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December 29, 2006

Greed is Good

Remember the movie Wall Street? Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) makes that famous speech to the stockholders of the company he is raiding. One small trivia note regarding that speech is that he never says precisely the words, “Greed is Good!” But that is the quote we all came away with. He does, however, state specifically at one point, “Greed works.” When I look back on 2006 this is a sentiment that somehow comes out as a theme.

If Gordon Gekko had a point that could be hijacked in a more positive vein it might be that capitalism does require the pursuit of a profitable end game. Greed as a term is filled with baggage, starting with Dante and the seven deadly sins. But the driving force of achieving a gain is the element of greed that I think has valor.

The dot com burst proved that greed can be bad – especially when pursued with foolish abandon. My observation about business behavior in 2006 is that we are back on the path of profitable growth, which is good. Surviving the turn of the Millennium required hunkering down, battening the hatches, and cutting corners. This past year, at least according to the organizations with whom I have been working, was a full 12 months of action in pursuit of growth.

This energy, the pursuit of profit, is something that needs to be harnessed, like the tide. It is there, innate, ready to be leveraged. Your salesforce has it. Your customers have it. In 2006 we got better at managing it. CRM is a very smart way to achieve it. If the prognosticators are correct, we will see more successful pursuit in 2007 as well.

I hope you are enjoying a peaceful holiday.
Here is to a fantastic New Year!

Matthew E. Johnson
December 29, 2006

Bho Dog Gone Wild

December 22, 2006

Monkey Business

I recently learned that a close colleague of mine has a particular aversion to primates. This all came out during a business trip within a conversation that innocently referenced a consumer product including “monkey” in the brand name. Out of nowhere came a story about a childhood trauma that has left this individual squeamish just at the thought of a harmless chimp. This is something that is a bit hard for me to relate to, as I happen to very much like our simian ancestors and feel fairly akin to the bonobos, probably due to their unique social inclinations. But, I digress.
High Thinker

Well, I raise this story because I find a fascinating similarity to a dynamic that I see quite regularly with my clients when it comes to Sales Force Automation initiatives. This is not to imply that sales reps are afraid of orangutans, but many do suffer from a similar negative experience as my colleague’s childhood trauma. These earlier negative experiences have not occurred during childhood, but rather, from a previously botched FSA implementation. These bad experiences leave scar tissue that get in the way of ever objectively participating in FSA implementations productively again. Certain FSA software applications seem to be associated more than others with these scars, but I’m not naming names.

What typically happens is the Sales Function decides to implement a new system – SFA or CRM, and announces the impending changes to the sales force. Individual reps are provided training during roll-out but conduct passive mutinies during or after the training by simply failing to conform to the requirements. This can take the form of strong negativity toward the new package because they know it will fail due to previous experience, or it can take more extreme forms such as blatant disregard for key data entry such as sales activity or full contact information. Ultimately, this resistance, due to bad exposure in a previous life, is counterproductive for the sales rep. It causes a loss of productivity and possibly undesirable discipline from the company. And, it is all due to perception rather than reality.

It is a mistake to let this happen, but saying that is easier than preventing it. However, it is a safe bet that new system deployments will encounter a percentage of the sales force with this attitude and it has to be factored into the planning. Here are a few suggestions, but there are lots of things that can be done. Check out some other postings on this site for additional examples regarding change management and user adoption.

First, involvement is the place to start. Bad feelings toward software due to a previous experience are developed in exactly the same way as a phobia. The best way to overcome that is with immersion – let the sales folks into the process by getting their input; give them a chance to do lots of user testing, and by all means, act on their feedback; plus make sure they get very good and ample training.

Second, and I cannot emphasize this one enough, make sure that the average sales Joe and Jane get a benefit from using the software. If you design your SFA only for sales management you are doomed. Typically the best benefits that sales folks can experience are a combination of admin efficiency and preventing leads from falling through the cracks. When the system is perceived as requiring more effort than benefit (benefit back to the sales rep) then the monkey phobia will continue.

Finally, the best advice I can give is not to force it. The Cow Tipping story, which you can read in a previous entry, is what I am talking about. Do what it takes to get people on board, but don’t leave dead bodies in your wake. I cannot tell you how many clients have told me that I don’t need to worry about acceptance because the users won’t have a choice. Let me tell you right here and now, that is a naïve belief. No matter how much you make something mandatory, those creative sales folks will find ways of getting around it. And the better they sell, the more they will get away with monkey business.

December 15, 2006

Resolutions

We are approaching that time of year where all the trade rags and the popular magazines make their predictions and forecasts for the upcoming year. What I have read so far regarding CRM and Sales Effectiveness prognostication feels somewhat muted from past years. The most interesting article I ran across was suggesting that CIO’s make a few New Year’s resolutions given some technology trends for the upcoming 12 months.

My resolutions will be the following:
- Spend more time with my kids
- Do my back exercises more regularly
- Stop worrying about my poor diet

Not one of these is technology related, although I do need to get my 13 year old to stop spending so much time with his computer games.

