Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 5 CRM Predictions for 2011

What’s in store for CRM in 2011?  Adam Honig of Business Week weighs in.

Recently, I outlined the top 10 CRM trends in 2010. The big takeaway: While technology has its place, making the most of CRM requires thoughtfulness, expertise and always focusing on that next small step that delivers maximum business-result project bang for buck. With that caveat in mind, let’s look forward at what’s likely to happen with CRM in 2011: Ascendant

As Russia was to Napoleon, so is to Siebel?
Remember Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow, having entered Russia with a seemingly unstoppable force? Likewise, Siebel was an unstoppable CRM juggernaut. At least until it got lost in the woods — metaphorically speaking — several years ago, when first began routing it, then finally threatened to push Siebel completely out of the game. changed the CRM world by iterating its software three or four times per year. Not to mention giving things away for free, such as Chatter. Originally, that social networking technology was supposed to be’s Trojan horse for breaking into new accounts. But now, companies will be getting it for free. Can anything stop

Oracle CRM Fusion

Don’t underestimate Oracle. Because when it comes to CRM, Siebel remains a big, big platform. At the beginning of 2010, analyzing who would win a CRM smackdown, on-premise Siebel didn’t even rate against the modern capabilities and interfaces offered by, Oracle CRM On Demand or for the life sciences crowd, Cegedim Dendrite. Accordingly, the question was: If everything is moving to the cloud, why bother with Siebel, even though it’s still the world’s largest CRM platform?
Oracle, however, could alter that formula. At OpenWorld, Larry Ellison announced that rather than denigrating the cloud, he would now embrace it. In fact, Oracle has a plan: Oracle CRM Fusion. Can a $1 billion business — Oracle helping people migrate from Siebel to CRM Fusion — be far behind? With Oracle CRM Fusion set to debut in the first quarter of 2011, stay tuned.

Social CRM

Social media will continue to dominate 2011 CRM discussions. Just think: All the news you can tweet to customers. Learning how to combine social networking platforms with customer service and sales operations. The impending dominance of Facebook messages. For 2011, also expect organizations to add Facebook and Twitter to their call center queues, treating them no differently than voice or email communications.
Now for the reality check: Google “social CRM” and you’ll see that the term doesn’t even register. Accordingly, social media is a trend. But don’t believe all of the hype, at least not yet. Because when it comes to CRM, everyone is still trying to figure out — besides the one killer use for social CRM that we have so far — what else it’s good for.
Sure, everyone has lots of ideas for social CRM. But honestly, none of them get me out of bed in the morning or make me pump my fist into the air.

The Platform Shift Wars

Everyone loves a tussle. And for 2011, we’ve got already and Oracle set for a showdown. But also expect an escalation of the social media war between Google and Facebook, which will have repercussions for which social media platforms organizations use to communicate with customers.
In the platform shift wars, we’ve also got the Oracle versus HP war. Or really, Oracle versus everybody else war, as Oracle’s management has decided that their company will play in every business.
Also of interest: the Apple versus Google war, aka the battle of the manicured garden (iOS) versus the jungle (Android). From both a technology and social perspective, the rapid 2010 evolution of smartphones has been nothing short of astounding, even if business uses for the related devices haven’t been pacing the change in raw technical capabilities. Will that happen in 2011?

iPad In Every Stocking

For starters, the mobilization of CRM will reach new heights in 2011, especially as tablets continue to take hold. Already, the iPad is transforming enterprise IT, especially for field-based people.
Interestingly, some leading-edge organizations actively pushing the envelope. Most notably, in November, the Financial Times gave every employee a £300 ($480) rebate toward the purchase of an iPad.
Explaining the move, FT Group CEO John Ridding said it was to “encourage all our staff to be expert and experienced in using…tablets.” He’s backing it up with workshops and master classes for all employees to learn how to get the most from their tablets.
What’s the killer CRM use for the iPad or other tablets? Recommendation to marketing, field sales and service organizations for 2011: take a page from the FT and find out.

