A long time ago, sales leaders sought a solution for their uneven results. Some members of their teams were able to win deals, while others struggled. No one knows for certain who reverse-engineered the successful salespeople’s process and taught it to the rest of their sales team. It was believed that if all salespeople followed that sales process, they would improve their results, and sales leaders would ensure their success.
After more than two decades, it became clear to many that the sales process wasn't capable of ensuring a sales team’s success. I was skeptical of it, in part because my experience was never as linear as the defined sales process. I’ve written about how there always seemed to be areas where there was no guidance, like where your GPS reports, "turn-by-turn directions are not available."
There is more than enough evidence to prove the sales process isn't the magic bullet that sales leaders hoped for. Yet, they have not given up their quest for the one thing that will ensure sales success.
The Eternal Pursuit of the Sales Magic Bullet
There is a human tendency to look for something that will ensure success. To pursue our goals, we buy things we believe will ensure our success. We are not unlike the tennis player who buys the newest high-tech racquet and whatever shoes the best player wears, neither of which improves their backhand. The search for the one thing continues.
The CRM as the Sales Magic Bullet
The CRM promised to create a return on investment by moving sales pipelines off the manual spreadsheets and whiteboards, giving sales managers more time and increasing the pipelines’ visibility. Sales managers would have more time to help their salespeople succeed and win more deals.
There are few who might argue that the CRM improved the salesperson's results and still gives sales managers and salespeople the false confidence that they have enough opportunities to reach their goals. As a very early adopter of the CRM, I recognize its value for organizing and managing clients and deals. It hasn't proven to be a magic bullet.
Social Selling as the Sales Magic Bullet
As social media platforms proliferated, many sales leaders believed the hype. Because the social platforms provided a new marketplace, one where salespeople could find and communicate with their prospective clients directly, sales leaders invested in training their sales forces to use social channels.
Some of us recognized that social channels were not going to live up to the promise that salespeople would no longer need cold outreach, let alone cold calls. Because of these new platforms, every salesperson would be able to build their pipeline and succeed at the most fundamental and difficult outcome in sales: creating meetings.
The few of us that tried to warn against over-investing in social selling were criticized for the sin of not following the current fashion. We started a conference to help sales leaders and salespeople do what is necessary to succeed in reaching their goals. We named the conference OutBound.
Needless to say, social selling, like all other magic bullets, didn't keep its promise of ensured success.
Taylorism as the Sales Magic Bullet
The West Coast provided a new model for sales organizations, one that would ensure their success. This lot looked at the two major outcomes salespeople need: creating opportunities and winning deals. They decided that it was inefficient for a salesperson to do both. Instead, the sales organization should hire young salespeople to create opportunities, keeping the closer’s time strictly for winning deals.
I was once told that, as a designer, if you can't make something better, make it bigger. And if you can't make it bigger, make it red. In this case, if slicing the sales role into many different roles doesn't improve your results, create even thinner slices. Taylorism marked the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago. Eventually, it stopped working, leaving one to look elsewhere for answers.
Technology as the Magic Bullet for Sales
As sales leaders continue to seek some sort of Holy Grail, they have turned to technology to create efficiency. There are some technologies well worth an investment, like platforms that allow a salesperson to find a contact's phone number, removing the time it takes to hunt down the information.
The most recent data shows that the number of salespeople who meet their quota continues on a downward trajectory, now dipping below 50%. After many years of acquiring technological tools, it turns out that, while they might be useful, they are not the answer sales leaders want.
The Magic Bullet in Sales Is Effectiveness
There is only one magic bullet in sales: effectiveness. It should not be difficult to recognize that a better salesperson will produce better results. But building better salespeople doesn't feel like a magic bullet because it requires far more effort on the part of sales leaders. It requires training, development, and a sales manager capable of coaching individuals to succeed.
But what's worse for sales leaders is not that effectiveness requires development, but rather the time it takes to build an effective sales force. To deal with the issue of time, start building the future sales force you want today. Avoid falling into the trap of believing that anything else is going to easily improve your sales results.
It's important to recognize that the client's decision to buy from your salesperson is the variable you need to influence. Nothing else has any impact on the client's decision.