The One Essential Thing Sales Books Never Mention [Interview with Paul Lloyd]
Ever felt like setting up your sales process took a lot of time? Ever felt like results should've come earlier so you don't know what to do with your sales team? Should you even have hired them?
Don't worry, it's all good; Paul Lloyd has seen it all and he's here to walk you through it!
Thank you for taking part in this. Could you introduce yourself a little bit?
I'm Paul Lloyd. I've worked in the ICT market in the UK for the last 25 years, always in sales and sales management. I started off in enterprise sales with one of the largest reseller partners in the UK. Then I've worked for vendors, distribution, and the channel partners since. I've covered all aspects of the supply chain together with all sizes of organizations.
At the moment I'm working with a number of managed service providers who aren't that big, sort of small businesses with big aspiration.
You define your job as “sales manager as a service”. How does it work? Is this outsourcing the sales manager job or temporary work with companies to help get things running
For the last few years, I've largely done interim work, so company turnaround and fixed-term projects. At the beginning of the year -2017- I sort of sat back and looked where to go from there. It became apparent that businesses of a certain size, and each market is slightly different, but certainly in ICT most the companies are being started by technical people. They're all techies, and they know their technical stuff.
Typically, an MSP –Managed Service Provider- can potentially get to 1, 1.5-million-pound turnover with just the owner and recommendation and referral. What they don't have is any disciplined sales effort. They start to look, and they hire tech sales people, and they don't understand, and it doesn't work, and they sack them and so on.
It may be one client that's looking to take on their first sales person, so we set everything up and get the disciplines in place to actually start working properly, or it may be a company that's got a couple of sales people or three sales people, and it's not working. They want somebody to manage them on an ongoing basis.
I can dig into answers I get from sales people that a lot of the techies aren't comfortable doing. They're not comfortable with that element of confrontation. The beauty of being on the outside is I can go back to the business and say: "You need to be doing whatever it is to support the sales people."
Typically, you can say things a little more bluntly than you would if you're an employee.
You say that you're working on hiring the sales people for them and setting up and getting that running. When you want to hire a sales person for one of your clients, how do you attract sales talent to their organization?
At the moment, I'm doing it via my own network since I know a lot of people in and around the industry in the UK. Because I can actually explain what I'm doing and the company clearly is invested in making it work and making it work properly, it becomes obvious to the candidate that the company they're joining is prepared to invest and put a bit more money into supporting them.
It certainly isn't easy from a new business point of view because most of what I'm doing is new business. It's less than an account manager. I can only talk for the UK, but I'm guessing it's the same in most places: there's very little training from a sales point of view. All the companies that used to train people have been replaced by the internet. Getting sales people that have been trained or have some idea is really challenging across the country.
What do you look for in potential hires for these new companies? It's not the same as in an established company with five SDRs. What do you look for in that kind of potential hires?
I think what you're looking for is largely attitude. It's somebody that has the attitude and aptitude to be able to take the knocks and pick up the phone and get enjoyment from winning their business. In terms of account management, it's slightly different. I do think that sales account managers need similar talent, but in terms of going out and winning new business, you want somebody that hopefully has done a bit of it before, but understands how to engage with people, whether that's via LinkedIn or social media or whether it's well-worded emails or whether it's even a letter through the post or just picking up the telephone.
What they've got to understand is you can't sell complex solutions to companies unless you can engage with them and talk to them and be proactive. I've read recently quite a lot of books around the whole sales management team. Whilst I've done the job for a long time and I'm out there talking to people, it's always useful to know what other people are saying. Mike Weinberg, who's a noted sales luminary in the states, says that sales is a verb, and that's absolutely right. It's an action. They've got to understand and make things happen and not sit back and wait for it to happen.
Alright, since we're on the topic of recruitment, you say you're using your network a lot. What do you think of the power of LinkedIn and how to harness it to find people and to land a job?
I don't think there's anything that matches it and hasn't ever been anything that matches it if you prepare and put the time and effort into it. In a manner of respects, it's like any sales process. It's there to be used, but it's not going to happen for you. You must put the effort in.
You've got to put the time to track through people's networks. I spend an unnatural amount of time on LinkedIn every day, but I'm looking for clients, I'm looking for people. A lot of the time I'm looking for markets for the clients. For me, it's an absolute bonus that with a bit of imagination, there's not a lot you can't find out using LinkedIn.
When I started, which was a long time ago, then everything was done in a book. One of the things I say to clients, is that you need a set of strategic accounts. The days of simply blasting things and hoping that people pick it up have gone.
