Understanding the sales people you need…. and when!

SalesSales people come in all shapes and sizes. Some sales people are really adept at only one style of selling; others can adapt according to circumstances.

Based on my experiences there are four main types, organised along two axes: Transactional to Relationship-based client conversations; and  Tactical or Strategic sales techniques.

The Ambulance Chasers take their cue from personal injury lawyers who literally follow the stretcher into the emergency room. These sales people are almost entirely reactive, and only ever think about the next “chase”. They are less interested in building client relationships, and more focused on how much they can get from a single sale. Such sales people can often be relied upon to achieve short-term sales targets, but they don’t necessarily generate a lot of repeat business. If they develop a good nose for where more opportunities may be found, and if they can engage in more systematic sales planning, they may be able to transition into the Tree Shaker.

Tree Shakers are skilled in tapping into existing networks and markets, and uncovering latent opportunities – at times it’s simply a question of knowing how to harvest the low hanging fruit, at others it’s knowing when to dig deeper into an established client account. These sales people can usually find an extra sale or two when their colleagues might have given up – but beware of Tree Shakers who are really sand baggers, holding back those deals for when they really need them.

A skilled Tree Shaker or even an experienced Ambulance Chaser will know that leveraging industry contacts can help them get to more opportunities – but in order to cultivate deep client relationships that yield returns time after time, or to build long-term pipeline potential, you really need strong Networkers. These sales people play the long game (not always helpful when short-term sales goal need to be met….) because they know that having a strong strategic plan and resilient relationship skills will pay off in the end. Networkers are great at leading by example when it comes to account management and updating the CRM system – but they can infuriate if they become too reliant on too few contacts. (Tip: check their expense reports to see if they are having coffee with the same people every month…)

However, the type of sales people who can leave all others in their wake are the Rainmakers – those that can literally conjure something up out of nothing. At times, the Rainmaker may appear to be totally opportunistic – pulling a rabbit from a hat just when it was needed (again, beware the sand bagger) – but their forte is going into uncharted waters and coming back with the catch of the season; and while their colleagues may resent their skills (or question their methods?), secretly they admire the Rainmaker because they show what can be done in seemingly difficult or untested markets. The downside is that Rainmakers might only have one big deal in them, unless they can build sales momentum and sustain interest in the market – otherwise, they quickly move on.

In reality, every sales person probably needs to demonstrate each of these styles at different times; and like any balanced team, a sales organisation needs to have all four styles on their bench. The real insights are knowing where and when to deploy these different skills, and understanding what the results mean when doing a breakdown of the sales reports.

NEXT WEEK: Revisiting geo-blocking in light of the Competition Policy Review Draft Report

Let It Bleed: Expert Advice for Building Your Dream #Startup Team

Building a perfect team while also building a business can make or break any startup venture. Thanks to Startup Victoria, a panel of startup experts came together at last week’s gathering of Lean Startup Melbourne (with generous support from BlueChilli, General Assembly, The X Gene and hosts inspire9) to share their wisdom and insights.

To kick-off, Didier Elzinga, founder and CEO of Culture Amp gave a lightning talk on the theme of why culture eats strategy for lunch (a phrase often attributed to Peter Drucker). In a startup environment, culture is a key asset (especially in the beginning when you might not have much else…) so it’s not something you can easily pivot – in fact, culture is the fulcrum around which the business creates momentum. Most of us understand that our brand is our promise, but we often overlook that our culture is how we deliver it:

“Culture is what you are willing to bleed for, so who are you willing to bleed with?”

Didier then joined fellow panelists Tim Webster, formerly of Uber and now with Kllective, and David Hobson from Elance-oDesk to discuss how to build a successful startup team:

First, the team needs to feel a sense of connectivity, regardless of their workplace logistics. That means having opportunities to get together in person, and not just on conference and video calls. It will also be easier to establish and maintain a positive working environment among remote teams if the organisational intent is clearly stated from the start, backed by relationship building and appropriate communication tools.

Second, hire people for their core skills (hacker, hustler, hipster…) but only if they are also willing to learn, grow and evolve. It’s also essential to hire people in market. Use behavioural interview techniques to help identify the right people – whatever the role. Candidates are less likely to tell you what they think you want to hear; and it’s easier to explore how candidates got from one job to another (not so much what roles they have held).

Third, although you can outsource your IT, accounting, legals, HR etc., don’t outsource your culture. Getting the right fit of people to match what your culture needs is paramount. Set out the issues that aren’t negotiable or that you won’t argue about – but keep realigning with your culture to mitigate the risk of monoculture.

Fourth, focus on the end game – but don’t overlook the need/opportunity to seek new revenue streams. This diversification can be challenging for founders, but if channelled appropriately can result in ‘creative dissent’.

Finally, brand and culture are what customers think about when they hear a company’s name. So, this may require a balance between individual goals, and team and organisational outcomes.


