Death of a Salesman

Old thoughts become new thoughts for your consideration.

The “Death of a Salesman” is back… perhaps in more ways than one. 

 This past October, Arthur Miller’s incredible play, Death of a Salesman returned to Broadway.

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 stage play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances. It is a two-act tragedy set in late 1940s Brooklyn told through a montage of memories, dreams, and arguments of the protagonist Willy Loman, a traveling salesman who is disappointed with his life, and appears to be slipping into senility. The play contains a variety of themes, such as the American Dream, the anatomy of truth, and infidelity. It won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. It is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.  

Check out the 1985 made for TV movie version starring Dustin Hoffman. It’s well worth the time spent, especially considering the aspect that might just apply below….

Over the last many years, this play title has been referred to with respect to the actual job we all refer to as “selling”.  Much conjecture has been offered up, from many folks much brighter than me that this playwright's fate may be where this role is headed.  Up until now, I would have argued to dispel those ideas.  Up until NOW!!!

That phrase is a cornerstone to “change”.   Offered up as a perspective of what HAS been true, it is followed up with the “from NOW on” statement of the new norm.

Let’s explore this from a data perspective, rather than an emotional one, reach a conclusion and see what it all might tell us.

Before Covid (perhaps now the new BC) the data about clients wanting to have salespeople actually call on them was already daunting.  Just 3 years ago all of the DATA that had been gathered by a key group of research bodies was telling us that 43% of the B2B buyers would prefer to NOT have a salesperson personally call on them.  That was their preference….no interaction.  That was a HUGE signal that the world was changing, and for the most part, we all chose to ignore that DATA.  We were certain that we were different and our clients were different…so we believed.

Well, along comes Covid and changed EVERYTHING!  Actually more like just sped things up that were already in motion and evolving.

There is a lot to be said about all of the elements affected, but let’s focus on what our clients WANT, or don’t want.  

In the middle of it all, data surfaced that the 43% had shifted again and that around 54% of those same B2B clients now preferred to NOT have a salesperson involved in their purchasing decision…..THEIR choice.

Coming out of the fog a little and into this mid this year, those same sources of data now tell us that 71% of our dear clients do NOT want any sort of assistance from us in making their purchasing decisions!  THEIR choice; do NOT involve us.  Just data.  THIS IS BEYOND CRITICAL!

The extrapolation of this curve implies that in another very few months that percentage will top out at something unimaginable.  Leaving some folks still scratching their heads and not doing anything DIFFERENT to reverse this very real trend. It likely will be the same folks still working on how to get back to the good old days…BC.

Willy Lowman, our traveling salesman from the play, is singing a very dreary ballad about now, contemplating dire actions.  

But that is drama, life has options, and we MUST make a difference!

So let’s understand WHY this is happening.  It’s really not too difficult to understand, we just need to look at how WE all make our personal purchasing decisions today and apply that reality.  Think about how you “BUY” and that is the mandate that we have from our clients.

The harsh reality is that for the majority of B2B transactions our sales teams provide NOTHING that the client values.  

NOTHING!  NOTHING!  

We argue that our teams provide significant product data, information, use cases, testimonials, research…all about OUR stuff.  It must be of value, we believe it is.  

Well, regardless of how WE value what we deliver to our clients, they are telling us very loud and very clearly that they do NOT value ANY of what we throw at them.  THEY don’t want us involved, THEY don’t need us involved….if you are going to keep doing what you have always done.

Don’t go making corner cases about how you are different and how your situation is unique.  

Don’t believe the data.  Go ask your clients directly.  NO b.s. questionnaire.  Go call 30 of your current clients and have a really candid discussion about just what the “normal” salesperson brings to the party.  See what they would like to have a salesperson really deliver.  The difference will shock you if you are open to change.

That’s the reality and the trend.  The root cause is our own doing.

The WHY of it all is the fact that the turnover rate of our sales teams and their leadership is so high that NO company can get beyond the very most basic level of “product stuff knowledge” before those teams have come and gone.  And in that time, there is no way that they can develop client engagement skills in their team that is needed for the creation of real client-acknowledged value.

