In June of 2021, I retired from Microchip Technology Inc. Having worked in the semiconductor industry for more than 50 years and at Microchip for 32+ years, it was a delight to turn over the leadership of that wonderful team of Client Engagement professionals to a great group of friends and colleagues. Microchip has set the benchmark of excellence in the world of serving others, serving more than 125,000 clients in hundreds of different countries all around the globe. It was a thing of beauty and a well-proven and highly successful (~$40B market cap) model that very few others could emulate. We will dig into WHY, and how that stands today.
In the beginning… the concept of a blog was not common. Consistent, regular, communication with a global team was critical and it became even more critical as the complex years unfolded. For as long as recollection unfolds there was a weekly email sent out, penned by me, to our global team. That number grew from a few hundred people early on to nearly 2000 toward the latter years. The topics were varied, and most generally aimed squarely at how to help those we serve achieve their very specific objectives. Servant “selling, although not labeled” was alive and being deployed to do good things. And we did, and our metrics of revenue, retention, growth, and profitability could not be matched.
Over hundreds of blogs written and published (still up at mitchlittle.com) the approach taken was positive and directly aimed at how to DO the right things that would MAKE A DIFFERENCE to those around you. I chose to not talk about what NOT to do. That was then, this is now, and the world needs to be grabbed by the scruff of its neck and shaken until it gets its act together…. A lot of shaking is needed for this one!
So the premise of this blog is different from what I would have written a couple of years ago, because I am about to grab hold and shake the living daylights out of you, to be best of my virtual ability!
The title of this piece of work is…..
STOP BEING STUPID!!!
Frankly, at this point in my life, I could care less who might be offended by writing what will be written here! What you will hear from me is the truth, you will know it is true, and yet still you will act in another way that does not match your knowledge. Shame on you… It is understandable why this happens, and it’s a compensation discussion, so while you will be forgiven the slip, the ask will be made one last time for you to act into goodness, not into playing a part in the death of the “salesman”. Right now, as salespeople, you are aiming at total obsolescence and obscurity. Don’t believe me, ask CHATGPT… that should scare the pants off of you.
STOP BEING STUPID... There is no implication here that you ARE stupid, quite the opposite, you are obviously quite bright to survive the roles that you have in a time like now. What IS being said is that you ARE ACTING STUPID, you are BEING stupid… get your head out of the dark place that is it buried in and pay attention.
STOP BEING STUPID!
Let’s look at DATA that will tell the story. If you have been along with me in my journey, or listened carefully to Dave Brock as he echoed the same data points, this will not seem new to you. Otherwise pay attention as the data below is absolutely correct and is verifiable in a dozen different ways… check my published blogs from 2021 to see even more than what I show below.
STOP BEING STUPID!!! They will listen to you if you GIVE THEM something of value that matters to them. Learn how to Make A Difference in ways that matter to them. If you ask well enough they will actually tell you how…..
The start of customer journey actually has to start with the creation/delivery/and absorption of valuable thinking on your part. With today’s mass email activity being done with the supposed belief that eventually someone will open one up and will respond to the total b.s. dribble that your campaign machines are spitting out.
STOP BEING STUPID!!!! Today’s data shows that it takes 1200-1300 outbound email attempts to get ONE opened. That number is morphing quickly and will soon reach 3-4000 attempts… to get ONE “opening”. The numbers go further bad from here as it again takes an untold number of “opens” to get ONE response… YOU KNOW THIS IS NOT WORKING AS YOU DO NOT OPEN THIS JUNK YOURSELF!!!!
STOP BEING STUPID!!!
You CAN change what you do here and get very focused on doing the research needed to understand a specific client company and the individuals involved and actually create communications that will work. IT NEEDS MASSIVE SPECIFICITY!! But sadly the systems and leaders around us are bought into the paradigm of endless useless bombardment of the masses of people with junk that would not motivate anyone to do anything other than DELETE DELETE!
STOP BEING STUPID!!!! You know what to do. Understand your target client, all of its business, and its people… get specific in your actions. Don’t push the stupid send button one more time.
