Are you asking your salespeople to do too much?

22 replies
In his book Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross says that companies make a mistake when they ask every salesperson to do their own prospecting.

"One of the biggest productivity killersis lumping together a mix of different responsibilities (such as raw web lead qualification, cold prospecting, closing, and account management) into one general "sales" role. This creates significant inefficiencies:
  • Lack of Motivation: Experienced sales people hate to prospect, and are usually terrible at it.
  • Lack of Focus: Even if a salesperson does do some prospecting successfully, as soon as they generate some pipeline, they become too busy to prospect.
  • Lack of proper training and support: Their company doesn't train them on how to prospect effectively...
  • Unclear Metrics
  • Less Visibility Into Problems: When things aren't working, lumped responsibilities obscure what's happening..."

Get the lowdown here:
Why Sales People shouldn't Prospect - An interview with Aaron Ross | For Entrepreneurs
#salespeople
  • Profile picture of the author Rearden
    El oh El.

    Not being an ass, but what is failed (in your description) to cover is:

    The supposed problem doesn't necessarily have a solution.

    Outsource your prospecting? Welcome to the proverbial Can of Worms. Training, can they qualify, management, capital risk.

    I think salespeople need to focus on:

    1) Prospecting, because nobody turns a suspect into a prospect better than a salesperson, and
    2) Presenting/Closing, because they are salespeople, ya know.

    Everything else should be outsourced, because these skills at high levels are of utmost importance to sales success.

    With that said, as a life insurance agent, I use a warm-lead system to generate a consistent flow of leads on a weekly basis.

    But, guess what? I still have to call on them, over the phone, and in person, and close them.

    I have outsourced the appointment setting aspect with moderate success. But I'm back to me doing it with more consistent success.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Originally Posted by Joe Ditzel View Post

    In his book Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross says that companies make a mistake when they ask every salesperson to do their own prospecting.

    "One of the biggest productivity killersis lumping together a mix of different responsibilities (such as raw web lead qualification, cold prospecting, closing, and account management) into one general “sales” role. This creates significant inefficiencies:
    • Lack of Motivation: Experienced sales people hate to prospect, and are usually terrible at it.
    • Lack of Focus: Even if a salesperson does do some prospecting successfully, as soon as they generate some pipeline, they become too busy to prospect.
    • Lack of proper training and support: Their company doesn’t train them on how to prospect effectively...
    • Unclear Metrics
    • Less Visibility Into Problems: When things aren’t working, lumped responsibilities obscure what’s happening..."

    Get the lowdown here:
    Why Sales People shouldn't Prospect - An interview with Aaron Ross | For Entrepreneurs
    I've seen this before...take the prospecting away from the closers, whose precious egos are too fragile to hear "I'm not interested" from suspects.

    I happen to disagree. If the salesperson can't do it themselves...if their ego is that fragile...the answer is buried somewhere else. Probably in an unconscious equation they've made. Something like "My mother never wanted me to grow up and be a salesperson...interrupting peoples' days with my cold calls."

    The separation of labor theory sounds kind of good, but in practice it lets the salesperson down. Besides, what if the business is small, and the salesperson is the only one there? They must prospect...or the business will die. The sales funnel must be continuously fed. If our intrepid salesperson can't do it, who else will?

    Prospecting is a skill like any other, and running away from it will not make it easier.
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  • Profile picture of the author NewParadigm
    The job of a manager/owner is to put the right people in the right places. There is room for all kinds of solutions here, but it's a case by case business. I put my strong closers on the front lines and paid them well to be pioneers in opening new customers/markets, but paid 2nd tier sales people less to take over more developed/mature sales areas/customers.

    I have found marketing/calling to set sales people up w/ warm leads and then let them run with them works pretty well.

    I look at it from a division of labor standpoint. I don't want a 100k+ a year sales person doing a $12-$15/hr job of cold calling/appt setting/data entry in CRM etc... If its a high level sale it is a different story, top closer is in from day 1 handling the account.
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    • Profile picture of the author shane_k
      Originally Posted by Joe Ditzel View Post


      "One of the biggest productivity killersis lumping together a mix of different responsibilities (such as raw web lead qualification, cold prospecting, closing, and account management) into one general "sales" role. This creates significant inefficiencies:
      I totally agree with this.

      As a sales person I feel the best use of my time is sitting in front of the customer closing the sale, not prospecting/lead generation.

