« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

August 29, 2008

60 Moments

As I started to formulate the topic for this entry Andy Rooney came to mind. You have seen old episodes of 60 Minutes where the old curmudgeon would come on the screen with a nasally whine and complain about something that most of us would consider inane.

While I don’t want this to come off that way, I do have somewhat of a complaint to air, and also propose a solution for. You see, it kind of drives me crazy when people use the term Change Management imprecisely. Before we go forward, stop and take a moment to think of what your definition of change management is. I’ll wait while you think it through and maybe even write it down.

Feline Curmudgeon

OK, so I have heard the same term used to represent four pretty different things. They go something like this:

1) Change Management = the process for effectively managing scope changes within a technology project.
2) Change Management = the methods for minimizing the resistance to planned organizational changes
3) Change Management = the meta-methodology utilized to drive the transformation of an organization from the current state to a future state
4) Change Management = the process of reducing headcount in an organization through layoffs

I have fairly good evidence of these four due to the Google search I have automated, providing me new postings daily from across the World Wide Web on the topic. Virtually all of the different postings will fall into one of these four categorical definitions. However, I think it is confusing and can cause professionals to get into difficulty when attempting to communicate their intentions around doing something about one of these important business issues.

For purposes of clarity I would like to suggest four different, more precise terms to represent each of the four topics, as follows:

1 = Change Control
2 = Change Readiness
3 = Business Transformation
4 = Workforce Deployment

Now, with that out of the way we might want to ask the question, what relevance does this all have or is this just another inane whining in the spirit of that Sunday evening TV news program?

The relevance for me is that each of the four topics can be connected to a CRM program and I think it is useful to not get them confused. Two of them are more important to me than the others where I spend a lot of time focusing .

Change Readiness is really critical to CRM programs because almost all involve the introduction of new technology into the organization. Historically, organizations have done rather poorly accommodating technology change – mostly because the resistance to the technology has been ignored rather than managed.

My favorite way to illustrate this is with the 1959 motion picture The Battle of the Sexes. This movie starring Peter Sellers is totally mis-titled because the story line is all about the introduction of a computer into a well running office and how the employees go about sabotaging the technology in order to fight the change. It is both hysterical and a biting satire on the struggles businesses encounter harnessing the power of technology. Plus, it was decades ahead of its time. Check it out.

Most CRM projects that fail do so because the resistance to the technology change is not addressed properly. I spend significant effort helping clients with this aspect of CRM programs.

Business Transformation is also another critical topic for a subset of CRM programs. There are times when the strategy for the program involves making substantial changes to the way work is performed, which is due to substantial changes to the strategy, policies, and approach the organization is taking in the market place. Under these circumstances the CRM program needs to focus on changing the organization, not just introducing some new technology along with some accompanying process modifications.

Transforming a business takes more planning, more resources, more expertise across a wider range of functions, and much, much stronger commitment from the executive team than the average run-of-the-mill implementation of Salesforce.com. This too is an area where I focus much of my attention with client organizations.

If Andy were delivering this in a monologue, he would probably then go on to complain that confusing Business Transformation with something like Change Control is dangerous and that people should get their act together and call things by their correct names. Yes, managing scope is different from managing sweeping business change, so perhaps he would be right to a tantrum.

August 22, 2008

What To Learn From Swallows

Can we learn something from swallows? No, not those pointy winged birds that keep coming back to the mission at San Juan Capistrano – I am talking about the bug eaters at my house.

Just about the time that the sun sets this time of year you will find the skies above the little valley beside my house full of swallows. Reportedly these little birds fly around with their tiny beaks wide open in order to catch bugs. In my case we are talking about bad bugs – the ones with little syringes constantly on the lookout for warm blooded victims. They dart back and forth over my head, and while I cannot actually see their beaks gaping at a 90 degree angle scooping up those nasty mosquitoes, I willingly believe they are doing a good job.

Finding insects in the sky or on the ground around my place (and in my place) is not all that difficult for a bird to accomplish. However, there are times when the bugs are more plentiful and that would be at dusk. So, this is when the swallows come out, and they clean up. They get their dinner and they go home.

And what are we supposed to learn from this, especially on a site dedicated to all things customer related? As far as I am concerned, this is all about segmentation.

Champlain Sunset

You see, the swallows don’t waste their time flapping their wings with their mouths agape at high noon when the mosquitoes are hiding from the sun. But, how many of your sales reps do the equivalent? How many times do they go visit friendly customers, those that are easy to get appointments with, rather than going where the bugs are more plentiful?

Segmentation is all about deciding which customers have the greatest amount of bugs to offer up and flying mainly there to catch them. It is a simple concept. The swallows get it – somehow they have figured out when the feeding is good. But they have done this without a whole bunch of customer analysis. It is a simple concept, but not necessarily easy to get right.