There are some consistencies with regard to the IT predictions I have been reviewing. One is that there is going to be a cooling in the technology spending for 2007, which translates into potentially less budget for sales tools and the like. A second big trend in the press is the rise in collaboration, in this case referring to web-based collaboration of both work activity as well as societal interaction.

These two trends are going to have an interesting interaction, in my opinion. Most importantly, I believe that collaboration is something that does not have to require a lot of investment to make work. If CIO’s and other business managers were to make a resolution for 2007 that focused on these two trends it would be to resolve to leverage existing knowledge better with the tools and data already in place. It might be that a bit of work is required to clean up the data or organizing a better framework for capturing knowledge already gained. However, there is much to be achieved by taking stock of what is in place and how it can be better utilized while the business belts are tightened.

December 08, 2006

Vision with Rhythm

When I was about 10 my father brought me home my first drum one summer afternoon. It was a used snare drum but I was as excited as if it were Christmas morning – drums were my fantasy musical instrument. I took it up to my bedroom and set it up on its stand and played the first song that came to my head – Henry Mancini’s Theme From Peter Gunn. After playing two verses, flawlessly, I ran excitedly downstairs to the kitchen and asked my mother what she thought of my first drum solo and whether she could tell what the song was (of course she could tell that it was brilliantly interpreted Mancini).
Rocks NB
Well, she did not have a clue and she did all she could not to act like it was just a bunch of unbearable noise. Now, if you were to read a newly published book, Made to Stick, you would find out that this phenomenon I experienced painfully at the tender age of 10 is not so uncommon. Within one portion of the book is described a research experiment where an individual taps out a song, similar to my drum solo, to another individual who has to guess what the song is. The music tapper predicts that the other will be able to guess about half of the songs, but, in fact, the correct interpretation of the tapped out songs averages a bit over 2%.

Now what on God’s good earth does this all have to do with developing good strategy? Well, when I was playing Peter Gunn I could hear it perfectly in my head, which matched quite well the rap of the drum stick on the head of the drum. It was all in brilliant synchrony in my head, my perception. But, it was not beautiful to anyone else because they could not hear what was in my head. If you switch from auditory mode to visual mode then we encounter the same problem in the executive suite when it comes to business vision.

Executives often have great vision for what they want their organizations’ to achieve – it is intensely, ultra clear to them. But, when they beat out their vision on the proverbial drum it is not clear to others at all what the song is. So, people have to guess. And according to the statistics they get it right somewhere a little north of 2% of the time - so much for strategic planning.

The moral of the story? No matter how clear your vision is to you (because the song is playing in hi-def in your head - like wearing good Bose headphones) it probably sounds like the noise of my used snare drum to others. That means you have to do much more to communicate the vision than you think. Take the headphones off and turn up the stereo – loud so everyone can hear well. Moving off the mixed metaphors, it means that the vision has to be articulated in detail, with clearly defined tactics, put down in writing and maybe in picture, and repeatedly communicated and reinforced. Then everyone will be marching to the same tune.

December 01, 2006

WIFM

Recently I met with a Sales Operations VP for one of my clients who was chartered with the task of purchasing a Sales Force Automation (SFA) solution for the sales organization in his company. As he described it to me, the problem was that the enterprise needed to improve the performance of their sales reps because of a “flattening of revenues”. The solution, in their mind, was a software system that would be good at effectively producing territory activity reports and weekly forecasts.

Now my guess is that there are two reactions to this initial description of the situation. The first reaction is most likely, “Hey, that sounds just like what I need for my sales function!” The second reaction, which is more closely linked to my initial reaction is, “Wow, that sounds more like a solution that is making it easy for sales management to produce reports, while putting the burden on the average sales rep.”

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone, but if you were leaning toward the first reaction, I think it would be helpful for you to read on a bit, because you may be about to fall into a trap. Putting in a software system to make reporting easy, under the guise of improving sales rep performance, is usually a recipe for disaster.

OK, so I admit that it is stupid, and cliché, and unoriginal, but the acronym WIFM is what comes to mind when I encounter these situations. You know what it means – what’s in it for me? If there were any laws governing the introduction of SFA software into an organization, the first law would be called WIFM. This is because it is nearly impossible to successfully implement an SFA solution into a sales organization without including a means by which the average sales rep gets a real, solid, honest-to-goodness benefit from using the system. End of story.

But I am going to explain anyway. I have referenced this before, but if you go look at the research by companies like Gartner, or any other analyst firm, you will find study after study that demonstrates that user adoption of SFA systems requires the buy-in of the user (sales person) and the buy-in is contingent upon the individual finding a benefit to the utilization of the software, for themselves – not for their boss or for the company. I have read study after study that lists this issue in the top 10 requirements for success, or the top 7 risk factors, or whatever. My experience with Sales Force Automation says it is The #1 variable to address if you want to be successful. If you want to implement SFA, make sure your sales people see a tangible benefit.

And, furthermore – I’m not done ranting yet – absolutely don’t spin this. Don’t give them a system that carefully satisfies management needs and then try to convince them, with hype and cajoling, that it is good for them too. These are smart people you have hired; please give them more credit than to believe you can put this over on them. They will figure it out and the result will be, according to the undeniable statistics, that they will completely underutilize the software, if use it at all. There goes the ROI out the window.