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Where’s The Beef?

July 01, 2010 0 Comments Rants by Jack Dean

Business executives are talking … not necessarily with sales professionals, but about them.  They’ve sat through sufficient meetings, briefings, presentations, and “interviews” to form an opinion, a generalization, a characterization.  They’ve been conditioned by the repetition of hundreds, possibly thousands of selling situations – by what sales professionals say (and don’t say), in how they act (or don’t act), and in their level (or not) of preparation and interest.

Sales professionals have been branded.  Business executives have formed an opinion and it’s not so flattering.  They aren’t expecting perfection or expertise, but something is missing.  Where’s the perspective, the context, the critical thinking?  Where’s the financial value?  Where’s the beef?

It’s a bad rap, sometimes undeserved, but most of the time aptly earned.  It’s common knowledge amongst business executives that sales professionals lack the financial, not to mention business acumen, to sustain dialogues.  Instead, cue the soliloquy, they choose to talk about themselves.  And when that act is over, they not so subtly introduce the subject of PAIN – not their pain, the executive’s pain.  What keeps you up at night? (First thought, my kids.)  Profit margins are declining, that must hurt?  (Not really, we’re driving for market share in our stage of development.)  If you had to do it over again and budgets weren’t a constraint, how would you do it?  (Budget is a constraint, you’re being naïve.)

Perhaps sales professionals are taught to go negative and dwell on pain.  Perhaps they’re incented to sell that way.  Perhaps that shtick works in lower levels in the organization.  Perhaps they’re having a bad day.

What business executives do know is the pressure to perform, financially, is immense.  OpEx and CapEx are being scrutinized like never before.  Capital is scarce and being carefully horded and selectively allocated.  Fixed costs, the worst kind, are being transitioned to variable.  Free cash flow, a performance metric not well understood by sales professionals, is king, queen, and royal family.  Revenue growth is paramount.  Avoiding (beyond simply cutting) costs are essential.  And, teasing economic value from the balance sheet is a dirty little secret.  To business executives, now there’s the beef.

And sales professionals wonder why business executives don’t make time for them.  Why they don’t “sponsor” them more often.  Why they purposely construct gatekeepers (mean ones).  Why they don’t respond to the incessant phone calls, voice mails, emails, and generic mailings.  Why they don’t show up anymore at “executive” briefings and marketing sponsored events.  Why generic value propositions and elevator pitches, full of waste words like ‘productivity’, ‘efficiency’, and ‘effectiveness’, fall on deaf ears.  Why success stories don’t resonate.

It’s common knowledge that we’re entering a new era, globally, where survival of the fittest (or as modern biologists prefer to say, a period of ‘natural selection’) will aptly apply to the existence of both – business executives and sales professionals.  Both constituencies will need to adapt to survive.  Both will need new skills, the right skills, probably harder skills to prosper.  Now there is some common ground on which to build a relationship.

My interest in the subject of selling financial value is not a hobby, it’s a profession.  My perspectives are from the buy-side, not the sell-side.  My desire to help sales professionals is genuine.  And my commitment to you in coming posts is to shoot straight, stay real, provide insights and never forget the reader WIIFM.  Your comments, all of them, are encouraged and welcomed.

Where’s the financial value?  Stay tuned.