Business managers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs offer all kinds of advice to sales managers and salespeople as to how they might improve sales results. It can be difficult to listen to advice about selling from those who have never carried the bag. The recommendations are often naïve and often ignore the realities and constraints the sales force is forced to confront. If it were easy to sell more or sell faster, your life would be as easy as the non-salesperson’s advice makes it sound.
You can react to advice from civilians by being defensive, insulted, or hostile. It’s easy to ignore the suggestions from civilians without the experience base from which to offer the advice they offer. Or you could make a healthier choice and spend the time educating the inexperienced as to your real challenges.
Here’s how to deal with advice about sales from civilians.
Help Them Understand
The primary reason non-salespeople so easily dole out sales advice is because they are unaware of the real challenges we face in sales.
When non-salespeople suggest that sales should be closing faster, you need to spend time educating people on your sales process, your client’s buying cycle times, and the velocity of the deals in your pipeline. The business’s need for fast sales doesn’t allow you to violate the natural laws of the sales process or buying cycle. You have to educate non-salespeople on sales cycle times so they understand what options are available when it comes to increasing speed.
When civilians suggest that sales people should be closing more business, you educate them the limitations of the sales force. Increasing quotas doesn’t do anything to improve territory coverage or the sales force’s effectiveness. You have to spend time working to help your non-salespeople team members understand what is possible and what isn’t possible.
Probably the hardest advice to take from civilians is advice about deal strategy. It’s hard to accept advice about how to move a deal forward from people who have never met your dream client contacts, who weren’t there through the discovery process, who don’t really understand your competitive position, and who don’t have to actually do the work of winning of the deal. You have to help the civilians on your team to understand what it will really take to win your dream client.
You help yourself and you help your team when you educate the non-salespeople on your team on the realities, the challenges, and the constraints. This sets you up to do what comes next.
Ask for the Resources You Need
You don’t do yourself or your company any favors by avoiding the battle for resources. Your job is to give the company what it needs in the way of sales results, and to do that you have to ask for the resources you need.
You may need to make investments that reduce your sales cycle time. You may need to make investments in a larger sales force to produce the sales results that your company needs from you. You may also need changes or modifications to what you do to serve your dream clients in order to win deals.
Asking for what you really need is likely to run smack into a discussion over resources. But often that is exactly the discussion that needs to be had.
Sometimes producing results means that you have to put as much energy into selling inside as you do outside. You are more likely to get what you need from the organization if you have spent the time building their understanding of what is needed and why.
Engage Them in the Sales Process
Keeping the civilians away from the sales process is a mistake. The more deeply you engage the entire organization in the realities of selling, the better results you will produce. Selling is a team sport.
Instead of keeping non-selling senior management away from the sale process, ask them to engage in the process. Let them join pipeline review and opportunity review meetings. Let them understand what is being done, the challenges, and the opportunities. If you want them to see the world from your viewpoint, invite them to sit on your side of the table and show it to them. Let them feel it.
Instead of keeping them away from your dream clients, ask them to join you in sales calls with your dream clients so that they get to see and feel what it’s like to work on big deal. Do some relationship mapping and send the high-level civilians from your company to call on the high-level management team from your dream client. These is work that they can do that makes a difference, and they are normally happy to do it.
It’s amazing how much more you can get done and how much faster you can get it done when your whole team is engaged in the deal. They look at your role and they look at deals very differently when they have skin in the game.
As a final note, go into this endeavor knowing things aren’t any easier for non-salespeople. Respect their challenges like you want them to respect yours.
Why is it so difficult to take sales advice from non-salespeople?
Are you ever guilty of telling your non-selling peers how they should do their job?
How can you educate your civilian peers on what you need to produce better results?
How can you help them understand more about what you need?
What actions can you engage management in to help you win your dream client?