The trick is figuring out which prospects have the most opportunity and it can take some effort to get that analysis right. But the analytics portion of the equation is just one piece of the challenge. Even when sales folks know which prospects have the biggest set of bugs to catch on paper, they still have a tendency to hang out where things are most friendly.

Segmentation is one of the key factors that differentiates top sales functions from the rest of the pack. However, it takes more than just knowing where to fly, it also requires a discipline to assure that sales reps spend their time where the insects are most plentiful and not where it may be easier to fly.

Make sure your reps are going where the bugs are.

August 15, 2008

Birth Order and CRM

Are you a first born? A middle child, or perhaps you were born last in your family? Do you subscribe to the whole birth order thing? I remember, from a very, very long time ago making the observation that one of my brothers, a middle child, did not get as many Christmas presents as others in the family. At the age of about 4 or 5 it started becoming obvious to me, well before I had ever heard the term referenced.

Anecdotally there seems to be a lot of evidence, but of course the research also supports the notion that who you are as an individual is highly influenced by when you popped out in relation to your siblings.

So, I would like to offer that this birth order thing has just as much impact within the working environment as it does around the kitchen table. However, I would like to take the conversation up a level. I also believe there is a birth order dynamic when it comes to the generations within the workforce.

Certainly we have all heard about the Baby Boomers followed by the Gen Xers and now we have Generation Y starting to make a strong contribution to the organization. Attributes regarding each generation have been postulated, some more similar to astrology-like characteristics than what might be found through conventional science. My preference is not to get caught up in the content of the differences, but to acknowledge that they exist.

More importantly, if there are real differences between those who are 55, 40 and 25 other than just the experience of age, then it might be worth thinking through how that plays out with business effectiveness. For example, if your SVP of sales is a Boomer and has worked hard to figure out how to manage and reward a team of X’ers over the years, what happens when all the new recruits are Gen Y? Have we built a set of policies to manage and motivate one group that might not work with another group? I think there is a good chance that this can become an issue.

What happens if you have a Boomer SVP of marketing, but your customer base is heavily weighted with the younger generations – can there be a mismatch of preference? One might have learned the value of direct mail marketing, while the other wants to see a podcast on the 4 inch screen of an i-Phone. The call center team today is made up of a different group of folks than who was jockeying the phones in the 90’s. Do they have different aspirations and expectations? That is what I have been led to believe. Are you managing the call center with what you learned about the function a decade ago and with a whole different generation of workers?

H+E w PFDs

My apologies if you were hoping for some recommendations. I don’t necessarily know what to do about the differences between the three generations who make up our customer facing workforce and management team, but I do know that the differences between them will impact how the whole thing works.
Back when I was in graduate school we got trained how to write research papers. One of the things I remember most was making sure that every paper ended with a recommendation that would positively influence the possibility of getting more grant money for more research. I will conclude the same with this entry.

This topic merits further investigation.

August 08, 2008

The Beautiful Alignment


This year has turned out to be one where I have been able to really enjoy the beautiful game. Catching the Premier League in the UK, watching Euro Cup matches, holding tickets for the MLS Revolution, and now getting two weeks of Olympic action - at one time, not that long ago, my best bet was limited to U12 girls and U10 boys matches on Saturdays.

Within the business world we can learn a lot from soccer / football / futbol – especially when it comes to watching the delicate balance of offense and defense. On the soccer pitch we have players who are designated as offense and defense, but each plays a critical role in both parts of the game – even the keeper. I think it would be useful to bring this key synchrony between both halves of the team to the same alignment needed by the sales and marketing functions.

I have been helping a new client with identifying the business requirements for a potential new SFA system. Interestingly, none of the members of the sales management team felt there was much need for any marketing involvement, input or collaboration in the requirements gathering. After all, sales does sales stuff and marketing does marketing stuff and best to keep them separate.

When I asked specifically about pipeline management I got puzzled looks. Sales and marketing have very clear and separate roles. Marketing has no reason to be connected to SFA. Sales folks manage the opportunities and marketing folks do marketing things, what ever that may be.

This does not happen when Chelsea and Man U get together. When the team in blue is on the move to score, all eleven players are on offense, starting with the goal kick. All eleven players in black are prepared to defend. The defensive backs don’t take a break as the sweeper takes the ball forward. They are ready for a one touch pass to a charging striker. Sales and marketing need to play together precisely as they do in futbol.

There has been a lot written about the need for aligning the sales and marketing functions more effectively. But, it seems we have a long way yet to go. There are also a lot of places where we could focus the efforts of alignment, but I think the opportunity pipeline is ground zero. Or, sticking with the football metaphor, it is the goal box and net – the place to score.