Learn More

Want to translate 2011 CRM potential in to practice? Technology will only take you so far. Until someone builds a Matrix-style chip where you can upload the new technology into your brain, as much as the technology can improve, our ability to absorb it remains remarkably the same.
In other words, for CRM success in 2011, go ahead and enthuse over Twitter, but don’t forget to start with the marketing, sales and service basics.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sales Enablement: Measure to Manage

Measure to Manage - Driving Sales Enablement Success
Selling B2B solutions certainly has changed over the past decade, and these changes are only accelerating, driven by significant customer challenges:
  1. Information Overload - Buyers are inundated with more marketing pitches and sale calls than ever, and suffer from a severe case of information overload. The right messages and tools are needed to break through and reach overloaded prospects;
  2. Frugalnomics - Reeling from the impact of two economic downturns, the last one particularly severe, executives are demanding more scrutiny on every proposal and buyers now demand quantifiable poof of bottom line impact and value from each investment;
  3. Internet Driven Buying Cycles - With more information from more sources available than ever, buyers are engaging sales teams later in the sales cycle, and are taking control of the buying cycle more than ever, creating a disadvantage for those firms who don’t engage with a compelling dialogue early and often.
Transferring knowledge to sales representatives, and then helping these reps more effectively share this knowledge with customers and prospects is the mission of sales enablement, and it has become a vital best practice to overcome Information Overload, fight Frugalnomics and take control of Internet driven Buying Cycles.

Sales Enablement Investments are Significant
As a result, B2B vendors are recognizing the importance of sales enablement, and have invested significantly in empowering sales professionals to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle. So how much is spent on sales enablement?
  1. According to Forrester, companies are spending on average 19% of their SG&A costs, some $135,262 per quota-carrying salesperson, in sales support related activities;
  2. SiriusDecisions, focusing on marketing costs per sales person indicates that on average companies invest  $43,011 / salesperson, an estimated 3%-7% of the opportunity value of the sales pipeline.
 Though required, is the enormous and important investment in sales enablement paying off?

Research by IDC recognizes that sales enablement investments are significant, but may not be delivering on promises. Surveys reveal that buyers are not satisfied with the value sales professionals are delivering to engagements. In a recent survey, 24% of buyers indicated that the sales reps are not prepared for presentations at all, 30% indicate that they are somewhat prepared , and only 29% indicate that they are well prepared. The lack of preparation has been directly shown to drive inefficient conversion, longer sales cycles, more discounting, and higher competitive losses.

Can't Manage What you Haven't Measured
So how can sales enablement stakeholders help to drive better performance. The secret to management is often measurement, and SiriusDecisions recently recommended a series of best practices to help drive better sales enablement performance and success. There advice, a formal effort to better enable a sales force must be paired with formal measurement of the effort.

SiriusDecisions recommends that the performance of sales enablement programs and investments be tracked in four dimensions, successively implementing these metrics to assure sales enablement return on investment:
  1. Usage and Activity – are the tools you are providing being used to the scope and level expected? Are there issues with the adoption of these tools related to awareness, usability, and acceptance? Are there issues with sales people not understanding that customers have changed and require a different approach? Measuring usage and activity can help determine if the large number of tools and content are actually being used, or not;
  2. Feedback – do the sales professionals like the tools you are providing? Feel that the tools match what customers need to drive the buying cycle forward? Surveying the community for feedback can add a dimension of quality to the quantity metrics, and help shape potential improvements to drive better usage and activity;
  3. Sales Effectiveness – measurement of before and after sales performance metrics including reductions in sales cycle length, increases in average deal size and increases in close rates;
  4. Sales Productivity – a measurement of how much time sales professionals spend on critical engagement tasks, and how much time sales enablement can help reclaim to yield more time to engage with customers, such as the time savings in customizing presentations, preparing proposals, and developing business cases.
The Bottom-Line
With the growing importance of sales enablement and increasing significant investment, it is vital that sales enablement stakeholders recognize measurement as a tool to drive better sales enablement programs, tools and investments.

