I’ve always been a big believer in the concept that if you put enough people in a room with a large enough pot of coffee, eventually you can probably solve the majority of problems. I was thinking about this the other day when I was in a meeting with some academics discussing effectiveness (doing the right thing) and efficiency (doing the thing right).
When we think of scientific history; names such as Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci and Darwin spring to mind. These polymaths were able to take their learnings from one discipline and utilise them in others. Over the years this need for understanding of different bodies of knowledge has been replaced with specialisation. Universities receive a growing amount of their funding from research and teaching in specialist areas, and this has led to even more concentration within the disciplines. The graduates of today will tend to have come through an educational process where they have concentrated on one specific subject or group of subjects.
Sales as a discipline shares some of the same contradictions. When I speak to companies about their searches for a new sales manager, their perfect candidate tends to be either a mirror image of their previous manager, or look like the sales manager of their largest competitor, it’s all about experience. “We need him (and yes unfortunately it is normally a “him”) to have X years experience in the sector, a load of contacts, and be able to hit the ground running…”
Yet when the same companies seek a new marketing manager, the first qualification is one of academics – does he or she (yes thankfully marketing seems to be more diverse than sales!) have an MBA or MSc in Marketing Management?
The contradiction with both of these approaches is that the company gene pool remains the same size, leading to more specialisation, which may improve efficiency but can reduce effectiveness in your sales process. The net result being that your newly recruited sales manager takes time getting on board, revenues do not improve sufficiently, and you find yourself repeating the whole process 18 months later.
One of the ways to increase your understanding of the contradiction is by using TRIZ tools. Instead of looking at the recruitment and selection of a sales manager as an end in itself, we should see it as an opportunity to improve the system.
Ideal Final Result – a vision of the perfect end result – no constraints – no “we can’t have this because…” Think like Leonardo da Vinci who said “Think of the end before the beginning.” Thinking about what you want rather than what you currently have. The underlying philosophy of TRIZ is to deliver more for less, finding solutions to problems for a minimum of cost and harm. The concept of an Ideal Final Result frees thinking away from constraints and why something can’t be done, to what might be possible and how to achieve it.
Everyone’s Ideal Result – makes you look at the problem from both yours and other stakeholder’s point of view (Customer, marketing, operations, legal, finance etc.,) Ask what is the effect on the sales process if the role is not filled. Consider the purpose, the main function you are seeking, does the role need to be full time?
Functionality, Harms and Benefits – Have you listed everything you want the candidate to have (must haves / nice to haves), everything you don’t want (You don’t see this on job specifications!). Check why you want specific skillsets, does the role now even resemble the “we need a sales manager to replace the one who left to join our competitor”?
A good recruitment consultant or HR partner will help, but both are only as good as the brief they are given, so take time thinking about what is really important, and whether efficiency or effectiveness should be your priority. If a consultant you do not regularly use takes your brief over the phone in a couple of minutes and just sends you a shed load of cv’s, then consider moving your business. Taking the time to build a relationship with an HR partner or consultant or who will understand your challenges thoroughly can be a great investment.
Conclusion If you revisit your sales process before you replace your sales manager, you will probably find that you can recruit from a wider and more diverse group, enabling you to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of your Find, Win, Deliver and Keep sales phases.
Lean 4 Sales can help you review and improve your sales process – email firstname.lastname@example.org