In my early days in enterprise sales I had 12 target accounts. They were big, and we knew they spent a lot of money. My job was to go and do business with them. Now, any salesman within a smaller business could have 250 target accounts.
You can research them. You can find out who the key people are. You can find where they go, what they do, what their interested in, so that when you pick the phone up, write the email, or whatever it is that you do to engage, you know so much more about people.
I don't think you can do a selling job today without paying for a LinkedIn account. I use Sales Navigator. I use the team version, which is the most expensive one, but that's because that integrates with my CRM. There's nothing I can't do or find for people. It's outstanding.
What I don't do very much of is Facebook. All my work is B2B, so I tend to use LinkedIn for everything. Even the likes of Mike Weinberg, I bought Mike's books, New Sales Simplified and Sales Management Simplified. I've got a couple of questions, and I just simply emailed him. I emailed him via LinkedIn, and we've had an engagement via LinkedIn. There's no way that you could have done that five years ago.
That's invaluable because I can reach out to almost anybody. Certainly 50% of the time you'll get a response, and that is going up all the time. If you go back ten years, you very rarely got a response. Today, it's improving dramatically.
Great answer! More and more millennials are entering the workforce. Do you notice a difference in attitude and what they expect of the job?
I think there's an awful lot of nonsense talked and there's an awful lot of excuses made. Yes, the world is developed and yes, we've got lots of technology and there's lots of things we do differently, but I don't think we're doing different things. I just think we should be doing the same things.
You're selling complex solutions. The way that you go about it today is no different than it's ever been. If you're selling transactional things, then it's a slightly different kettle of fish because people can just go to the internet and buy them. If you're selling something that's complex, you've got to engage your people. How you do that has changed, but you've still got to do it.
I think if they're introduced into the workforce and they're trained and supported, then you get as much if not more than you would from older people, if you want to look at it like that. I do think there's so often excuses made and lots of toys at work, which is there to attract them. They're human beings that want to get on, and that's it. They may have a shorter attention span, and they may believe that because I've been to a university I need to get to the top that much quicker, but we all did.
I'm not convinced I thought it was going to take me any longer than they think it was when I was their age. I think it's just a different time. We've all got slightly different attitudes, and the world has moved on. In many respects, going to work is the same. I'm possibly on my own there.
You work with small companies and you do lots of workshops with them… So tell me, what's the most common mistake you see them do when it comes to sales?
I think what they don't understand is that fundamentally it takes time. The question I asked Mike Weinberg about was time. I've done a number of workshops over the last 12 months, and I've got involved with a number of businesses. There's all these books written, and they all tell you how to do it. They've all got their own views and things.
Very few of them actually mention time. I went back to them and said there's no mention of time. I got a sort of woolly answer in some respects because there is no answer when it comes down to it.
I did a workshop with a database support company 18 months ago. They got three sales people. They weren't working. They'd take people on, give them a desk, give them a phone, and said go ahead and bring me some business.
You say, did you help them? Well, they should know that because they're sales people. After three months, they sacked them. I said, "What's your typical selling cycle?" He went, "Six months."
I said, "What, you're telling me is that you take people on, you pay the recruitment fee, you pay their salary for three months, and at the end of three months you sack them knowing that your sales cycle is six months. That's even if you're into a sales cycle." What they don't appreciate is if you're starting from scratch, firstly you've got to find a prospect with however long that takes, and then there's a cycle that that goes through to get through to winning or not winning an order. In that timescale, so many people try to short circuit or they'll try to break into somebody else's where the price becomes a differentiator.
If I found you today and you were looking at purchasing something next month, they likelihood is you've been talking to other suppliers. The only differentiator I have is price because you're not going to take lots of time out to talk to me. You're already a way down that process. That whole kind of setting up who you're selling to and then building the campaign and going to a sales cycle, it's not understood.
In the UK, sales is the job that you get when you can't get a proper job. The attitude towards sales people is we'll just take them on and burn them and get rid of them or whatever. You're not treated as a profession, and it's not treated with respect or reverence.
Everybody can sell. If people phone you up and you take orders, then so many people think that's selling, so everybody can do that. When it comes to delivering a number at the end of each month or the end of each quarter and you've got to go out and do it, then that's a whole different kettle of fish. They don't want to because they have to start to see how expensive it is.
How long until you start reaping the benefits?
You put everything in place, and that's the first six months. Then you get things up and running, and you get the discipline of numbers of calls, numbers of appointments, number of prospects, and so on. At the 18-month period, then you start to see the benefit of all the work that you've put in. Then it starts to grow from there.