We have seen organizations create centers of sales enablement excellence, with a focus on tracking the value of sales enablement investments as a key objective.

Organizations with a focus on measurement are more able to meet changing customer challenges, grow sales enablement programs, and as a result drive better sales efficiency and effectiveness.
Thanks to Tom for this blog article:

  1. IDC Executive Tele Briefing on Sales & Marketing Strategies for 2010
  2. Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support, Forrester Research, Inc., April 2009 
  3. Sales Enablement: Measuring its Impact. SiriusDecisions Perspectives.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sales Tips: Getting Past the Gate Keeper

 Ahhh, the gatekeeper. They should offer a college degree for this field, maybe even a doctorate. Maybe I’d go back to school and become one. It’s not an official position, but most of your prospects have them, and they are good at what they do. It’s a science that these people have perfected. The gatekeeper can be your best friend, or your worst enemy! If you can make friends, you’ll have an instant advantage. If you feel yourself become a fast enemy, you are going to have your work cut out for you.

What do they do and who are they anyway? Oh, those gatekeepers, they are tricky souls. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Most anyone can be a gatekeeper. You can be friendly, a little rough around the edges, introverted or extroverted. Sometimes they are the receptionist at the front desk. Professionals at weeding out the people who advance to the next level to see the decision maker. Sometimes they are managers who present themselves as the decision maker, until it is time for the decision. That’s when they reveal their true identity and make it known that someone else has to sign off on the decision. But don’t worry, they’ll “be sure” to forward your information on and get back to you as soon as possible. Don’t hold your breathe.

Here is your mission should you choose to accept it. Ultimately, you need to get to the decision maker. However, there are rules to be applied to this mission.

Rule #1: Do not rush down the gatekeeper and make a run for the CEO’s office. This is a No No. You might as well keep running right out the fire exit.

Rule #2: Don’t just leave information for the decision maker with the gatekeeper and wait for a response. You’ll be old, gray and still waiting.

Let me tell you what you can do. Woo the gatekeeper. I don’t mean to completely kiss their derrière. I mean treat them with the same respect as you would the decision maker.  Ask them questions. Use them to do your research on the company and the decision maker. Most importantly, listen. Not only can they provide you with useful information, but they will respect you much more if they know that you take the time to listen. Use the to find out what their needs are and how you might be able to help them. Use your skills in communications and human relations to earn the respect of the gatekeeper. Use your skills in business and your product knowledge to win them over.

If the gatekeeper respects you, trusts you and understands your product, they will deliver you to the decision maker. Should the gatekeeper allow you to advance to the decision maker, you may find the rest of the selling process to be a breeze and the sale will soon

Thanks to Quick Sales for this Sales Tip!

Monday, December 13, 2010

CRM: Top 10 Reasons for Sales People to use CRM

Top 10 Reasons for Sales People to use CRM

November 26th, 2010:  Blog Article: Susan Corcoran
I was at a dinner party awhile back and two guests were fretting over the implementation of CRM software at their company. Their main concern was now their company would know where they were all the time! The first thought that comes to mind is how much do these guys goof off that they are this concerned?

Perhaps they don't know what's in it for them?  Many CRM benefits are directed to Management. Having worked with NetSuite, Salesforce, Zoho, Front Row CRM and Goldmine (to name just a few) the question is, Why should Sales People to use CRM? 

