Choosing Your Sponsor Wisely for Sales Success

Choosing your sponsor wisely is even more important than I thought.

After 20+ years in the field I didn't expect to be surprised by anything in sales and project management. Peter Taylor's The Lazy Project Manager (not an affiliate link) has changed that.

The opening chapters of Peter's book have impressed upon me the significance of choosing your sponsor with care.

The question is not: "Can I make the sale?" It's: "How can I rig the game for success once we've made the sale?"

If you're a Hit And Run-type salesperson, I've probably lost you. But you'll find out quickly enough... throwing the ball down the field to the implementation team, without having set up the conditions for success, is a game plan for failure. The project team in charge of installing the solution may well improvise their way to a win but you sure have made it hard for them.

For those who care that what you sold is what gets delivered... Peter Taylor has described this key strategic element of the sale and execution in a way I haven't seen done before.

choosing your sponsor sales project management design
(Image by rawpixel from Pixabay)

The Impact Of Choosing Your Sponsor With Care

Whether we're in an academic setting and finding the right sponsor for our smallsat development project...

...or seeking the "buyer behind the buyer" who is the real executive customer up the food chain...

...having the right sponsor in place means the difference between having the support we need to achieve change -- or the unpleasant discovery that the project is doomed to fail (check out those percentages) because it lacks both intent and resources.

I spent most of 2016 working with a change management expert who only dealt with tech firms of 1000+ staff.

I saw how important getting the right sponsor in place was then, but my eyes and brain were focused more on operational issues of managing change. Looking back, he did a good job of what Peter Taylor recommends... and the results of his projects testified to his deliberate efforts up front.

Go get Peter's book. It'll chance the way you view sales as well as project management, and your success rates will rise if you implement his recommendations.

>> Jason Kanigan is a business strategist. Book a time to talk with Jason about your situation by clicking here. <<


Change Management And The Unexpected

Change Management is a field of study that has been around for over sixty years. Yet most people outside of corporate executive roles at large companies have never heard of it.

Managing change is hard. Let's get that point out of the way right now. This is why government is so easy to screw up: you're involving and affecting a lot of people, and in most cases the decision makers don't even know what they're deciding. Not completely. There are always unintended consequences.

change management unexpected consequences angry customer

Let me give you an example from the corporate world. We'll do this through a peek into a late night conversation with a European client.

Change Management And Unintended Consequences

Imagine we have an old school financial firm that is making the jump to having its data online.

Until now, customers have received paper statements mailed at the end of the month. If they see a potential issue, they call customer service.

Customer service reps haven't had instant access to the data, either; and even if they did, they get a time gap here.

"Thanks for your call," they've been saying to the customer; "We'll look into this and get back to you."

And they do. They are good problem solvers. Look at the tone of the interaction: polite, a response to a friendly inquiry, with time to figure it out.

Now the company is moving to a self-service model. The data is going online, and customers have access to their up-to-date account information. Some customer service reps have been reassigned or let go. What happens next?

The customer sees the same data the rep does. They observe what they believe is a problem, and it's their money we're talking about here. They get mad!

Now they call customer service, and their tone is different than before the change. They're upset! And does the customer service rep have the time to dig into the problem and figure out what to do, like they used to? No!

They're expected to have an instant solution.

This is completely unexpected, both to the front line reps and the executives in charge of managing the change.

The surviving customer service reps may not even fully understand what is going on. "We got hit with all these upset customer calls!" they say. Some may even leave—why should they put up with the abuse?

The fact is the customer service reps need an entirely different skill set because of the change in tone resulting from the instant access to information brought on by the well-meaning change.

The tone of the calls has changed from inquiry to confrontation.

More training on "the system" is not what will help here, yet that is what many managers would prescribe.

Are you starting to see the challenge with making change?

Why it's so easy to make mistakes when making change?

How Experienced Suppliers Can Help With Client Change Management Initiatives

This is precisely the situation where an experienced solution provider can step in with their experience. If the customer allows them, they can share the benefit of their experience. "We've been through this twenty times," the supplier can tell the customer, who is going through it their first and perhaps only time. "Let us tell you about typical issues we've encountered."

Contrast with the Gung-Ho, "We're Perfect" sales approach of most pushy solution providers.

Will the mature and helpful supplier catch every possible thing that could go wrong with a change initiative? Of course not. The map is not the territory. But they can advise the customer, and get the customer into the mindset that the unexpected will be encountered.

How can you apply this mindset in your own organization?

>> Jason Kanigan is a business strategist. To book a call to discuss Change Management initiatives in your firm, click here. <<


What If Sales Training Doesn’t Work? And I Asked for It?

What if sales training doesn't work - Richard RuffWhat if sales training doesn't work? And you advocated it?
"Is Advocating Sales Training a Career Risk?" asked sales training program developer Richard Ruff a few days back. His answer--"No!", qualified with an advisement that sales training effectiveness studies are not going to be found in the cause and effect ROI format. Sales is a social science, not a physical science.

Ruff's experience extends to such companies as UPS, Smith & Nephew, GE, Boston Scientific, Xerox, and Canon USA. So he knows what a successful sales training program takes. But do the client companies? Interestingly, Ruff reports that 43.5% of sales training customers in a study said the program didn't meet their expectations. This stat makes me wonder how well expectations were managed!

What If Sales Training Does Work?

But first, in the cases where the training was welcomed and adopted, what happened?

Firms saying that their sales training "exceeded expectations also reported both lower competitive loses and less loses to “no decision” as compared to the other two groups"...those "that exceed expectations enjoy a higher percentage of salespeople achieving quota, higher percentage of deals won, and lower sales rep turnover.”

When we monetize these results over time, it's clear that effective sales training is an excellent investment.

And not the least of those results is having you and your sales staff know where you are in the sales process. I've stopped counting the number of companies I talk to sales leaders of who have no idea why they won one order but lost another. Or think it's all about price. Totally lost.

What If Sales Training Doesn't Work

A major issue about the success or failure of any sales training program is the attitude of the trainees. If they are unwilling to adopt the new process, possibly because they feel it was forced upon them from on high, they won't use the methodology. Trainers and their clients need to be aware of change management techniques to guide a smooth transition.

An ES Research study reports between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. And my response to this stat is, "Wait a minute here. You expected a seminar-type training format to give permanent results?!" You need ongoing reinforcement of technique for sales training to be effective. It simply is not a one-time thing.

I have to question why many people seem to believe that sales training is like a some sort of innoculation. As if you get it once, and you're good for many years. No! Would you expect this to be the case for learning how to be a chef? For a horse to learn how to be a racehorse? For an Olympian to train and participate at the Games? For a painter to become a master? Ask the question of What if sales training doesn't work in the context of these other situations, and see just how silly it sounds.

And so we arrive at the core issues of why sales training fails. No commitment. No adoption. Poorly managed expectations.

As an Operations Management guy, I know all about managing change. It's one of the toughest things to do. People want to go back into their old comfort zones. And if you don't have a corrective mechanism--ongoing reinforcement--to bring that person back to the correct use of the new technique, the training is worthless after a short while as the ES study shows. So if you're going to get sales training, or advocate it, make sure everyone involved is committed. That they are ready to adopt the new methodology. That expectations are being correctly managed. Or else it is going to be a trainwreck.

>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer based in Wilmington, NC. Was this article helpful to you? Please Like, Share or Comment to let others know! <<