Reading is hard. Make life easier. Write short.
By Brian Hays on January 13, 2014
Sales roles fall on a spectrum from the transactional to the consultative. On the transactional end, the salesperson processes many many deals. Their interactions with customers are limited; they explain options and make generic recommendations. Contrast that with the consultative end. Salespeople spend their time working with the customer, seeking first to understand their problem and then to find or create the best solution for that unique situation.
Transactional sales positions are quickly being replaced with technology. Customers can self serve, learn all about the options and refer to recommendation engines. Consultative sales, however, is less likely to go away. Human intelligence and empathy is needed to tease out the customer’s core issue/problem, separate priority from noise.
If you’re in sales or managing sales, consider your product and the characteristics of your sales. If your time is being taken up by transactional sales, consider introducing new processes to automate those sales, freeing you up to pursue the more complex and often more rewarding consultative sales.
By Brian Hays on January 12, 2014
Business plans suck because they’re static. When they’re written, a business is just an idea.
These documents are forward looking, and unless you’re psychic, talking about the future requires assumptions. And, assumptions are always wrong. Once the manager starts working the business plan she will replace her assumptions with experience. At the first wrong assumption, the plan is outdated, yet it stays the same.
There is another option. A working business plan. It’s a living document that’s regularly revised as new information comes available. Strategy and tactics are reviewed and changed as needed. Unlike static plans, it wis referred to often. It’s a document with a bias towards action, designed to get work done.
By Brian Hays on January 11, 2014
Kurt Vonnegut’s famous advice to writers to pity the reader is a lesson valuable in business too. Reading is hard. Do everything you can to minimize the strain of reading by keeping words short and sentences simple.
Businesses can apply this advice in writing certainly–business writing sucks, certainly. It can also apply to customer interactions. In short, make the interaction easy on the customer. Navigating product options and finance options and choosing colors can drown a prospect in choice. The harder it is, the fewer customers will complete the process. Make it easy.
By Brian Hays on January 10, 2014
Sales is a great channel. When done right the customer gets a personalized pitch. A good salesperson listens and presents a relevant product, focusing on important benefits and skipping the rest.
Traditional marketing has no way of doing this. It’s not one to one communication; it’s one to many. Marketing has no choice but to come up with a style and message that works pretty well for the largest chunk of their target market. It’s just the nature of their role and the limitation of technology.
Imagine, though, that a digital marketing manager could write an email and have it show up in each customer’s inbox personalized. Each email would have a different message and tone designed to appeal to the unique needs and personality of that customer. The benefit to the organization and customer would be tremendous. The organization would get higher conversion, the customer would get a relevant message about only the things he/she finds important. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the technology to create humanity on a large scale.
The ability to tailor a company’s message to one unqiue customer and do so over and over is unique to sales. Marketing can only wish it could do this too. Sales people should recognize the tremendous opportunity in front of them and take advantage of it.
The salesperson that sends a canned email instead of picking up the phone and being human is wasting their greatest strength. For efficiency, they sacrifice effectiveness.
Keep sales human.
By Brian Hays on January 7, 2014
Floundering. I have a lot of friends–bright, young, eager to do good work–wasting away. They spend their time at jobs they don't love and grow to hate while waiting to become passionate. They expect meaningful work to hit them like a bus one day making everything different.
This isn't going to happen.
Most people carry on doing work they don't love. Either they bare the dissatisfaction or it becomes insignificant in the presence of truly important things, like family.
This is a bummer.
I want everyone to love what they do. To be excited to contribute to society, to their neighbors. Maybe it's not possible, or maybe it's just a matter of perspective.
By Brian Hays on January 4, 2014
Tasked with doing something hard and important, I find distraction sets in. Usually it’s a phone notification or endless internet surfing. This kind of distraction is unfortunately common, but it’s obvious and therefore easily overcome with a little self-awareness.
There is a worse kind of distraction. It is, luckily, less common, but it’s sinister trait is it disguised as something important. When I have something I’m truly worried about, I distract myself with a fake existential crisis. Just as I’m about to sit down and get to work I’ll be struck with ” What does it all mean?”, “Why are we here?”, and “What is the meaning of life?”
These questions are extremely important, of course. To ignore them for the sake of an earthly project would be a terrible mistake….
This is a trap. While these questions are important, they would be better considered leisurely over scotch than ahead of a deadline. It’s always funny to see how these questions lose their urgency upon the completion of that difficult task.
The next time you’re blindsided by the big questions, don’t try to determine if they are more important than your current task. Ask if it’s the appropriate time.
By Brian Hays on November 19, 2013
I chose a job in sales over marketing because I want control over my career and I want it as quickly as I can get it.
If you’re still early in your career, a stint in sales will make you a better CEO or entrepreneur down the road, it will get you promoted faster,and the extra money you earn now will become more options later.
Let me be clear, if you’re established in your career, if you have substantial career capital–in marketing, for example–this advice won’t apply to you. But if, like me, you’re more potential than experience, you may benefit from the following.
I found myself choosing between two jobs at the same company: one for a position in inside sales, the other in the marketing department. Up to that point all of my experience had been marketing. I studied it in college and tried to leverage those lessons in internships. Sales as something independent from marketing was a mystery. My bias was towards marketing, but luckily I had advisors that helped me realize both positions needed honest consideration.
Ultimately I chose the sales job because I believe it will help me gain control over my work faster.
Working in sales…
- will make you better in future roles (executive, manager, entrepreneur).At higher levels of an organization, politics and persuasion become more important. Sales forces you to work through social anxiety and persuade others by appealing to their interests–the same skillset needed for high influence positions.
- will get you promoted faster.In sales, you are only as good as your number. Your results are posted for everyone to see. When you succeed people will notice it was you. In marketing, team projects and difficulty tracking outcomes mean your contributions can get lost.
- will earn you a higher income, giving you more options later.Money matters. A higher income will help you build a reserve faster, cash that can be drawn on to pursue future opportunities.
I don’t have any double blind studies to back up my assumptions, but they were formed after many conversations with smart and experienced people. Their answers weren’t always the same, but from their thoughts and mine, I followed what made sense to me. I hope you’ll find it useful.
If you have a different perspective or something to add, please publish a blog post and email me the link. I’d like to read it.