Top 10 Reasons for Sales People to use CRM:
  1. It will help you close more business. Using probability ratings will help you understand where to spend your energy. It bubbles deals in the sales funnel up to the top so you can see them and give them the love they need to close.
  2. You will work smarter. CRM is a great organization tool. It helps you understand who to call, when and about what. Everything is in one central location - no scraps of paper, no wondering what you should be doing next, no lost numbers. If you use dashboards, it lays it all out for you. So simple.
  3. It makes prospecting faster. Have you every had to build your own list? It can take hours. It is so much easier to upload a list or even better, find a list worked by previous rep and dig in. Calls are faster, sometimes warmer and the research is less monotonous
  4. Your memory isn't as good as you think. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night realizing you forgot to call someone or send an email? CRM reminds you to touch base or what the next step is to move the deal along. As long as you enter the details, they will be there for you so you can sound like you remember everything your contact said. You will look like a super star!
  5. Having a compelling reason to call. Almost all CRM systems have filters that allow you to sort by address, City, vertical, company size and more. It is so easy to create a compelling reason to call. I am in your area, we are hosting an event that is relevant to your business, someone in your vertical just bought our product and they love it so you should buy from me as well!
  6. You never told me that! Have you ever had a Manager say that they did not know about something you were working on? Or that you hadn't updated them on a deal? Well, CRM gives your manager access to all of your data which should (in theory) relieve you from having to reiterate details.
  7. Avoid others from scooping your deals. Lead conflict happens everywhere. If your company has a policy on deal registration then CRM will protect you. No more worrying that someone is working a deal behind your back. If you work in verticals or territories, you can run a filter and see who is working deals in your patch. Avoids run ins with your piers and protects your hard work. It is fantastic! Unless, of course, you are one of those people doing the scooping.
  8. Mass Market to your base. If your CRM has email blasting, you can create email letters, advise of promos, send PR announcements to keep your prospects informed while keeping you top of mind. With some CRM platforms, you can integrate with outlook so that all of your correspondence is tracked in the CRM. Makes searching so much easier.
  9. Never lose a prospect. Some companies have dormant or untouched lead rules. For example, if you have not reached out to a prospect in 90 days, they can be approached by another rep. Set up filters to catch prospects before they are removed from your base.
  10. Make more money! By learning how to use your CRM and understanding the previous 9 items, you will make more money. In the past, the volume of deals and prospecting may have kept a portion of your business is your peripheral vision. CRM will keep you sharp and help you earn more commission.
If you invest the time watching the CRM tutorials and really learning the product, it will pay dividends to you in many ways. It will help you work smarter as outlined above but it will also earn you respect and recognition from your piers and the management team. Since so few people really take the time to learn CRM, you will become the subject expert and bring value to your organization.

Happy Selling!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting CRM to Deliver for Salespeople

Getting CRM to Deliver for Salespeople

A significant factor contributing to sales performance improvement is the employment of technology that will enable more effective and more efficient selling.  This technology comes in many sizes and flavors from marketing automation software from companies like Genius to post-sales call feedback and activity analytics tools like Front Row Solutions, and a lot in between.

The question that comes up in every sales performance improvement provider evaluation we are involved with is this:  How will the sales training provider enable their methodology, processes, and approach be integrated with the client’s CRM system?  Out of the box CRM will not get the job done in the cases we’ve seen.  In fact, it tends to automate the chaos that exists in many sales organizations and demeans the salesperson by forcing them to comply with onerous activities that have no direct value for them.
A sales methodology and the associated processes must be built first and the technology solution customized, tailored or modified to support the salesperson’s use of that sales process.  Or, even better, the vendor provides a software application that sits in front of the CRM system that gives salesperson the tools they need to effectively and efficiently manage sales opportunities or key accounts.

There are four alternatives that a sales training provider has with respect to providing support for their methodology in the client’s choice of CRM systems:
  1. Ignore the issue, leaving it up to the customer to figure out.
  2. Develop and maintain the software themselves.
  3. Join the Dealmaker Partner Network and avail themselves of The TAS Group’s solution, such as InfoMentis, Huthwaite, and Think, Inc. have done, among others.
  4. Engage with White Springs, a software company that provides CRM front-end solutions to more than a dozen sales training providers, as well as directly to end-user companies.
Right now, the clients ESR is working with in active evaluations are all looking at sales training providers that use the White Springs solution.  So, I reached out to Chris Hens, COO of White Springs.  The result was this interview.

