The Consultant as Whistleblower
A fast-moving marketing automation company recently hired me to train Buying Faciliation®. They were both thrilling and unnerving to work with: constant change and disruption, people changing jobs and decisions, different initiatives happening all at once, etc. left everyone breathless – with many incomplete, unmanageable, and unexamined issues left behind. Not to mention an atmosphere that was ruled by the loudest people shouting ideas and numbers that everyone else was too busy to check.
My client was a visionary. He knew Buying Facilitation® would differentiate them, and give them higher closing ratios and shorter sales cycles. We were able to enlist the appropriate Buying Decision Team members, get the necessary buy in and create the change management container before we started. But in the end, one of the “C” level people – not ‘directly’ on the Buying Decision Team – was the decider. He was the one who had most to lose by changing.
CSO AS UNCHECKED LEADER
The CSO was quite a despot. Somewhat smart, but certainly ruled the roost in a very mainstream way, and with such seeming passion (turned out to be fear) that folks just did his bidding, regardless of whether he was doing the best thing for the company. And since there was no time for anyone to check, his ideas were just accepted. To the company’s detriment, it turns out.
Constantly in self-imposed motion, this man gave the go-ahead to do my training but never read my book Dirty Little Secrets to get an understanding of what I’d be teaching and the implications for the organization.
Turned out that the CSO was quite a negative player. He routinely called people late at night and wielded his power through tantrums and denigration. Folks were afraid of him and did his bidding, never questioining the efficacy of his decisions.
FUNNY NUMBERS THAT EVERYONE BELIEVED
As part of my training, I spend quite a bit of time with sales managers to deeply understand how they sell, and their numbers. But this group didn’t have real numbers. They claimed to close 17% of their sales but I couldn’t figure out where this number came from. Finally I spoke with enough of the sales managers to put together a picture, and it wasn’t pretty.
Actually, their sales process made it difficult for them to succeed. They:
- spent 3 months (and appx 15 calls each, and over 90% of their time) getting 97.5% ‘no’s’ and 2.5% appointments (that mostly led nowhere) to present product data,
- pushed extremely hard to close, with a huge discount at the end of the quarter, which was industry knowledge so buyers waited to get the best deal,
- were fired if they didn’t make their numbers.
They counted their close rate from the time they got their first appointment. Of course, that presupposes that none of the first 97.5% of the leads/names would have purchased, because if any of those could have been buyers, then you start counting from #1, not #97.6. They actually had a .6758% close.
When I told the CSO the real numbers, he had a tantrum. “That can’t be true. Who told you that?! Don’t tell anyone else!!!” Of course not. If the CEO or Chairman of the Board knew the real numbers he’d be fired (and of course he sandbagged the targets to match what he could achieve, thereby diminishing the company’s possible ROI).
I discussed this with my client, who agreed with my results once he saw the real numbers. He was further committed to Buying Facilitation® training as it would bring in 35% close from the first name/lead, with no end-of-month push or price break. We’d easily be able to double business within a year.
One week prior to the training (which the CSO had rescheduled already, two days prior to the original scheduled event), he called late one night and fired me (even though he wasn’t my direct client). “I told you not to tell anyone the numbers.” “I didn’t” I said. “I just called the managers that gave me the numbers to check on their accuracy one more time. And they are accurate.” “But I told you not to talk to anyone. You’re done.”
Then I sent notes with all of the numbers to the CPO, one of the advisory board members, and the CSO’s coach. No one called me back, except their lawyer who wanted to ‘clear up a few loose ends.’ No idea what those were as I never took the calls.
So here are the most confounding thoughts:
- this man is keeping the company’s ROI down dramatically because everyone is following his lead. The ROI would be SO much higher if they stopped attempting to get appointments (and throwing out the first 97.5% of their prospects) as their first contact;
- no one knows this man is inflating the numbers by counting from an artificial beginning. Indeed, there were NO numbers to show how many calls were being rejected, how many times a sales person had to call (up to 15) to get an appointment, and how much time was being wasted.
- the company has a horrific reputation in town for being abusive to their sales people – a truth that the CSO thought was funny: “Yup. I”ve heard that a lot myself. hehehehe.”
- everyone colluded to maintain the status quo and stand behind this man. No one was willing to stand up to the CEO and offer the truth.
- a whole system was built around doing sales his way: probably 40% more sales people were hired than were necessary, and they were losing market share and reputation. Buying Facilitation® would have given them a closing rate at least 400% more than the one they were currently experiencing.
- this man was putting his ego needs above the company’s success.
The entire company’s ROI is a fraction of what it could be. And I was fired for speaking the truth. And the senior people in the company either don’t know, don’t care, or don’t realize they could be so much more successful. They certainly aren’t willing to do anything different because they were ‘meeting their numbers’.
How many times does this sort of thing happen to external consultants? They are the bearers of the Truth, and get let go because the company wants to maintain their secrets – at all costs. And what is the real cost here! To the companies, the consultants, to the people (customers and staff). Is there no way to circumvent these sorts of issues? And what has to be true for a company to prefer to be far less successful and maintain their status quo rather than change and be successful?
To find out how you can make sure you have the skills/tools to get the highest ROI for your company, read sample chapters from my latest book and then buy it! And then call me (512-457-0246) so we can train your sales folks to close 40% of their lead population.