There is some mythology in the way of successful alignment between sales and marketing and the big three myths causing the most trouble are:
- Marketing does not participate in the management of opportunities
- Sales does not participate in the management of leads
- Marketing needs a separate prospect data base from the sales customer data base.

Leads and opportunities are simply the two ends of a single pipeline and both functions need to contribute at each end to make the whole thing work well – just like offense and defense. Marketing must be connected to the opporunities, especially to get feedback as leads progress from stage to stage. This feedback is essential to improving future leads sent to the field in order to generate better opportunities. Marketing can also play a pivotal role in supporting the sales function by providing content at critical opportunity stages to keep the deal moving.

Likewise, sales must participate correctly within the lead management portion of the pipeline. Providing prospect contact details or profile details and updating the criteria for defining a successful lead are essential. Every business that I work with where the sales function complains about lead quality performs these activities poorly or not at all.

Attempting to align these two business development functions when they are using separate and dissimilar data bases makes the whole thing a whole lot worse. Success usually requires that everybody come together with a single source of prospect and customer data, or at the least an integrated set of sources.

If we can bust these myths and bring together sales and marketing, at least along the pipeline, we are going to produce more W’s.

Comparing business activities to sporting activities is nothing new. And I hope that you non-sports fans out there are not offended by the analogy. I truly believe that using analogies and metaphors are a great way of illustrating the path to success. If soccer does not work for you stay tune next week when we examine the similarities between brain surgery and customer service.


August 01, 2008

Yes, but do they work?

Do sales methodologies work? The answer probably depends on your definition of the term, “work”.

If you have a mature sales force who know their patches and know how to keep the deals flowing, introducing a sales methodology probably won’t work. Otherwise, maybe.

Just to make sure we are all thinking the same thing when we use the term sales methodology, we are referring to one of the many different frameworks for managing accounts and opportunities utilizing a structured set of stages and techniques for advancing accounts and closing deals in an effort to maximize revenue, margin, and satisfaction. These go by a lot of different names, but most are targeted toward helping a sales rep keep attention on the activities needed to advance deals and accounts to maximum benefit.

I ran across a sales study recently that provided some stats on the use of sales methodologies. One of the things that the study boasted was that 7 of 8 companies that utilized sales methodologies had better performance as a result. But, don’t get too excited by this claim. First, the study used self reporting surveys – we don’t know if in fact the use of the methodologies actually caused results to improve, but the survey respondents believed it to be true.

A second issue with the study results centers around the finding that only 1/3 of the respondents disclosed that they used a methodology. So, this means, doing the math correctly, that 2 of 3 were not using one to manage their sales processes. Problem is, we don’t know if those two had already tried using a system and it failed to produce results. Depending on how to best interpret the study findings, it may be that a majority of users do not find success. Perhaps a better methodology for managing research studies is the best conclusion from this one.

Let’s go back to the original question – do they work? My consultant instincts always require me to answer this kind of question with the best possible response, “it depends”.

It might be more useful to ask the question, under what circumstances would a sales methodology provide value, and potentially lead to better business performance? Recently one of my favorite clients told me that he thought his business needed to introduce Miller Heiman, a popular methodology in use by many companies. When I asked why, and who else in the company also believed it was needed, I did not get a substantial reply to the two part question.

So, this leads us to the first condition for success: there has to be an established need and a reasonable amount of consensus for something like this to work. Which leads naturally to the next question, what are the kinds of things going on that would resemble a need? Here are a few:
- the salesforce is junior and needs structure to keep focused on the right selling activity
- the deals are long and complex and require a mechanism for keeping track of progress
- the business does not forecast well and needs a tool for better identifying probabilities within the pipe
- your salesforce has gotten too bloated and you want to force some attrition

OK, I am only partially kidding on the last item. Introducing the kind of discipline that a sales methodology requires can be pretty irritating to vets who know or think they know how to manage their patch. So, you have to be in a situation where changing the rules is going to be OK, or the fallout is going to be OK.

Then there is that residual question from a statement above, who needs to be in consensus with the decision to introduce a sales methodology in order for it to work? That of course is a more complicated answer.

At a minimum, the top sales management team has to all be in agreement – the SVP of sales and her or his direct geography or business unit sales managers. Dissent won’t work at this level. More difficult is that regional manager level – the folks that actually manage the people who do the work. Do you need their consensus on this? Not even practical. Do you need their buy in? Absolutely, but it will take a lot of effort. If you go down this path, plan to do what it takes to get them on board.

So, sales methodologies can provide value to a sales force under the right conditions. Under the wrong conditions, such as needing a new topic for the annual sales meeting, it can be a huge money burning disaster. Choose wisely.

Bonfire Sacrifice 3x