Dave Stein: More than a dozen leading sales training providers use White Springs as the foundation for their technology-enabled selling solution. What is it that your company does for them?

Chris Hens: Simply put, we enable our partners to easily integrate their training content into any CRM/SFA platform. Our compelling value is that our partners don’t have to invest a lot of money in the technology and dedicate themselves to a limited choice of CRM/SFA platforms. We build their applications one time and then integrate them into whatever platforms their customers have implemented. This model allows our partners to quickly deliver integrated solutions and actually start making money within weeks or months rather than years.

DS: You’ve got a long history in the sales effectiveness business, Chris.  How did you wind up as a principal at White Springs?

CH: Well, I don’t know about the “long” part, but certainly I’ve seen a lot. Interestingly, we are now doing with White Springs what we wanted to do as far back as 1999. I was with a sales training firm called OnTarget when we were acquired by Siebel. The premise of that deal was that sales training/methodology content should be embedded into sales force automation so customers could drive the greatest effectiveness from both the technology and the training content. So, we were right in the middle of trying to make these two things work together 10 years ago.

The problem was that there was little flexibility in either model. As a result, our solutions were less than compelling for the user and really didn’t end up selling very well. After several years of engaging with our top clients trying to make things work, it became apparent to a lot of folks that there needed to be a better way. That’s when I ran into Gary White (founder of White Springs). He showed me a better model and allowed me to be a part of his company.

DS: In addition to the sales training providers, White Springs has end-user companies using their technology as well. Can you share with us some details of an implementation?
Actually, all of our technology ends up with end-users. Currently, our sole route to market is through our partnerships. We do, however, have many customers who have asked us to augment the original applications (White Springs likes to call them applets) by integrating the customer’s own home-grown or even other third-party tools or content. The typical implementation for us involves our partner first engaging with the customer to position the integrated solution. White Springs provides pre-sales support to help guide the opportunity to closure. Once it’s closed, we take over and integrate the applets into the customer’s CRM system and provide ongoing technical support. The average SaaS (On Demand) implementation takes less than 24 hours to embed in the customer’s environment.

DS: Where do you see all this going? What should sales leaders be looking for on the horizon?

CH: Embedded learning. That’s the buzz-phrase for me. We know that a great deal of learning is retained when it is done in context. So, we need to bring learning into the sales person’s daily cadence, making it relevant and useful in real-life scenarios and interactions. This type of “just-in-time, in-context learning” is where I believe we will see a lot of focus in the next few years.

DS: Any advice to sales leaders who don’t know which end is up from a technology perspective? How can they leverage technology for increased sales performance?

CH: This may sound a little strange coming from a software company, but I often say to prospective customers, “Please, PUHLEEAASE, don’t get hung up features and functions in a ‘cool tool.’” The key is to stay focused on the reasons you invested in sales training to start with. Technology should be the means to that end. It should be simple, enable the users to engage the content effectively and ensure that customers can manage the learning process. It’s funny, though… even when we try to focus prospects on those tenets, they invariably want us to show the whiz-bang features or discuss “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-it-could-do-this” futures…sadly, the sizzle still sells.

CRM Trends 2011: Top 5 trends for the new year

Top 5 CRM Trends for 2011

The good news remains that US economists continue to predict an up tick in consumer spending in 2011. The challenge remains how to engage the post-recession consumer. CRM 5 new trends for 2011 translates into this new reality:

1) Branding is more important than ever. Brands have always been and are increasingly becoming a surrogate for value - making brand differentiation all the more critical as generic features continue to propagate in the brand landscape.

2) Value is the new black: Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. The era of "Because I said so" is over. This will more than likely challenge most companies.

