a context that is meaningful and relevant to them. As a result, of not understanding what our customers value, we don’t know what to focus on to maximize our ability to connect with the customer and address the things they are most interested in. As a result of not knowing, we increase our work by presenting everything, then we have to work harder to engage the customer.
  • ….and we can go on finding all sorts of hard work that sales people do that result in failure to achieve their objectives.

All the hard work to fail isn’t just limited to sales people. Sales managers work awfully hard at failing.

  • Hiring the wrong people. Making a bad decision on a new hire has multi millions in impact. Moreover, a bad hire robs the sales manager of valuable time.
  • Not setting performance expectations. How are people supposed to know what to do, if they don’t have clear performance expectations. As a result, they do what they think is best, but it takes huge amounts of management time to correct this.
  • Not coaching and developing their people. The only way a sales manager is going to make sure they achieve their goals is to maximize the performance of each person on their team. If they don’t do this, the team is highly unlikely to achieve their goals.
  • Focusing on telling people what to do, not giving them the skills to figure things out themselves. It may be ego gratifying to be in tell mode, but it’s a recipe for management failure. People don’t respond to this, they’ll go someplace else–now the manager has to get into that hiring cycle, which they are probably bad at. Or the ownership shifts from the sales person to the manager, so now the manager becomes the critical element for each step in each deal. The sheer numbers overwhelm the manager’s time and ability to do the job. Plus the manager can’t be involved in everything, so win rates plummet.
  • Not addressing performance problems. Bad performers are a drain on the organization and a drain on management time.
  • ….again, we can list lots of things where managers invest a lot of time and work to fail.

We know the right way to do things, whether we are sales people or managers. Too often, instead of choosing the things we know to be right, we take “short cuts” that end up consuming huge amounts of time and result in failure.

Failure is hard work. All of us fail at different points, but hopefully we learn so we don’t continue to fail.

But too often, the opposite seems to be the norm. Rather than learning from our failures and improving, we continue to invest time and work in the things we know aren’t best practice or the best use of our time.

Failure is hard work. Seems it would be far easier to do things correctly.

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Author: Dave Brock

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