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Trust Me

I was very skeptical about it at first, when my wife proposed this solution. We adopted a German Shepherd and although he was just a puppy, we knew he would eventually grow into his bear-sized paws. This breed and the size that Bodhi (short for Bodhisattva) would eventually reach would be intimidating. For purposes of liability we would need to keep him safely within the confines of our yard. Our previous pets had enjoyed more freedom, which was my preference. My wife proposed an electronic fence, but I doubted that it would work. No mild shock was going to contain him if a pack of deer were to saunter past (a frequent probability for us). He would simply be incapable of not chasing after them.

Yet, it did work. A couple of zaps and he very much began to respect our expectations of confinement. The three deer that visited last night passed our yard unmolested and unconcerned about the wolf-like canine (they seemed to have learned about the invisible fence as well). Bodhi was relegated to only barking his displeasure regarding the close encounter with our wild neighbors.

Ironically, he no longer wears his collar. He does not require the electronic stimulus to remain within his scope of freedom. Bodhi’s demonstrated restraint, when faced with such a tempting attraction outside the fence, has firmly earned my trust. And my wife will be quick to point out that once again she was right.

This creative approach to fencing demands the presence of trust. You have to believe it is going to work because there is no visible means of containment. With that thought in my head, I started to ponder what invisible fences were containing me within their perimeters and how many proverbial collars I had around my neck. But, that got too frightening and I quickly distracted myself with work to avoid any more unpleasant thoughts.

At that point I remembered that I had just been through a somewhat related conversation about trust with one of my clients. This sales manager questioned my advice regarding her need to include the tracking of sales activities as a component of their sales process and within their CRM system. Her position was that it was unnecessary – she trusted her sales people to do the right things and did not need to look over their shoulders. The last thing she wants is for her sales force to feel threatened with the whole big brother dynamic. While I understand this completely, I disagree with the conclusion.

Was Wild

When we ask sales professionals to capture customer information we do this because we are interested in performance enhancement. We just need to take trust out of the equation. The act of tracking sales activities conducted with customers has a purpose that transcends the concept of trust. At the highest level we track activities to gain more intelligence. If we correlate activity against deal progression we can identify what activities drive opportunity closure with greater situational relevance. In other words, we help sales folks do the right thing with the right customer at the right time. No matter how smart your sales reps are, they are not smarter than the collective understanding we gain from the capture and analysis of customer data.

A second benefit is the value of collaboration that we enable by capturing customer activity in a central and searchable location. This is a fundamental requirement that creates the ability for each team member to know what is going on in the account - facilitating communication and reducing surprises - preventing things from falling through the proverbial cracks. We don’t choose to utilize activity tracking to support collaboration because we don’t trust our sales people to collaborate. Rather, we do this because it is a fundamental element of sales best practices and it enables collaboration. Centrally stored customer data drives better insight and reduces risk. Trust is irrelevant.

At the other end of the spectrum, we do need to drive the capture of sales activities with new teams or under-performing teams to better understand how to improve. This is a coaching matter. When you bring on a new sales professional you want to maximize your ability to guide them and assure they are assimilating into the role rapidly and correctly. If you have an underperforming rep one of the best ways to assure solid improvement coaching is to have a solid understanding of what is going on. Capturing sales activity is the central data required. Yet, this is performed to aid improvement, not out of a lack of trust. Again, trust is not the issue – we need data.

If I did not have an electronic fence at the perimeter of my property, I don’t think I could trust my shepherd to stay put every time his hoofed friends come visiting. He is, after all, a dog and it is about trust. We should not view the process of asking for customer data capture as a restraint. It is not meant to act as a boundary – it is meant to act as a springboard of knowledge.

So, don’t think you’re treating your sales team like contained pets if you ask them to keep a good record of their sales calls. You trust them, but you also need them to put in the correct effort to maximize your customer intelligence.

Now, back to that concept of those proverbial collars around our necks….

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