We know that this “new way” of mass outreach is useless, but the powers around us are locked into the data mining, and AI creation of content, and are quickly making a point that the people involved in serving the client are of NO VALUE! Why, because that is how you are acting as the sheep are led to slaughter. It’s not even really intentional. It is just a dynamic of the lack of caring mode that the world is working within. Empathy is for the most part dead and marketing and sales leadership are marching you down the trail, missing quotas (60% of salespeople are missing their “quota”) which is a sucky concept even at its best.
STOP BEING STUPID and being led over the cliff!
Turnover rates of the sales team have skyrocketed. More than 75% of all salespeople on a team will be gone within 12 months. The entire sales team, leadership, and all will be gone in 18 months.
And the leadership in B2B companies all know this! They count on it to keep the team “fresh”. RIGHT!
STOP BEING STUPID….you are being played.
Some teams out there in the world get this… a bit. I have to believe. But the leadership in corporations simply don’t have empathy for their teams NOR the people that they serve.
AND doing the right thing absolutely starts with CARING and EMPATHY.
You CAN STOP BEING STUPID!!!!
It takes guts to stand up for those you serve and do the right things for the right reason. It might put you in the 60% out-the-door group… but oh well, in all likelihood, you will be there if you DON’T stand up and take a solid position for serving others because you CARE and that is how you would like to be treated as well.
So here again I close with….
SERVE endlessly, with
Need a primer on that last piece… go to mitchlittle@com
OK… as my Dad would have said. “LETS ROLL”!
Ok…. This one may be painful! So, be it. I love the people in the world of “sales” and you all seriously need some HELP!
YOU are STUCK! Deeply, completely, seriously… STUCK in the mud!!! Spinning your wheels with all of your might, giving it more and more throttle, praying that THIS time it will all work and you will magically find your way out of the mud you are wallowing in.
You know this to be true. The data that we have shared REPEATEDLY tells us we are in TROUBLE! Turnover in B2B sales individual contributors is about 50% inside of 11 months. Entire teams are gone within 2 years including the line and most mid-level management. Now more than 75% of YOUR clients clearly state that they want ZERO participation from an external salesperson in their decision-making process.
We know… “you’re different!”… maybe you are. OK! With the turnover rate as high as it is, the value-added capability of any of today’s salespeople is directly related to the amount of time that they have been “trained” at their current company. So how good can we be with an average of 6-10 months of training under our belts when we go face to face, or screen to screen, with that next client?
The clients have answered that directly and loudly… 75% of them have said “DO NOT CALL ON THEM”! Why, because there is ZERO value being added by nearly all of the salespeople that they have communicated with, so they DO NOT CALL ON THEM “Brush” is being used to cover EVERY salesperson that they experience. One size does fit all…because in this case, the reality is that probably 97% of those salespeople that the clients now consider “worthless” are stuck in a needs analysis, selling them something, an endless loop, that totally misses the value that they CAN provide if they were properly trained and actually did CARE!
YOU are STUCK!!! But we need more output(sales)!!! What the heck, let’s just put the throttle down to the floor and see what we get. Let’s just do MORE!!!
More leads, more calls, more appointments, more CRM input, more quotes, more deal reviews with management, MORE funnel…..yea, that must be good!! Keep the throttle to the floor. That result, however, will end up in a lot of smoke, more mud in places that you did not know even existed, and likely a motor that goes really QUIET after a REALLY big BANG!
WE DON’T NEED MORE…. WE NEED DIFFERENT AND BETTER!
Today our thinking somehow accepts a series of metrics that simply create nothing more than mediocrity and complacency. This morphs into a total avoidance of risk, which is actually the highest change motivator in clients if you will just engage with them in THEIR world.
Deal close rates are now OK as they drop into single digits. Only closing 3-4 % of your deals… just need MORE deals, right?
WRONG, need BETTER deals, and that can be done!