If you keep the momentum, it will grow exponentially. That first 6 to 12 months is investment, and they don't see that because they want a return within three months. We're paying them; therefore, you can bring us some business within three months. Otherwise, we need to do something else.
They don't review them. They don't understand where they're going. They don't manage them so that they understand the value of the work that they're doing. They just look at we've got no numbers at the end of the month. Therefore, she can't be doing the job properly.
I know every company is different, but do you have a standard sales process that you adapt to the companies you work with, something that you always put in place, whatever the case?
About ten years ago, maybe slightly longer, I worked for a small security reseller. The guy who owned it was a technical project manager. We used to bang heads a lot. I always had a sales process, but never really defined it clearly. We sat down one day and wrote seven stages.
I now have a seven-steps process, and there are milestones within each one.
When I do the keynote with companies, I've positioned it with the techies as our project. If you start to think of the sales process as a project because they understand that, each stage there's a set of milestones and questions that you need the answers to before you can move onto the next stage. I implemented that umpteen times over the last ten years.
If you've got a deal at stage five, then everybody understands what that means. Then you get a forecast that's accurate. You get the deals in that you know what you're going to get. Everybody feels that much better. It does work really well.
I say regularly to people that I talk to and I meet at various conferences, you need a process. It almost doesn't matter what it is, but you need a process to get the sales people to deliver in a language that you understand what it is that you're looking for. As I say, everybody else has to understand as well. I think it does work. It's effort.
Managing sales people to do things like that is a bit like herding squirrels. You've got to do that to make it work and make it work properly. That's where it becomes a profession. If you do these things properly and deliver it properly, then people start to respect you as a professional as opposed to slacker salesmen.
You wrote an article that in nearly 70% of cases, clients or customers stop buying because they feel left out. What are good methods to keep in touch and keep the flame alive?
It's a similar sort of thing, isn't it? It's just the discipline of going back to your clients. Obviously, different companies and different products and different things that aren't sold require slightly different things.
When it comes down to it, you need to be contacting your clients. Put a task in your CRM system to give them a call every 6 weeks, 12 weeks, but keep in touch with them and understand where they're going. If nothing else, they may know of other people that are looking for your solutions.
What tends to happen is that with MSP’s, they deliver a survey. If the customer doesn't phone them, they assume they're doing it right. They don't talk to them, and at the end of 12 months they go to the renewal and what they find is that somebody else is being in there. They lose the business because they haven't maintained that relationship.
You need to be talking to your clients all the time. You need to understand where they're going because that's, as much as anything, your market research. Where do you go? What new products should you be selling? What is it that your clients are looking for?
Going back to the enterprise days, we'd have people ask us for things, and you say that's obvious. If they want it, let's dress it up and let's go out to all our other customers with that service and build that knowledge from simply doing that. What happens all too often, and this is where the 70% comes from, is once they've got somebody on board, as long as they don't complain, they just let it roll along. They don't review it, they don't look at the pricing, they don't look at the service, and people feel neglected.
Somebody phones them up one day and says we're an IT service business. Can we come and talk to you? Then they've got all the new things, and they've got some new shiny bells and whistles. Before you know where you are, they've gone somewhere else. It's the easiest thing in the world. I just have a real issue with it because I don't understand why you wouldn't want to talk to your customers.
That makes sense. What's your sales stack? What tools do you use or recommend to the companies you're working with?
I think in terms of the toolset, obviously a lot of it comes down to what particular part of the market they're in. I don't believe that you can sell in this day and age with any level of efficiency without a reasonable CRM system or a good CRM system. It's LinkedIn or possibly Twitter, although I'm slightly skeptical about Twitter. I personally, as I've said, don't do anything with Facebook, but I know a lot of people that do, and that works for them.
A good old fashioned telephone works to a large extent because it's about talking to people. How you get to talk to them is where you need the tools and things. Once you get into the sales process, it depends on how you want to position your company
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I have just one last question for you. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
I worked for one of the most successful IT entrepreneurs in the UK for quite a long time. He used to say to me when I first started working for him when I was an account manager, "You work for me. You don't work for them." I never quite understood what he was trying to say.
You go out and meet people, and they'll say if you do this, we'll buy this off you. If you do that, we'll buy that off you. I used to get back and he'd say, "Just remember, your job is to get them to buy what we're selling, not make what we're selling what they want to buy."
It took me until relatively recently when I was working with some people, they came back and told me all the things that the client really would like us to do. I found myself saying, "You work for me. You don't work for them." Suddenly the penny drops, and I finally understood what it was he'd said in the first place. That's probably it.