      I don't paid commissions for how many calls I make, or how many leads I generate.


      Originally Posted by Rearden View Post

      El oh El.

      I think salespeople need to focus on:

      1) Prospecting, because nobody turns a suspect into a prospect better than a salesperson, and

      Not necessarily true.

      There are a ton of sales people who work in sales job where they aren't taught any lead generation/prospecting skills at all.

      I used to work in a sales job where I didn't have to do any of that at all, because we had enough leads walking in the door every single day to meet quota's.

      Then I moved to another sales job, where 90% of that job was lead generation/prospecting. and I had no skill whatsoever in that area.

      So unless you train someone how to turn a prospect into a suspect that could be true, but most sales people don't have that skill.


      I have outsourced the appointment setting aspect with moderate success. But I'm back to me doing it with more consistent success.

      I have seen this happen also. But usually the reason this happens is more do to with the person who is doing the outsourcing not being able to teach others how to prospect properly.

      Not saying that is what happened in your situation.

      But just because someone is a sales person or can prospect and turn suspect into a prospect doesn't mean they can teach others.

      And that is a whole other can of worms just like you mentioned before.

      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      I've seen this before...take the prospecting away from the closers, whose precious egos are too fragile to hear "I'm not interested" from suspects.
      I find it funny that you say this, because the "closers" as you put it, are actually the ones with the least amount of ego. That is why they are closers. They have proven over and over again that they can get through the whole sales process to this point and close the sale.

      it's the unsuccessful sales people, who have ego's that are a problem. They are the ones who are afraid to prospect, to talk to clients, to handle objections, and to follow up. their whole sales process if filled with fear and their delecate ego's don't allow them to get to the point where they are in a position to close.

      So I don't think this has to do with ego's at all.

      I think it has to do more with what is the best use of your sales person's time?

      And that is not generating leads.


      Besides, what if the business is small, and the salesperson is the only one there? They must prospect...or the business will die. The sales funnel must be continuously fed. If our intrepid salesperson can't do it, who else will?
      If the business is small then obviously the sales person will have to do it.

      And yes prospecting is a skill, but it is a skill that you can teach others to allow your sales people even more time to develop and maximize the more important skills of closing.
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  • Profile picture of the author kellyyarnsbro
    I am asking them not to do too much, instead I ask them to be effective and efficient at the same time. We'll if you salesperson has those inefficiences then they're not really are salesperson.
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  • Profile picture of the author PanteraIM
    Ideally marketing and sales should be complimentary, but separate.

    Marketing should focus on generating leads whilst sales converts them.

    The smaller the business is the more blended (all), the roles in the enterprise become.

    I agree that your salespeople should be calling (ideally), warm, qualified prospects HOWEVER, they also need to be able to pick up the phone and cold call when the leads run dry.

    It's just a matter of being efficient with your time and getting to the hot prospects first.
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    • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
      With the options of email, snail mail, pay per click, SEO, and a
      whole pile of other strategies it makes a whole lot of sense
      to outsource some prospecting strategies so your telephone
      sales people are dealing mainly with warm or very hot leads.

      Also many online strategies can be outsourced VERY cheaply
      so it's a little crazy to get a skilled phone sales person to do
      them.

      Kindest regards,
      Andrew Cavanagh
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  • Profile picture of the author BillyParadise
    One strategy I've heard of is to create "sales units" - an inside guy and an outside guy, working as one. As I understood it, the company gave a higher commission rate to the outside guy, and he hired his own inside guy out of this.

    Not sure how well it worked as I was only working with the company on a contract.
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  • Profile picture of the author mrjosco
    I think the primary point is spot on. The idea is hundreds of years old - specialization is more efficient than a one man shop. Unfortunately you can't always have different people for different jobs.

    My (limited) experience has been that a cold caller with good training working along side an outside sales guy can be VERY effective. The skills are totally separate.

    In the real world, however, you can't always have ideal. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do the things you hate (prospecting) so that you can have the opportunity to do the things you love (sales).

    In the companies I am working for, I almost always recommend a separate person to do some cold calling. This is because, as the OP states, many sales people LOATHE prospecting (and vice versa). I have found it is harder to find someone who is good at prospecting than it is to find someone who is good at sales.

    A warm lead isn't hard to convert. Finding a warm lead in a pile of random people takes a lot more guts.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      I think this is a very interesting subject. The different points of view have been well thought out. I can only tell about my experience.

