Earlier this week, I was in Las Vegas for Selling Power Magazine's Sales Leadership Conference. It was for sales leaders who wanted to create more effective sales teams that yield higher productivity, sales, and customer satisfaction.
If there was a thread running through the conference, it was that we -- as Sales Leaders -- need to listen.
- We need to listen to our customers.
- We need to listen to our partners.
- We need to listen to our sales teams.
- We need to listen to the marketing department.
- We need to listen to others in our companies.
- We need to listen to our customers’ customers.
Our host, Selling Power Magazine Publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner, opened by telling us that he believes:
"Business is the dance around value and our customers determine what’s valuable."
True. And we’ve got to listen to them in order to know what they’re saying.
HOW TO LISTEN
Taking it to the extreme (as he’s known to do), Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett really understands listening. In fact, he recently hired a Chief Listening Officer. That person monitors what people say about Kodak on Twitter and Facebook in order to stay ahead of the message and address issues.
Sales leaders who want to remain relevant will take a cue from Hayzlett. Cisco VP Jeff Cristee also spoke about remaining relevant in a constantly changing selling environment. He told attendees about the degree to which he remains in touch with his team. He visits with as many as 15 customers every day! And he’s a regional VP. In spite of (or perhaps because of) a sliced travel budget, he stays in front of his team and his customers even more now than ever. How? Video. He uses a $200.00 web-camera. He told the audience that he had no choice but to change:
“I have to change to lead young people and not become the old, bitter guy at the water cooler.”
Cristee’s methodology is in alignment with a key tenet of our Sales Leadership Curriculum, which focuses on the simple principle that you can’t teach what you don’t know and you can’t lead where you won’t go!
People who manage or lead salespeople absolutely, no-questions-asked, must be with them in the field. Technology makes that easier than ever! Here's another example: After completing the sale, salespeople at Heartland Payment Systems return to their customers to ask, "Have I done all I promised." That's listening!
MARKETING AND SALES ALIGNMENT
There was a rich discussion around the question of how to better align sales and marketing.
The answer – if there was one – seemed to be…surprise! Listening and collaboration. Sales and Marketing Leaders need to meet.
They need to talk about how they can help each other. That's not happening in many companies.
As an aside, there was an all-too brief discussion about whether compensation for the Marketing Department should be tied more closely to sales results. It's an idea I would like to hear more about.
LIGHTS, LISTEN, ACTION
So my take? Listen! But, success in this new economy can’t stop at just listening to what’s happening. After all, listening without taking appropriate action is stupid. It's critical, as Gerhard says, to "align your core business strategy with the revolutions that are changing the world." The future belongs to those who act on it. So, let's go take some action!