Turnover rates of ~50%, tenure times of ~18 months, and total leadership turnover in less than 3 years, all make for an inability to convey complex learning that would actually provide value to a client if learned and shared. 

And sadly the complex messages that would resonate well with a client are not in general even being prepared by ‘those who know” what’s different.

The deeper causation of turnover is the elephant in the room.  Compensation.  And it’s not the dollar amount that’s the problem.  It’s the highly manipulative systems of bogus quotas and corporate-only based objectives driving commission that kills the entire client engagement process that CAN be changed to do good!  Significant corporate entities have stepped up and made the change.  You can too!

Your choice, ignore the data (it does not apply to your case), accept a 50% turnover rate in your sales team as just the new norm, create mediocrity at best, or step up and lead a charge to make a difference.  Bold, difficult, brave…yep!  

We are here to help you make a difference.  Let me know how I can assist you.

Think DIFFERENT!

Think INNOVATION!

Innovate the THINKING…

…to be DIFFERENT!

Mitch

Here is a critically updated DATA set for your SERIOUS consideration!

Turnover in B2B sales teams, pre covid,  on average, was over 34% per year!!!  That is data that has been confirmed and verified.  The implications of that fact and what it causes are huge and extremely negative,  and yet as a professional body of leaders and individual contributors we blindly accept that as somehow “normal”.  That level of turnover kills all hope that an organization has to make a difference for those they serve.  On top of that rate of loss, the average length of time that a salesperson stays on the job before moving on was less than 18 months—no time to truly onboard anyone, not even remotely possible in any level of complex sales environment.  Find them, hire them, teach them about your “stuff” and they are out the door.  How is that even remotely acceptable?  It’s not, yet it continues.  

Current data sets from 400 sales leaders show that they are experiencing a 58% higher turnover rate in 2021 than the prior year and the data on 2022 will likely grow from there.  And the tenure time is now something more like 15 months.  THIS HAS TO CHANGE!

And you all know it, see it, feel it, and live it daily!  This is not acceptable!  It does not matter what the absolute data shows.  The causation is consistent and the outcomes are absolutely predictable and left to their own.  AND it is in our power to alter the outcomes by changing the process!

Further data points show that technology and software companies have it even worse with 67% more salespeople leaving than in other companies.  The “work from anywhere” concept has its challenges, especially as most corporate management teams are “hoping” that will just be a “phase”.  And it is simply adding fuel to the turnover fire as the causation feeds the negatives.

Now, as in the past, the number one reason for salespeople moving to greener pastures is compensation.  Not simply the dollar level, but driven more by the extremely manipulative, demotivating, not understandable, ever-changing, game played by corporate management, called quotas and commission. Having written on the POISON KNOWN AS COMMISSION before I won’t dig in deeply to all of that data, but just to reiterate… Quotas and Commissions are the single biggest root cause of dysfunctional sales efforts by good, caring, hard-working teams.  I don’t care what “sales tool stack” you have or what process you use, if your compensation is focused on quotas and commissions, you are doomed to mediocrity.  

In this new age of work-life balance, corporate values, culture, and inclusion, everyone is stuck into a commission model because “they always have been”, or everyone “knows” that salespeople are “coin-operated”….desperately need to step back and look at the real picture and see what really great teams are creating as they serve those that they choose to serve. 

Quotas and commissions need to go away!  They are the oldest thinking of all.  They are the biggest impediment to helping others make a difference, and until you get to that acceptance you will be stuck in the “mud”, spinning your wheels, going nowhere quickly.

Shifting to a values-based compensation system, non-commissioned is easily doable.   Been there and helped a lot of great companies in that shift.  It takes hard work, which is the biggest challenge.  You will need true leadership, not managers, doing a LOT of true coaching.  It will not cost the company more, and in fact, with the inclusion of current turnover rates as a baseline you will find the cost to shift will save money, amongst all of the other attributes that it delivers.  My personal data from my own past across a global team of 1700 client engagement professionals at the multi-billion dollar revenue level had a turnover rate of 3%, not 35% or higher now… 3%.  It’s real, it’s doable and you owe this level of excellence to your teams and your corporation.

