Earlier this week, I wrote a post about The 5 Levels of Sales Excellence. It’s generated a lot of discussion, best summed up by this stream of comments:
- Rodney Johnson says:
Doug – you nailed this one. I can tell you that businesses are struggling with the peddlers and commoditizers in their organizations. If they could just find a few Professionals, they would be in heaven. If they could find a Demand Creator, they would have found Utopia.
So let me ask you. Where does one look? How do we evaluate? And are Demand Creators even available?
- Doug Davidoff says:
Rodney, that is a great question. I’ll begin writing the answer now. I’ll post it as soon as it’s done.
- Rodney Johnson says:
I thought about my question, and at least in my world working with CEOs through Vistage, I can say with certainty that the Demand Creators tend to be the CEO/Entrepreneur of the organization. They have the skill set. They have the business acumen. They have the connections. And they definitely have the drive. If this is the case, finding individuals out there with Demand Creation skills is likely a very elite and small group. Your thoughts?
Here are my thoughts:
First and foremost, Demand Creators and even most professionals are very rarely (to a statistically insignificant level) “found”; instead, they are made. The only meaningful exception to this, as Rodney points out, is found at the CEO and entrepreneur level. They create demand, most often, because they are the creators of the value for their company and can’t help but go deep and resonate with buyers. The challenge is that CEO/entrepreneurs create demand in a non-replicable way and that creates a “growth wall” that halts most companies’ growth.
While sales mythology is filled with stories of “natural” sales superstars, reality rarely lives up to the story. The only meaningful difference between these natural sales superstars, Demand Creators and unicorns, is that the sales superstar does actually exist; but they are EXTRAORDINARILY hard to find, they are very expensive and they are very difficult to keep happy. Peter Drucker said you can’t scale a business requiring genius, and the same is true here.
The Critical Element to Make Demand Creators
The prerequisite to make/create Demand Creators is a repeatable, sustainable sales and marketing process. This is where IBM destroyed its competitors in IBM’s heyday. IBM was a superior sales organization, not because they hired better sales people (actually, IBM had a huge advantage in their ability to hire younger, less experienced salespeople than their competitors), but because they had a superior process – in the full sense of the word.
This leads to another myth – salespeople hate process. Properly stated (and in the context of my post on Demand Creators) it is true: pests, peddlers and commoditizers hate process. Professionals and Demand Creators thrive on effective process.
Please don’t confuse a repeatable sales and marketing process with things like the stages of a sale. While I’m a big fan of a lot of sales training programs out there (and they’ve certainly inspired a lot of my thinking over the last 20 years), they do not represent process. At best, they represent stages. Whether you’re talking about Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy, Miller Heiman, Neil Rackham, Sandler, Huthwaite, Bosworth, et al; they demonstrate stages, not repeatable process (please note, it is not my intention to slight any of these fine organizations, I think they all do a very good job).
Think about this for a moment. If you were interviewing an operations manager, front line worker, accountant, controller, CFO, or virtually any non-sales and marketing position and they said something like the following, would you hire them?
“Before you hire me, I want you to know that I have my own way of doing things. It’s worked for me for years so I’m going to do it my way, rather than yours.”
Of course not. Can you imagine an accountant saying they find GAAP just a little too constraining, so they’ll just ignore it (oops, I guess that’s what happened at Enron)? But companies let salespeople do this everyday. An effective process makes a decent salesperson good, a good one great, and a great one a superstar. (A superstar by the way is merely a great salesperson who follows a process – whether it’s a stated process or not.)
The reason a process works and is so critical is that an effective process introduces constraints. Constraints, properly applied, force increased focus – which leads to more depth. A salesperson can only create demand by going deeper than their competitors do. These constraints create predictability, which is critical to effectively allocating resources (which for a salesperson really comes down to time). As author, professor, and consultant Jim Collins has said, if you take the person out of the process, the person is no longer as good.
Further, a repeatable process is, by definition, trainable and coachable. This means that you can hire people who fit a particular profile (as done in any top notch hiring process, and a subject I’ll write about shortly) and teach them how to do this. This makes the position hirable and it enables a company to ensure it can continue to grow.
The problem that the vast majority of small and mid-market businesses (SMB) have is that they have neither the time nor the expertise to create such a system. So they either rely on the salesperson to “figure it out,” have absolutely no system or overly rely on the “systems” presented in sales training programs (which as I’ve already mentioned are not adequate substitutes for process).
I know this because for the last five years a core focus of my company has been helping SMBs create these systems, and we’ve been helping companies make their sales teams professionals and Demand Creators.