Monday, August 9, 2010

Conversations with Ray Taylor - a Sales 2.0 manager, a biker, a digital native Part II

As a Regional Sales Manager at Standard Register, Ray Taylor leverages Sales 2.0 tools and social media to give the best value proposition to his customers. He is a biker, a marathon runner, and a digital native. This conversation with Ray is the third in our series about learning, games, social media, crowd-sourcing, user-adoption and work performance.

... Continued from Part I

RD> Do you see more of a training need for how to maximize the use of a tool, or is there more need for training where you say, here is a bag full of tools, and teach them which tool to use when?
RT> There is a tactical part and strategic part in the training content. For example, Live Meeting: teach people how to use it and tailor sales presentations within Live Meeting. That is the tactical content. Then what you do with that becomes the strategic part, where peers or managers can deliver that training by sharing best practices. For example, on the fly, showing the ability to share an ROI tool with the client once and close the deal, without getting on the road to meet with the client. The sales reps who were with me then became inspired to try something similar.

It is very hard for training events to teach the strategic part. Not because they can’t do it but because it’s too much too fast. It’s about finding the coachable moment, one person at a time.

RD> I use the example about teaching phone etiquette as opposed to training sales reps to manage the interaction. Corporate trainers typically teach the phone etiquette. What do you think about the value of old methodologies in current times? Do think there is some time-invariance to the content?
RT> Exactly, and that’s where we need different ways to train. Having said that, there is one area where corporate trainers truly add value, and that is in creating a common language across the organization. This makes it faster to spread the cultural change as long as the content that they deliver are not restrictive. But, just as the shelf life of products is getting shorter and shorter, the same goes for training content; it cannot be sustained for long.

Our sales training can no longer be focused on products and services. We cannot be walking and talking brochures. Training content that can’t ??? stays the same forever. Trainers and managers who have failed to see that they, too, can innovate are not as valuable. It is like the analogy with colleges: a few years ago, a university banned its professors from putting their lectures on YouTube because that would make education free. A professor went against the policy and posted his riveting lecture on YouTube. It spread virally and actually brought in more college applications for that professor’s department. The University lifted the ban.

Corporate training as well needs to become more innovative and less protective. For example, trainers can embrace the blended model. Their survival doesn’t depend on the classroom-only model.

RD> Tell me about your findings regarding the blended model?
RT> The blended model makes perfect sense. The reps start to learn those minimum skills and common languages online, on their timeline, and then come prepared to the classroom. Classroom interactions are used for practicing and being creative under facilitation, but they move faster because the pre-work is done.

RD> Are you seeing more games being used in sales training?
RT> Not yet—none other than yours!

RD> Well, that’s good news for us. (Just kidding.)
RT> The games are a great way to address this. I have seen e-learning—a PowerPoint with multiple choices—but games are so much more interactive and competitive and fun.

RD> On social selling: what does it mean to you?
RT> Selling using social media is very powerful for lead generation. Before, sales was all about cold calls based on paid research. Now the rep can find good reasons to connect and determine the best timing for getting in front of the buyer. The better understanding of the information they gather from social media they have, the more likely they are to win the competition for the buyer’s time and attention. Social media really facilitates that discussion.

It helps grow the network for future calls. It is a great tool for maintaining the trusted advisor status. Social media allows you to communicate with someone the way they want to be communicated with. Social media has limited capability for the rest of the sales process in qualifying, understanding business needs, and negotiations. The face-to-face meeting is still the goal in many complex sales environments.

RD> What does Sales 2.0 mean to you?
RT> I think it is the second wave of using sales skills in the Internet era. Twenty years ago, to get information about someone’s products the buyer would call the sales rep in the local region and inquire. Now most people research before they reach out to sellers. The skills for salespeople have to be different now. I remember only a few years ago, I heard sales people saying, “Oh! I am not technology-oriented. I do not know how to turn on the computer.” They thought the prospect of using technology was funny. I would ask them if they realized that “what you just told the buyer is that you are stupid… you might want to stop doing that.”

Now, a similar thing happens when salespeople tell prospects, “I think Twitter is just a joke,” or “Facebook is for my kids.” I give them the same coaching: “Did you realize Facebook is a huge marketing initiative for this customer?”

Just as the customer is researching you on-line, they expect you to do your homework. You can no longer get appointments to just learn about the prospect’s business—they expect that you know about their business when you call, and that you can move quickly to how you can help them grow it.

Sales 2.0 fundamentally changed the idea of loading up the salespeople with product knowledge. Now salespeople have to know about the prospect’s company, their problems, their strategy.

At Standard Register, as part of our Lean Six Sigma initiative, we had the customers come to our sales leadership meetings—very different for us. One came to tell us that they wanted us to participate in their Six Sigma project, as we were part of their supply chain.

It is no longer about the typical qualifying closing questions: Are you ready to close? What information do you need to understand the ROI? Now it is more about: What is the problem you are facing? What solutions have you tried?

RD> For somebody taking up a new sales job, what advice would you give as to what they should do the first 60 days?
RT> Be social and be intellectually curious. Own your own career. It is less likely a company today will invest in you. One cannot rely on that any more. Find all the opportunities to learn and don’t sit there and wait for it to happen. Take the initiative.

