When I was a kid, my mother would ask me to clean my room. I was a messy kid - so clothes on the floor, half eaten bags of Cheetos left out - TV left on. You know the story. There were two ways to clean it - the way I cleaned it to get her off my back and the way I cleaned it to actually clean it.
The first way was not really "cleaning" - clothes, dirty or clean, were shoved in drawers and closets. Cheeto bags were closed, but nestled under bed pillows. Magazines? Between the mattress and box spring. Records (yes I am that old) - under the bed. Shake out the comforter, spray a little Lysol, vacuum up the crumbs and Voila! CLEAN!
At a once-over glance, it was clean. Walking past the room, even sticking your head in the doorway, gave you the impression of clean. But it was not clean.
The second way of cleaning was a REAL cleaning. Doing laundry, folding laundry, washing sheets, comforters and bed skirts (yes I'm that old, AGAIN), dusting, washing walls, putting records in their CORRECT sleeves, stacking magazines, and getting all food and food type items out in the trash. Add to that vacuuming and spot cleaning the carpet and there you have a "Mom-approved" clean.
I rarely got away with the first type of clean, so after awhile I stopped trying.
The reason for this story? Well in sales leadership we ask our teams to "update the CRM" all the time. We do this to collect data to help manage accounts better, focus strategy on winnable deals and accurately forecast to the Executive Team.
But when we tell our reps "Please update your CRM because I need to report my Forecast and Activities up to XXX next week" I believe they often hear "clean your room."
And there're all "Get off my back, man."
So what happens? They add questionable meetings, inflated forecasts and a lot of wishful thinking. And as sales leaders, if we just walk past the door, popping our head in, everything looks great! "Five C-level meetings and two proposals last week? Great job Jim!"
However, if we - like my mother - walk into the room, and pull out the old white glove, we find that Jim's executive meetings were a few phone calls and VM leave behinds and the proposals were re-quotes of stuff the client didn't buy last quarter. So we found the Cheetos under the pillow and dirty socks in the clean sock drawer. Not so great Jim, not so great at all.
The point? We as sales leaders have to open the proverbial drawers, pull back the comforter and look under the beds and examine what our reps are telling us.
Now we can't be mothers to our reps - and I'm drawing you this analogy in an effort to be humorous. But at the core of this analogy is some truth - if you MANAGE TO METRICS ALONE YOU WILL GET YOUR METRICS AND NOTHING ELSE.
You may think I am blaming the reps - I'm not. Don't mistake what I'm trying to say. Using my analogy, my mother took on the job of keep the house clean (working full time and raising three kids as well - in a different time, like today, she'd probably be Marissa Mayer) and she tasked each of us kids to do our part. But ultimately, she believed the job was hers - with her was the responsibility of getting it done right. If she let us get away with "not-so-clean" she felt it was her failing.
I hear sales managers say "My reps can't THIS and my reps don't THAT" all the time. And when I inherent these reps, here's what I hear the most:
"All [the old sales manager] was worried about was reporting up the chain. I put in the minimum I needed to in the CRM to keep them off my back so I could get work done."
So how do we fix it? Here are four examples of how my mother got me to clean my room the way she wanted, tweaked for Sales Leadership:
- My mother's room was spotless - You could eat spaghetti off the floor in my parent's room and that was in the 70s with shag carpet. For a sales manager, your CRM entries need to be exactly - to the letter - what you are asking of your reps. Every time you go on a joint call, you need to fill out an activity in the CRM and write detailed notes. If you're hiding an empty Cheetos bag under your pillow, how can you expect to be taken seriously when you ask your reps to throw theirs out? Above all else, if you don't lead by example, your request will eventually fall on deaf ears.
- Why can't you be more like your sister? - My sister was, and still is, immaculate. She met and sometimes exceeded my mother's standards. And she got rewarded for it. If a rep documents a great sales meeting and has great notes and awesome next steps, you need to present that in your next sales meeting. You need to make this rep an example. In addition, if a rep has a two hour C-level meeting and writes "good meeting" in the notes, call them out as well. Do it in a humorous way - but do it. You can even redact the names of the guilty party - but the offender will heard the ribald laughter of his/her colleagues and will get the message. Besides, some healthy sibling rivalry in your sales team could work wonders.
- This is how you clean a closet - you can't just ask - you need to show. I knew what "clean" looked like because I was shown what "clean" was defined as in my home. Having a 30 minute quarterly "reminder" meeting on good CRM activities practices won't bust your schedule or theirs. And it will keep the team focused on doing it the right way.
- This isn't for me, it's for you - Here's the big one. Somehow, my mother got it into my melon that cleaning my room was good for ME! And while I whined while I was doing it, after cleaning my room I realized how much better hanging out in there was. If we enforce and re-inform CRM best practices as "As your manager I need this to report up" the rep really has no skin in the game. You need to draw examples of why good CRM notes are vital to THEIR job and THEIR commissions. Do this during strategy planning. Use an account where you went on a join sales call with your rep and you had immaculate notes. Ask the rep questions until you start getting "I don't knows" or "let me check my emails" and then dial up your Activity entry of that meeting and show them your notes. "Oh, now I remember" is what you say, as you show the rep the truth behind the old saying "the weakest ink is stronger than the most amazing memory." Tack on a gentle "this is why I always make these entries, my memory is horrible" and the rep gets the message without shame or ridicule. If it happens in the next meeting, ask him why he can't be more like his sister...
At the end of the day, as sales leaders it's our job to make things happen for our teams. If we manage to metrics to "stay off a list" we'll stay off those lists - but we won't be on the President's Club lists and we may find our selves on the unemployment lists not too long after.
Unlike almost every other profession, a sales meeting is not a meeting that "takes us away" from our jobs. Ask a computer programmer, or a accountant or a warehouse manager and they'll tell you they "hate" meetings because they take them away from their jobs. As salespeople meetings ARE our jobs.
That's why we measure them - because the more quality meetings you have, the better you sell. It's that simple. If you're too caught up in making sure everyone is hitting the "minimums" in the CRM to make your 1:1s with senior leaders less painful, then you don't have insight into potential issues that's keeping deals from closing. Or even starting. I would much rather argue that my best salesperson's three meetings last week are going to bring in more business than the ten meetings some other sales manager's rep documented to "meet the activity requirement." And if my rep's activity notes and next steps documented are stellar, I can dial up the CRM during my 1:1 and give real insight to the SLT - not just a number.
As always your mileage may vary and I'm interested in your feedback. Let me know if I'm hitting some nerves or if I'm way off base. Happy Selling!