Got enough courage to help those that you lead?  Stand up for what is RIGHT!  Non-commissioned sales teams are the RIGHT thing…. NOW more than ever!!!  The time for making this change is perfect right now.  Reach out if you would like to dig in and understand more.  You will find a lot of resources at your disposal to help.

Having shifted last week into innovation mode, I have changed my sign-off to this blog.  It will now be…

Think DIFFERENT!

Think INNOVATION!

Innovate the THINKING…

…to be DIFFERENT!

Mitch

Thoughts for your consideration… Old thoughts demanding renewed action TODAY!!!

Let’s see if we can get unstuck….. out of that BOX that most folks find themselves glued inside of!  It’s killing you as you put out fires all day.

A privilege exists for me now, as I am linked to just my own perspectives and in sync with a few of the innovative thinkers in our space known as “selling”.  That privilege is the ability to interact with a very wide client base both inside and outside of the technology arena.  It is eye-opening to see firsthand the absolute sameness that exists and the “selling” battles that EVERYONE has, regardless of size, market, nationality, or even political nature.  We are ALL facing the biggest challenge ever. 

DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAT MATTER TO THOSE WE SERVE!

As the world churns today, supply chains are still a mess, in every industry.  If you think semiconductors are hard to get, try finding plastic to make dashboards out of.  Cardboard boxes are a pain to find like “you used to use”. Compromise is the KEY word in getting all that you need to keep a manufacturing line up and running, although probably at a reduced capacity.  

Most people are just plain delighted to get back to as close to where we came from as they possibly can.  And that includes the entire selling structure.  We will accept a mixed mode work-from-home/office structure because we are told we should, and compromise our certainty that those that execute have a clearer understanding of reality than those that only manage. (last blog.. summary).

And the saddest thing of all is that in this time where serving with a difference is HUGELY impactful, about 95% of the clients that I talk to nowadays are quickly running BACKWARDS into “productville”.  Web sites that once had a flavor of client-focused awareness have become great product sites of OLD.  Some are spinning up “solution selling” as if it were new and unique.  While in fact, it is old and ineffective today.  But we are comfortable with it, so that makes it OK.  We are all most comfortable in our well-worn pajamas and old slippers…. I have mine too, I get it!  It’s just NOT that time to slide backward.  There is a missing element that needs a renewed flame of inspiration and restatement.

Our business savior from “death by sameness” is not a new term, but a relook at how to best create….

INNOVATION!

And this is NOT about innovative products, as there really is no such thing these days.  Heck even a really brand new, never been seen ever, absolutely killer product…. Takes about a week to clone from hundreds of different entities worldwide.  

New products do not really make a difference!  

However, new ideas can change the world!

The following quote comes from many different sources in various forms… here is my iteration!

It is NOT what we sell…. It IS what we DO… that makes an acknowledged difference with our clients and all those that we choose to serve.

It is NOT what we sell…. It IS what we DO… that matters!

The world’s products are all great, wonderful, meaningful, effective things of beauty to US.  In reality, the differentiation in the minds of our clients between what WE sell, and what our COMPETITOR sells, is not significant enough to be seen and realized by our clients, if in fact there even is any at all in any case.  

We make a difference with our clients when we help them see their world and THEIR own client’s world in new and different ways that enable them to gain perspectives that they did not have before.  This enables our clients to serve their clients in ways that they had not considered before.  

Products are good, and technology is great.  We make a DIFFERENCE with our clients in ways that no one else will when we engage with our clients in INNOVATIVE THINKING.  

INNOVATIVE THINKING does NOT require new innovative products or technology.  It is NOT about the products!  It is totally about the great 2-way conversations that you create, build, test, revise, plan for, and execute with your clients.  

