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Editors Note: Work.com is proud to present Jason Jordan as a guest author on Work.com. In addition to authoring Cracking the Sales Management Code, Jason and Michelle Vazzana are partners at Vantage Point Performance.

What Sales Management Can Learn from the Ancient Greeks

I have always been fascinated by the ancient Greek philosophers. I find them interesting because they were very smart people trying to answer very fundamental questions. In short, they simply wanted to understand the world around them. But in the absence of a scientific body of knowledge, they almost always got things wrong. That’s because they were forced to rely on their personal observations and intuitive reasoning to reach their conclusions.

For instance, the most famous philosopher of all, Socrates, firmly believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that everything revolved around it. In fairness, this made perfect sense if you’re using your own observations and best judgment… We can’t feel the earth moving, and we can see stars and planets repeatedly crossing the nighttime sky. In the absence of any better science or the ability to test the theory, Socrates might as well have been right. But we now know that he was a very smart man reaching a very wrong conclusion for all the right reasons. We have moved beyond personal observations and anecdotes, because we now have the science to do better.

In some ways, the current state of sales management is similar to that of the ancient Greeks. To date, there has been no tested body of knowledge to inform sales managers’ critical decisions. And in the absence of a sales management science, managers are forced to rely on their personal observations and intuitive reasoning to determine what to do. But like the ancient philosophers, intuition can lead to some unexpectedly bad decisions.

For instance, it’s perfectly logical that a larger sales pipeline is better than a smaller one. Intuitive reasoning would lead to this conclusion, because the more you put into a sales pipeline, the more you would expect to get out. It makes perfect sense. However, our research disputes this commonly held belief. In fact, we find that substantially smaller pipelines can actually be much more productive, because they don’t have a bunch of junk clogging up the pipe. The desire for bigger and bigger pipelines encourages salespeople to put bad deals in there, which wastes salespeople’s valuable selling time. In reality, more important than having a big pipeline is having a healthy pipeline, filled with deals that are both desirable and winnable.

But to accomplish this feat, sales managers must abandon yet another intuitive behavior – waiting until late in the sales cycle to offer help to their reps. Intuition would say that if a sales manager is to engage their reps somewhere in a sales cycle, it would be most helpful to engage late in the sale. After all, the prospects are about to make their purchasing decision, and management’s assistance could make the difference between a win and a loss. It’s logical to want your employ your best talent closest to the sale.

Yet, our research finds that sales managers can have as big (or even bigger) an impact by helping their reps early in the sales cycle. That’s because early in the sale a rep can not only influence the customer’s buying criteria (setting the stage for an easier win later down the pipe), but they can also disqualify bad deals out of the pipeline. The reality is that salespeople have happy eyes, and pretty much any deal looks like a good one in its early stages. That’s why a sales manager’s intervention early in the sales cycle is so powerful – the manager can help the rep filter out undesirable deals and explore ways for the rep to influence the seller’s thinking in the good ones. Early-stage coaching is a counter-intuitive decision for most sales managers, but it’s the right one according to our research.

So this is why we think that sales management could learn from Socrates and his colleagues. They too were very smart folks trying to figure out fundamental things in the world around them… And they got stuff wrong. They reached bad conclusions because they were forced to rely on their personal observations and intuitive reasoning. They had no choice. But now there is an emerging body of sales management science that can enable better decision-making for managers. A new body of knowledge for the next generation of sales management. Intuition is on its way out in the 21st century, and sales management science is on its way in. And we think it’s better to be on the inside of the coming sales management revolution, not on the out.

 

Originally posted HERE

 

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About

Jason Jordan is a partner of Vantage Point Performance, the leading sales management training and development firm. He is a recognized thought leader in the domain of business-to-business selling and conducts ongoing research into management best practices in hiring, developing, measuring, and managing world-class sales organizations. Jason’s extensive research into sales performance metrics led to the breakthrough insights published in his book, Cracking the Sales Management Code (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

For 15 years, Jason has worked internationally in industries such as technology,
manufacturing, distribution, financial services, construction, media, telecommunications, consumer products, health care, and hospitality. As a popular speaker and writer, he is a frequent contributor to the Sales Management Association, the American Society for Training and Development, Selling Power, Sales & Marketing Management, and other industry groups. Having sold financial products, consumer products, and software integration services early in his career, Jason is a passionate advocate of both the sales profession and the evolution of sales management into a science. He is currently the Director of Research for the Sales Education Foundation and is a visiting faculty member in the Executive Education and MBA programs at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Jason received an Economics degree with honors from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Virginia. He and his family currently reside in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jason may be reached at JJordan@VantagePointPerformance.com.