The Music Collectors’ Guide to Personality Types

ShelvesSomething a little less serious this week. Recently, I’ve been working with various clients across executive coaching, career development, talent management and psychometric testing. Given my former experience in music retailing (it was like Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” without the romantic interest….) and in deference to my own lifelong hobby of record collecting, I thought it would be amusing to classify people according to their collecting habits, as a way of helping HR managers and team leaders everywhere understand their colleagues.

So, in no particular order:*

1. Listomaniac – Always making lists of their favourite songs, and then constantly updating them. Whether it’s “Top 10 songs about ice-cream”, or “All-time Top 5 pop songs featuring saxophone”, or “10 Songs containing the word ‘toothbrush’ in the lyrics”, Listomaniacs love to demonstrate their arcane (but selective) musical knowledge, and are so absorbed with the process of list-making that they are incapable of committing to a final, definitive choice. Don’t expect the Listomaniacs on your team to make a decision, let alone stick to it. Definitely don’t give them too many choices or too much time to select the catering menu for the office party. (Cf. Mixologist)

2. Completist – More than a mere fan, the Completist is compelled to collect every record ever released by a particular artist (and some Completists are also driven to seek out unreleased recordings, including juvenilia, studio out-takes and rehearsals…). In more extreme examples, this form of OCD involves collecting the entire output of specific record labels or whole musical genres. While the Completist can demonstrate deep knowledge of their chosen subject, they can also get lost in the detail and don’t realise that not everyone shares their passion. When assigning roles to your team, make sure the Completist is in charge of their chosen specialist subject area, but set well-defined boundaries, and don’t let them near eBay. (Cf. Archivist)

3. Anthologist  – The Anthologist doesn’t have time to read music reviews or even listen to anything that hasn’t been recommended to them or curated for them by someone else. In fact, the archetypal Anthologist relies on the end of year polls and critics’ lists to decide what music to buy. Now, of course, the Anthologist’s task is made even easier through music subscription services, podcasts, and personalised web-streaming. Although capable of making discerning choices and informed decisions, the Anthologist often lacks any original thought, and would be lost without apps like Spotify. On the other hand, the Anthologist can give you the low-down on the latest thinking around best practice in agile software development, productivity tools and structuring compensation packages (because they’ve read some blogs and a few trade newsletters).

4. Populist – Never one to let taste get in the way, the Populist knows that a song is good because it went to Number 1 in the charts. Those “Now That’s What I Call Music…” compilations are made to measure for the Populist, who simply wants to buy the biggest-selling hits of the year all in one go. While many Populists might include a few “Greatest Hits” and “Best Of” albums in their collections, the more adventurous types have been known to buy a “proper” studio album (as long as it has at least 4 top 10 singles on it). On a positive note, the Populist will likely be happy working with numbers or in customer service, as they don’t need to exercise personal discretion, and because the data never lies.

5. Audiophile – The Audiophile has to have the latest and most expensive music hardware, with full 7.1 surround sound, if only to play Dire Straits. (I’m pretty certain that every hi-fi shop in the world only has one customer demonstration CD, namely “Brothers in Arms”.) Some would say that it’s the software not the hardware that matters, but the Audiophile knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. History is littered with music technology that promised the world, but failed to deliver – 8-track cartridge, Quadraphonic, DDC, MiniDisc, DAT – so it may be unwise to let the Audiophile on your team manage any IT projects. Likewise, they may insist on having the most expensive laptop available, but if they only use it update their Facebook page, maybe you should be a bit concerned.

6. Archivist – Like the Completist, the Archivist is a fount of musical knowledge – but unlike their counterparts, Archivists know enough of the received musical canon to be able to differentiate the great from the merely ordinary, and they know that not every artist has an immaculate back-catalogue. The Archivist also understands why Big Star’s “Third/Sister Lovers” is rightly regarded as one of the best (if flawed) albums of all time. At the extreme end of the spectrum, the Archivist is a neo-Trainspotter, able to recall minutiae such as the album catalogue numbers, recording dates, orchestral arrangers and sleeve designers (and studio caterer) of every 5-star album since 1957. But on a good day, the Archivist will display great perseverance in pulling together internal knowledge, external data and other essential information to get the right answers.

7. Mixologist – Finally, the music collector who is so enthusiastic about their personal taste in music that they just have to share it with everyone else, via lovingly created mixtapes. Adept at making tapes for every occasion and at every significant stage in their lives (the break-up tape, the road trip mix, songs for a sunny day), the Mixologist will also have regard to and openly acknowledge their sources, influences and inspirations. Unlike the Listomaniac the Mixologist’s choices demonstrate exquisite musical taste and are backed by erudite concepts, connections, and cross-references – they are not simply motivated by the compilation process. True Mixologists are happy to allow their tapes to be circulated, to be copied, and even to spawn “response” tapes in return. As team players, Mixologists will be more than happy to share information, and they like nothing more than to see their ideas taken up and then built upon by the rest of the team.

*Note: This list does not claim to be exhaustive; and of course as with all profiling tools, music collectors may display two or more of the above traits, often at the same time. But they will likely demonstrate a leading preference for a particular style of collecting. As the music critic once observed, “a little knowledge can be dangerous – but too much can be deadly boring”.