Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Disconnect With Sales

As I participated in the HTG vendor peer group this week - a lightbulb went on as to a major reason there is such a disconnect between VAR's and Solution Providers and their vendors. It has to do with a four letter word - SALES. The agenda for this quarter's meeting focused heavily on sales and marketing efforts that key HTG vendors are making significant investments into - and trying to figure out ways to get a better ROI on those efforts.

At first glance it seems so easy. Vendors build programs and resources. Partners should take those and use them to drive sales. Everyone wins. That is the end game for both groups - partners and vendors - we all want the same thing - to sell more stuff to end clients. But somehow there is a disconnect. For some reason the millions of dollars - and in reality it is billions of dollars - that are spent continues to provide lackluster results. Hundreds of millions of dollars go unused and unclaimed. It is actually pathetic.

Why does this happen? I am convinced there is a short circuit in the brains of many VAR's when it comes to sales. Most owners grew up on the technical side of the business. That word does not compute. Those who have a sales background did most of their selling through personal relationship and the reality of a sales organization still doesn't compute. In other words - we are very sales illiterate.

That doesn't mean it can't change. It has to. If it doesn't many of us will be looking for a new job. The market is changing as the wave moves us to cloud computing. That is a sales dominated transaction oriented marketplace. It doesn't matter that you can fix any technical issue under the sun - often before it is even invented. It doesn't matter how many letters there are after your name and what certifications you can post on your website. If you can't sell you will be toast. So it is time we figure this out my friends. And I am preaching to myself on this one too.

The major hurdle it seems to me is owner attitude. Many just don't want to deal with sales and particularly sales people. I hear words like 'they're wierd' or 'they think differently'. Duh! That is the whole point. The reason we as technical owners can't sell our way out of a paper bag is that we think like technicians and engineers. Sales oriented folks succeed BECAUSE they think different. That is not a curse - it is a blessing. It has to be and we need to get over the differences and embrace them. I struggled with this for many years but it can happen. Find a 12 step program to recover from hating sales and sales people - you have to do a 180 on that attitude.

Once the owner gets his attitude right there is at least a fighting chance to begin doing some of the right things that will lead to sales success. It is not just hiring a sales person. That will not do it. You don't have to look far to see the past performance of most VAR's littered with sales people they hired and fired because they didn't meet expectations. That is the place to start - realistic expectations. Since you have no clue what to expect - you obviously should not be setting them. Find someone who has a clue to help you create a sales plan and methodology so the sales person has some hope of success. Most VAR's hire and set them up to fail - no support - no direction - no tools - no nothing - just a wish of good luck and a threat that "I'll be watching the KPI's". Here is a news flash. Most sales people can't spell KPI and could care less. They have only one that matters - that is the number of dollars in their paycheck.

Yes that is very different than the way you think. But it is reality. Get over it. And get over the fact that a really good sales person will make more money than you. In fact, don't just get over it, root for it. When they do that you are making more money than ever before if you have your compensation plan right. If you don't - they could take you to the poor farm - so another reason to find someone who has been there and done it before to help you. There is help available. HTG has worked with TruMethods, Kendra Lee, Service Leadership, and a number of our own HTG members to bring you great content on how to really build a sales organization. If you were sleeping - time to wake up and reach out for help. It is available.

So back to my opening discussion. Our vendor partners are trying hard to help us learn to become sales organizations. They are investing tons of money and people resources to help us. But if we don't get our attitudes right - and embrace that transition - it is all for naught. If we don't join their efforts and leverage their work - we are screwed. I can't put it any more clearly. Get over the temptation to treat your vendor like the enemy. They absolutely are the best ally you have in your camp. And right now - we all need them more than ever. You see - they are not built as technical organizations that don't know how to sell. Those companies went out of business long ago. Our vendors are sales organizations who really know how to sell - and know that without sales they are simply not going to last long at all. We can learn an aweful lot from them if we just pay attention and work closely. They really do know what they are doing. That is how they become multi billion or multi million dollar orgs. It isn't because they can turn a screwdriver. It is because they understand how to sell and market and succeed. We have to get there if we want to remain relevant in the years ahead.

There are some great programs in the channel today that most of us fail to use. Free money and resources to help us grow our companies - but we are too busy doing things that don't matter to do those that do. Make time to sit down with your top five vendors and find out how you can leverage every program, resource, MDF dollar and plan they have to offer. If you do that - and pay attention - and make it a priority to leverage those things - you will be far ahead from where you are today. If you don't - might want to get your resume up to date - you'll probably need it sooner than later. Make it your goal to transition towards becoming a sales and marketing organization in 2011. Your future depends on it.

This Wednesday at 2 PM EST I will be joining Gary Pica, CEO of TruMethods, to discuss this topic and others that are critical to success in 2011 and beyond. If you aren't registered yet you can get the registration link on the HTG portal. It really matters that we tackle this head on. I hope you will join me for the discussion!

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