3) The rise of the Datarati. Google's Chief Economist, Hal Varian once said that "Datarati are companies that have the edge in consumer data insight...Data is ubiquitous and cheap, analytical ability is scarce... The sexiest job in the next ten years will be statistician." How true. There has been and will continue to be an increased focus on data analysis as companies continue to invest in measuring social media, understanding customer value and modeling customer behavior. If you do not use your data to talk to your customers, others will. As such the investment in data aggregation and the hiring of "sexy" statisticians is a going to be a major trend in 2011.

4) Customer Experience: Customers have more choices than ever, and are more frugal. This affords them the luxury of demanding more. This is the year that the CRM Marketer will be charged with offering a consistent experience across all company touch points and developing the infrastructure that allows for knowledge sharing and smart communication. Smart marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations. Those companies that understand where the strongest expectations exist will be the companies that survive and prosper. The customer's mobile and online experiences will begin to evolve and rival the customer's offline experience - attentive assistants and all.

5) Personalization and customization: In order to be effective in this new year, companies will seek to know more about its customers and use that insight to talk, engage and interact with their customers more often and more meaningfully in new and innovative ways (including dynamic content, blogs to other social networking). 2011 is going to be up close and personal, like it or not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sales Reporting: When you spend more time filling out the reports than actually selling

From the very beginning, the vision of Front Row CRM was based on Etien D'Hollanders long sales experience. For a pure sales person, having to fill out sales reports was one of his least favorite activities. Not because he didn't see the value but because he felt robbed of valuable time that he could be making commission.


The Nirvana of Sales: Commission
Etien D'Hollander 1980

In 1980 I moved from Pharmaceutical Sales to Medical Sales. The transition was far more difficult than I thought it would be. In pharmaceuticals, you never really have to ask for the sale, you are simply detailing. In medical sales, the ultimate goal is to get a purchase order for your product. From a positive stand point, my compensation moved from salary plus bonus to salary and commission. My first exposure to commissioned sales - I had reached Nirvana. There was nothing more motivating for me than the amount of money or more truthfully the recognition you get with success.

In Pharmaceutical Sales my peers were science and medical grads. In Medical Sales, my peers were business grads and MBA's. The fact that I had a Physical Education degree made me work that much harder. I thought I was not worthy. Yet my first promotion into Medical Sales was directly related to what I had learned in phys. ed.  The philosophy that I have adhered to for the rest of my life "work hard, play hard".  I put my head down and worked hard. Based on my first year in Pharmaceutical Sales, working hard paid dividends.

It is here that I was introduced to Matinee Tuesdays. This was a secret society of Sales Reps who would meet weekly, bi weekly or monthly, depending on the rep (and the film) to skip off an afternoon and go to the movies.  This was kept out of the eyes of Management, for all the obvious reasons however was an accepted ritual by sales.  For me, Matinee Tuesday's was an occasional novelty however commission was far more important to me. 

The only negative in Medical Sales was the amount of reporting I was responsible for : daily reports, weekly forecasts, monthly updates, customer profile reports and on and on. It seemed there were days that I spent more time working on reports than selling. And worse none of it had any impact on my commissionable earnings. Opportunities were being missed.

There had to be a better way!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sales Management: Top 10 Things that keep Sales Managers up at night

As a sales centric organization, we are always interested in understanding what is important to Sales Managers & Leaders. We came across an interesting white paper article from Focus Media – Top 10 Things that keep Sales Managers up at night.

While they may not be the 10 ‘most worrisome’ items, what is interesting is the universal nature of the concern.

1.  Do the reps have a sales process. Which one may be irrelevant, but for now do they have one?

2.  Are they qualifying toward a sweet spot? I’m concerned if they’re chasing anything that moves. This implies qualifying skills, knowing the sweet spot and knowing how to qualify in or out relatively efficiently. Failing fast is an underrated skill.