In the early days of industrial sales, the IBM team selling process was a dominant way of engaging with clients. Their management team took serious employment action with salespeople that had close rates of lower than 30%... 30% was a problem. Different times… I know!
But in today’s world of such low numbers being OK, we remove the drive to GROW. If we are to GROW we must change what we are doing today, or the results will simply look like today. If you are OK with NO growth, good luck. If not, then we must change what we think to change what we believe to get different results. AND WE CAN DO ALL OF THAT!
Most sales teams are saturated. Doing all that they can with all that they have and maybe adding a few resources… up until now. With an average close rate of, let's say 12%, to be very generous, you are very hard-pressed to grow that. Remember these are likely new pieces of business and only represent a small portion of your ongoing business stream. If you are aiming at GROWING you must grow existing and new business. In reality, you will need to triple your close rate to have ANY impact on your revenue stream 3%, 4 %, and 12% win rates won’t create growth. YOU NEED MORE!!!! Yep…. MORE. And you get that by changing what you are doing to get BETTER opportunities.
What would new skills would you need, what would you need to learn to double and triple your close rates with your current team? It is truly possible!
BETTER trumps MORE exponentially.
OK… so enough of the challenge. Here is your HOW, HOW do you create change in what you do that delivers BETTER? It is in your hands.
The link below is to a short video that Sharon-Drew Morgen and I recorded the other day. Give yourself a few minutes to listen curiously for THE answer to HOW do I make this change. She will touch on it, and guide you to her web site. Her site is a huge library of HOW.
Want to get UNSTUCK? Call Sharon-Drew (address her that way please) with your single biggest client challenge and ask her for help. You will find an amazing amount of specificity, action, creativity, and direct kindness!
This will take courage, strength, personal desire for excellence, and a willingness to make a difference WITH others around you in ways beyond selling, beyond your “stuff”. You will need to CARE about those you serve. If that is not in your belief system, that’s ok, you just need to ask for a tow truck to get your STUCK IN THE MUD ‘Jeep” out of the mess that it is in. If you are in AZ give me a call, my Rubicon is equipped for ANYTHING (photos available on request).
One last time perhaps…
OK…LET’S ROLL! The mud is hardening and we are stuck up to the axles…
Beyond thoughts…. Here is the reality, and the actions needed now!
Do you have the gumption to read the TRUTH, act on the TRUTH, and make a DIFFERENCE? Let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
I have known Sharon-Drew Morgen for quite a while. Her thinking has always been at the cutting edge of making a difference in many areas, including SELLING. Her summary of the challenges that are VERY REAL today in the selling world, is in the blog link below. Many of the thought leaders of today’s selling world have written deeply on this subject. Me too! This is the best work done on the challenge and the fix!!!
Sharon-Drew’s perspective on the problems caused by doing what has always been done is deadly accurate. In this case, she has also provided actionable plans on how to correct the issues that you all face daily.
It is MY deeply founded belief that one of the most impactful causations of sales team failure in today’s teams is the compensation system that is widely used to manipulate the sales team. My position on that soapbox is pretty clear by now. Enough said!
If you REALLY want to make a difference in how your clients are served, how your team thinks, what they believe, and the outcomes that REALLY matter….. read the blog! Only the brave will tackle making the changes needed to facilitate disruption. And only WITH disruption will we create change and make a difference with EVERYONE in our broad team.
OK, LET’S ROLL! Now, disruptively, differently, and make the world a better place!
p.s. and for those that are comfortable with where you are, and how you are doing, you are kidding yourself. In that complacency is the deadliest of blindness. If you are TODAY, not making big changes in how you do what you do, then you are already deeply behind the curve. While you believe that you’re clients are NOT the 75% saying that they would like to NOT have someone call on them, your team will be lumped into the masses that prove this point and in general, will be shunned and pushed back on. Get it together now and build the process that will make your clients call out for your team as they become the only trusted advisors on the client’s list. Anything less is just order-taking!
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.
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.
Innovate the THINKING…
…to be DIFFERENT!
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…
Innovate the THINKING…
…to be DIFFERENT!