It is a sales truism that we've been given two ears and one mouth and they should be used in roughly that proportion. This is the classical sales ratio - 2:1.
In recent years, there has been tremendous discussion and discovery around Sales as science, not art. I believe this to be true - at least in part. Sales is no longer a black box; a magical alchemy known only to the Sales illuminati.
(Take a look at HubSpot VP of Sales, Mark Roberge’s Scalable Predictable Sales & Marketing presentation for great perspective on metrics-based management)
The new sales ratio
Selling certainly isn't unknowable wizardry, but neither is it a chemical reaction.
That's why I'd like to suggest a new sales ratio. 1:1.
We've been given one brain and one heart. And they should be used in roughly that proportion.
A brief example
I'm lucky enough to have seen Jill Konrath present. Jill argues the case that buyers’ realities have changed (doing more with less, risk and change averse, using the web to self-educate) and this means our sales approaches must adapt.
Jill is trying help us change our behavior as sales people. To do that, she must first sell us on an idea: To access corporate Decision Makers, sellers need to radically change their approach.
So how does Jill do this?
Does she present data point after data point on the massive gains in efficiency per hour of the American worker over the past three decades? No. Does she reveal chart after chart on the explosion in volumes of email? No.
She shares a few, key (and memorable) data points to build her case, “it takes a prospect 2.7 seconds to decide whether to read your email or delete it” and then...
Having engaged our rational side, Jill turns to the emotional.
She gives a glimpse of what the buyer's life is like the moment before our call.
We learn not *that* our buyers are under tremendous pressure, but *how* that pressure presents in their daily lives. We are given a glimpse into their office: a revolving door of direct reports with wants & needs, new fires arising every minute, an impatient CEO demanding answers. Then *ring* *ring* - there we are “following up on that whitepaper download” and we'd really “love 5 minutes to introduce [them] to our company.”
Jill doesn't just tell us how busy/distracted/risk averse our buyers are. She shows us. She gives us empathy. In short, she goes after our brains & hearts in equal proportions.
Sales Leaders & the new ratio
Now, I would argue that the new sales ratio doesn’t just apply to the act of selling. It is even more critical to the act of Sales Management.
In his recent book What Matters Now, Gary Hamel, business strategy author & professor of London Business School, contrasts 'most companies' with Apple.
He presents the following:
Most companies: think like an engineer and feel like an accountant
Apple: think like an engineer and feel like an artist
I believe process & methodology are hugely important to sales success. So are forecast & pipeline reviews. But to really move the needle for their teams, Sales Leaders need to:
- Recruit & retain with fanatic passion
- Coach reps be to their best (think: siblings, not chess pieces)
- Drive new ways of solving problems on individual deals (aka mixing it up & innovating)
Sales Management, as with Sales itself, is both art and science. At its best, it’s about leading with the brain and heart in equal proportions.
Sales Leaders, get out from behind the dashboards and spreadsheets. Think like an engineer and feel like an artist.
Thanks for listening.