INNOVATIVE THINKING is the challenge that we all face as we wind our way out of the malaise that is the “old” come back to life… think Zombie movies “Night of the Living Dead (1968)”.

INNOVATIVE THINKING requires all of the tenants of CUSP

INNOVATIVE THINKING can also be the catalyst to really old and ineffective practices like quotas and commissions as the time to implementation of client-created ideas in this vein can actually be a fraction of the time they would spend on creating and launching a new(?) product idea.  Much faster return on EVERYONE'S behalf.

This old idea, reborn, is easy to grasp.  It may need help from others like Dave Brock, Brent Adamson, or myself, to fine-tune and help you create. I suspect you will see both respond to this blog, so feel free to grab any of us by the virtual neck and get some time and attention.

OK, LET’S ROLL!   On to INNOVATION!

It’s a difference-maker!

Mitch

Thoughts for your consideration…. 

Leadership or management….. and the issue of Work from WHERE?

Office or Home… is that the real question?  Where to work, is important.  Why work is MORE important.  Let’s tackle all aspects of this.  From my perspective and in MY opinion, of course.

 In this perspective, leadership is vital.  So what is the difference between the two styles of guiding people?  Lots of specifics can be called out that make a difference in whether you are working for, or functioning as, a leader or a manager.  Isolating one of them for this point of comparison may not be perfect, but will be practical. 

 Here is a view that is personal, may not be shared, and that is OK.  Valuing everyone’s opinion and viewpoint is what we are all about as a people.

 The distinction made here is that LEADING people is done from an enrollment mindset that establishes the values for all in the process, gains buy-in, and is in sync with functioning. Whereas MANAGING people is typically issuing directives, mandates, and “guidelines” that dictate the execution of people without many aims for true consensus.

 Neither style is ALWAYS, and sometimes we all must morph a bit in either direction. BUT the subject of WFH vs WFO, seems to be much more polarized.  Having moved outside of a single corporate environment has opened my eyes to multiple views not previously seen.  For the most part, big corporate entities are taking a management style of a directive to where they want their teams to participate in support of the corporate initiatives.  Some are very hard-nosed about “it’s time to come back to the office”. Others are seeming to offer a mixed mode of days in one place versus another, while still applying significant behind-the-scenes pressure to get everyone back “in the office”.  Others, with their numbers dwindling, are genuinely open to employee choice.

 It is very likely that corporate business is missing a chance of a lifetime to create a whole new wave of “lifetime employees”!  How would we do that?

 The underlying belief that has been voiced so often is that somehow critical corporate culture was created, grown, and enhanced by simply being under the same roof, surrounded by the same walls, and spending time in hallway and water cooler conversations.

 While it does not mean that those elements don’t have value, the harsh reality is that there are an untold number of poorly run companies that have terrible corporate values that share all the roof and wall concepts along with literal and virtual water coolers.  Roofs and walls do not make a great culture.  People and MANAGEMENT/LEADERSHIP make culture in every case, good or bad.  What is said is of value, what is DONE creates the truth.  Plaques and posters espousing values and culture do NOT make it come true.  You can post your guiding values and corporate culture wonderfulness on every wall and it will not matter if the “talk is not walked”.

 So, where does this take us?

 MY opinion is that we can get the best of all worlds if we enable them.  We have to create thinking that enables team growth, cultural enhancement, and personal expansion, REGARDLESS of where any of our team resides and works.  It takes creating different methods, different mindsets, and different thinking, INTENTIONALLY.  Intentionally created culture means just that.  Created on PURPOSE, with the enablement of each and every one of our team and their style and nature.

 Maximizing human engagement is not magical.  It needs CARING about the people.  It needs UNDERSTANDING of how to empower each person. It needs the commitment to SERVING all of those around us, ENDLESSLY.  All of that ON PURPOSE.

 We can set a new standard of excellence by focusing on why and how we enable our teams instead of where they do their “work”.

It is possible to counter every single negative element that is thrown against the wall about working from home…we just need to change our thinking…again, to change our beliefs, to change our outcomes.  It has been done, and the best in business will grasp this challenge and make a corporate ADVANTAGE out of it.  This is the greatest opportunity we have ever had to really affect inclusion!  Please don’t pass it up.