      If the leads are generated by direct mail, or anything other than personal contact (phone or person), I think it's a better division of labor to let your salespeople concentrate on selling and closing.

      Home improvement cold callers and canvassers give the leads to the salespeople. I understand the division of labor, I really do.

      But I want to generate my own leads, if it's done by phone or in person. Why? Because I absolutely know what I want and don't want in a lead.

      It's also the first opportunity to establish rapport with he customer. I've gone on appointments that were already 50% sold, just because of the way we got along on the phone.

      Prospecting is selling. I've done it both ways, and I have always preferred my own leads. They are stronger, and there is never a conflict. And directions (before GPS) were never a problem.

      But......if by "Closer" you mean the guy that takes the information over the phone after the real sale has been made? I get that. Different person, different function.

      If you were going on a date with a lady you just met, would you have an employee take her to the movie, buy her dinner, take her home..just so you could be called in for the close? No.

      Why? Because the lady would never accept it. If you have someone else start the process, you have to start the process over...when you enter the picture.

      Plus, I've had way too many customers say "But the girl on the phone told me..." and then make up something that I didn't want.

      If I'm the guy on the phone, I'm not at a disadvantage.

      If the sales process didn't involve human beings, I would be all for one person making the calls, one presenting, one offering financing, one closing, one filling out the forms, one thanking them as they walk away....

      But selling involves prospecting. It's all part of the same process.

      I know there are exceptions in different business models. And I know that some of them are here...but that's my experience.

      Added little later; Yeah, I read a few more posts. It is easier to hire salespeople if the leads are provided. It's easier to get results too.

      But if I'm a one man band? Selling for myself? I'll do the whole thing. I've always got better results that way.
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  • Profile picture of the author Andy Lemos
    great thread
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  • Profile picture of the author kellyyarnsbro
    The learning process should keep going, seminars, classes, orientation and even tours. This way every salespersons skills and talents will be developed and enhanced.
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  • Profile picture of the author century90
    If you try cold calling and direct mail both together to generate sales leads, you will get good results really. I use this strategy always with targeted marketing list under niche.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    The fact is that most people arent more than order takers...if you cant prospect then you are missing a big chunck in your development as a salesperson. If a sales person cant prospect my tendency is to ask them "You want me to bring you a warm blankie and some cookies too?"

    Im all about a "T.O." , but the prospectors are the ones doing the real selling work and are more talented and disciplined than the closer. I would use my worse cold callers as closers, and have many times. Usually a person becomes a closer when they arent doing well with cold prospecting (The real work of sales).

    I would never take a valuable cold caller off the sales floor and make them a closer. They are more valuable than a closer where they are.

    I wont call you a salesperson if you "cant" prospect. I value cold callers more than closers, for many reasons. I have made these determinations after experiencing a thousand different live situations.

    It's just my opinion. I believe in TO's but the I give the credit of being a real, hardcore "sales" person to the prospectors, not the closers.

    They are just order takers in my book.

    Appointment setting is different than a "TO"- It's great to have appointments, and requires some skill to sell... but you are still a wuss in my book if you have to depend on it and cant do your own prospecting.

    Probably going to be a head ache not worth hiring. A "Diva"... No thanks, I may give you appointments...but dont come telling me you arent capable of doing your own.

    "I dont do windows" is not a good answer...

    Personally, I think its optimal to separate the two processes, depending on the business model, but I dont necessarily think of someone as a well developed "salesperson" if prospecting is "too much" for them.

    In a call center if someone interviews wanting to immediately be a closer.... My response has been "Great. You are going to be on the cold calling floor for now though, closing is a gravy job... I can take any cold caller on my floor and turn them into a closer, and they have all worked hard enough to earn that. What I value is cold callers. Can you do that?"

    -John

    Ps. In any event...yeah focus is better... It just struck me hard,your first line; "Most salespeople suck at prospecting".

    To me if thats the case, they arent a real salesperson, but I do agree with separating the processes in many cases. Still, a well rounded salesperson should be able (capable of) doing both, if they are worth hiring.

    I do think that account management should be an admin thing , if you are doing high volume. Keep the salespeople focused on selling.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      John; In your example, isn't the "Closer" really the person who takes down the information (and verifies that a deal happened)?

      Isn't the cold caller really the one who is doing the vast bulk of the selling.