3.  Rep turnover. If it’s high, even by design, there are some leaks in the foundation.

4.  How to shorten the sales cycle.

5.  Win percentage. Factor losses to ‘business as usual’ into the equation.

6.  Do my team and I know why we are winning and losing?

7.  How much sales coaching is my team getting? Am I coaching effectively?

8.  Is my team engaged? Professionally and personally.

9.  The customer! How do our customers perceive us? Are they satisfied? Are we addressing their needs? Are there additional needs we could be addressing?

10. Have I built an effective machine? In other words, do I know the right kinds of behaviors/activities and the metrics attached to those behaviors to get the results that my team needs to produce, and do I have a dashboard or investigative means that gives me a pretty quick, accurate assessment of where the team stands at any point in time toward getting those results.

Robert Koehler, Focus expert and Global BI Field Sales Enablement at Hewlett Packard

It is interesting that the top 10 things that keep Sales Managers awake is not how they are going to invest all the commissions and bonuses they are going to make or that their team is made up of rock stars.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the beginning...

First, let us introduce you to Etien D'Hollander; Founder, President and Visionary of Front Row CRM. Front Row CRM was realized in March 2009 however the idea starts in 1979 with a new sales rep and a Cutlas Supreme. This is his story.


Etien gets a job but finds a career
January 1979.
Well reality had set in, I needed to get a job. I had finished university and done the 6 months mandatory travel with my room mates. (including 4 months on the beaches of Waikiki). My school debt was overwhelming and my travel mates had gone back for another year of education (shades of St. Elmo's Fire). A friend told me that if I got a pharmaceutical sales job, I would get a company car. Since I had never owned a car, never sold anything in my life and knowing nothing about legal pharmaceuticals I thought that was the job for me. (How I got my pharmaceutical job with a degree in physical education is a tale for another time).

My new company sent me on two weeks of training in Montreal and then flew me to Edmonton where I picked up my brand new Cutlass Supreme and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel (nice change from my buddy's couch). My territory was Alberta and Saskatchewan (2 of the bigger provinces in Canada) and my job was to call on doctors, drug stores and hospitals detailing 3 pharmaceuticals - sythroid, travase and coloxin. I knew this job was for me right from the start. I loved it: the freedom of the road, the professionalism of the job and the satisfaction of making a call successfully resulting in a sale. I particularly liked the challenge and satisfaction of CLOSING the deal. Since I didn't have enough money for the first months rent of an apartment, I spent all my time on the road - including weekends. While on the job I worked hard making my calls: 3 to 5 doctor visits per day, visiting every pharmacy in Alberta and Saskatchewan while constantly practicing and perfecting my sales skills. Most importantly, I learned to listen. In the 11 months I did this job, my boss never worked with me nor did any other company employee visit me. I sent in my expenses (often late) and did my reports which were individual signature cards with forms to fill out (which I hated). This was the only contact that I had with my company other than sending me samples and literature.

After 11 months I went to Bermuda with my company for our national sales meeting. I was excited as was my first opportunity to meet my peers and the company executives. For those who haven't attended a company meeting with a large corporation (this event had more than 300 sales reps) in an exotic location, let me tell you that all the rumors you have heard are true. The meeting was led by a big Texan who was the VP of sales. In his opening motivational address he told us "the firings will continue until morale picks up" and further that "the last stage coach has not left town and you might be on it".

At the awards banquet, I was shocked to be awarded 'salesman of the year' for our division. Reflecting back on that year I thought I had put in a fair days work for fair pay. I realized that since I had been selling for less than one year, my success could not be due to phenomenal sales skills but rather simply that I worked harder than my peers. My fellow sales reps did not appear to be as committed to the job. It also confirmed that sales was the profession for me.

The big Texans words rang true the next day as another stage coach left town with some medical sales reps on it and I was given a promotion into the medical division.

Hard work and activity had paid off. What I realized is that my employer had no real visibility into what the front line sales team was doing. There had to be a better way.

Next blog - Matinee Tuesdays!