OK, LET’S ROLL!  Inclusively!

Mitch

Thoughts for your consideration…. 

My hardnosed thoughts on this subject!

As said before, needs to be said and internalized AGAIN and AGAIN by us ALL!

WORDS MATTER, EVERY WORD MATTERS, MORE THAN EVER!  

Choose your words carefully as they directly reflect your thoughts, which directly drive your outcomes!  All connected, no question, so pick wisely!

There are large-scale thoughts that affect what we do in many ways.  Good, bad, ugly, biased, right, wrong… all subjective.  ALL of our “doing” is driven by what we believe, and what we believe is crafted by how we think, and the words we use to express it all.

WORDS have the possibility to affect others beyond us deeply, for good or bad.  Even simple words can have a profound impact that we may not even fully understand.

You all have ingrained experiences when the cutting remark made by someone else hurt you deeply.  You also have those memories of words said that were kind and heartwarming and that helped pick you up and save the day.

Making a difference with those that we choose to serve is driven by the thoughts we have and the words we use, that create outcomes.  Pure and simple.   

It all starts with the choice you make about how you THINK about those we serve.  A lot of colorful words could come to mind here, but let’s simplify the thinking a bit and look at the two that matter the most.

CLIENT and CUSTOMER

What is the difference and why does it matter?

It has been said that this is just semantics, but it is NOT!

In life, in business, in all things, the words you choose to use have an impact, whether you believe it, see it, or not!  The implications of each word chosen make a difference!

In this case, the choice of “labels” will actually help you make a strategic choice about the level of relationship that you are willing to create with each person that you choose to serve.

Let’s dig into the differences.

A CUSTOMER is a person that buys goods or services from a business.  The relationship is mostly a transactional one. There is seldom any level of long-term connection between the parties.  Typical of this would be retail stores, banks, restaurants, amusement parks, and gas stations. Most engagement is limited in time and scope.

CLIENTS typically receive much more personalized attention, have access to a wider variety of support teams, and are most commonly thought of as the domain of such entities as a law firm, a design studio, an insurance agency, an accounting firm, or a real estate agency.  CLIENTs general buy advice and solutions.  You will find yourself in strategic long-term relationships with CLIENTs.  You will form teams to support CLIENTS.  You will involve leadership teams to serve CLIENTS.

You will have both CUSTOMERs and CLIENTs in your world.  You already know the difference.  It’s time to be intentional with what you do and who you do it with. 

You personally feel the difference in how you are treated by those that are looking to sell you something or serve your need. 

We are all best served when we choose to engage with CLIENTs on a high level of personalization and focus. 

Those that fail to recognize the difference in how we serve and think differently about it are simply not committed to the concept of serving.  They are still stuck in the world of selling.  If you are expecting to have different results than the rest of your competitors then you had best be working hard on how to serve the people that you have chosen to serve, in a different manner that is focused on THEM, not yourself and your corporate marching orders. The world’s products and technology are a commoditized battleground.

Everyone has great STUFF! 

What are you DOING to be different?

It starts with changing your thinking.

Elevate your thinking!

Choose to think about the PEOPLE that we serve as CLIENTS!

Customers are those folks that walk into a convenience store for a pack of gum.  ALL good…we all need them as well!  We have to create ways to serve everyone that we can with an appropriate level of resource that delivers what they need when they need it.

CLIENT Engagement Professionals are the difference makers in the B2B world and external focus and pure motivation are the keys to changing the world for the better of all!  Big task.  You are capable of doing it with the right THINKING!

Not sure, ask someone you serve which way they would prefer to be helped, as a CLIENT or a CUSTOMER!

Stand up for your CLIENTs, don’t let them get turned into CUSTOMERs.  There IS a big difference, go explore for yourself!

OK, LET’S ROLL!!

Mitch

p.s. I love being a CLIENT and being treated like one,  I know you do too!

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