      Out of the Telesales arena, most salespeople think of themselves as closers if they do everything except make the appointment.

      Am I right in that, or am I off base here?
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    I gave two examples Claude...the first example is as you described, where the prospector is actually all but closing the deal....and the second is "appointment setting". Two different arenas. In any event though I feel that prospecting is a huge part of being a well developed salesperson. Just IMO.

    I wouldnt want a sales guy though who couldnt set his own appointments on slow days.

    Maybe Im old school, but to me "canvassing" is where you learn the fundamentals.
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  • Profile picture of the author CudaFish
    So here's how I've always structured sales.

    It works well, it just requires personnel.

    First you should have a sales manager. He is in charge of the logistics of it all. Lead generation (for cold calls I mean) setting up and refining software (crm, autodialers, whatever you might have) and general sales team structuring.

    Then you have a trainee, appointment setter, fronter. Whatever you wanna call it. He is in charge of cold calling, setting appointments, following up, research for prospects, etc.

    Finally, your closer. Ideally, he has two-three fronters under him and/or fronts deals himself as well. He sits on appointments, closes, follows up those meetings, etc.

    Now if your team is small, you could have the closer and the sales manager be the same person, have him front his own deals, and maybe have a fronter under him.

    Again, this structure doesn't always apply to every sale, but web design, marketing, public relations, they are all consultative sales, and these types of sales lend themselves perfectly to the structure I mentioned above.

    Builds confidence, rapport, allows time for sale to pass, a lot of important things are established with this structure in the sale itself, and it keeps your organization running smoothly as well.

    This is a subject I am going to talk a lot about soon on my new blog. Sales needs to be applied more efficiently to this business sometimes!

    - Mark Cuda
    CudaFish - The Online Ramblings Of An Offline Marketer
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    Agree with Mark...

    If you could only afford one sales person, I would have them sit in a desk right beside you and "front" all day TO'ing closes to you. It works alot more efficiently...for many various reasons, and as suggested, after that person had been fronting for thirty days, and listening to me close, I would hire two more people to front, and turn him into the closer.

    There are many unspoken reasons, or at least they would take a whole book to explain, but if you hire a one call closer, you may sit for days before he starts closing anything, and his performance for the first few weeks will likely be spiratical at best... but if you hire someone to front, and TO closes to you, you should be making sales from day one.
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  • Profile picture of the author CudaFish
    I agree John.

    It's more important to spend time building out how you want to funnel your sales and THEN move on to hiring personnel on a stage after stage basis to fill out that funnel.

    Btw. Record all sales calls! And train the heck out of your guys. Don't just hire more, get the most out of the guys you do have. Oh, and reward them.

    - Mark Cuda
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    • Profile picture of the author John Durham
      Originally Posted by CudaFish View Post

      Don't just hire more, get the most out of the guys you do have. Oh, and reward them.

      - Mark Cuda
      If you dont mind my expounding, the above quoted point is important, because whatever your current guys are doing is going to set the "bar" for average performance, when you go to scale out your operation. You want their averages to be as high as possible before hiring a bunch of people to follow suit and settle into the same production expectations. Make sure the bar is set as high as it goes before scaling.
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      • Profile picture of the author CudaFish
        Originally Posted by John Durham View Post

        If you dont mind my expounding, the above quoted point is important, because whatever your current guys are doing is going to set the "bar" for average performance, when you go to scale out your operation. You want their averages to be as high as possible before hiring a bunch of people to follow suit and settle into the same production expectations. Make sure the bar is set as high as it goes before scaling.
        Not at all, John. Nice to hear your thoughts in here.

        I agree 100%. Your existing team's close ratio, appointment set per call ratio, etc. All these things will trickle down. If you are closing at 10% and you promote your only fronter to a closer, you can't expect him to do 30%. And at the same rate, you can have a closer doing 50-60% close rate and then be ok when his Fronters move up and only close 10%. It's all about efficiency.

        - Mark Cuda
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    I think it's about optimizing your operation.

    Rewarding talent by facilitating and letting
    them do and spend most of their time
    doing what they are the best at doing.

    Some are better at selling, some better at
    being the sales manager, and some better at admin.

    An owner of a head hunting firm I knew joked
    about how his best salesperson just works
    a couple of days a week and spends the rest of
    her time golfing and having lunch. Of course
    what she was really doing was prospecting,
    not suspecting, and relationship building/maintaining.

    Dan
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    "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

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