RD> Thank you, Ray. It has been really interesting chatting with you.
RT> Let’s keep the conversation going.

Conversations with Ray Taylor - A sales 2.0 manager, a biker and a Digital native Part I

As a Regional Sales Manager at Standard Register, Ray Taylor leverages Sales 2.0 tools and social media to give the best value proposition to his customers. He is a biker, a marathon runner, and a digital native. This conversation with Ray is the third in our series about learning, games, social media, crowd-sourcing, user-adoption and work performance.

RD> My first question for you is, what games are you playing now?
RT> I am addicted to Angry Bird on my iPhone.

RD> How do you learn?
RT> I learn by first reading, then doing, and then teaching.

RD> What do you see as key issues in sales training these days?
RT> Historically, sales training is seen as another training, where everyone learns to perform a process the same way. It is designed to teach you to achieve results the way others achieved success before you. Managers talk about replicating success. However, training modules start off suggesting that you need to “be different” from others to succeed in sales. The training delivered by celebrity trainers eventually makes you “the same” -- very quickly and what seemed to differentiate you, begins to sound the same and will not help you attract prospects and customers any more. Training should deliver content to drive meaningful change.

Another issue is selection of sales associates. We must find people who have intellectual curiosity, the desire to do things differently. In a rapidly changing environment, training in change management will make them more successful than traditional sales training focused on product, cold calls or closing tactics. The intellectually curious will resist getting into a rut and will use any media available to get the results. They will generate their own leads and not wait for Corporate to give it to them. If I look at LinkedIn profiles of CFOs—supposing that they are my target—they are going to express different preferences. Traditional training teaches us to treat them all the same, even going as far as creating scripts to address their issues. In fact, they may not care about the same issue.

I have to learn how to tailor the message—that is the training new reps need. Training in my opinion should be more about what tools are out there, how to use them, examples of how someone used them, and then inspiring the reps to create their own path with some structured coaching. Even better, engage them with multiple types of media: games, YouTube, social media.

Case in point: Marketing these days sends interesting data to sales reps but we cannot just blast that information at all prospects. Trainers can teach the reps how to use the information, but then let sales reps be creative. Some will email the marketing collateral selectively at relevant times, others can leverage the content even more by writing it on their blog or by landing speaking engagements. Sales professionals need to be given the freedom to be creative and to understand better the meaning of the end goal.

RD> With social media and other technologies, I think that lead generation will become more of a sales rep job and marketing will focus more on brand marketing. How do you see that transition happening?
RT> I think it has converged. When I was starting out 20 years ago, Peter Drucker said something to the extent that good marketing will make sales jobs obsolete. That was scary, as I was just starting my sales career and hoping for a good long run. Luckily, he was wrong.

Technology, the Web , and globalization made marketing more difficult. They now manage so many channels, but with each channel having less power. Before you used to be able to tell people what your brand was—do three TV commercials on the big three networks and you were able to reach 95% of your buyers.

Executives in the C-Suite operating in this economy are banging the tables saying, “we cannot have another bad year.” They turn to marketing and ask, “What is your big idea to fix this?”

Traditional marketing folks are focused on campaigns to blast a million prospects to gets 500 customers. But they have to resist that temptation. Marketing has a smaller budget and has to do more with more interference for attention. They can’t tell the CEO, “I only have three people and I can’t get it done.” They have to crowd-source it. Give the sales team messages that can be delivered at the time that the information is relevant to a prospect’s growth strategy. The sales rep can participate in lead generation and qualification. If you can create a strong partnership between sales and marketing, you can be everywhere. Listening is first, use social media to find out where customers hang out and what they care about. Then your guidance—not your sales pitch, but your guidance—will be valuable. It will yield spectacular results.

RD> What do you think about the role of social media in B2B?
RT> Often it can be heard in the offices of larger business, “Well! In the B2B world this does not work.” But every business person is a person with interests and personality—so to embrace social media, a sales manager has to hire sales people with different aptitudes and develop them.

Drip leads as opposed to dumping leads. Use social media to be more effective. For example, at a company that sells to small businesses, we found a monthly source where we could get all the newly registered companies. So this huge list was given to the sales people and they said, “this list is not any good for me as there are no phone numbers.” They researched a few and gave up because the task seemed too daunting.

I uploaded the list and assigned a few leads each day, rep by rep. The leads were added to and guess what: there are hyperlinks to Google and LinkedIn to acquire phone numbers and company information. The sales people have to have different skills, and managers have to develop different processes.

RD> Why can’t sales people fault the marketing?
RT> Sales people can get blinded by the shiny new technology and expect instant results. You can still knock on the door and pick up the phone and ask. You can use social media. There is just no one way to serve up customers ready to buy without investing some effort and trying more than one strategy. It comes back to that intellectually curious person who will not fall into the rut. Hire for that and train them to learn constantly. Trainers who love their methodology—and their acronyms for do this first, this second and that third—are obsolete.

RD> I agree. We tell people that PAKRA is a philosophy-agnostic learning company; the training methodology is your problem.
RT> Right. Any methodology is good for teaching the minimum skills. If you have inexperienced people you need to give then the basic skills, and most training programs are very good at that. But after that, teach them creativity and reward them for achieving results rather than tracking their compliance with a sales process.

Continued .. Part II