Brain Dead or Brain Led — B2B Sales Strategies

Brain Led?
Are You Brain Led? Or Dead?

Brain Dead or Brain Led — B2B Sales Strategies

Your weekly sales meeting is now a dreaded activity, a draining routine of deal analysis and high-stakes questioning regarding your activities and output. Your B2B sales strategies just do not seem to work any more!

Which deals are you working on? Where’s your pipeline? Why is this deal stuck? What’s your commit?  What have you done to progress this deal?  Where is your territory plan?  Do you have a strategy? This deal looks unchanged since last week – why? How many meetings have you lined up this week?  How many cold calls have you done this week? What is your plan to bridge the gap between your current quota performance and your target?

Read Graham Hawkins,!

Thanks Graham for a book (Kindle) that pretty much sums up my recent experience with the transactional sales forces today. This book is precisely how B2B reps feel and it underscores why there is over 34% turnover in most sales forces.

And why they deliver 40% – 70% cost of sales.

Let’s face it people. You hate your jobs.

I know you do because a bunch of you have been interviewing with our portfolio companies.

Every interview starts out the same: “I cannot stand going to work in the morning. I hate turning on my computer and going to my company email because everything there is just really bad news. I have a transaction sales VP crawling up my butt every day but there is nothing can do to get deals in faster. Nobody takes my calls. Nobody will give out their corporate email address. When I line up a face to face sales call, I end up with my manager and sometimes his manager coming along and it freaks out the customer. My sales VP, all she wants me to do is slam every deal into this quarter, even if I have to give the product away.”

Really sucks to be a transaction sales rep, doesn’t it. Well, sorry for the bad news but it is only going to get worse. Much worse.

You are the point of the spear.

B2B Sales Strategies Do Not Work

Unfortunately, you are the leading edge of sales reps who will be replaced by self service or having your products become part of a large bag sold by a small number of order takers — at the company who buys your firm for scrap.

Many of your firms, especially if you are in DevOps, SaaS, agile computing are going to be acquired for scrap value. It is already happening. Say hello to Perfecto Mobile.

Then the acquirer, whoever becomes the new CA, the “software museum” will wring out the cost of sales (you) and just live off the maintenance.

Don’t believe it? Check out the testing tool business sold to Micro Focus. Once was Mercury.

That deal is not an outlier. It is a harbinger.

Way too many of you have read or heard the stories from 10 years ago when software reps were making more than brain surgeons, literally. All you had to do was run an aggressive prospecting program, go at it 9 hours a day and you made big money.

Then it happened, slowly at first, then like a sea wave — Quarterly Revenue Madness.

They slowly emerged, like the Body Snatchers crawling out from under the bed in the movie, from those pods, these transactional sales VPs who claimed they could mechanize every part of the “sales process” and often they had whiteboards with all kinds of symbols on them, kind of making you think they might know something.

These are the people who study the average days in a sales cycle for their $22,000 product.

To you it never made sense. But, your hapless CEO bought into it. Like the Body Snatchers, you did not understand why everyone looked the same but seemed different.

For several years it clicked along. The tech markets were not fully mature then. Venture capital companies, who support these types had lots of ways of getting their money out with a handsome profit.

Quarterly revenue madness and driving the customer to “do our will in our timeframe” looked pretty efficient for two or three years. Then about 2016 it all collapsed. Quickly.

Don’t believe me? Look at Chef, Puppet, XebiaLabs, the testing companies, most of whom have not made a nickel of profit in 10 years. Yet they were, and remain, at the forefront of Quarterly Revenue Madness.

VCs began to realize all this DevOps stuff was a pipe dream. There was no way anyone was going to make 5x or 10x their investment. They just wanted to get their dough out whole.

And it’s not just the DevOps walking dead. The scores of No SQL database companies are in the same boat from what we see in our interviewing cycle. Same story, different product.

If up to 65% of sales reps are not making their quota, what should one do? Of course, flog the sales force into higher orders of productivity by managing them on an hourly basis. Hourly management must be the problem. Daily forecasting calls. How many cold calls did you make? Why can’t this deal close this quarter?

Anything raise your curiosity here? Something missing?

Perhaps you are desensitized from the messaging your sales team gives out.

B2B Sales Strategies Do Not Serve the Customer

How about the customer? What value is she getting? What can we do to make them so happy with our product they will buy more and more? What can we do to make that customer so efficient they get promoted?

Don’t hear much of that from that transactional sales VP do you?

And that, dear friend, is one of the chief reasons you literally hate your job.

But the transactional sales VP is a symptom of a problem, and the problem is VC funding of companies who never should have been funded in the first place. These VC firms understand they are like the spacecraft in the science fiction movie who is out of fuel and has to use that lunar gravity, with only one shot, to slingshot its way back into earth’s orbit.

And that slingshot is all about taking every investment dollar and putting them into sales, marketing, business dev, anything that will generate the top line number needed to get this dog sold to a Micro Focus like HP unloaded Mercury.

They have to get this dog sold for enough to get their dough out.

And you, dear sales rep, sales engineer, are there only to get this VC out. And out soon.

So, if this describes you, you are now clearly on the Brain Dead Team. There is no thinking needed. Just show up, grab the phone, drive the metrics. If you can make 10 sales visits a week or make 250 phone calls or send out 2,500 emails you will make your quota.

But you are doing this and the numbers are not there, and they are not going to be there.

The numbers are absent because the market is different now. It is mature and nobody in your orbit wants to talk to a sales rep. They will order your stuff when they need it, not when your sales VP has a target to hit.

And things cannot change because there is no strategy the transactional sales VP can employ that will get this crappy company sold any faster. There are no options, and he or she knows it.

Your choice is to join the Brain Led Team.

How do you find them?

Well, first, there are very few. They are not VC funded. They are all about being profitable from day one. They will never tell you to offer an incentive to get a deal in this quarter that would easily have come next quarter, because they understand all incentives carry a price to the vendor.

The Brain Led teams never have transactional sales VPs. No need for quarterly revenue madness when profit margin is your key metric. No need for hourly sales management when low turnover is your metric. No need for SPAM marketing when you sell through trusted advisors. No need for vastly expensive marketing machines when your customers become your front line sales force.

They are out there and when you find one, you will know it.