Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sales Manager Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance is the uncomfortable situation of trying to rationalize ideas that conflict with one another.  Sales managers (and presales managers) are often highly susceptible – particularly with regards to skills and methodology training.  Managers are generally very happy to provide training for their teams – but often don’t participate, themselves, in the classes.  In many cases, they believe they already know the material (even if they’ve never seen it!) – they may believe that since they are managers then they (somehow) already know it. 

In my experience there is often a gap between the actual level of understanding of concepts and the perceived level of understanding, particularly with sales managers (this gap can often be large; I’ve been victim to it myself when I was in sales management).  The result is an inability for sales managers to assess, track and coach their teams – leaving sales people to either subscribe to the ideas on their own or (quite often) go back to their old ways. 

In the world of software demos and Great Demo! methodology, here’s a good example of this in action:  if the number of demos done (or requested to be done) in the absence of Discovery is uncomfortably large, this suggests that sales people are not practicing the key ideas.  If this number continues to be large over time, this then suggests that sales managers are not coaching their teams to improve their sales people’s performance.  I’ve noticed a fairly close correlation between these situations and managers not participating in the Great Demo! training for their teams.

Similarly, if the team’s “no decision” rate is uncomfortably high, this may (again) suggest that insufficient Discovery is being done, as well.  Here’s a simple test:  examine the opportunities that led to “no decision” and then examine if Situation Slides were generated and if they were complete or sufficient.  Specifically, was there a clear Critical Business Issue?  Delta?  Critical Date/Event?  The lack of any one of these increases the likelihood of a “no decision” result.

The moral? 

Good managers provide training for their teams.  Great managers participate in training with their teams – and coach to reinforce, support and improve performance for each individual.

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